Showing posts from July, 2013

Where have all the burglars gone? And a Woman Warrior Passes

An article in the July 19, 2013 online edition of the Economist notes that police records and surveys of victims across Europe and North America show crime against the person and against property falling over the past ten years.  Even falling dramatically.

In America the fall began around 1991; in Britain it began around 1995, though the murder rate followed only in the mid-2000s. In France, property crime rose until 2001—but it has fallen by a third since. Some crimes are all but disappearing. In 1997, some 400,000 cars were reported stolen in England and Wales: in 2012, just 86,000.

Why?  The experts are divided in explaining the decline, but it appears to be a combination of better policing, better  awareness of crime prevention by the population, and certain demographic changes.

To read the entire Economist Article: Falling crime

Looking for a woman war hero to write about or fictionalize?  In the same issue of the economist is the story of fighter pilot Nadia Popova, a true woman wa…

If You're Not Looking for It, You Probably Won't See It

Many of the great fictional detectives had the ability to see what others had missed.  Lord Peter Whimsey and Sherlock Holmes lead the list of detectives, and one of the first mystery stories, The Purloined Letter by Poe, was built around the inability of most humans to see things literally in front of their faces.

A new study published in the current issue of Psychological Science finds that even expert searchers, operating in their domain of expertise, are vulnerable to "inattentional blindness", i.e., the inability to see something right in front of our eyes, especially when focused on a task.

You'd think that if a gorilla floated across your computer screen while you were editing, you'd notice it, right?  Chances are very good that you would not.  Here's the gist of the press release:

"When engaged in a demanding task, attention can act like a set of blinders, making it possible for stimuli to pass, undetected, right in front of our eyes," explained Tr…

The Bourne Identity in Real Life

It's the basis of the Bourne Identity series by Robert Ludlum: a man awakens not knowing who or where is he. 

It's called Transient Global Amnesia, a temporary total loss of memory, a device often used in fiction.

Just to prove that this fictional reality exists in our world, consider the American who wakes up with amnesia speaking Swedish.  In fact, the man claims he cannot remember anything of past life after being found unconscious in a motel room in Palm Springs.  Michael Boatwright, 61, woke up with amnesia, calling himself Johan Ek, the Desert Sun reported.

Boatwright was found unconscious in February, and was transported to the Desert Regional medical center.  Hospital officials believe Boatwright may have been in town for a tennis tournament in the Coachella valley. He was found with a duffel bag of exercise clothes, a backpack and tennis rackets. He also carried a passport, a California identification card, a veteran's medical card and a social security card – a…

Fictional James Bond Inspired Real CIA Toys

Much is made of the influence of the Star Trek series on developing technology from warp drive to the now ubiquitous cell phone (the inventor of which admits Star Trek's communicators gave him the idea.)

But wait, a new study tells us there's more.  A symbiotic relationship of sorts between our CIA and Ian Fleming's James Bond.

When it comes to developing cool spy toys, it seems Fleming's James Bond books and movies were years ahead of our own CIA in spy gadgets.  And, that the real-life CIA copied outlandish gadgets from Goldfinger and From Russia With Love, according to a University of Warwick analysis of declassified letters and interviews revealing the bond between Ian Fleming and Allen Dulles.

However the relationship between the former CIA director and the spy thriller writer went far deeper than raiding the novels for technological inspiration.

Through Dulles, the agency actively leaned on the British author to paint it in more positive light at a time when US …