Tag Archives | experiments

Research Suggests That Having Money Makes People Act Less Human

Via New York Magazine, money is all around us, yet, until recently, there has been little study of its psychological effect on humans. The results are now coming in, and they’re not good:

Earlier this year, [psychologist Paul] Piff, who is 30, published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that made him semi-famous. Titled “Higher Social Class Predicts Increased Unethical Behavior,” it showed through quizzes, online games, questionnaires, in-lab manipulations, and field studies that living high on the socioeconomic ladder can make people less ethical, more selfish, more insular, and less compassionate than other people. It can make them more likely, as Piff demonstrated in one of his experiments, to take candy from a bowl of sweets designated for children.

Piff is one of a new generation of scientists—psychologists, economists, marketing professors, and neurobiologists—who are exploiting this moment of unprecedented income inequality to explore behaviors like those.

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A Musical Performance By Four Tropical Plants

dg-site2Our senses provide us with only a small slice of the beauty occurring in the natural world around us. The Data Garden Quartet is music generated by living plants:

Data Garden presents a live exhibition recording of Quartet, the first plant-generated audio composition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The electronic impulses of four plants, interpreted by humans with the help of computers, has been employed to organize sound into beauty perceivable by the human ear. While the means of producing this beauty can be described in technical terms, the natural creative force generating this experience is less apparent.

We all think we know what nature sounds like. It’s birds chirping, wind through trees, thunder echoing through the valley. These are sounds that come from physical phenomena in nature, producing waves perceivable by the human ear: the need to mate, currents of air and water, static electricity. There are other phenomena in our natural environment, however, that produce information which we cannot perceive through our biological senses.

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Rats Display Human-Like Empathy

Elvis_the_RatRats are better than many people. The Telegraph writes:

Rats actually display human-like empathy and will unselfishly go to the aid of a distressed fellow rodent, research has shown.

The results of an experiment in which rats opened a door to free trapped cage-mates astonished scientists. No reward was needed and not even the lure of chocolate distracted the rescuing rats.

”This is the first evidence of helping behaviour triggered by empathy in rats,” said US study leader Professor Jean Decety. ”There are a lot of ideas in the literature showing that empathy is not unique to humans, and it has been well demonstrated in apes, but in rodents it was not very clear.”

Psychology graduate student Inbal Ben-Ami Bartal, who helped devise the experiment, pointed out that the rats were not trained in any way. ”These rats are learning because they are motivated by something internal,” she said. ”We’re not showing them how to open the door, they don’t get any previous exposure on opening the door, and it’s hard to open the door.

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Color Preferences Of The Insane

colorwheelDoes a shift towards favoring yellow, and then orange, occur among the mentally disturbed? This was the finding of an admittedly questionable 1931 study on the link between aesthetic preference and insanity. (Purple must be beyond all reason.) Via Neatorama:

The year 1931 stands out in the history of research about insane people’s favorite colors. That summer, Siegfried E. Katz of the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Hospital published a study called “Color Preference in the Insane.” The full citation is:

“Color Preference in the Insane,” Siegfried E. Katz, Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, vol. 26, no. 2, July 1931, pp. 203–11.

Assisted by a Dr. Cheney, Dr. Katz tested 134 hospitalized mental patients. For simplicity’s sake, he limited the testing to six colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet. No black. No white. No shades of gray.

“These colors,” he wrote, “rectangular in shape, one and one-half inches square, cut from Bradley colored papers were pasted in two rows on a gray cardboard.

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British Man To Be Turned Into Mummy

Strange_But_True_3-_631317tThis is the way to do it: live a rich and full life, and then be turned into a monster after dying. The Belfast Telegraph writes:

A former taxi driver has become the first person for 3,000 years to be mummified in the same way as the pharaohs. Alan Billis will be turned into a mummy over the space of a few months as his body is preserved using the techniques which the ancient Egyptians used on Tutankhamun.

Mr Billis had been terminally ill with cancer when he volunteered to undergo the procedure which a scientist has been working to recreate for many years. The 61-year-old from Torquay in Devon had the backing of his wife Jan, who said: “I’m the only woman in the country who’s got a mummy for a husband.”

Dr Stephen Buckley, a chemist and research fellow at York University, has spent 19 years trying to uncover the preservation techniques which the Egyptians used during the 18th dynasty.

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‘Test City’ Being Built In New Mexico Desert

nmWould you jump at the chance to live in an artificially-created city in the middle of nowhere and participate in trial runs of the technologies of tomorrow? This is as close as you can come to living in a space colony on Earth. BLDGBLOG writes:

A private consulting firm in Washington D.C. is developing a “test city”—one “with no permanent population”—in the New Mexico desert, according to the Albuquerque Journal. It will be “a privately financed, small city on 20 square miles in New Mexico for testing and evaluation of new and emerging technologies,” run from afar by Pegasus Global Holdings.

This as yet unnamed location will be devoted to the “‘real world’ testing of smart grids, renewable energy integration, next-gen wireless, smart grid cyber security and terrorism vulnerability,” making it a life-size trial for private sector urban management—Cisco’s city-in-a-box and IBM urbanism wrapped in one.

I’m inclined to ask what it might look like if other corporations were to launch their own “test cities” in the desert somewhere—an REI city, complete with artificial whitewater rapids, campfires, and outdoor climbing walls; a Playboy city, complete with unlockable shared doors between neighboring bedrooms; an AMC city, with screens and streetside auditoriums, and massive projectors on cranes like new constellations in the sky.

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Tin Foil Hats Actually Enable Mind Control

ali2Does fashioning a “helmet” out of aluminum foil to block government-beamed mind control waves actually work? MIT’s Ali Rahimi (at right) and several colleagues found that the foil magnifies, rather than blocks, radio waves, specifically at government-controlled frequencies — oops. There are great pictures of the “study” being conducted:

We evaluated the performance of three different helmet designs, commonly referred to as the Classical, the Fez, and the Centurion. The helmets were made of Reynolds aluminium foil. As per best practices, all three designs were constructed with the double layering technique described elsewhere.

A radio-frequency test signal sweeping the ranges from 10 Khz to 3 Ghz was generated using an omnidirectional antenna attached to the Agilent 8714ET’s signal generator.

The helmets amplify frequency bands that coincide with those allocated to the US government between 1.2 Ghz and 1.4 Ghz. According to the FCC, These bands are supposedly reserved for ”radio location” (ie, GPS), and other communications with satellites.

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Swede Arrested After Attempting To Build Nuclear Reactor In His Kitchen

nukes31-year-old Richard Handl tried to engage in nuclear fission at home using radioactive materials purchased on eBay. He blogged charmingly about his exploits via the site Richard’s Reactor before being detained by authorities. (At right is a “tiny nuclear meltdown” which occurred on his stove top.) The New York Times reports:

A Swedish man who was arrested after trying to split atoms in his kitchen said Wednesday he was only doing it as a hobby.

Richard Handl told The Associated Press that he had the radioactive elements radium, americium and uranium in his apartment in southern Sweden when police showed up and arrested him on charges of unauthorized possession of nuclear material.

The 31-year-old Handl said he had tried for months to set up a nuclear reactor at home and kept a blog about his experiments, describing how he created a small meltdown on his stove.

Only later did he realize it might not be legal and sent a question to Sweden’s Radiation Authority, which answered by sending the police.

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UK Scientists Warn Of Future ‘Planet Of The Apes’ Scenario

planet-of-the-apesCould ongoing experiments involving the mixing of human and non-human DNA produce monstrous, over-intelligent hybrids down the road? In the U.S., human cells are already being implanted in mouse embryos, so we’ll likely be facing the rats of NIMH, rather than talking chimps who smoke pipes. The Telegraph reports:

Action is needed now, according to a group of eminent experts. Their report calls for a new rules to supervise sensitive research that involves humanizing animals.

“The fear is that if you start putting very large numbers of human brain cells into the brains of primates suddenly you might transform the primate into something that has some of the capacities that we regard as distinctively human..speech, or other ways of being able to manipulate or relate to us.”

Currently research involving great apes, such as chimpanzees, is outlawed in the UK. But it continues in many other countries including the US, and British scientists are permitted to experiment on monkeys.

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Living In A Biodome In The Arizona Desert

USA_SCI_BIOSPH_01_xs_FINALCabinet Magazine looks at one of the strangest experiments in American history, the Biosphere, a Lord of the Flies-style misadventure in utopian scientific overoptimism that spawned a terrible Pauly Shore movie and a fad diet:

At 8:15 am on 26 September 1991, eight “bionauts,” as they called themselves, wearing identical red Star Trek–like jumpsuits (made for them by Marilyn Monroe’s former dressmaker) waved to the assembled crowd and climbed through an airlock door in the Arizona desert. They shut it behind them and opened another that led into a series of hermetically sealed greenhouses in which they would live for the next two years.

The three-acre complex of interconnected glass Mesoamerican pyramids, geodesic domes, and vaulted structures contained a tropical rain forest, a grassland savannah, a mangrove wetland, a farm, and a salt-water ocean with a wave machine and gravelly beach. This was Biosphere 2—the first biosphere being Earth—a $150 million experiment designed to see if, in a climate of nuclear and ecological fear, the colonization of space might be possible.

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