Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Rubber Hand Illusion

The rubber hand illusion is a now classic example of how our sense of self can be fooled. As the videos demonstrate, the illusion is conducted by hiding the participants real hand and in its place setting up a rubber hand. The experimenter then strokes the rubber hand and the real hand at the same time and on the same finger which after a few strokes creates the illusion that the rubber hand is actually the participants real hand. Once the connection to the rubber hand is established, the experimenter, without warning, will smash or stab the false hand inducing a stress.

The (overly) simple explanation as to why the illusion works is that our brain utilizes multiple channels of sensory input, such as visual, tactile and positional information, to create the perception of self and other. By manipulating this information, the experimenter causes us to believe that an inanimate object is actually a part of our body.

Here is a good layperson explanation from

Multisensory Integration
Body transfer illusion

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Parent Arrested At School Meeting

This short video of a Towson, Maryland father being arrested at a school meeting has caused quite a stir in the blogosphere. Robert Small was arrested and charged with second degree assault on a police officer and disturbing a school operation after raising questions about the implementation of common-core education standards.

There are really a few different issues worthy of discussion which the video helps to shine a bright light on: the common core standards, the controlled somewhat manipulative manner in which these forums are conducted and of course, the legitimacy of the charges against Mr. Small.

The charges levied against Mr. Small is the issue which I found the most egregious. The meeting was supposed to be a question and answer forum used to convey information about the new standards to the public but rather than allowing the audience to directly speak, questions were to be written in advance and some would be selected to be answered. It seems that Mr. Small became frustrated after the first hour of the hour and a half long meeting was more of a pep rally for the new standards, so he decided to stand-up and raise his concerns. The video depicts what took place at that point.

It is true that Mr. Small did not follow the pre-arranged format of the meeting and did not immediately comply with the officers instructions to leave. This validates the charge of disturbing a school operation though as I insinuated above, the format of submitting questions in advance allows for the forum leaders to avoid any difficult questions thus censoring any opposition.

It is the charge of second degree assault against a police officer which I find to be disturbing (a charge which carries a fine of $2,500 and up to 10 years in prison). According to this story from The Baltimore Sun the police report "said Small had attempted to push the officer away when he first confronted him." I watched the video closely and didn't see anything remotely close to that. Unless I'm missing something, this seems like another example of a police officer creating charges where the facts of the situation clearly do not support it. Isn't this a simple case of false arrest? And yet, according to this Baltimore Sun story, the state's attorney's office believes that the officer clearly "acted appropriately and did have probable cause to make an arrest on both charges." Really? If that is true than there is something wrong with the law. Mr. Small did not initiate contact with the officer yet somehow it is appropriate to charge him with such a serious crime.?

Thankfully, the all so generous state's attorney's office has decided to drop the charges against Mr. Small. I wonder, if there hadn't been a video recording of the event he would be so lucky?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Burning Man 2013

Adam Bacchus

September 2nd marked the end of the 2013 Burning Man festival in Nevada's Black Rock desert. As always there was plenty of eye candy exported back to us who didn't attend.

Jim Urquhart/Reuters

Trey Ratcliff

Neil Girling

Neil Girling

Neil Girling

Jeff Huber

Mack Reed


Trey Ratcliff


Jeff Huber
Reno Gazette-Journal, Andy Barron

Mack Reed

Jonathan Goody

George Krieger

Julia Wolf

Monday, September 9, 2013

Friday, September 6, 2013

Miley Cyrus

My oh my, Miley Cyrus created quite a controversy with her performance at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. Strangely, I can't seem to stop thinking about it myself though it isn't as much the performance that has got a hold of me as it is the commentaries written about it.

The response which I find the most irritating is that it is somehow wrong to criticize Miley's performance for its raunchiness. For instance, Clinton Yates writes in the Washington Post "But what exactly is so disturbing about Miley Cyrus? It seems that we still can’t handle what it’s like for a young woman to be able to perform, as she chooses, without layering in a heavy helping of insults as well...When the white, 20-year-old, former child star and daughter of a country singer goes on stage and does something that the so-called ruling classes deem unseemly, it starts a firestorm."

Soraya Chemalys of Salon writes "The shame-filled objections to women like these are simply a double standard about power and worthiness. The outrage and “disappointment,” cloaked primarily in concerns about, “sluttiness,” “selfishness,” “craziness” and “inappropriateness,” add up to one thing: female unworthiness...Women, we’d like everyone to keep thinking, are unworthy of too much agency, authority, power and self-expression. Otherwise, everyday people would be decrying every top-billed male performer for engaging in the exact same behavior that Cyrus did last night. It would help if we taught kids, in school, to be critical of stereotypes, to understand constructions of gender, race and ethnicity, and to appreciate the important difference between sexiness and sexualization. Miley Cyrus deserves critique for the racially objectifying elements of her performance, and even for the production of an artistically questionable, odd and distasteful set involving bears and bad dancing. But Cyrus is most likely be criticized instead for being “slutty”or ”crazy” — and those words matter and speak volumes."

And finally Anne Theriault from HuffPost writes "Now, let's be clear: there was definitely a lot of slut-shaming going on, and it was really fucking disgusting. But what was equally disgusting was white feminists' silence over Miley's minstrel show.

What Miley is doing is cultural appropriation. She, a wealthy white woman, is taking elements from black culture in order to achieve a specific image. Her status as a member of a traditionally oppressive race and class means that she is able to pick and choose what parts of black culture she wants to embrace without having to deal with the racism and racialization that black women live with every day. In short, she can imagine that she is being "ghetto" without having any concept of what living in a ghetto would really mean."

So you see, if you are among the many people who are critical of Miley because of the somewhat pornographic content of her performance, you are actually a sexist pig more concerned about keeping females from acquiring too much power and can't seem to recognize Miley's true crime which is that she is actually a racist.

To be fair, I do recognize that there are a number of people who have run to their favorite social media outlets and simply labeled Miley with some derogatory terms without expressing any sort of actual coherent criticism. But the type of commentaries I quoted above don't seem to be pinpointing their attack to this narrow group of people. Instead they paint a picture of Miley's critics which fits their world view all the while ignoring or distorting the actual complaints. I'm not sure if this is a purposeful straw man argument or if it is truly something they are blind to. I mean, the complaints against Miley are pretty simple to understand. They can probably all be lumped into the categories of either bad taste or parental concern. Why is it so difficult for far leftist to simply accept that people are legitimately criticizing her for the reasons they give and that they are completely sensible criticisms to make?

This is especially true in the area of parental concern. The Parents Television Council (PTC) issues a complaint against MTV for airing the show with a rating of TV14 (suitable for 14 and up) and who can blame them? Would you really want your 14 year old son or daughter exposed to this sort of raunchy performance? Of course there are those who believe that exposing kids to sexual material is really not that big a deal. And while there hasn't been as much research in this area as there should be, the studies that have been conducted would disagree. For instance, this 2012 study published in Psychological Science concluded that Children who watch films with a high sexual content tend to lose their virginity earlier and have more partners. Not only are they more promiscuous, they are also more likely to engage in risky sex such as not using condoms.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Woman assumes her ultimate form

I almost died laughing when this rampaging, insane woman actually said  @ 0:25 "Don't make me assume my ultimate form!"  Later @ 0:58 she say "I will go super saiyan!"

Somebody has been watching too much Dragon Ball Z!

Meta Space Glasses

Now these are augmented-reality glasses to get excited about! Meta has taken a different direction than Google, and it is one which I think may be for the better. Google is attempting to create glasses that will become a part of our everyday lives but in doing so, they have had to sacrifice a great deal of functionality. Meta on the other hand seems to be putting functionality first, even if it means creating a device which is bulky and aesthetically unappealing.