The Null Device

2002/8/15

Autism linked to "geek genes". Dramatic increases in incidents of autism among children born in places like Silicon Valley and Cambridge, are evidence for the hypothesis that the skills associated with high-technology industries such as programming and engineering may be genetically related to autism:

Some doctors now think that workers who have the complex analytical skills needed to succeed in high-tech industry, and who are perhaps slightly awkward socially - the classic profile of the "computer geek" - may, while not fully autistic themselves, at least be carrying at least a few of the genes that contribute to it.

(I once heard it claimed that 70% of programmers/engineers/high-tech workers have Asperger's Syndrome. Then again, 86.7% of statistics are made up.)

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I'm Wayne Kerr, and if there's one thing I hate... it's web sites which disable your browser's right mouse button, just to show that it can be done/to assert control over your web browsing. Like this one. If I want to open a link in a Mozilla tab, instead of the menu I get a pop-up message saying "function disabled". Oooh, I stand in awe of your godlike JavaScript skills. Wanker.

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2002/8/14

An article looking at the miasma of creepiness hanging over Adelaide, and in particular at its unusually generous proportion of grisly serial murders, and also the social phenomena that may amplify the cultural effects of such. No mention of zoo animal mutilations though.

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Casiopunk and the DIY aesthetic: Twink, a CD of music made with a toy piano and various other similar instruments obtained from thrift stores. And there are MP3s here. (via bOING bOING)

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Pinkness and horror: In terms of sheer concentrated pinkness in one place, few things could outdo Goth day at Disneyland. (via bOING bOING)

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Research has confirmed that the human brain has specialised faculties for detecting cheating and enforcing social contracts. These faculties are independent from general-purpose reasoning, and could be far older than it; similar faculties have been found in all social primates.

(I think it was one of Steven Pinker's books which gave the example of a problem stated two ways: as an abstract mathematical problem and as a problem of enforcing rules of social behaviour. The abstract formulation seemed difficult to solve, requiring thought, whereas the answer to the social-behaviour formulation jumped out at first glance.)

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An interesting article from 1982 about how the multinational diamond-trading monopoly De Beers manufactured the public desire for diamonds, singlehandedly creating the association between diamonds and romance, and manipulating human courtship rituals to move the right sizes of stones, and create an illusion of security which doesn't actually exist:

DeBeers devised the "eternity ring," made up of as many as twenty-five tiny Soviet diamonds, which could be sold to an entirely new market of older married women. The advertising campaign was based on the theme of recaptured love. Again, sentiments were born out of necessity: older American women received a ring of miniature diamonds because of the needs of a South African corporation to accommodate the Soviet Union.
The moment a significant portion of the public begins selling diamonds from this inventory, the price of diamonds cannot be sustained. For the diamond invention to survive, the public must be inhibited from ever parting with its diamonds. In developing a strategy for De Beers in 1953, N. W. Ayer said: "In our opinion old diamonds are in 'safe hands' only when widely dispersed and held by individuals as cherished possessions valued far above their market price." As far as De Beers and N. W. Ayer were concerned, "safe hands" belonged to those women psychologically conditioned never to sell their diamonds.

(via The Fix)

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Security guru Bruce Schneier critiques "Homeland Security" measures such as centralised identity databases. Not surprisingly, he finds that they leave a lot to be desired, and may actually reduce security.

The new technologies have enormous capacities, but their advocates have not realized that the most critical aspect of a security measure is not how well it works but how well it fails.

(via Techdirt)

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A list of 10,000 statistically grammar-average fake band names, generated for a psychology experiment. Has some good ones, like Venomous Pinks (who'd be punk), Starvation Deal (mook/nu-metal/hardcore), Bedbug Stabilizer (post-rock or IDM), Crystal Twang (country'n'Preston) and Walker Dieter (probably Kraftwerk-inspired); and who could forget Lifelike Pancake Carcass, or indeed the thought-provoking Yourself Simulators? Some of them, though, ("Hole", "Cassette", "Codeine", "Peaches") are the names of actual artists. (via bOING bOING)

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