Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.

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Friday, December 30, 2020

If you don’t want the bedbugs to bite, be a slob and keep your bedsheets untidy:

Researcher Dr Stephen Pretlove said: “We know that mites can only survive by taking in water from the atmosphere using small glands on the outside of their body.

“Something as simple as leaving a bed unmade during the day can remove moisture from the sheets and mattress so the mites will dehydrate and eventually die.”

No wonder I’m so healthy; I can’t remember the last time I made my beddings.

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 12/30/2005 07:28:26 PM
Category: Science | Permalink | Feedback

Thursday, December 29, 2020

In space, no one can hear you scream ask for a bag of peanuts. Prepping for the future hordes who’ll be visiting Lunar Disneyland, the Federal Aviation Administration has issued premilinary regulations for space tourists before they board that big rocket.

The 123-page report does not cover box-cutters or cigarette lighters, though.

- Costa Tsiokos, Thu 12/29/2005 09:24:16 PM
Category: Politics, Society, Science | Permalink | Feedback

Saturday, December 17, 2021

Josh Korr writes up a pretty good summary about how ever-advancing graphics manipulation is resulting in videogame imagery that’s, paradoxically, less lifelike than one would expect. Characters that are supposed to be true-to-life in sports games instead come off as looking fake, with plastic-like skin.

(A quick aside: I’m thinking a good nickname for Josh would be “Hard”. Imagine introducing him at some convention or something: “And here’s the tech blogger from the St. Pete Times, our main man, Josh ‘Hard’ Korr!”)

The problem lies in what Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori calls “the Uncanny Valley”:

When an android, such as R2-D2 or C-3PO, barely looks human, we cut it a lot of slack. It seems cute. We don’t care that it’s only 50 percent humanlike. But when a robot becomes 99 percent lifelike — so close that it’s almost real — we focus on the missing 1 percent. We notice the slightly slack skin, the absence of a truly human glitter in the eyes. The once-cute robot now looks like an animated corpse. Our warm feelings, which had been rising the more vivid the robot became, abruptly plunge downward. Mori called this plunge “the Uncanny Valley,” the paradoxical point at which a simulation of life becomes so good it’s bad.

That “cutting slack” action is crucial, and it takes place on a subconscious level, where the human brain processes visual information and makes symbolism possible. It’s the same processes that allow us to look at a circle, an arc and two dots, and recognize the arranged imagery as the classic smiley face. As Scott McCloud pointed out in his book “Understanding Comics”, it’s not so remarkable that we can interpret such graphical information thusly; it’s more remarkable that we can’t look at it and not perform that mental calculation into representative glyphs.

In the videogame world, the progression is quite clear. We’ve gone from the block-pixels of Pong, to the cartoon animation of Mario and the like, to the faux-realism of Grand Theft Auto and Doom. The balance between how pretty the game looks, versus how much of the focus should go to the gameplay (which Korr argues for, and is a constant point of contention among gamer cognoscenti), is delicate.

The question comes down to how “real” the imagery in these mediums has to, or should, be. I’ve always felt that what made comics work as a storytelling format, particularly for the staple superhero/sci-fi/fantasy genre, is that the nature of line-drawn representation makes the classic suspension of disbelief easy to complete. That doesn’t necessarily create allowances for the quality of the storytelling, although it’s certainly contributed to the kid’s-stuff attitude attributed to comics (and, if you think about it, to videogames too). But it’s a device that you don’t see in text-based storytelling or in film.

However, as it becomes more feasible to use close-to-life representations of people, animals, backgrounds and objects in videogames, will our visual processing adjust? To me, it seems like we’re in a transitional phase for all this: That 1-percent-focus will someday disappear, to the point where controllable videogame characters and environments will be as high-quality as a movie. Then what? Will all the gaps be filled sufficiently? Right now, we’re used to a certain level of unreality in this arena, and accept that. We may not have to settle for that when the process is complete.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sat 12/17/2005 04:27:28 PM
Category: Videogames, Creative, Science | Permalink | Feedback

Thursday, December 15, 2021

You don’t see this every day… The Florida Aquarium in Tampa is hosting Jose Blanco, a rare white alligator on loan from a New Orleans zoo.

Just on sight, I assumed Jose was an albino. Close, but no cigar: He’s actually got leucism, which is related, but distinct from albinism. The giveaway is the blue eyes. You learn something new every day.

- Costa Tsiokos, Thu 12/15/2005 10:39:25 PM
Category: Florida Livin', Science | Permalink | Feedback (2)

Thursday, December 01, 2021

So let me get this straight:

Tom Cruise is pushing for his child bride to undergo a Scientology-proscribed silent-birth delivery, on the theory that “an atmosphere of total quiet, without any groans, screams, or sounds of pain from the mother, or even the audible exchange of information among hospital personnel” is ultimately beneficial for the child.

Yet he’s bought his own sonogram machine, which works by innundating the fetus with high-frequency noise.

I guess Scientologists advocate giving the child an earful (and then some) while in the womb, but not as much after they’re out.

Much like his famed expertise on psychiatry, I think Cruise’s medical knowledge is a little loopy.

- Costa Tsiokos, Thu 12/01/2021 10:15:33 PM
Category: Celebrity, Science | Permalink | Feedback

Tuesday, November 29, 2021

Oh, sometimes it’s just too easyMedical researchers have discovered that people with more fat in their cabooses require longer needles to ensure that their injections actually get into the bloodstream.

Hey, if you’re going to have a whale-like ass, you should expect to be harpooned every so often. And not in a fun way.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 11/29/2005 10:09:35 PM
Category: Society, Science | Permalink | Feedback

Wednesday, November 23, 2021

Here’s a finding that should send a shiver down every blogger’s spine: Filtering out irrelevent input helps the human brain better retain crucial information.

“People differed systematically, and dramatically, in their ability to keep irrelevant items out of awareness,” said study leader Edward Vogel of the University of Oregon.

Vogel thinks of this ability to focus as akin to having a thought bouncer in the brain, managing crowd control. The results, detailed in the Nov. 24 issue of the journal Nature, suggest ways to improve memory abilities.

Accordingly, feel free to disregard this post. And this blog.

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 11/23/2005 04:51:03 PM
Category: Creative, Science | Permalink | Feedback

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