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Showing posts from October, 2015

Filicide: When parents kill children

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Most if not all of us find the subject both horrifying yet fascinating.  Every year, minor children are killed by a parent.  What causes a parent or step-parent to do such a thing?  What problem does the parent think such an act will solve?

This is one of the most daunting and troubling issues of the human mind imaginable. Current thinking on the function of the brain states that our conscious mind acts more as a traffic cop, and that behaviors and actions come from one of the many systems or modules in the brain.  While free will does make one responsible for one's actions, current research on the brain indicates that free will may not exist, opening up so many questions. 

Here is the report on this study, with a link to request a copy of the full paper once released.
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New study compares mothers, fathers who kill their children
"How could this have been prevented?" That was the first thought for University of Guelph sociology professor Myrna Dawson upon learnin…

NEW: A working tractor beam made of sound

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You may not have considered using sound to create a tractor beam, but researchers did and have developed not one but three sonic technologies that hold and manipulate small objects.

Amazing stuff, this, straight out of science fiction.

Here's the report with a link to the longer article in the journal Nature Communications.
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Sonic tractor beam moves stuff with sound
The concept of tractor beams that can grab and lift objects has been used by science-fiction writers, and programs like Star Trek, but has since come to fascinate scientists and engineers. Researchers have now built a working tractor beam that uses high-amplitude sound waves to generate an acoustic hologram which can pick up and move small objects.

Scientists have built a novel sonic tractor beam that can lift and move objects using sound waves. High-amplitude sound waves are used to generate an acoustic hologram which can pick up and move small objects.  The research team has created three-dimensional acoust…

New method reveals fingerprints on metal, plastic and glass.

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Recent advances in identifying suspects is truly amazing.  There is, for example, 

a new method for dating the age of a fingerprint allowing investigators to focus on current evidence rather than having to check out prints left prior to a crime.  There is a new method of scanning fingerprints that shows not only the surface whorls and loops of a fingerprint, it shows underlying structures of the skin as well.  There is now a method for taking fingerprints off ATM receipts and other paper documents.  And in some countries,babies are being fingerprinted at birth to build a database to be used to track medical care, but, has the potential to be used to identify people later in life.
And the list goes on.

As a perpetrator caught by one of these new techniques might say, "What a world, what a world."

Indeed it is.

For writers of crime fiction or the many crime reality shows, this is a time of great breakthroughs that impact every story they write.  

Here's the story with a link to …

Decline in animal 'poop' threatens our food supply

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If the world's food chain collapses. . . if.  What would the effects be on your characters?  

It is said that our civilized behavior only runs skin deep.  Given the choice between starvation and access to food and water, what would your characters do?  How would a global food system collapse effect a love story. . . if a character had to choose between eating and watching a loved-one starve?  

There are so many questions to ask and for writers to answer in their fiction.

If the world's food chain collapses. . . then?
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Declines in whales, fish, seabirds and large animals disrupt Earth's nutrient cycle
Giants once roamed the earth. Oceans teemed with ninety-foot-long whales. Huge land animals -- like truck-sized sloths and ten-ton mammoths -- ate vast quantities of food, and, yes, deposited vast quantities of poop.
In the past, whales, giant land mammals, and other animals played a vital role in keeping the planet fertile by transporting nutrients via their feces. Howe…

Research on the Writing Styles of Successful Fiction

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Some elements of writing style differentiate successful fiction
Imagine the challenge publishers face, pouring over thousands of manuscripts to determine if a book will be a hit. Stony Brook Department of Computer Science Assistant Professor Yejin Choi thinks she has a tool to bring some science to that art, and she is co-author of a paper, Success with Style: Using Writing Style to Predict the Success of Novels, which was unveiled at the conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP) 2013.
"Predicting the success of literary works poses a massive dilemma for publishers and aspiring writers alike," Choi said. "We examined the quantitative connection between writing style and successful literature. Based on novels across different genres, we investigated the predictive power of statistical stylometry in discriminating successful literary works, and identified the stylistic elements that are more prominent in successful writings."

Statistical s…

Kudos to the writers of Law & Order ~ For Accurately Portraying Sexual Assault

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Popular crime shows may help reduce sexual assault 'Law & Order' viewers have healthier understanding of sexual consent
A new study reveals viewers of "Law and Order" have a better grasp of sexual consent than viewers of other crime dramas such as "CSI" or "NCIS," suggesting that individuals who watch programs in which sexual predators are punished may avoid sexual predatory behavior in real life.

"One of the marked differences between 'Law & Order' and other crime dramas is its focus on the criminals' trials," said lead researcher Stacey Hust. "Viewers of 'Law & Order' not only see the criminal act taking place, but they typically see the criminal punished for the crime. This judicial sentencing is rarely seen in other crime dramas."

The survey of 313 college freshmen explored the influence of watching the three most popular crime drama franchises: "Law & Order," "CSI" and…

Sixth Ocean Garbage Patch Invading the Arctic

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Speaking of ideas for writers:  Since the invention of Bakelite in New York in 1907 by Leo Baekeland, plastics have become ubiquitous - everywhere in everyday life.  Leading to six huge patches of discarded plastic debris floating across the world's oceans, something we have achieved in just over 100 years.  

Plastics don't break down, rather large pieces of plastic deconstruct into smaller pieces of plastic, microscopic in size that are consumed by fish from sardines to whales, and by sea birds.

This is not good.  These marine animals form the very basis of the food chain that we rely on for our daily bread.  The consumption of microscopic fragments of plastics by sea life that contain no food value and block the absorption of nutrients threatens our existence.  Combine this with over-fishing, and well, you get the picture.

For any author or screenwriter, any decline in human food stocks offers a plot element of immense importance as wars and revolutions are caused by lack of fo…

New "Internal" Fingerprinting Technique Simpler, Cheaper & More Accurate

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Internal fingerprint sensor peers inside fingertips for more surefire ID
Quickly detecting 'internal fingerprints,' sweat pores could make fingerprint sensors more reliable and less likely to be tricked by fake fingerprints

Most optical fingerprint sensors today produce images by reflecting light from areas where the skin does not come in contact with a glass plate, a technique that captures details from only the very top layer of skin. In contrast, a new device images the 'internal fingerprints,' which have the same pattern as external fingerprints, but are about half a millimeter below the skin's surface.

In the 1971 film Diamonds are Forever, British secret agent James Bond uses fake fingerprints as part of a ploy to assume the identity of a diamond smuggler. At the time, sham prints were purely a futuristic bit of Bond gadgetry, but technology has since caught up.

In 2002, the Japanese cryptographer Tsutomu Matsumoto showed that imitation fingerprints made cheap…

It's Back to the Future Day. Where is my Hoverboard?

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It's the day fans of the flick, Back to the Future, Part II have long awaited.  The question is, how close are we to the cool things depicted in the movie?  Do any exist in our 2015 reality, hopefully hoepfully unaffected by Marty's and Doc Brown's fiddling around with the space/time continuum back in 1955?

Thankfully, as weird as some fashions seem today, the clothes in the movie haven't made the scene. . . yet.

How about hoverboards and flying cars?  Well, sorta.  Not in production, but definitely in development.

According to Matthew C. Sullivan, associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Ithaca College and superconductor researcher, "We're probably closer to being able to create a transportation system that's levitating than we are to creating personal automobiles that can both fly and drive."

Though the hover technology in the fictional time-travel series is never detailed, it would be entirely feasible, if unlikely, with t…

Feasts at Stonehenge: How Stone Age Man Ate.

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Feasts and food choices:  Culinary habits of the Stonehenge builders
Archaeologists have revealed new insights into cuisine choices and eating habits at Durrington Walls -- a Late Neolithic monument and settlement site thought to be the residence for the builders of nearby Stonehenge during the 25th century BC.

Together with researchers at the University of Sheffield, detailed analysis of pottery and animal bones has uncovered evidence of organised feasts featuring barbeque-style roasting, and an unexpected pattern in how foods were distributed and shared across the site.

Chemically analyzing food residues remaining on several hundred fragments of pottery, the York team found differences in the way pots were used. Pots deposited in residential areas were found to be used for cooking animal products including pork, beef and dairy, whereas pottery from the ceremonial spaces was used predominantly for dairy.

Such spatial patterning could mean that milk, yogurts and cheeses were perceived …