Culture

Why Does Friday the 13th Scare Us So Much?

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: September 12, 2013   View Article

It’s Friday the 13th, and millions of people are on edge, fearing a calamity with personal or global repercussions-a broken leg, a stock market crash, or the trigger pulled for World War III.

Why all the anxiety? In short, because the fear is ingrained in Western culture, according to experts.

“If nobody bothered to teach us about these negative taboo superstitions like Friday the 13th, we might in fact all be better off,” said Stuart Vyse, a professor of psychology at Connecticut College in New London.

Hot and bothered: Climate change amplifies violence, study says

Publication: NBC News   Date: August 1, 2013   View Article

As the planet’s climate changes, humans everywhere should brace for a spike in violence, a new study suggests. Civilization as we know it may even be at risk.

The dramatic finding comes from a synthesis of several dozen studies that examine the relationship between climate and conflict. The studies cover most regions of the world and points in time over the past 10,000 years. Across all, the findings are consistent: changes in temperature or rainfall amplify violence.

“As long as future populations continue to respond to climatic events the same way … we should probably expect an amplification of interpersonal and intergroup conflict moving forward,” Solomon Hsiang, a public policy researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, told NBC News.

Want to love a robot? Let it nurture you, not the other way around

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 10, 2013   View Article

When human-like robots are standard home appliances, their owners will have increasingly warm, positive feelings for them if the robots take good care of their owners and require little maintenance, according to a new study.

In the study, participants could help Nao, a human-like robot, calibrate its eyes, or Nao could examine the human’s eye as if it was a concerned doctor and make suggestions to improve vision. After the task, the participants were asked how they felt about the robot.

The researchers found that participants trusted the robot more and were more satisfied with their relationship when they received eye care, for example, rather than gave it. In other words, when it comes to building a relationship with human-like robots, it is better to receive than to give.

Virtual robot masters win real ones to send into disasters

Publication: NBC News   Date: June 27, 2013   View Article

Seven teams of software gurus whose code deftly controlled a virtual, human-like robot through a virtual obstacle course were awarded a real humanoid to program for a real-world competition to develop disaster response robots, the Pentagon’s advanced research arm announced Thursday.

The teams competed in the virtual leg of a competition run by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as DARPA, to develop machines that can operate with limited human supervision to assist in response to future natural and human-caused disasters.

Country’s largest brewery goes landfill free

Publication: NBC News   Date: June 27, 2013   View Article

Back in 1873, Rocky Mountain spring water put the Coors brewery in Golden, Colo., on the map for lovers of beer. Now, lovers of all things green will mark the facility as well: This week, the largest brewery in the country moved to landfill-free status.

The accomplishment, announced Monday, means that the 135 tons of waste the brewery generates each month is now recycled or reused. Spent grains, for example, are fed to livestock, while all paper, glass and pallets are recycled.

Experts call Obama climate plan an ‘important first step’

Publication: NBC News   Date: June 25, 2013   View Article

With his jacket off on a sweltering afternoon, President Barack Obama Tuesday unveiled a strategy to slow the effects of climate change so that future generations will have a cleaner and more stable environment, including curbs on pollution from new and existing power plants.

“As a President, as a father and as an American, I’m here to say, we need to act,” he said to applause at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where he unveiled the climate action plan. “I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that is beyond fixing.”

Hack a virus, win a prize: Scientist recognized for ‘useful’ germ modding

Publication: NBC News   Date: June 4, 2013   View Article

The inventor of a viral technology behind tomorrow’s electric car batteries, flexible touchscreen computers, and non-invasive cancer screening was awarded a $500,000 prize Tuesday.

Angela Belcher, a materials chemist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, alters the genetic code of viruses to build things that are useful to humans. The technique is already being harnessed to produce touchscreen gadgets and convert methane gas to gasoline, jet fuel, and plastics.

She received the 2013 Lemelson-MIT Prize, which honors mid-career inventors who are dedicated to making the world a better place through technology.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach