Friday, December 31, 2010

Brazilian Samba Baby


Awkward Silences: 4 Seconds Is All It Takes to Feel Rejected

It's the pause that doesn't refresh, the awkward moment that you relive over and over and over after you've realized that once again, you've put your foot in it.
New research from Holland suggests that good conversational flow has a powerful effect on people's feelings of self-esteem and belonging, and that even brief — just four seconds long — silences during a conversation are enough to, as Tom Jacobs puts it in Miller-McCune:

Read more:

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Why gratitude isn’t for wimps

UC DAVIS (US) — A research team studying the positive effects of daily gratitude says it can change people’s lives—but it takes mental toughness and discipline.

“Gratitude is literally one of the few things that can measurably change people’s lives,” Robert Emmons writes in his book Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier. The book outlines 10 strategies for cultivating a feeling of thanksgiving throughout the year.
Emmons, a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis, and Michael McCullough, a psychology professor at the University of Miami, are gathering a large body of novel scientific data on the nature of gratitude, its causes, and its potential consequences for human health and well-being.
“Scientists are latecomers to the concept of gratitude,” Emmons says. “Religions and philosophies have long embraced gratitude as an indispensable manifestation of virtue, and an integral component of health, wholeness, and well-being.”
“Far from being a warm, fuzzy sentiment, gratitude is morally and intellectually demanding,” he says. “It requires contemplation, reflection, and discipline. It can be hard and painful work.”
Here are Emmons’ evidence-based prescriptions for becoming more grateful:link

Nintendo: Children Under 6 Shouldn't Play 3-D Games On 3DS

I find Nintendo's concerns hard to believe...

TOKYO—Nintendo Co. has issued a warning that children under the age of 6 shouldn't play three-dimensional games on its soon-to-be-released hand-held game machine, as looking at 3-D images for a long period of time can have a harmful effect on the growth of young children's eyes.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Long Finger Linked to Cancer Risk, Study Finds and Acupuncture as a treatment for Amblyopia

A new study found that men whose index finger is longer than their ring finger are at lower risk to develop prostate cancer, according to the British Journal of Cancer. 

While the above is interesting, I found the article below when it came out last month fascinating

Lazy Eye: Chinese acupuncture offers a promising treatment for amblyopia, or "lazy eye," in older children, according to a study in Archives of Ophthalmology

There are some more interesting studies at the WSJ link at the top..

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Video Games Boost Brain Power, Multitasking Skills

Parents, the next time you fret that your child is wasting too much time playing video games, consider new research suggesting that video gaming may have real-world benefits for your child's developing brain.
Daphne Bavelier is professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester. She studies young people playing action video games. Having now conducted more than 20 studies on the topic, Bavelier says, "It turns out that action video games are far from mindless.
Her studies show that video gamers show improved skills in vision, attention and certain aspects of cognition. And these skills are not just gaming skills, but real-world skills. They perform better than non-gamers on certain tests of attention, speed, accuracy, vision and multitasking, says Bavelier.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Plan to Make Homelessness History

This is a story about a plan to end chronic homelessness in the United States. It’s not an indeterminate “war on homelessness,” but a methodical approach to do away with a major social problem. 
Against this backdrop, the 100,000 Homes Campaign has set the goal of placing 100,000 chronically homeless people — pinpointing those who face the greatest risk of dying on the streets —  into permanent supportive housing by July 2013. It’s the human welfare equivalent of NASA’s race to put a man on the moon. Whether the goal is achieved or not, the campaign is shifting the way cities address a problem that has often been seen as more of a nuisance than a public health emergency.
Street to Home’s outreach used that index to prioritize the homeless around Times Square, and they managed to get every person they met — except one holdout known as “Heavy” — into housing. “We learned that the only way to get chronically homeless people into housing was to go out and beg them to let us help them,” explained Haggerty. Along the way, Common Ground developed the strategy that is now at the heart of the campaign: hit the streets and get to know the most vulnerable people, keep talking with them until they agree to enter housing (without pre-conditions), and then blanket them with supports to keep them there and help rebuild their lives.
Another thing that Common Ground discovered was that the homeless were an amalgam of many subgroups. They have now surveyed almost 14,000 chronically homeless people and found that roughly 20 percent are veterans, 10 percent are over the age of 60, 4 percent have H.I.V. or AIDS, 47 percent have a mental illness and 5 percent remain homeless because they can’t find housing with their pets.

You might imagine that it would be hard to get people to show up in the pre-dawn hours, venture into alleyways, and ask strangers personal questions about their health. Just the opposite. In Phoenix, 175 people turned out; in San Diego, 250; in Omaha, 75; and in Chicago over 150, including Mayor Daley. In Phoenix, after the surveys were complete, organizers asked volunteers if they would like to contribute money — at $1,000 a shot — to assist homeless people with furniture and move-in expenses. In 10 minutes, they raised $50,000. “This wasn’t a room of philanthropists,” Kanis added. “It was just volunteers. But you had people saying, ‘I’ll take the guy in the wheelchair.’ ‘We’ll take the two veterans.’ There was probably a five minute standing ovation.”
The other linchpin of the campaign is encouraging city partners — who participate in weekly webinars and monthly innovation sessions — to teach one another how to get around bottlenecks in government systems.

Breakthrough in TB Diagnostics

A rapid genetic test for tuberculosis could have a huge impact on global health.
The test directly detects genetic sequences associated with TB and drug-resistant TB. Although researchers have known about these sequences since the mid-1990s, incorporating the molecular technologies needed to detect them into tests for the developing world has been impractical until recently, says David Persing, the chief medical and technology officer at Cepheid, the California-based company that manufactures the test. 

Behind Census Figures Showing Boom in Nevada, a Story of Bust

HENDERSON, Nev. — By any measure, it should have been a cause for celebration in a place that surely needs one. The Census Bureau reported that Nevada grew by 35 percent over the last decade, making it the fastest-growing state in the nation.
Instead, it was another reminder of how bad things have become here, and how exhausting a decade this state has endured. This was the boom capital of the country — which explains the census report — until the economy collapsed in 2007. People started moving out, chasing jobs or escaping a house market with the highest foreclosure rate in the country. Unemployment here is now 14.3 percent, the highest in the country.
“People come for the good jobs and the good life, and if that’s no longer here, they are gone,” said David F. Damore, an associate professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

“People are just moving out.

How to Channel Your Inner Oprah

Oprah is a full package of good ideals, strength over adversity, and imperfections turned into benefits. If you'd like to channel your inner Oprah, here are some suggestions.

Five Years In, Gauging Impact of Gates Grants

SEATTLE — Five years ago, Bill Gates made an extraordinary offer: he invited the world’s scientists to submit ideas for tackling the biggest problems in global health, including the lack of vaccines for AIDS and malaria, the fact that most vaccines must be kept refrigerated and be delivered by needles, the fact that many tropical crops like cassavas and bananas had little nutrition, and so on.

No idea was too radical, he said, and what he called the Grand Challenges in Global Health would pursue paths that the National Institutes of Health and other grant makers could not.
About 1,600 proposals came in, and the top 43 were so promising that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation made $450 million in five-year grants — more than double what he originally planned to give.
Now the five years are up, and the foundation recently brought all the scientists to Seattle to assess the results and decide who will get further funding.

In an interview, Mr. Gates sounded somewhat chastened, saying several times, “We were naïve when we began.”

African Farmers Displaced as Investors Move In

Across Africa and the developing world, a new global land rush is gobbling up large expanses of arable land. Despite their ageless traditions, stunned villagers are discovering that African governments typically own their land and have been leasing it, often at bargain prices, to private investors and foreign governments for decades to come.
Organizations like the United Nations and the World Bank say the practice, if done equitably, could help feed the growing global population by introducing large-scale commercial farming to places without it.
But others condemn the deals as neocolonial land grabs that destroy villages, uproot tens of thousands of farmers and create a volatile mass of landless poor. Making matters worse, they contend, much of the food is bound for wealthier nations. 

The breathtaking scope of some deals galvanizes opponents. In Madagascar, a deal that would have handed over almost half the country’s arable land to a South Korean conglomerate helped crystallize opposition to an already unpopular president and contributed to his overthrow in 2009. 
Sekou Traoré, 69, a village elder, was dumbfoun
Publish Post
ded when government officials said last year that Libya now controlled his land and began measuring the fields. He had always considered it his own, passed down from grandfather to father to son.
“All we want before they break our houses and take our fields is for them to show us the new houses where we will live, and the new fields where we will work,” he said at the rally last month.
“We are all so afraid,” he said of the village’s 2,229 residents. “We will be the victims of this situation, we are sure of that.”

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

Word Lens iPhone App Offers Real-Time Trans

Word Lens logo
A new iPhone app known as Word Lens will translate Spanish or English phrasesinstantly on the screen when you point your device's camera lens at the foreign language words.
It is currently the number nine app in Apple's top 10 free apps. Word Lens, from San Francisco-based Quest Visual, is free to download and includes two free features - reverse words and erase words. The Spanish to English function or English to Spanish feature, however, currently cost $4.99 each to download as part of a 50 percent off sale that ends December 31.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Think more, eat less

A new study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, published in Science, shows that when you imagine eating a certain food, it reduces your actual consumption of that food. The discovery changes the decades-old assumption that thinking about something desirable increases cravings for it and its consumption.

Drawing on research that shows that perception and mental imagery engages neural machinery in a similar fashion and similarly affect emotions, response tendencies and skilled motor behavior, researchers tested the effects of repeatedly imagining the consumption of a food on its actual consumption.

They found that simply imagining the consumption of a food decreases ones appetite for it.
A new study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, published in Science, shows that when you imagine eating a certain food, it reduces your actual consumption of that food. The discovery changes the decades-old assumption that thinking about something desirable increases cravings for it and its consumption.

Drawing on research that shows that perception and mental imagery engages neural machinery in a similar fashion and similarly affect emotions, response tendencies and skilled motor behavior, researchers tested the effects of repeatedly imagining the consumption of a food on its actual consumption.

They found that simply imagining the consumption of a food decreases ones appetite for it.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Kung Fu for Philosophers

In a 2005 news report about the Shaolin Temple, the Buddhist monastery in China well-known for its martial arts, a monk addressed a common misunderstanding: “Many people have a misconception that martial arts is about fighting and killing,” the monk was quoted as saying, “It is actually about improving your wisdom and intelligence.”[1]
This broad understanding of kung fu is a key (though by no means the only key) through which we can begin to understand traditional Chinese philosophy and the places in which it meets and departs from philosophical traditions of the West. As many scholars have pointed out, the predominant orientation of traditional Chinese philosophy is the concern about how to live one’s life, rather than finding out the truth about reality.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Mountain Gorilla Makes a Comeback

The number of mountain gorillas at a crucial site in Central Africa has grown by more than 25 percent since 2003, reflecting a significant recovery for the highly endangered species, researchers reported in a new census this week.

Social Science Palooza

David Brooks has an interesting summary of recent social psychology research in his latest column..
such as more people doubt their own beliefs the more, paradoxically, they are inclined to proselytize in favor of them...

In this column, I’m going to try to summarize as many of these studies as space allows. No single study is dispositive, but I hope these summaries can spark some conversations:

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The $300 House: The Marketing Challenge

This is a great article  by Seth Godin!

Triple the U.S. population by three. That's how many people around the world live on about a dollar a day. Triple it again and now you have the number that lives on $2. About forty percent of the world lives on $2 or less a day.
What's that like? It's almost impossible for most of us to imagine. I mean, $2 is the rent on your apartment for about 45 minutes. It buys you one bite of lunch at a local restaurant. And yet, two billion people survive on that sort of income.
The key word is 'survive'. Subsistence income means that every penny is needed, is spent. It means you are on the edge at all times. It makes life itself an emergency. If every single thing goes perfectly, then you and your family will go to sleep tonight healthy, not too hungry and fairly safe. But of course, every single thing almost never goes perfectly. If you are bitten by a malaria-carrying mosquito, you need to buy medicine and so there's no money for food. If you need more water, you have to spend two hours walking to and from the nearest half-decent water spot, and those two hours are the two hours you were going to spend harvesting the food your kids need.
Into this world, we welcome the $300 House. Its success will depend on the ability to create a market for the idea. How do we do that?
Any entrepreneur or marketer can learn a lesson from how new systems create new markets, and how an infinite increase in income or productivity can change everything. Everything.
Now, here's the kicker: If you're a tenth-generation subsistence farmer, your point of view, about risk, about life, is different from someone working in an R&D lab in Palo Alto. The Moral Economy of the Peasant makes this argument clearly: Imagine standing in water up to your chin. The only thing you're prepared to focus on is whether or not the water is going to rise four more inches. Your penchant for risk is close to zero. One mistake and the game is over.
As a result, it's extremely difficult to sell innovation to this consumer. The line around the block to get into the Apple store for a gadget is an insane concept in this community. A promise from a marketer is meaningless, because the marketer isn't part of the town, the marketer will move away, the marketer is, of course, a liar.
So you see the paradox. A new product and approach and innovation could dramatically improve the life and income of a billion people, but those people have been conditioned to ignore the very tools that are a reflex of marketers that might sell it to them. Fear of loss is greater than fear of gain. Advertising is inefficient and ineffective. And the worldview of the shopper is that they're not a shopper. They're in search of refills. They are in water up to their chins.
So how can the $300 House be marketed effectively? The answer is in connecting and leading Tribes.
It lies in engaging directly and experientially with individuals, not getting distribution in front of markets. Figure out how to use direct selling in just one village, and then do it in ten, and then in a hundred. The broad, mass market approach of a Western marketer is foolish because there is no mass market in places where villages are the market. It has worked with other products. It can work with the $300 House.

Tracing the Spark of Creative Problem-Solving

In a just completed study, researchers at Northwestern University found that people were more likely to solve word puzzles with sudden insight when they were amused, having just seen a short comedy routine.
“What we think is happening,” said Mark Beeman, a neuroscientist who conducted the study with Karuna Subramaniam, a graduate student, “is that the humor, this positive mood, is lowering the brain’s threshold for detecting weaker or more remote connections” to solve puzzles. 
And that escape is all the more tantalizing for being incomplete. Unlike the cryptic social and professional mazes of real life, puzzles are reassuringly soluble; but like any serious problem, they require more than mere intellect to crack.
“It’s imagination, it’s inference, it’s guessing; and much of it is happening subconsciously,” said Marcel Danesi, a professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto and the author of “The Puzzle Instinct: The Meaning of Puzzles in Human Life.”
“It’s all about you, using your own mind, without any method or schema, to restore order from chaos,” Dr. Danesi said. 

Monday, December 06, 2010

In the eyes (and brains) of the beholder

It’s common knowledge that an individual’s thoughts and emotions differ from one person to another, but it has long been assumed that perception of the visual world is usually similar from person to person.
The primary visual cortex—the area at the back of the brain responsible for processing what is seen—is known to differ in size by up to three times from one individual to the next.

How a plumber charges more than a neurosurgeon

So there was a neurosurgeon who called a plumber for a house visit.
The plumber arrived and after spending an hour bestowed the neurosurgeon a bill of $500. The surgeon was stunned; he said, “Even I don’t charge this much after a surgery.” The plumber stood up, gave him a sly look and said, “well that is why I am a plumber now; I used to be a neurosurgeon.”
I mention this as I was talking to a cardiologist few days ago. He said we are one of the few professions where someone else comes in and informs you how much you will get paid, regardless of what you do. Next time when you have a plumber at your house. try telling him what you want to pay him but do not hold your breath. Unfortunately, every year with Medicare cuts we are seeing more and more doctors changing the way they run their practices.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Attention-Grabber for Sudan’s Cause

“I do human rights the way I played basketball,” John Prendergast said. We were sitting in the outdoor restaurant of an unfinished hotel in Juba, a boomtown of mud and shanties beside the White Nile in southern Sudan. It’s a restaurant where the South’s liberation leaders tend to gather, and these days they are in a buoyant mood. They have traded their fatigues for dress shirts and suits. A half-century of civil war seems to be culminating in independence. If a referendum on Jan. 9 goes as expected, the map of Africa will be redrawn — with a new nation around the size of Texas. But for the moment, Prendergast, who is America’s most influential activist in Africa’s most troubled regions and who huddled on a White House patio with President Barack Obama a few days earlier, talked about basketball guards.
“There are a lot of criticisms that it’s about me and not the cause,” he went on about his work in the field of human rights. He declared that he can’t be bothered by the complaints, some of which arise from his habit of dropping into conflict zones with actors like George Clooney and Angelina Jolie. At 47, he has devoted all of his adult life to Africa, especially the Horn and Congo, formerly known as Zaire. He’s been jailed in southern Sudan. He’s had militiamen’s assault rifles jammed into his stomach in Congo. While we sat in the Juba restaurant in October, he was fighting off a rare infection that is a precursor to elephantiasis, contracted in Sudan a week or two before. Swollen glands throughout his body made him wince as he walked across the restaurant.
“My father was a frozen-food salesman — he sold pork fritters out of his station wagon,” Prendergast said, remembering his growing up around the Midwest and outside Philadelphia. “He kept the samples in dry ice and his deep fryer in the back, and he would do demos at hospitals and schools.” Both his parents were devoted to volunteer work, and Prendergast, during college, volunteered at a homeless shelter. When he was 21, he took in three children — 7, 8 and 9 years old — from the shelter to live with him in his small apartment for the summer, so their mother could focus on her younger children. “Every day we tried to figure it out,” he told me, describing the way he managed this ad hoc big-brother program, caring for the three with the help of his friends and family. Over the years since, informally or through organizations, he has been a big brother to six more kids — reading with them, canoeing with them.

During an itinerant college career — he went to five universities before graduating from Temple — Prendergast was sure his lifework would be aiding the urban poor, but in 1984 he saw images of the Ethiopian famine one night on television. This was before the crisis became a cause sung about by pop stars, and the inert, skeletal figures stunned him. “Somehow for the first 21 years of my life, I’d missed the fact that such a level of human suffering could exist,” he said. “I was immediately obsessed.”

Overeating, Like Drug Use, Rewards And Alters Brain

If you've ever wondered why it's hard to stay on a diet, consider this observation from Ralph DiLeone, a brain scientist at Yale University: "The motivation to take cocaine in the case of a drug addict is probably engaging similar circuits that the motivation to eat is in a hungry person."
That's what brain scientists have concluded after comparing studies of overeating with studies of drug addiction, DiLeone says.
They've also found that, at least in animals, sweet or fatty foods can act a lot like a drug in the brain, he says. And there's growing evidence that eating too much of these foods can cause long-term changes in the brain circuits that control eating behavior.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Managing Risk for JPMorgan, and Blindness

LONDON — As a trader at JPMorgan Chase in London, Ashish Goyal helps manage billions of dollars of the bank’s exposure to risks like foreign exchange fluctuations. In his spare time, he takes tango lessons, plays cricket and goes clubbing with friends. Mr. Goyal is also blind.
Watching him in the middle of the trading floor as he switches back and forth between computer screens, that is not apparent at all. But to check his e-mail, read research reports and look at presentations, Mr. Goyal uses a screen-reading software whose speed is so high that it sounds like gibberish to the untrained ear. When he needs to read graphs, which the software cannot do, Mr. Goyal goes through the data and tries to imagine the graph in his head.
On his desk, two computer screens show the usual flashing Bloomberg messages and spreadsheets of constantly changing numbers. Two keyboards are linked to headsets through which the information and figures are read out to him at rapid speeds. The same technology reads out text messages he receives on his cellphone.
“My colleagues already complained that they can’t hear my phone speak, as it is too fast,” Mr. Goyal said jokingly. “I turn around and say, ‘Well, I can’t read your text messages, so it’s only fair.’ ”

His computers can read information to him rapidly through a headset.
Mr. Goyal was not born blind. Growing up in Mumbai, Mr. Goyal said he had a normal, happy childhood. But when he was about 9 years old, he noticed that he could not immediately recognize some people and could not see the lines in his notebooks at school. One night he walked into a ditch, later he crashed his bicycle, and then he started to miss the ball during his tennis lessons.
Mr. Goyal was told he had retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic condition that damages the retina, and would gradually become blind. By the time Mr. Goyal was 22, he had completely lost his eyesight.
“The worst thing was I didn’t know what was happening and what to do about it,” Mr. Goyal said. While other people his age were starting to date, he said, “I was struggling to deal with a disability. What was I to tell people? ‘Sometimes I can see you, sometimes not?’ ”
The loss of his eyesight left Mr. Goyal “scared and confused” and with fewer friends, he said. “I was ready to just give up and not take my final exam and just go and work for my dad,” a real estate developer, Mr. Goyal said. But his mother forced him to sit for the exam, and to his surprise he not only passed but received good grades.
Today, Mr. Goyal said he was proud that he did not need help from others on a daily basis and he had again become active in sports, as he was as a child. Last year, his team won a cricket tournament for the blind, which is played with a slightly bigger ball that has sound.
Despite his achievements, which this year also included a national award from India for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Mr. Goyal speaks modestly of himself.
“One challenge is that I don’t become a benchmark for other people,” he said. “I’ve done all these things but yes, it’s been a struggle. Not everyone is as fortunate to have the support of friends and family and it wouldn’t be fair. I’m mediocre at many things.”

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Haiti, Nearly a Year Later

An emergency cholera hospital is the grimmest kind of medical center, and it’s a symbol of the succession of horrors that have battered Haiti over the last year.
Already, more than 1,700 people have died of cholera in less than a month, and the Pan American Health Organization estimates that 400,000 Haitians may get cholera over the next year.
The earthquake in January caused some 250,000 deaths. The death toll was a result not only of seismic activity but also of poverty: shoddy construction and slow rescue efforts meant many more deaths than if the same quake had occurred in, say, California. Then came cholera, which is a disease of poverty — abysmal sanitation and lack of potable water can create an epidemic.
Ultimately what Haiti most needs isn’t so much aid, but trade. Aid accounts for half of Haiti’s economy, and remittances for another quarter — and that’s a path to nowhere.
The United States has approved trade preferences that have already created 6,000 jobs in the garment sector in Haiti, and several big South Korean companies are now planning to open their own factories, creating perhaps another 130,000 jobs.
“Sweatshops,” Americans may be thinking. “Jobs,” Haitians are thinking, and nothing would be more transformative for the country.
Let’s send in doctors to save people from cholera. Let’s send in aid workers to build sustainable sanitation and water systems to help people help themselves. Let’s help educate Haitian children and improve the port so that it can become an exporter. But, above all, let’s send in business investors to create jobs.
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