The Null Device
Radiohead's Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood are doing a gig in London at Koko on the first of May. The gig will be part of Friends of the Earth's campaign to promote action on climate change; ticket details will be announced on the site.
The Australian Senate has voted to legalise the RU486 abortion pill. Up until now, the conservative pro-life state required applications to receive the pill to be personally approved by the Health Minister (conservative Catholic Tony Abbott), which effectively banned it. The Senate vote was a conscience vote (which is not that common; most votes in Australia's Federal Parliament are strictly whipped along party lines, more so than in Britain), and passed 45 to 28.
The battle's not over; the vote in the House of Representatives is still pending, and it is expected that Representatives will pay more heed to conservative religious groups. The Religious Right certainly aren't holding back on the pressure. Meanwhile, you can contact your MP about the issue here.
The Mind Hacks blog has a report of an interesting study on subliminal influence:
You go to the supermarket and stop by some shelves offering French and German wine. You buy a bottle of French wine. After going through the checkout you are asked what made you choose that bottle of wine. You say something like "It was the right price", or "I liked the label". Did you notice the French music playing as you took it off the shelf? You probably did. Did it affect your choice of wine? No, you say, it didn't.
That's funny because on the days we play French music nearly 80% of people buying wine from those shelves choose French wine, and on the days we play German music the opposite happensThe study in question used stereotypical examples of national music (French accordion music and German "oom-pah" band music), yielding the results mentioned, and is effective primarily due to its subtlety. It would not be enough to make someone not intending to buy wine buy some, but is enough to influence the choice of wine.
What would be the effect, I wonder, of having someone stand by the shelves saying to the customers as they passed "Why don't you buy a French wine today"? My hunch is that you'd make people think about their decision a lot more - just by trying to persuade them you'd turn the decision from a low involvement one into a high involvement one. People would start to discount your suggestion. But the suggestion made by the music doesn't trigger any kind of monitoring. Instead, the authors of this study believe, it triggers memories associated with the music - preferences and frames of reference. Simply put, hearing the French music activates  ideas of 'Frenchness' - maybe making customers remember how much they like French wine, or how much they enjoyed their last trip to France. For a decision which people aren't very involved with, with low costs either way (both the French and German wines are pretty similar, remember, except for their nationality) this is enough to swing the choice.