Monthly Archives: February 2012

True Colors


I’d like to see them include LGBT but…

Beyond Pink and Blue: A Look at Gender Colors

Mar 21 by JD Rucker | 44 comments

It goes beyond culture. There is science behind the gender-relationships when it comes to colors. A study by John Hallock compares the color preferences among various demographics and takes into account information collected from 22 countries.

Our friends at KissMetrics put together this informative infographic that tears down the gender barriers to reveal what really goes on in visualizations.

Click any portion to enlarge.


Colors by Gender

The Color Purple – The most notable gender difference can be seen in the color purple. The study reported that 23% of female participants chose purple as their favorite. No males chose purple.

Blue Reigns Supreme – Both males and females like the color blue, which receives favor with 35% of female respondents and more than half of the male respondents. Tomes could be written about the color blue and why people like it so much. Blue is universally associated with clean water, clear skies, authority, truth, tranquility, etc. – making it a perennial favorite among all ages groups and genders.


A Closer Look

In 2007, Doctor Anya Hurlbert and Yazhu Ling created an experiment to explore how men and women differ in their perceptions of color.


Results of the Experiment

The experiment showed that men and women both preferred blue out of the sets of colors. When asked to choose from mixed colors, women liked colors that are closer to the red end of the spectrum, where shades of pink are found.


Color Naming: Men Keep It Simple

What may be simply “purple” to a man could be grape, plum, or any other fruit-like variant to a woman.

Wandering mind not a happy mind


Wandering mind not a happy mind

About 47% of waking hours spent thinking about what isn’t going on

By Steve Bradt

Harvard Staff Writer

Thursday, November 11, 2010

People spend 46.9 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing, and this mind-wandering typically makes them unhappy. So says a study that used an iPhone Web app to gather 250,000 data points on subjects’ thoughts, feelings, and actions as they went about their lives.

The research, by psychologists Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert of Harvard University, is described this week in the journal Science.

“A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind,” Killingsworth and Gilbert write. “The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.”

Unlike other animals, humans spend a lot of time thinking about what isn’t going on around them: contemplating events that happened in the past, might happen in the future, or may never happen at all. Indeed, mind-wandering appears to be the human brain’s default mode of operation.

To track this behavior, Killingsworth developed an iPhone app that contacted 2,250 volunteers at random intervals to ask how happy they were, what they were currently doing, and whether they were thinking about their current activity or about something else that was pleasant, neutral, or unpleasant.

Subjects could choose from 22 general activities, such as walking, eating, shopping, and watching television. On average, respondents reported that their minds were wandering 46.9 percent of time, and no less than 30 percent of the time during every activity except making love.

“Mind-wandering appears ubiquitous across all activities,” says Killingsworth, a doctoral student in psychology at Harvard. “This study shows that our mental lives are pervaded, to a remarkable degree, by the nonpresent.”

Killingsworth and Gilbert, a professor of psychology at Harvard, found that people were happiest when making love, exercising, or engaging in conversation. They were least happy when resting, working, or using a home computer.

“Mind-wandering is an excellent predictor of people’s happiness,” Killingsworth says. “In fact, how often our minds leave the present and where they tend to go is a better predictor of our happiness than the activities in which we are engaged.”

The researchers estimated that only 4.6 percent of a person’s happiness in a given moment was attributable to the specific activity he or she was doing, whereas a person’s mind-wandering status accounted for about 10.8 percent of his or her happiness.

Time-lag analyses conducted by the researchers suggested that their subjects’ mind-wandering was generally the cause, not the consequence, of their unhappiness.

“Many philosophical and religious traditions teach that happiness is to be found by living in the moment, and practitioners are trained to resist mind wandering and to ‘be here now,’” Killingsworth and Gilbert note in Science. “These traditions suggest that a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.”

This new research, the authors say, suggests that these traditions are right.

Killingsworth and Gilbert’s 2,250 subjects in this study ranged in age from 18 to 88, representing a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds and occupations. Seventy-four percent of study participants were American.

More than 5,000 people are now using the iPhone Web app.


Nanoshells trap light for more efficient solar panels

By posted Feb 9th 2012 7:11PM

Scientists at Stanford are hard at work trying to improve the efficiency and durability of solar panels — two key factors that have kept the Sun from becoming a more popular source of energy. Their latest effort involves nanocrystalline-silicon, a material that has proven resilient and highly conductive, but not very good at absorbing light. Their solution, nanoshells — hollowed out spheres of silicon that trap and recirculate light much like a whispering gallery does sound. Balls of the crystalline material are dipped in silicon, then hydrofluoric acid is used to eat way the center of the sphere, leaving a path for light to enter. The shells trap the light, allowing more of it to be absorbed, and also reduces the effect of non-optimal angles on energy production. Hit up the source for a few more details.

Nanoshells trap…

A chemical that can turn your organs transparent


Who needs an invisibility cloakwhen you can be transparent? Researchers in Japan recently developed a chemical reagent that turns biological tissue transparent, opening doors to optical imaging techniques and avenues of research that scientists have long only dreamed of. And speaking of dreaming — if you’re going to start turning body parts transparent, where better to start than the brain?

What if you could dissect an organism without so much as picking up a scalpel? For years, researchers have used animals like zebrafish — which are naturally transparent at the embryological stage of development, and were recently genetically engineered to remain transparent through adulthood — to do just that. But for other model organisms, like mice and rats, scientists have always had to get at their insides the old fashioned way: by cutting them up.

Slicing and dicing is necessary because modern techniques for looking at the insides of an organism can’t see deep enough to be of any real use; the tendency for tissue to scatter light, for instance, keeps modern optical methods of observation from probing deeper than 1mm into biological matter.

But all that is about to change. Take a look at the image pictured here. The object on the right may looklike a pineapple gummi bear, but it’s actually a mouse embryo that’s been treated with a new chemical reagent that turns biological tissue transparent. Compare it to the embryo on the left, and you’ll get a sense of why scientists are heralding this discovery as a revolution in the field of optical imaging.

The reagent, known as Scale, was developed by a group of scientists from Japan’s RIKEN Brain Science Institute, and the team has already used it to study neurons in the brains of mice at unprecedented levels of detail. See, what’s really impressive about Scale is that it not only renders tissue transparent, it manages to do so without interfering with fluorescent labels and signaling. (Fluorescent labeling is a well-establish imaging technique that allows scientists to genetically alter proteins of interest so that they light up with a specific color when exposed to certain wavelengths of light.)

The researchers’ findings, which are documented in the latest issue of Nature Neuroscience, demonstrate their ability to visualize in three dimensions the intricate networks of neurons and blood vessels in the brains of embryonic mice at sub-cellular resolution, like the neural stem cells (green) and blood vessels (red) pictured here.

This latest research uses Scale to visualize fluorescently-labeled brain samples, but the researchers say that their reagent will prove invaluable in the study of other tissues, as well. Dr. Atsushi Miyawaki, who led the RIKEN research team, says they envision using Scale on organs like the heart, muscles, and kidneys, and even on tissues from other organisms, including primates and humans.

And while the reagent in its current form is too powerful to use on living organisms, Miyawaki says that could change:

We are currently investigating another, milder candidate reagent which would allow us to study live tissue in the same way, at somewhat lower levels of transparency. This would open the door to experiments that have simply never been possible before.

Via Nature Neuroscience
Top image via Sebastian Kaulitzki/Shutterstock

Belgium’s 2012 Ghent Light Festival


55,000 LEDs Light Up Iconic Belgian Building

Alice Truong
By Alice Truong
Fri Feb 3, 2012 02:59 PM ET
( ) Comments | Leave a Comment
Luminarie De Cagna

Image: Light Festival Ghent

Belgium’s 2012 Ghent Light Festival has transformed the Luminarie De Cagna into a stunning, lit-up edifice.

The building is home to an Italian family business founded in 1930, and the company lit up the square and its buildings with oil and carbide lamps on festive occasions. Eventually, the lamps were replaced with electric lights, and in 2006, only LEDs were used.

Luminarie De Cagna

Image: Light Festival Ghent

For the 2012 light festival, the Luminarie De Cagna, with an entrance soaring 91 feet high, was decked out with 55,000 LEDs. If that seems like a lot of energy, be amazed at how little power they take. They consume 20 kilowatts an hour. Below is a video of the festival and more photos of the Luminarie De Cagna.


Luminarie De Cagna

Image: Light Festival Ghent

Luminarie De Cagna

Image: Light Festival Ghent

Follow @alicetruong on Twitter.

wOOoO! Plastic-eating fungus


Yale Discovers a Fungus That Eats Plastic

By Kevin Lee, PCWorld    Feb 2, 2012 10:48 AM

Plastic is possibly the greatest commercial creation of last 150 years. It’s made it into tupperware, saran wrap, toys, car parts, computer parts, smartphones, and shopping bag all over the world. The only problem is that polyurethane is not biodegradable, and recycling plastic can be equated to just turning it into another product, so all that plastic already in landfills will stay there for centuries to come.

Scientists have not found a single way to break down polyurethane–luckily, nature has found a way on its own. Yale scientists recently found a fungus in the Amazonian rainforest that naturally eats polyurethane.

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This is the first fungus species, identified by the Yale researchers as Pestalotiopsis microspore, which exclusively subsists on polyurethane. It can also grow in an anaerobic (air-less) environment, which will hopefully allow it to take root in the deepest regions of our trash heaps.

Jonathan Russell, a Yale scientists of the group, has managed to isolated an enzyme the fungus uses decompose plastic. The scientists hope to use the extracted chemical to eliminate plastic trash and to help in bioremediation projects.

[Yale Alumni Magazine via Fastcoexist and Tree Hugger / Photo: Samuel Mann on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)]