Thursday, January 31, 2008

Eine kleine Netmusik

Were Netsurfer Digest still alive, this would have been a bonanza week of discovered online goodies - and it's only Thursday! So why not present them in the same style?

How the Brain Uses Tools

Tool use, while no longer a hallmark of humans, is still nifty, and a team of neurologists in Italy is looking into how it all works in the brain. They devised an ingenious experiment that is able to control for the brain's signals to muscles in order to study the brain's cognitive signals during tool use - in this case, in macaques. After wiring the monkeys' heads with sensors, the researchers presented them with two kinds of pliers, which the monkeys needed to get food. One set of pliers worked in the standard manner: close your hand and the pliers close. The other pliers required the monkeys to open their hands to get the pliers to close. The monkeys' neurons fired in the same pattern regardless of which pliers they used - but that pattern was the same one displayed by macaques who used no tool at all but grasped food with their hands. The scientists conclude that brains see tools as extensions of the body and not as foreign objects. While this is a conclusion that in isolation seems perhaps trite, it is a fundamental step in neurology and anthropology. ScienceNOW has an article.

Why You Should Know George Meyer

Got a favorite line from "The Simpsons"? Odds are it comes from George Meyer. The guy coined the term "yoink", after all. This New Yorker feature appeared in March 2000 (and is socked away at The Simpsons Archive), so it is outdated. Near as we can tell from IMDb, he no longer works on the show, although he was a credited writer on last year's "The Simpsons Movie" and he has credits on the TV show through 2005. read the article for more than Meyer, though. It shines light in some dark corners of the show's history to reveal info you may have never seen before. Ever hear of Army Man magazine? That was Meyer's and "The Simpsons" is its cultural heir. Grab a Duff and start reading.
The Simpsons Archive:

Colorization Can Be a Positive

Film colorization has been around about a century, but exploded in the mid 1980s as colorizers turned CPUs to the task. The process became the subject of much debate, with Turner Entertainment often in the crosshairs. As audiences, critics, and historians have grown used to the process and, not least, as the technology has improved, the debate has simmered down. Still, the classics remain a point of contention and when West Wing Studios undertook to colorize the Three Stooges, arguments flared up. West Wing studied the original props to make sure it got the colors right and the results are spectacular. This is not your young uncle's colorization. As you might expect, some of this has shown up on YouTube. Take a gander for yourself.

(NSD never embedded video, so I won't do that here either. Nyeah.)

War as Food Fight

Starting with World War II, create a list of the world's major military conflicts. Now, choose a food to represent each nationality. Brings these foods together in animated food fights to illustrate the military history of the last 70 years and you have Stefan Nadelman's "Food Fight" short film. See if you can name all the conflicts. It's not too hard.


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