Saturday, October 28, 2006

Adventures in Caffeine


Have you heard of Coca Cola Blak? Coke advertises it as "Coke effervescence with coffee essence." I didn't know what the hell effervescence meant, so I looked it up. It's another word for fizzy. Thus, Blak is coffee dumped in fizzy Coke.

The other day, I went to buy a bottle of Diet Coke at Mac's, and the clerk told me that there was a deal on: Buy two Coke products, get a Blak for free. I can't pass up trying new stuff, especially for "free", so I went for it. The guy said that I'd hate him for pointing out the deal. "Because it's good and I'll spend too much money on it, or because it tastes horrible?" I asked. "The second one," he replied.

To my horror, though, it actually tasted pretty damn good to me. Since it's marketed as an "energy drink", the stuff costs $2.00 per (tiny half-sized) bottle. Fuck that shit. I immediately got to work on creating my own version of Blak, for a fraction of the price of the real stuff. After many weeks of effort, millions of research dollars, and much trial and error, here is the perfect recipe for pseudo-Blak that tastes just like The Real Thing©:

1. Take some Coke.
2. Take some coffee.
3. Mix them together.

You are so lucky I'm giving away this recipe for free. Here are some additional helpful hints: Don't add cream; aim for about 30-35% coffee in the mix; and drink it cold.

"ENJOY."

Edit: In a sizzling ball of syncronicity, just as I was writing this post, the following news story broke: DEEP FRIED COKE. I guess it really is possible to deep fry anything.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Video Games Make You Smart


I'll stick with posting about psychology, since school/work is all I've been doing lately.

I came across an article (Teasdale & Owen, 2000) which looked at trends in intelligence scores over the last few decades. As you may know, intelligence has been steadily going up over time. This study looked at a Danish population, to see if IQ is still going up. The graph above shows what they found. It's not going up as much as it used to, except visuo-spatial abilities (working with shapes in your head), which continue to increase.

Why is this? The researchers guess: "..it is tempting to speculate that [...] it has been growing exposure to video games and geometrically configured computer screens via operating systems, applications programs and the Internet, that have particularly accelerated the development of visuo-spatial abilities during the last decade."

So there you have it. Contrary to what some believe, video games are not responsible for the downfall of society; it's the opposite. Video games are making everybody smarter. Parents: start your kids off on the right foot. Get those toddlers playing Grand Theft Auto right away.

This also gives me an idea for my Ph.D. dissertation: "Does Playing Video Games All Day for a Year Make People Smarter? A Self-Administered Case Study. By Phronk."

Here's the full reference for the article I'm talking about:

Teasdale, T., & Owen, D. (2000). Forty-year secular trends in cognitive abilities. Intelligence, 28, 115 - 120.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Psychobabble


You know, there are a lot of interesting things in the field of psychology, but not a lot of people know about them. When most people think of psychology, they think of Sigmund Freud sitting behind a patient on a couch while they talk about their childhood, while he fills out a prescription for crazy pills. That has very little to do with real psychology.

I think one of the reasons that most people ignore psychology research is that we use stupid jargon for very simple things. This makes us feel smart, but just confuses everyone else.

As an example, here is a line from an article I came across, defining what a "home page" is:
A home page is an entry interface of hyperdocuments for presenting a Website's information to visitors, which is mostly concerned with human perception in terms of users’ comprehension and mental representation.
Seriously. I barely know what it's talkng about. How about this? "A home page is the first thing you see when you visit a web site." Much better.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Hiro is the Hero of Heroes


I've been watching a few of the new shows that have been coming out this fall. I think the best by far is Heroes. It's about superheroes, but is more like Unbreakable than Spider-man, so it's much more subtle and adult than you might expect. The best part of the show is Hiro, a Japanese office worker who suddenly realizes he has powers. A lot of fiction in this genre says it's about "ordinary people with extraordinary powers", but Hiro actually fits this bill. Like, if I got super powers, I'd be like "HOLY SHIT I'VE GOT SUPER POWERS", go spy on naked women, try to teleport to Japan, make some money, and then save the world...which is pretty much what Hiro does. He got even awesomer after the last episode's revelation. The dude makes the show.

The show also has many other strong points. It contains a few of my favourite things:
So, you should watch it if you haven't already.

Also remember to watch Lost tonight. Wanna know if it's a repeat or not? Check IsLostaRepeat.com - the simplest, yet most useful, web site in the history of all the internets.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

El Chupacabra

Hey, look, the chupacabra - a mythical creature which sucks on goats - has been captured at last. Apparently it's a cat-dog-monkey-rat-kangaroo thing. Just watch the clip below. It's short.



I hope they catch Bigfoot next.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Snow

Maybe it's just me, but I don't think it's supposed to go from being a cool but sunny day, to a raging snow/hail storm, in a matter of minutes. In early October.

I think the planet is broken.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

On Certainty

So hey, guess what! I forgot to tell you blog people about this when it happened, but a few weeks ago I officially became a published author. A research paper I wrote with two professors was accepted for publication in a psychology journal. Can I call myself an "author" because I published a research paper? Bah, whatever, I'll just add that title to myself anyway.

The paper was about a concept called uncertainty orientation. It's the idea that people differ in how they react to uncertainty. Some people (certainty oriented) avoid it at all costs, wiggling out of uncertain situations in whatever way they can. Others (uncertainty oriented people) approach uncertainty, determined to resolve it themselves. It's kinda interesting, and it's funny how after you study something like this for a few years, you start to see these differences in everyday life.

Speaking of which, here is something I wrote in a comment on another blog a while ago. The owner of the blog is most definitely certainty oriented. She is absolutely convinced that her beliefs are true, and avoids any uncertainty regarding them, no matter what. She asked, "what makes being 100% certain about something a bad thing?" I'll paste my reply below, just because I thought it had some pretty nice points in there and I want to show off:

Why is being 100% certain about something a bad thing?
It's not, unless you happen to be a human being. All humans are fallible, subject to biases in their thinking and errors in their reasoning.

If one does not recognize these fundamental features of being human, then they can make themselves 100% certain in something, but it is not 100% certain to be true. If human reasoning does not always lead to truth, then beliefs are never guaranteed to correspond with reality, no matter how strongly held they are.

The more realistic human will realize their fallible nature, and maintain a certain degree of uncertainty in their beliefs. I know you may see this as a flaw, but as I've said many times, it is actually a strength.

Here's why:


when you are comfortable being uncertain and you refuse to acknowledge other possibilities which would lead you to be certain that isn't a good thing.
I think it's actually the opposite. When you are 100% certain of something, there is no point in even considering another possibility - it can't possibly be true if you are already 100% certain. On the other hand, if you hold even a bit of uncertainty - just .0001% - then there is still a point in having curiosity about conflicting viewpoints. There is a reason to examine information about the world, which is constantly increasing in volume and leading to different conclusions than the information before it. This will allow beliefs to be modified if the evidence about true, absolute reality reaches the point where the previously strongly held (but not 100%) belief becomes unlikely to be true.

For example, people used to think the world was flat. All the evidence they were exposed to verified this. I mean, look out the window, it's friggin flat. Now let's say two people believe the world is flat, but one believes in flatness with 100% certainty, and the other believes with 99%.

A few years later, people begin to travel. They discover that they could actually travel past the "edge" of the world they thought they saw before. Philosophers posit that maybe the earth is curved. People on high mountains swear that they can see a slight curve on all horizons.

The dude who believes 100% that the earth is flat ignores this liberal crap. He's already rejected all possibilities except flatness, so why even bother listening to this new evidence? The 99% person is skeptical, but listens, just in case the new evidence can wedge into that 1% chance that she is wrong.

Eventually, space travel is invented. The 100% guy ends up living in a cabin in the woods eating worms and wearing a tin foil helmet because he believes the government is involved in a grand conspiracy to fake space travel and convince everyone the earth is round, to brainwash children with their evil round-earth agenda. The 99% girl, however, becomes 90% girl, then 50% girl, and eventually 1% girl, because the new evidence about reality becomes too strong to maintaing belief in a flat earth. She lives a normal, healthy life, and doesn't have to resort to ridiculous extremes to maintain the belief which was proven wrong.

I hope you realize that this has little to do with religion; little to do with atheism. It's about belief in general. I just want to convince [people] to reserve that .000000001% uncertainty, so that [they] are slightly open to other possbilities. Not to accept those possibilities, but just to listen to them. [...]

Unless you like worms.


Yup. There you go...now there's some philosophy on this blog (since I mention philosophy in the description to the right there). Enjoy (?).

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Alan Parsons Loves Me

I've been away from the tubes of the internet lately. It's mostly because I've been busy with the usual school stuff, but also because the iPod has been fulfilling my technology addiction, thus replacing blogging.

I'm back now, though. You can thank Alan Parsons for that. For those who don't know, Parsons is a big shot music engineer, who worked on such kickass albums as Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, The Beatles' Abbey Road, and I think he was tangentially related to The Alan Parsons Project. You see, I checked my email today, and it said that Alan Parsons wanted to add me to his Myspace friends. I recognized the name, and thought it was funny that someone would so blatantly name themselves after another person.

But no, BEHOLD: The real Alan Parsons wants to be my friend!

Finally, something mildly interesting to blog about. I realize that there are plenty of famous people on Myspace, and it's probably just their hired help doing this, using Myspace as a promotional tool, but it's still pretty fun that they sought me out, for whatever reason. Probably because The Crystal Method is also on my friends list there (I put them there), and Parsons is doing some project with TCM.

Speaking of which, I listened to them on my iPod just today. You can see this if you visit creepy stalker-friendly Last.fm, that lets you see everything I listen to. Small world. (?)

Ahh yes, the beauty of the internet, connecting everybody and everything.