The Ideas Factory: From pink water to pronoun politics– five concepts we spotted this week
Friday 19 August 2011
1. Crowd control: Quelling dissent with a spray of pink paint
While commentators in Britain were calling for water canons – among other tactics to be used on protesters in Britain, Ugandan police were using original – if worrying – methods of clamping down on protest. During a demonstration outside Kampala on Wednesday – one intended to mourn fellow opposition members killed earlier this year – anti-riot police fired pink water to disperse crowds (pictured above) and, thus, to make later identification of the protesters easier. A good method of crowd control perhaps, but one with some serious ethical implications.
Source: MSNBC Photo Blog
2. Computing: Time to turn off turning on?
As computers have increased in processing speed exponentially since the birth of the home PC, the boot-up has gone from Godot-esque wait to play Minesweeper, to an average 90 seconds of thumb-twiddling. But does a world run by superfast laptops (the new MacBook Air takes 16 seconds to get going) and always-on tablets signal the end of the tedious wait to get going. Slate's Farhad Manjoo reckons so, citing the influence of phones and tablets as "one of the many signs that we've entered the twilight of the PC era".
3. Post: Goodbye snail mail, hello firstname.lastname@example.org
An opposition minister in Australia has told a digital summit that he intends, if in government, to offer Aussie citizens the option to stop receiving post from government agencies through the mail in exchange for a Australia.gov.au email address. Malcolm Turnbull told reporters that: "[The] government could save hundreds of millions — if not over time, billions — of dollars by saying to any Australian who wanted it: we will give you a lifetime address, a lifetime pigeon-hole." It's a good point. One for Downing Street's blue-sky thinkers to mull over too?
Source: Pop Science/Computerwold
4. Language: The difference between me and you – the science behind the use of pronouns
You or I might not know this, but the way in which pronouns are used by us and them can offer clues into people's health, ranking in organisation, gender, age, personality and more. That's the conclusion drawn by James Pennebaker, chair of the department of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, who's spent years creating methods of analysing text to work out what our "I's" and "yous" really mean. He can even tell the difference between a suicidal and non-suicidal poet. Read Gareth Cook's fascinating interview with Pennebaker here: ind.pn/pronounres
Source: Scientific American
5. Prosthetics: The next generation artificial leg
Oscar Pistorius's possibly Olympian blades might dominate discussion of artificial limbs. But a seven-year research project at Vanderbilt Center for Intelligent Mechatronics has resulted in a device that requires less energy from its users and thus allows people to walk 25 per cent faster. It also makes sitting, standing and going up and down stairs much easier. One of the most intriguing capabilities is an anti-stumble routine, which senses if its user is starting to falter. It will lift up the leg to clear any obstruction and plant the foot on the floor.
Life & Style blogs
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
Australia facing international condemnation after turning around Sri Lankans at sea
7/7 memorial defaced on anniversary of 2005 attacks with ‘Blair lied thousands died’ graffiti
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
Socialist Worker called to apologise over ‘vile’ article saying Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple's death is ‘reason to save the polar bears’
There’s a nasty smell in the political air – and it’s coming from the Tories
- 1 Howard Jacobson: Let's see the 'criticism' of Israel for what it really is
- 3 Belgium fan Axelle Despiegelaere lands L'Oreal campaign after World Cup viral photo
- 4 Britney Spears sings 'Alien' without Auto-Tune in embarrassing leaked audio clip
- 5 PornHub begs users to stop uploading video clips of Brazil getting beaten 7-1
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