In summer 2004, as the Darfur crisis edged into the world’s consciousness, UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland made a striking admission. Pondering why Darfur had suddenly attracted international interest when other bloody conflicts had not, Egeland told “The New York Times”: "I don't know why one place gets attention and another not. It's like a lottery, where there are 50 victimized groups always trying to get the winning ticket, and they play every night and they lose every night. I myself have said that the biggest race against the clock is Darfur, but in terms of numbers of people displaced, there are already more in Uganda and the eastern Congo."
Scientists can now predict memory of an event before it even happens. A team at UCL (University College London) can now tell how well memory will serve us before we have seen what we will remember.
Scans of brain activity, published online in the journal Nature Neuroscience, indicate that the brain can actually get into the ‘right frame of mind’ to store new information and that we perform at our best if the brain is active not only at the moment we get new information but also in the seconds before.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, what is plagiarism? The least sincere form? A genuine crime? Or merely the work of someone with less-than-complete mastery of quotation marks who is in too great a hurry to come up with words and ideas of his own?
It is more than a year since a sullen 12-year-old girl was dragged into my surgery by her exasperated mother who wanted me to find out the cause of her intermittently withdrawn and defiant behaviour.
After a period of silence, followed by an outburst of anger and tears, the background to the conflict emerged. The girl, who had learned at school of the health risks associated with smoking, had discovered a packet of cigarettes in her mother's handbag. She was frightened that her mother might die and angry that she had betrayed the family, not only by her filthy habit, but also by trying to conceal it. The mother was full of remorse, that her guilty secret had been exposed and that she had found herself incapable of overcoming her compulsion to smoke despite her awareness of the risk to her health and the implicit threat to the integrity of her family.
Remains of the ancient Maya culture, mysteriously destroyed at the height of its reign in the ninth century, have been hidden in the rainforests of Central America for more than 1,000 years. Now, NASA and University of New Hampshire scientists are using space- and aircraft-based "remote-sensing" technology to uncover those ruins, using the chemical signature of the civilization's ancient building materials.
NASA archaeologist Tom Sever and scientist Dan Irwin, both from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., are teaming with William Saturno, an archaeologist at the University of New Hampshire, to locate the ruins of the ancient culture. Saturno discovered the oldest known intact Maya mural at the site in 2001.
Those familiar with the long-running PBS tv series This Old House may be able to discern where I am going with this series of essays. Basically, I seek to rehabilitate (by rewriting) well-known poems by published (& often famous) poets. My contention is that even the biggest names in poetry wrote & (worse) published bad to very bad poems, solely on their prior reputations. These poems’ badness range from clichéfests to unmusicked & torturous-sounding poems, & occasionally a combination of the 2. I will also take on some pretty good poems & show how they could have been made even better.
Mickey Lawson's brain is talking. The 63-year-old picture framer from Lawrenceville, Ga., is strapped to a surgical table in operating room 15 at Emory University Hospital. He is also trapped in the rigid embrace of Parkinson's disease, which in the past decade has robbed him of speech and muscle control. Yet his brain is quite lively, and in the OR this afternoon in late January, everyone can hear it.
A loud popping begins echoing from a speaker. "You can hear it's pretty active," says neurosurgeon Robert Gross. He is gingerly guiding an electrode--a wire only a few millionths of an inch thick--into Lawson's brain through a nickel-size hole in his skull. It's picking up the sounds of neurons firing electrical impulses, the very stuff of thoughts and commands. Gross has pushed into part of an essential motor circuit that's damaged in Parkinson's.
This study was done by Adrian North and colleagues from the University of Leicester. They played traditional French (accordion music) or traditional German (a Bierkeller brass band - oompah music) music at customers and watched the sales of wine from their experimental wine shelves, which contained French and German wine matched for price and flavour. On French music days 77% of the wine sold was French, on German music days 73% was German - in other words, if you took some wine off their shelves you were 3 or 4 times more likely to choose a wine that matched the music than wine that didn't match the music.
Did people notice the music? Probably in a vague sort of way. But only 1 out of 44 customers who agreed to answer some questions at the checkout spontaneously mentioned it as the reason they bought the wine. When asked specifically if they thought that the music affected their choice 86% said that it didn't. The behavioural influence of the music was massive, but the customers didn't notice or believe that it was affecting them. Similar experiments have shown that classical music can make people buy more expensive wine, or spend more in restaurants.
Commercials are a part of our lives. We watch them, enjoy them, and discuss them with our friends. Do commercials make us buy the product they advertise? Nobody really knows. The most anticipated 'ad experience' is watching the Super Bowl ads. After the game, there is a flurry of opinions from marketing experts and focus groups of what was the most effective Super Bowl ad.
This year, at the UCLA Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center, Marco Iacoboni and his group used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure brain responses in a group of subjects while they watched the Super Bowl ads.
Einstein gets the glory, but others were paving the way.
Now that the worldwide celebrations marking Einstein's miraculous achievements of 1905 are over, let's take a moment to light a candle to the runners-up, those poor fellows who were hot on Einstein's heels, who almost got it right and perhaps would have, but who've been lost in the shadow of his great triumphs. It is true; Einstein was not the only person at the turn of the last century thinking about molecules and relativity. What's more, he was up on much of their work and, like any scientist, stood on the shoulders of his predecessors.
February 15, John Frum Day, on the remote island of Tanna in the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu. On this holiest of days, devotees have descended on the village of Lamakara from all over the island to honor a ghostly American messiah, John Frum. “John promised he’ll bring planeloads and shiploads of cargo to us from America if we pray to him,” a village elder tells me as he salutes the Stars and Stripes. “Radios, TVs, trucks, boats, watches, iceboxes, medicine, Coca-Cola and many other wonderful things.”
The island’s John Frum movement is a classic example of what anthropologists have called a “cargo cult”—many of which sprang up in villages in the South Pacific during World War II, when hundreds of thousands of American troops poured into the islands from the skies and seas. As anthropologist Kirk Huffman, who spent 17 years in Vanuatu, explains: “You get cargo cults when the outside world, with all its material wealth, suddenly descends on remote, indigenous tribes.” The locals don’t know where the foreigners’ endless supplies come from and so suspect they were summoned by magic, sent from the spirit world.
The number of cancer deaths in the United States has dropped slightly, the first decline in more than 70 years, the American Cancer Society is reporting today.
Much of the decrease is because of a decline in smoking and improved detection and treatment of breast, colorectal and prostate cancers, according to the society.
"America is addicted to oil," President Bush warned during his State of the Union address, vowing "to replace more than 75% of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025." And since our 230 million cars and trucks burn two-thirds of the 20 million barrels of oil we consume daily, Mr. Bush solemnly declared, "We must also change how we power our automobiles." The cure for our addiction? Why, a government program, of course: the Advanced Energy Initiative.
This new scheme would throw more tax dollars at research aimed at creating clean power plants and also cars powered by hydrogen, electricity and ethanol. Unfortunately, the past 35 years of failed presidential energy initiatives doesn't bode well for these proposals.
A group representing global newspaper publishers has launched a lobbying campaign to challenge search engines like Google that aggregate news content.
The move comes as the newspaper industry's traditional business model is under pressure with advertising spending shifting away from print and toward the Internet.
The Paris-based World Association of Newspapers, whose members include dozens of national newspaper trade bodies, said it is exploring ways to "challenge the exploitation of content by search engines without fair compensation to copyright owners."
Did a struggling white writer of gay erotica become one of multicultural literature’s most celebrated memoirists — by passing himself off as Native American?
In June of 1999 a writer calling himself Nasdijj emerged from obscurity to publish an ode to his adopted son in Esquire. "My son is dead," he began. "I didn’t say my adopted son is dead. He was my son. My son was a Navajo. He lived six years. They were the best six years of my life."