The Null Device
Looks like Britain is due to be the next country to have a Tory leader named Howard. At least their Howard has nary a snowball's hope of becoming PM.
Scientists have discovered how earworms work; apparently they work a lot like histamines. A succes sful earworm creates a "cognitive itch" in the brain which can only be "scratche d" by repeating the tune over and over.
Mozart's children would "infuriate" him by playing melody and scales on the pian o below his room - but stopping before completing the tune. "He would have to r ush down and complete the scale because he couldn't bear to listen to an unresol ved scale," Mr Smith related.
It may be cause for some concern that this research was presented at a conferenc e on Consumer Psychology.
Salon asks whether "geek chic" will kill off innovation; the thesis is that now that "nerds" are no longer persecuted and ostracised, they won't have impetus (or time, between all the parties and dates in their social PalmPilots) to invent, create or otherwise contribute to society. Or, to put it in other words, that innovation required two components: individuals with technical intelligence or other skills (these would include artists and musicians), and the ostracism/persecution of said individuals. Which is an interesting theory. (via TechDirt)
(If one wants to get Freudian, one could argue that said individuals' lack of a sex life resulted in them sublimating their libidos into creative enterprises. If that holds true then, given the rise of "nerverts", Heinleinian polyamorists, netsex, webcams and the like, we're, well, fucked. Though hasn't polymorphous perversity been a feature of the fringes of society since the 1960s at least, if not the days of the Hellfire Club?)
Another criticism of the theory is that the "nerd" stereotype doesn't hold for most IT people, and hasn't done so for much of the 1990s. From what I remember, many of the people who did computer science when I went to university were well-rounded individuals, with social lives, girlfriends (they were predominantly male; computer science is almost a monastic environment, but that's another post) and non-computer interests. Many played sports in their spare time; and many were quite good programmers. Whether these people fall into the "nerd" category is debatable.
But yes; if innovation depends on talented outsiders, the "nerd" bar will just be raised higher, and there always will be some who don't want to go to the numerous parties they keep getting invited to but would rather sequester themselves and follow some intellectual passion. And if that fails, there are always autistic savants.
The CIA have created a robot catfish, which looks just like a real fish and may or may not have been used for unspecified purposes. The catfish, named Charlie, is being exhibited at the CIA museum, along with robotic bumblebees and dragonflies (which turned out too hard to navigate for practical use) and the usual assortment of miniature cameras and such; the exhibition, however, is off-limits to the public. So next time an innocuous-looking 600mm-long catfish swims past, smile.