24 September 2007

BFitz on Boing-Boing!

To those of you who know who I mean when I say 'BFitz', you'll find this link to be mightily awesome. :-)

More BFitz-containing photos here, here, here, here, here (original Boing-Boing pic before cropping), here... probably even more in there...

(For those not familiar, Boing-Boing is one of the more heavily trafficked sites on the 'Net. Thus, BFitz is now either famous or infamous, depending on how you look at it. :-)

21 September 2007

Headline Gripe

MIT coed with fake bomb 'art' arrested.

Ok. Firstly, granted: the girl should probably have realized that wearing a circuit board of any kind to the airport while carrying Play-Doh equals BAD IDEA. No doubt there.


The headline? "Fake bomb 'art' "? Come on. Implying that the girl was trying to make some sort of political statement or something by walking into the airport wearing it? I don't buy it, and it's pretty disingenuous for the AP to headline it that way. Odds are, having worked with circuitry so much, it didn't occur to her that most other people wouldn't know the breadboard was innocuous. It's probably similar to the (perhaps apocryphal) story of the chemist going through airport security with his calorimeter: when asked about the nature of the shiny, round metal object he was carrying, he responded, "Oh, that's just my bomb."

So, yeah. Shouldn't have happened in the first place, foolish mistake on her part... but this reporting tack just irks me. :-P

11 September 2007

Notable Safety Point

Last Friday on Slate:

A couple of weeks ago, I was sleeping in the front passenger seat of our car when it slammed into the vehicle in front of us. We were on the highway coming home from a family trip. The other three people in our car weren't hurt. But I'd reclined my seat, and my seat belt, which was riding high, left a long welt around my rib cage and along my stomach. As it turned out, I had internal bleeding from a lacerated spleen and three cracked ribs. I spent the next two days in intensive care.

I've recovered nicely, thank you. But the more I thought about my accident, the more I wondered whether I'd inadvertently done myself in by tilting my car seat back—as I do on just about every long drive....

S'pose it's pretty easy not to think about how catastrophically a seat belt can fail to protect you if you're not sitting upright. Beware!

Also, I personally think it's terrible that the clout of the carmakers keeps anything from being done in terms of regulations for warning labels. I'll freely admit that I never read the manuals of the cars I drove all the way through — odds are I missed a number of things that might've been good for me to know...ah well!

(Linked from By the Way.)

04 September 2007

Rational Politics Is Doomed, It Seems

Research shows that attempting to refute false information can actually reinforce it

From the Washington Post:

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a flier to combat myths about the flu vaccine. It recited various commonly held views and labeled them either "true" or "false." Among those identified as false were statements such as "The side effects are worse than the flu" and "Only older people need flu vaccine."

When University of Michigan social psychologist Norbert Schwarz had volunteers read the CDC flier, however, he found that within 30 minutes, older people misremembered 28 percent of the false statements as true. Three days later, they remembered 40 percent of the myths as factual.

Younger people did better at first, but three days later they made as many errors as older people did after 30 minutes. Most troubling was that people of all ages now felt that the source of their false beliefs was the respected CDC.

Extend this to politics, and indeed the mantra of 'Who cares about facts or truth, all that matters is what people think' does indeed make good sense. (Not that research is really needed to discover that such an approach works.)

Politics aside, though, it's an interesting thing to consider. I remember from somewhere that if you want someone not to do something, it's better to use a positive sentence with a 'negative' verb, rather than a negative sentence with a 'positive' verb. (Example: 'Leave that cup on the counter' will tend to work better in the long run than 'Don't move that cup off the counter'). <shrug> Makes pretty good sense to me...