Artists’ brains are ‘structurally different’ new study claims
04.17.2014
09:11 am

Topics:
Art
Science/Tech

Tags:
brain
artists

000niarb.jpg
 
A study has revealed that artists’ brains are ‘structurally different’ from the rest of us. The small study, published in the journal NeuroImage, detailed the results of brain scans taken from 21 art students and 23 non-artists. The scans used a voxel-based morphometry to reveal that artists have more neural matter in the parts of their brain relating to visual imagery and fine motor control.

Lead author of the study, Rebecca Chamberlain from KU Leuven, Belgium, told BBC News that she was interested in finding out how artists saw the world differently.

“The people who are better at drawing really seem to have more developed structures in regions of the brain that control for fine motor performance and what we call procedural memory,” she explained.

The brain scans were accompanied by different drawing tasks, which revealed those who performed best at the tests had more grey and white matter in the motor areas of the brain. Grey matter is mainly composed of nerve cells, while white matter is responsible for communication between the grey matter regions. However, it is not clear what the increase in neural matter means, other than artists have enhanced processing in these areas due the functions involved in drawing and painting, Dr Chamberlain added:

“It falls into line with evidence that focus of expertise really does change the brain. The brain is incredibly flexible in response to training and there are huge individual differences that we are only beginning to tap into.”

One of the study’s other authors, Chris McManus from University College London, said it was difficult to know what aspect of artistic talent is innate and how much is learnt:

“We would need to do further studies where we look at teenagers and see how they develop in their drawing as they grow older - but I think [this study] has given us a handle on how we could begin to look at this.”

One scientist, not involved with the study, Ellen Winner of Boston College told BBC News that the study “put to rest the facile claims that artists use ‘the right side of their brain’ given that increased grey and white matter were found in the art group in both left and right structures of the brain”.

“Only a prospective study could get at the question of innate structural brain differences that predispose people to become visual artists, and this kind of study has not been done as it would be very difficult and very expensive to carry out.”

 
Via BBC News

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
The researchers who discovered that bee stings on the penis are painful—by testing on themselves

Schmidt pain index
 
It’s remarkable the things people will go through in the name of science. In the case of Justin O. Schmidt, the man who developed the “Schmidt pain index,” our gratitude is even more difficult to measure. Schmidt, who published his landmark paper “Hemolytic Activities of Stinging Insect Venoms” in 1983, wanted to know which insect stings are the most painful, and in order to do so, he subjected himself to the pricks of countless creepy crawlies—including on his prick.

Reading his descriptions of the varying severity of insect stings, which are rated on a scale from 0 to 4, is quite a bit like reading the most ghastly wine reviews ever. Check it out:
 

1.0 Sweat bee: Light, ephemeral, almost fruity. A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm.
1.2 Fire ant: Sharp, sudden, mildly alarming. Like walking across a shag carpet & reaching for the light switch.
1.8 Bullhorn acacia ant: A rare, piercing, elevated sort of pain. Someone has fired a staple into your cheek.
2.0 Bald-faced hornet: Rich, hearty, slightly crunchy. Similar to getting your hand mashed in a revolving door.
2.0 Yellowjacket: Hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine WC Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.
2.x Honey bee and European hornet.
3.0 Red harvester ant: Bold and unrelenting. Somebody is using a drill to excavate your ingrown toenail.
3.0 Paper wasp: Caustic & burning. Distinctly bitter aftertaste. Like spilling a beaker of Hydrochloric acid on a paper cut.
4.0 Pepsis wasp: Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair drier has been dropped into your bubble bath (if you get stung by one you might as well lie down and scream).
4.0+ Bullet ant: Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch nail in your heel.

 
The pepsis wasp, which clocks in at a brain-shattering 4.0 above, is also called the tarantula hawk, for reasons you can best imagine. Here’s a picture of one: if you see it, run quickly in the opposite direction:
 
Pepsis wasp
 
The story of Schmidt is slightly more mundane than the initial impression. As The Straight Dope put it in 2012, “Having spent half an hour on the phone with entomologist Justin O. Schmidt of the Southwestern Biological Institute in Tucson, Arizona, I can confidently report he didn’t volunteer to be stung by every goddamn awful thing in existence. It just sorta happened.” As an entomologist who spends a great deal of time in the field in lush places like Costa Rica, it’s something that happens all too infrequently, whether he wants it to or not. According to Schmidt, the precise valuations listed above are not the product of exacting scientific inquiry and do not appear in his formal papers; rather, they were “wheedled out of him by an editor at Outside magazine, who was trying to goose up a story for that publication in 1996.” (Yeah, yeah, yeah. For fuck’s sake, that just sounds like good editing to me.)

The Straight Dope continues: “One also mustn’t take seriously the wine-review-style descriptions accompanying the sting ratings. For example, the sting of a southern paper wasp is said to be “caustic and burning, with a distinctly bitter aftertaste. Like spilling a beaker of hydrochloric acid on a paper cut.” Such remarks lack empirical basis, Schmidt cheerfully concedes, although if there’s anyone equipped to expound on the fine points of pain, a guy who’s been stung by 150 different species in his lifetime is probably it.”

Still, while we’re at it, it might surprise you to learn that the penis is not the part of the body most sensitive to pain, according to the researches of a man named Michael L. Smith. In his paper “Honey Bee Sting Pain Index by Body Location,” published this year in PeerJ, it’s up there but not in the top slot.
 

The Schmidt Sting Pain Index rates the painfulness of 78 Hymenoptera species, using the honey bee as a reference point. However, the question of how sting painfulness varies depending on body location remains unanswered. This study rated the painfulness of honey bee stings over 25 body locations in one subject (the author). Pain was rated on a 1–10 scale, relative to an internal standard, the forearm. In the single subject, pain ratings were consistent over three repetitions. Sting location was a significant predictor of the pain rating in a linear model. ... The three least painful locations were the skull, middle toe tip, and upper arm (all scoring a 2.3). The three most painful locations were the nostril, upper lip, and penis shaft (9.0, 8.7, and 7.3, respectively). This study provides an index of how the painfulness of a honey bee sting varies depending on body location.

 
Fellas, if you’re out in the jungle and you find yourself confronting a swarm of pepsis wasps, put on a hockey mask and expose your penis (or possibly your skull—that’s probably a better idea).
 
Here’s the pioneering Dr. Schmidt discussing instinct stings and pain management:
 

 
via Lost at E Minor

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
Glow-in-the-dark roads: Great idea or a bad trip?
04.14.2014
10:40 am

Topics:
Science/Tech

Tags:
Daan Roosegaarde

0101wolginehtkradholl.jpg
 
The first glow-in-the-dark highway was unveiled today in Holland. The 1600-feet stretch of road has been coated with a “photo-luminising” powder that uses sunlight to power-up during daytime and then releases a greenish glow at nighttime. One day’s sunlight can supply up to eight hours of glow.

This kind of glow-in-the-dark highway is being touted as the future for all roads and it is claimed it will eventually do away with the need for street lamps.

The idea was developed by interactive artist Daan Roosegaarde and Dutch civil engineering group Heijmans, and today the technology was being tried out before being officially launched later this month. The first"glowing lines” are being tested on a stretch of highway on the N329 in Oss, just over 60 miles south of Amsterdam. In an interview, last year, with the BBC Mr. Roosegaarde said:

“The government is shutting down streetlights at night to save money, energy is becoming much more important than we could have imagined 50 years ago. This road is about safety and envisaging a more self-sustainable and more interactive world.”

Originally there had been plans to include weather symbols, which were to be made from a temperature sensitive paint, but at present, this technology has not been included in the initial test run in Oss. The present test will also take into account possible damage caused by skid marks, and the issues caused during winter months when there are fewer hours of daylight. However, if the pilot scheme proves successful, it is believed this new glow-in-the-dark technology will be rolled out nationally across Holland.

Certainly it will make taking a trip in Holland… trippier.

Below, the original promo for glow-in-the-dark highways by Daan Roosegaarde and Heijmans.
 

 
Via BBC News

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
‘Cry Baby: The Pedal That Rocks The World’


 
The wah-wah guitar effect pedal makes a “cry baby” sound by filtering the electronic frequencies up and down controlled by the players foot. The first one was put on the market in 1967 by Warwick Electronics Inc./Thomas Organ Company, the somewhat accidental creation of Brad Plunkett, a junior electronics engineer at the company. Plunkett’s prototype used a volume pedal from a Vox Continental Organ and a transistorized mid-range booster, but his original goal had only been to switch from a finicky tube to a much cheaper, easier to use piece of solid state circuitry. (Chet Atkins had designed a somewhat similar device in the late 1950s, which you can hear on his “Hot Toddy” and “Slinkey” singles)

Almost immediately the Cry Baby wah-wah pedal was adopted by the most famous guitar slingers in rock. One of the first was Eric Clapton, who used the effect to great effect in “Tales of Brave Ulysses.” Frank Zappa was a huge fan of the effect and is said to have introduced Jimi Hendrix to the Cry Baby who used it on “Burning of the Midnight Lamp” and quite a bit after that. One of the most famous uses of the wah-wah pedal’s “wacka-wacka” effect is heard on Isaac Hayes’ “Theme from Shaft.”

In Joey Tosi and Max Baloian’s documentary Cry Baby: The Pedal That Rocks The World, the filmmakers explore the influence of the wah-wah pedal on popular music, talking to inventor Brad Plunkett, longtime Rolling Stone contributor Ben Fong-Torres, Eddie Van Halen, Slash, Buddy Guy, Art Thompson, Hendrix engineer Eddie Kramer, Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, Dweezil Zappa and Jim Dunlop, a man whose name is synonymous with the production of musical effects devices.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Attention Doctor Who fans: Watch ‘The Delian Mode’ terrific short documentary on Delia Derbyshire
04.09.2014
08:58 am

Topics:
Feminism
Music
Science/Tech

Tags:
Doctor Who
Delia Derbyshire


 
Canadian director Kara Blake‘s award-winning short documentary The Delian Mode is an audio-visual love letter to pioneering electronic composer Delia Derbyshire, best known for her spooky rendering of Ron Grainer’s Doctor Who theme music for the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in 1963. (Legend has it that when Grainer heard what she’d done—creating each quavering, alien-sounding note by speeding up or slowing down analog tape recordings of a single plucked string, then cutting and splicing it—with rulers, razor and cellophane tape—before embellishing the results with the sound of waveform oscillators and white noise, he asked “Did I write that?” She answered “Most of it.”). It’s an impressive piece of filmmaking, dreamlike, lyrical and especially pleasing to the eye—and ear—for a documentary. Blake wouldn’t have had a lot to work with (I’ve only ever seen one short film clip of Derbyshire) but does a wonderful job of presenting a well-rounded account of Delia Derbyshire’s work and of her influence on electronic dance music.

You simply cannot watch this marvelous film without concluding that Delia Derbyshire was a creative and technical genius, producing complex music that seemed to come directly from another dimension, yet was wholly constructed via analog means (such as a tape loop that ran all the way down a hallway or slowing down the sound of banging on a metal lampshade.)

The Delian Mode is inspiring, it’s a bit sad (depression and alcoholism plagued Derbyshire’s life) but it’s a story that needed to be told and told with respect. That she was a self-created woman working in what was then largely a man’s space makes her achievements seem all the more remarkable and and especially cool. (At one point we hear audio of Derbyshire describing herself as being a “post-feminist” before the concept of feminism even existed, although there were other women veterans of the BBC Radiophonic Laboratory, notably Daphne Oram, creator of “Oramics,” which controlled sound with celluloid plates, and Maddalena Fagandini.)

Blake interviews Derbyshire’s colleagues at the BBC Radio Workshop, Adrian Utley of Portishead, Ann Shenton of Add N to (X) and Sonic Boom aka Peter Kember of Spacemen 3, Spectrum and E.A.R., who brought Derbyshire into his own work towards the end of her life on the E.A.R. albums Vibrations (2000) and Continuum (2001).

After Derbyshire’s death, 267 reel-to-reel tapes and a box of a thousand pages of music and notes were found in her attic. Her life and work will be celebrated this Saturday April 12th on Delia Derbyshire Day at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation in Manchester.
 

 
More Delia Derbyshire after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Famous album covers overlaid onto Google Street View
04.08.2014
05:38 am

Topics:
Music
Science/Tech

Tags:
album covers

Bob Dylan
The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, Jones Street, West Village, New York City
 
This idea may have been done before this, but I can’t remember seeing it before now. Lots of notable album covers were taken in city streets, so why not overlay some popular album covers onto Google Street View? I once had to take a picture of the building on the cover of Physical Graffiti for a scavenger hunt, so I know exactly where that one is. (You’d never notice it just walking around. For one thing, the big red letters are missing.) I’ve been to London a dozen times and I’ve never done the Abbey Road saunter. I think I’ve been to Ludlow and Rivington and thought about Paul’s Boutique once, not sure.
 
Rush
Moving Pictures, Rush. Ontario Legislature, Toronto
 
Led Zeppelin
Physical Graffiti, Led Zeppelin. St. Mark’s Place, East Village, New York City

 
Pink Floyd
Animals, Pink Floyd. Battersea Power Station, Wandsworth, London
 
Jackson Browne
Late for the Sky, Jackson Browne. Hancock Park, Los Angeles
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
Morbid menagerie: The opulent death displays of Frederik Ruysch
04.01.2014
06:34 am

Topics:
Art
Science/Tech

Tags:
sculpture
embalming
Frederik Ruysch


 
The drawings you see are here are from Frederik Ruysch’s Thesaurus Animalium Primus, a ten-volume collection published between 1701 and 1716. Ruysch was a Dutch botanist and anatomist who was appointed chief instructor to all the midwives in Amsterdam in 1668. His position had never existed before, but if a woman wanted to continue her work as a midwife, she now had to be evaluated by Ruysch. Having formerly suffered a dearth of cadavers to study and preserve, he suddenly found himself with access to a profusion of dead babies.

Part scientist, part artist, and part absolute eccentric, Ruysch became famous for his beautiful and morbid displays of embalming and remains, arranging human and animal parts together in the sorts of elaborate scenes you see here. Though he was a respected scientist, these presentations were barely medical, and hardly scientific. The sculptures often positioned the bones of babies in impossible stagings—you’ll notice one weeps genteelly, with a handkerchief. And with the help of his daughter Rachel, a famous still-life painter in her own right, he adorned his works with hair, flowers, fish, plants, seashells, and lace.

Ruysch showed his creations in a private museum (entry free to doctors, paid to layman), and they quickly became world-famous. The museum wasn’t quite a sober affair either—Ruysch would arrange tongue-in-cheek exhibits, like the bones of a three-year-old-boy next to that of a parrot, with the insinuated joke of “time flies.” In 1697, Czar Peter the Great took a tour of Ruysch’s work and became so enamored with one of the specimens that kissed it. He eventually purchased the entirety of the museum. I’m unsure of Dutch cultural norms regarding death around the turn of the 18th century, but the fact that midwives had to answer to a man with a side business in death sculptures suggests, at the very least, a conflict on interest. Still the strange beauty of Ruysch’s work cannot be denied, nor can his scientific brilliance.

His pioneering embalming techniques are what made his work possible, and Peter the Great also paid quite handsomely for the secret recipe to his preservation fluid, an alcohol of clotted pig’s blood, Berlin blue and mercury oxide. A (false) rumor circulated that the sailors transporting Ruysch’s collection to Russia drank all his embalming fluid, but it actually arrived in whole, and some of Ruysch’s specimens are still in perfect condition today—a testament to his brilliance in preservation.
 

Jan van Neck’s “Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Frederick Ruysch,” where he appears to perform an autopsy for posterity. (1683)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Via The Public Domain Review

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
‘You’re living in your own Private Idaho’: Robot band gamely covers The B-52s
04.01.2014
05:57 am

Topics:
Music
Science/Tech

Tags:
Bit-52s
B-52's

Bit-52s
 
Four years ago, James Cochrane of Toronto, Canada, came up with the inspired idea of programming a bunch of fairly ordinary computer equipment—including a couple of old-school HP Scanjet 3C scanners and an array of solenoids—to play the B-52s’ “Rock Lobster.” You’ve probably seen it—it got around, we featured it on DM more than once
 
B-52s
 
Now Cochrane is back with another B-52s cover—this time it’s “Private Idaho”! He’s upgraded the band’s vocal abilities with a a DECTalk Express, the same gizmo that allows Stephen Hawking to speak to the world. (The purpose of the video is to promote a Kickstarter for “Art Rocks Athens: How Art Made Music in Georgia From 1975-85.”)

Hey James, let me know when you get around to “Legal Tender” or “Girl From Ipanema Goes to Greenland” or “53 Miles West of Venus,” okay? Now THAT will be something to marvel at…....
 

 
Now that was dandy and all, but all it’s done is put me in the mood to re-watch this incredible version of “Private Idaho,” performed on a marvelous Mondrian-inspired set with costumery to match:
 

 
via Internet Magic

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
Chaos theory: What it might look like if 1500 people walked and texted at the same time


 
This Japanese ad, by mobile phone carrier NTT Docomo, purports that one in every five people who walk while using their Smartphone will experience some type of accident or injury. I believe it. They’ll probably also inflict many an injury on innocent people, too. (I witnessed a mother crossing a busy downtown Los Angeles street with her toddler yesterday smiling at something and texting and I wondered WHAT could be so important that she had to reply to it right then and there?)

Attention to the surroundings is neglected while walking around staring at your cellphone.

We decided to study the danger of texting while walking using a computer simulation.

We used a computer simulation to have 1,500 people text while walking at Shibuya Crossing, the busiest crossing where people can cross in every direction.

What actually happened? Chaos? Fear? Comedy?

See the numerous unusual movements resulting from texting while walking.

*Some of the numbers used in the simulation were based on the research results of Professor Kazuhiro Kozuka, Department of Media Informatics, Aichi University of Technology.

Okay, so it’s not exactly the infamous 1979 Who concert in Cincinnati, but it does show you how disoriented people get from walking and texting. And from what I can tell, a few animated people do get trampled.

 
Via Daily Dot

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
What if the Nazis had won? A 1960s top 40 radio sampler
03.28.2014
10:54 am

Topics:
Games
History
Music
Science/Tech

Tags:
Nazis
1960s


 
Alternate history is a fascinating genre of fiction. You have your anachronistic nostalgia, like steampunk, but that tends to be largely aesthetic, and I’m not that into parasols or goggles. (Also, the glorification of less technology tends to overlook some really inconvenient historical realities, like how inefficient steam power actually was.) I prefer my alternate histories to be horrifying dystopias, and “what if the Nazis won?” certainly fits the bill. There are some critically acclaimed novels based on that very premise—Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle,  Robert Harris’ Fatherland, and Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America, but this has to be the first time a video game has been set in a world where Hitler triumphed.

The Wolfenstein video game franchise has produced nine editions in total (the original in 1981), all of which are based on fighting Nazis. The latest incarnation, Wolfenstein: The New Order, takes place in the 1960s, where the player navigates a Nazi-controlled Europe in hopes of launching a counter-offensive against the regime. What appeals to me, of course, is the custom-made soundtrack—the “commercial” below is for a compilation of the 1960s “Nazi pop” that will play throughout the game.

The pre-order for Wolfenstein also includes a package of “artifacts,” like postcards and military patches, but it’s the soundtrack that really establishes the mood for a game. There’s prom-worthy slow-dances, bubblegum pop, growling rockabilly, beach-blanket bingo surf rock, and even some Teutonic psychedelia. You can listen to the whole thing here. I feel like the fact that I speak absolutely no German actually frees up my ear to recognize the attention to sonic detail.
 

 
Via A.V. Club

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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