The Null Device
It has been well known that alcohol causes many men to find women more attractive than they otherwise would (the effect is colloquially known as "beer goggles"). Now, researchers have found that actual alcohol isn't even required; exposure to alcohol-related words is enough; at least among men who expect that alcohol has that effect.
First, the subjects answered questionnaires that asked whether they thought alcohol affected their sex drive. Afterward, the men were divided into two groups and placed next to computers. One group was shown words that described alcohol, such as liquor, beer and keg. The other group saw words like water, soda and coffee.
The researchers found that the group of men who expected alcohol to enhance their sex drive found the women in the photos more attractive after viewing the alcohol cue words. The group that expected alcohol to reduce their sex drive found the women to be less attractive.
This echoes another priming experiment (reported in both Mind Hacks and Malcolm Gladwell's Blink), in which students surreptitiously exposed to old-age-related words like "wrinkled", "senior" and "Florida" were found to walk more slowly down a corridor than those not primed in this way.
Some genius in the Netherlands has proposed a tax on MP3 players, with as much as €3.28 per gigabyte being slapped onto the price of each MP3 player, the proceeds going solely to the major record labels. This tax is set to become law in a few months. Were the tax extended to PC hard drives, it would increase the prices of hard disks many times over. Of course, given that Germany and Belgium are a short drive away, and under the EU constitution, there's nothing the Dutch government can do to stop the flow of tax-free iPods from German (or British or Slovenian or whatever) online retailers, the whole exercise seems about as effective as "Copy Controlled" audio CDs.
Australia's General Motors subsidiary Holden may soon sell a local version of the Hummer, the obscenely large, Tom-of-Finlandesquely hypermasculine "urban assault vehicle" that has been a sensation with the rottweiler owners and gated community dwellers of America.
John Birmingham's eulogy for Joh Bjelke-Petersen, former despot of Queensland:
As long as there is a spark of life in Australian democracy, the mid 1980s, when Bjelke-Petersen ruled alone, at the very zenith of his powers, should be studied in civics courses as an object lesson in what happens when untrammelled power is gathered into the shaky, liver-spotted hands of a stuttering, proto-fascist brute with just enough rat-bastard cunning to mask his true nature behind a carefully constructed facade of endearing bumpkinry.
Should his legacy be the flight of thousands of Queenslanders to safer, less contested lives in those states where politics did not threaten to become an intimately personal matter, something that could, in the worst case, reach out and touch you, shrivelling your options to fight or flight? And, really, only to the latter.
His state funeral should be an appropriate ceremony. Perhaps a pack of dingoes could be starved for a week before being sooled upon his corpse in the mudflats down by the Brisbane River. Or he could be buried at sea with the worst of his cabinet ministers, all of them dipped in chum and fed to the hammerheads and reef sharks off the Great Barrier Reef which they were so keen to open up to mining.