The Null Device


11 of the world's worst word-mashup trademark filings. Includes gems like "eatainment", "collaboneering", "webume", the unfortunate "entremaneur", and the frankly jaw-dropping "innovisioneering".

(via Boing Boing Gadgets) humour marketing trademark unintentional 0

New research shows that the human race is evolving faster than ever, and that, far from the accepted truth of the human race being biologically homogeneous, different populations have, over the past 10,000 years, been evolving apart, pushed by different selection pressures:

“Genes are evolving fast in Europe, Asia and Africa, but almost all of these are unique to their continent of origin. We are getting less alike, not merging into a single, mixed humanity.
“Our study denies the widely held assumption that modern humans appeared 40,000 years ago, have not changed since and that we are all pretty much the same. We aren’t the same as people even 1,000 or 2,000 years ago.”
The scientists said this reflected the great increase in human populations over that period, which has allowed more beneficial mutations to emerge. Changes in the human environment, particularly the rise of agriculture, also created new selective pressure to which humans adapted.
Examples of evolutionary divergences include lactose tolerance among descendents of northern European populations (where the lack of sunlight would have made this mutation beneficial), differences in resistance to diseases such as malaria, smallpox and HIV between European and African populations, and more controversially, the hypothesis that above-average intelligence in Ashkenazi Jews is a result of selection pressures in mediaeval Europe (where they were confined to a small number of primarily cognitively demanding vocations). (And wasn't there a study a while ago that showed that the average IQ of a population was proportional to how many generations their ancestors had lived in urban environments?)

biology evolution genetics science society 0

The New York Times, has published its seventh annual Year in Ideas, containing 79 hot memes from 2007, including:

  • Community urinalysis:
    Sure enough, when Field’s team tested a mere teaspoonful of water from a sewage plant — which it ultimately did in many American cities — the sample revealed the presence of 11 different drugs, including cocaine and methamphetamine.
    Because it allows for sampling on a daily basis, community urinalysis can track a drug epidemic in real time, showing the police and doctors how the popularity of a particular drug is waxing or waning. For instance, Field says that the use of methamphetamine was constant from day to day — because “once you’re hooked, you’re hooked” — whereas the usage of cocaine sometimes peaked on weekends.
  • The "Height Tax":
    Should we tax tall workers at a higher rate than their shorter peers? The answer — yes — “follows inexorably” from reigning academic theories of taxation, argues Greg Mankiw, an economics professor at Harvard (and former chairman of President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers), in a working paper first circulated in April.
  • Prison Poker:
    In April 2003 the Pentagon created decks of playing cards to be given to soldiers, all featuring wanted members of Saddam Hussein’s inner circle. When he heard this, Special Agent Tommy Ray, a state law officer in Polk County, Fla., got inspired. Two years later, he made his own deck of cards, each bearing information about a different local criminal case that had gone cold. He distributed the decks in the Polk County jail. His hunch was that prisoners would gossip about the cases during card games, and somehow clues or breaks would emerge and make their way to the authorities. The plan worked.
  • The Unadapted Theatrical Adaptation:
    Collins mounted a production of “The Great Gatsby” without cutting a single word. “Gatz,” which refers to Jay Gatsby’s original name, is the most faithful version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book ever produced. The more-than-six-hour-long drama begins silently in a dismal contemporary office in which white-collar employees go through the motions of their seemingly ordinary days. But when one character has trouble with his computer, he picks up a well-worn paperback copy of “Gatsby” and starts to read aloud. Before long, this office drone evolves rather seamlessly into Nick Carraway, the narrator of the book, and his fellow employees morph into Jazz Age denizens of high society New York, re-enacting the book’s famously flamboyant parties while interjecting lines of dialogue.
Also, quitting can be good for you, while hope can make you miserable, and ambiguity makes people more likeable. Meanwhile, some speculate that eating starch made our ancestors human. (Are you reading this, Greg?) And there may be good ecological news in the form of wave energy, airborne wind turbines, lightning farms and genetically-engineered bacteria that turn waste plant matter into oil, not to mention biodegradable coffins. Also, the French are debating whether jogging is inherently right-wing or gauche, though you may be glad to know that believing that you're getting exercise is enough to stay fit.

And then there are concepts such as Braille tattoos, the "cat lady" conundrum, Craigslist vengeance, the edible cocktail, criminal recycling, vegansexuality, weapon-proof school gear, and genetic-profile-based social networking; not to mention the Gomboc, an inanimate three-dimensional object which can only stand on one side and rights itself if placed any other way.

(via Boing Boing) culture ideas memes zeitgeist 0