Zombie Case Study (iPhone short film)

From our pals and colleagues at the Zombie Research Society. [1]

Two Aussies made this zombie short film on their iPhones, and it’s not half bad. Check it out below. What do you think?

I liked this a lot.

Check it out and see what you think!



[1] Full Disclosure: As a ‘noted zombie expert,’ I am a lifetime member of the Zombie Research Society.


How Our Eyes Deceive Us

The Hebrew Scriptures warn us not to follow our hearts or our eyes because they will lead us astray.

Science is trying to understand why and how our eyes deceive us.

Researchers at the University of Sydney have thrown new light on the tricks the brain plays as it struggles to make sense of the visual and other sensory signals it constantly receives.

“We tend to regard what we see as the real world,” said Dr Mareschal from the University’s School of Psychology.

“In fact a lot of it is distortion, and it is occurring in the early processing of the brain, before consciousness takes over. Our work shows that the cells of the primary visual cortex create small distortions, which then pass on to the higher levels of the brain, to interpret as best it can.”

A common example of this that is often exploited by artists and designers is known as the tilt illusion where perfectly vertical lines appear tilted because they are placed on an oriented background.

(In this tilt illusion, the lines in the centre of the image appear tilted counterclockwise, but are actually vertical) [1]

“The brain seeks more contextual information from the background to try to work out the alignment of the object it is seeing.”

“These illusions happen very fast, perhaps in milliseconds,” Dr Mareschal says. “And we found that even the higher brain cannot always correct for them, as it doesn’t in fact know they are illusions.”

This is one reason why people’s eyes sometimes mislead them when looking at objects in their visual landscape.

The brain uses context, or background, to interpret a host of other visual signals besides the orientation of objects. For example, it uses context to tell colour, motion, texture and contrast. The research will help study how the brain understands these visual cues adding to our overall understanding of brain function.

So the old adage is true… don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see. Your eyes and brain may be plotting against you.



[1] Image adapted from University of Sydney image

Study Finds Surprising Arctic Methane Emission Source

And no. It’s not polar bear farts!

It seems that methane gas is trapped under the ice and the melting of the polar ice caps may release all that greenhouse gas into the atmosphere which would contribute to global warming.

(Phew! That was close!!)

According to a recent article by our favourite envirogeeks over at ScienceDaily.com, “The fragile and rapidly changing Arctic region is home to large reservoirs of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. As Earth’s climate warms, the methane, frozen in reservoirs stored in Arctic tundra soils or marine sediments, is vulnerable to being released into the atmosphere, where it can add to global warming. Now a multi-institutional study by Eric Kort of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., has uncovered a surprising and potentially important new source of Arctic methane: the ocean itself.”

Researchers flying low over the Arctic (five times between 2009 and 2010) observed increased methane levels… about one-half percent larger than normal background levels.

But where was the methane coming from?

(It wasn’t me. Promise!)

The scientists ruled out man-made carbon monoxide in the atmosphere (they were flying north of the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas) and also methane coming from high-latitude wetlands or geologic reservoirs.

Eventually, they pinpointed a source: the ocean surface, through cracks in Arctic sea ice and areas of partial sea ice cover. The cracks expose open Arctic seawater, allowing the ocean to interact with the air, and methane in the surface waters to escape into the atmosphere. The team detected no enhanced methane levels when flying over areas of solid ice.

So how is the methane being produced?

(“Pull my finger!” – ‘No way, dude!’)

The scientists aren’t yet sure, but Kort hinted biological production from living things in Arctic surface waters may be a likely culprit.

(Dodged another bullet!)

 “It’s possible that as large areas of sea ice melt and expose more ocean water, methane production may increase, leading to larger methane emissions,” Kort said.

Future studies will be needed to understand the enhanced methane levels and associated emission processes and to measure their total contribution to overall Arctic methane levels.

(Did somebody step on a duck?)

Way to go, polar bears. And you’re not totally off the hook yet!



The study, published April 22 in Nature Geoscience, included participation from JPL and Caltech; NSF, Arlington, Va.; NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colo.; the University of Colorado’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, Boulder; Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.; Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey; Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogota, Colombia; and Science and Technology Corporation, Boulder, Colo. JPL is a division of Caltech.

The ScienceDaily.com article was reprinted from materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The Great Dead North: My Twitter Experiment

Last week, the Kosher Samurai posted a blog article about a Twitter site I was following called Life After Z Day.

The other day, I ran into a similar Twitter site entitled Still Alive.

Both are done in a kind of journal entry style and set out updates on day-to-day survival during the Zombie Apocalypse.

Still Alive started on December 1, 2011. Life After Z Day began on March 25, 2012. I am now following both with interest.

They have inspired me to try my hand at this ‘as-it-happens’ kind of zombie journal fiction.

So today, I started a new Twitter site. I’ve called it The Great Dead North. Like the other sites, it will be a journal entry kind of thing with anywhere from one to a dozen entries per day depending on what is happening to the main character.

If you are interested in this kind of zombie ‘installment fiction’, please check it out. The first few days will start off slow, of course, but once the epidemic becomes known and the nature of the zombie infection becomes clear and the dead start doing very not-dead-like things, the story will escalate rapidly from there.

Please feel free to follow The Great Dead North on Twitter. I would, as always, appreciate your readership and your support. Thanks.

And I’ll see you in that frozen Zombie Hell that is known as The Great Dead North.

There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.

There’s man with a gun over there… telling me I got to beware.


How Thinking About Death Can Lead to a Good Life

I knew it!

The Geek Gang over at ScienceDaily.com have confirmed what I have long suspected!

As a recent article states, “Thinking about death can actually be a good thing. An awareness of mortality can improve physical health and help us re-prioritize our goals and values, according to a new analysis of recent scientific studies. Even non-conscious thinking about death — say walking by a cemetery — could prompt positive changes and promote helping others.”

Past research suggests that thinking about death is destructive and dangerous, fueling everything from prejudice and greed to violence. Such studies related to terror management theory (TMT), which posits that we uphold certain cultural beliefs to manage our feelings of mortality, have rarely explored the potential benefits of death awareness.

“This tendency for TMT research to primarily deal with negative attitudes and harmful behaviors has become so deeply entrenched in our field that some have recently suggested that death awareness is simply a bleak force of social destruction,” says Kenneth Vail of the University of Missouri, lead author of the new study in the online edition of Personality and Social Psychology Review this month. “There has been very little integrative understanding of how subtle, day-to-day, death awareness might be capable of motivating attitudes and behaviors that can minimize harm to oneself and others, and can promote well-being.”

Thinking about death can also promote better health. Recent studies have shown that when reminded of death people may opt for better health choices, such as using more sunscreen, smoking less, or increasing levels of exercise.

One major implication of this body of work, Vail says, is that we should “turn attention and research efforts toward better understanding of how the motivations triggered by death awareness can actually improve people’s lives, rather than how it can cause malady and social strife.”

Write the authors: “The dance with death can be a delicate but potentially elegant stride toward living the good life.”


True Blood: Why I Love Pam

Pam De Beaufort!

What a delicious part!!

The writers of the HBO television show True Blood really outdo themselves when it comes to providing dialogue for Pam, masterfully played by Kristin Bauer.

Here’s a bit of background on the character Pam for those who are not familiar with the program.

A former prostitute during her lifetime, Pam was ‘brought over’ (i.e. made a vampyre) by Eric Northman in the late 1800’s in San Francisco. She was released from Eric sometime in the early decades of 20th century. She has resided in the USA throughout her time as a vampyre. After the Great Revelation when vampyres came ‘out of the coffin,’ Eric called for Pam’s service in the newly founded Fangtasia bar in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Nowadays she serves him willfully and is his second-in-command. She has never , to date, sired a vampyre.*

Here are some of the precious gems that True Blood’s writers have fall from her beautiful, smirking lips.

“I don’t know what it is about me that makes people think I want to hear their problems. Maybe I smile too much. Maybe I wear too much pink. But please remember I can rip your throat out if I need to. And also know that I am not a hooker. That was a long, long time ago.”

“I am so over Sookie and her precious fairy vagina and her unbelievably stupid name. F**k Sookie!”

“I’m gonna shove my fist up your ass and use you as a hand-warmer.”

“Did I miss something? Are we girls now? Did we join a book club and read some queer chick lit memoirs and are bound together by estrogen or sisterhood some other feminist drivel?”

“This is not just about your relationship, you infatuated tween. There’s a bigger picture.”

“Let’s go to the ladies room and stare at ourselves in the mirror.”

Each year, her character becomes stronger, more fleshed out and more interesting… and a lot more fun!

Can’t wait for True Blood Season Five, expected to premiere in June 2012.


* Later in the series, she sires Tara.

Facebook making people lonely??

Americans are lonelier than ever before, according to a growing body of research. All those “friends” we have on the giant social network may be part of the problem

Is Facebook really making people more lonely? Or are lonely people attracted to Facebook?

These are some of the questions posed by a recent article in TheWeek.com.

This is the paradox of the Facebook age: We have an unmatched ability to connect with other people through social networks, yet we still “suffer from unprecedented alienation,” says Stephan Marche in The Atlantic.  Evidence from the growing body of loneliness research seems to suggest that the two trends are almost certainly connected. While American tradition holds that there’s nothing wrong with a little individualistic solitude, the isolation of superficial connections with hundreds of Facebook “friends” might just be too much for us to handle.

(California high school student, Ellie Ritter, talks to her friends through Facebook: A growing body of research suggests that a connection is not the same thing as a bond/confidant. Photo: Lacy Atkins/San Francisco Chronicle/Corbis)

But is it fair to blame Facebook for all this?

Here are some reactions to Stephan Marche’s views…

  • Lonely people are drawn to Facebook: “Facebook isn’t making us lonely,” says Walter Frick in BostInno. Most research shows, in fact, that already social people are social online, and loners are loners in both real and virtual life. Marche makes a convincing case that “lonely people are more attracted to the internet,” and Facebook can “attract and reflect loneliness.” But if you’re lonely, get offline and go talk to someone face-to-face. Don’t blame the internet. [1] 
  • Facebook is alienating: “Marche’s piece is a riveting read,” and if you don’t think he’s onto something, try Googling “Is Facebook making us lonely?” says Connie Schultz in the Shelby, N.C., Star. You get 7 million hits — clearly plenty of us “have been fretting about our Facebook addiction for some time now.” The problem is that Facebook encourages us to be “phonies,” always relentlessly and annoyingly happy. And without real intimacy, there’s no real friendship. [2]
  • Loneliness was a problem long before Facebook: The problem with Marche’s central question (“Is Facebook Making us Lonely?”) is that our loneliness epidemic started long before the birth of Facebook, or even the internet, says Jeff Bercovici in Forbes. But Marche’s actual argument is subtler: That Facebook causes some people to get depressed by reading about other people’s purportedly perfect lives. Is that true? I’m not fully convinced, but it’s a great discussion to have, and a great way to sell magazines. [3]

A great discussion indeed!


[1] “Is Facebook making us lonely? Nope.”

[2] “The lonely world of Facebook”

[3] “Is Facebook making you lonely? Don’t be stupid.”