Recent Articles

Photobiology

I’m enjoying photography, especially portraits. The final products are fun to create, but what is it that I’m looking for in a portrait? I’m convinced that photographers can benefit from some of the findings on what it means to be attractive by those who study biology, and specifically, evolution.

The above-linked Wikipedia article has lots of information on this topic of physical attractiveness as explored scientifically. Here’s an excerpt pertaining to women:

Research has attempted to determine which facial features communicate attractiveness. Facial symmetry has been shown to be considered attractive in women, and men have been found to prefer full lips, high forehead, broad face, small chin, small nose, short and narrow jaw, high cheekbones, clear and smooth skin, and wide-set eyes. The shape of the face in terms of “how everything hangs together” is an important determinant of beauty. A University of Toronto study found correlations between facial measurements and attractiveness; researchers varied the distance between eyes, and between eyes and mouth, in different drawings of the same female face, and had the drawings evaluated; they found there were ideal proportions perceived as attractive. These proportions (46% and 36%) were close to the average of all female profiles. Women with thick, dark limbal rings in their eyes have also been found to be more attractive. The explanation given is that because the ring tends to fade with age and medical problems, a prominent limbal ring gives an honest indicator of youth.

In a cross-cultural study, more neotenized (i.e., youthful looking) female faces were found to be most attractive to men while less neotenized female faces were found to be less attractive to men, regardless of the females’ actual age. One of these desired traits was a small jaw. In a study of Italian women who have won beauty competitions, it was found that their faces had more “babyish” (pedomorphic) traits than those of the “normal” women used as a reference.

May 30, 2015 | By | Reply More

The Beauty of the Sun – Spectacular Nasa Visuals

Published on Feb 11, 2015
February 11, 2015 marks five years in space for NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which provides incredibly detailed images of the whole sun 24 hours a day. Capturing an image more than once per second, SDO has provided an unprecedentedly clear picture of how massive explosions on the sun grow and erupt ever since its launch on Feb. 11, 2010. The imagery is also captivating, allowing one to watch the constant ballet of solar material through the sun’s atmosphere, the corona.

In honor of SDO’s fifth anniversary, NASA has released a video showcasing highlights from the last five years of sun watching. Watch the movie to see giant clouds of solar material hurled out into space, the dance of giant loops hovering in the corona, and huge sunspots growing and shrinking on the sun’s surface.

The imagery is an example of the kind of data that SDO provides to scientists. By watching the sun in different wavelengths – and therefore different temperatures – scientists can watch how material courses through the corona, which holds clues to what causes eruptions on the sun, what heats the sun’s atmosphere up to 1,000 times hotter than its surface, and why the sun’s magnetic fields are constantly on the move.

Five years into its mission, SDO continues to send back tantalizing imagery to incite scientists’ curiosity. For example, in late 2014, SDO captured imagery of the largest sun spots seen since 1995 as well as a torrent of intense solar flares. Solar flares are bursts of light, energy and X-rays. They can occur by themselves or can be accompanied by what’s called a coronal mass ejection, or CME, in which a giant cloud of solar material erupts off the sun, achieves escape velocity and heads off into space. In this case, the sun produced only flares and no CMEs, which, while not unheard of, is somewhat unusual for flares of that size. Scientists are looking at that data now to see if they can determine what circumstances might have led to flares eruptions alone.

Goddard built, operates and manages the SDO spacecraft for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C. SDO is the first mission of NASA’s Living with a Star Program. The program’s goal is to develop the scientific understanding necessary to address those aspects of the sun-Earth system that directly affect our lives and society.

May 26, 2015 | By | 3 Replies More

Eric Barker sums up how to be happy all the time

Eric Barker distills LOTS of good advice, providing ample links for more details. I have taken much of what he has provided in his blog, Barking Up the Wrong Tree, and practiced it. This is not hyperbole – I have found his information/advice to be among the most useful I have encountered anywhere.

His latest post is titled, “4 Rituals To Keep You Happy All The Time,” and I’m a believer (though I’m not actually happy ALL the time!). Here’s how he sums things up:

  • Write down three good things that happened to you that day before you go to bed.
  • Imagine something meaningful to you never happened. Then appreciate how lucky you are to have it.
  • Think about something bad that happened to you — and how it made you feel lucky to have gotten past it and how you have grown.
  • Do a gratitude visit. Write a letter of gratitude to someone who has done something for you and read it out loud to them in person.

Enjoy!   Literally.

May 26, 2015 | By | Reply More

Lee Camp Compares Elections in the U.K. and the U.S.

Once a person can clearly state the problems, the solutions becomes clear. With regard to the corrupt bread and circus elections in the United States, Lee Camp makes the problems crystal clear. Note, especially the short campaign season in the U.K. (a matter of weeks) and the fact that in the U.K. TV and radio political ads are banned.

May 24, 2015 | By | Reply More

How to get richer by squeezing money out of the poor: invest in trailer parks

Here’s where free market fundamentalism leads us: dulled consciences and oppression of those on the brink of homelessness.

From the U.K. Guardian:

Some of the richest people in the US, including billionaires Warren Buffett and Sam Zell, have made millions from trailer parks at the expense of the country’s poorest people. Seeing their success, ordinary people from across the country are now trying to follow in their footsteps and become trailer park millionaires. The Guardian went to Orlando to learn the tricks of the trade from Frank Rolfe, the self-appointed dean of Mobile Home University, as he led would-be investors around a trailer park for sex offenders.

May 23, 2015 | By | Reply More

Congress does not care what you think.

Congress does not care what you think. This sickness of the U.S. political system can be demonstrated in one graph.

Bottom line of this research: It doesn’t matter what most Americans want their politicians to do.

May 4, 2015 | By | 1 Reply More

The Plan of Represent.US to wipe out legalized political corruption

Josh Silver of Represent.US presents the plan:

Here is more.

The plan boils down to this:

We are protecting our communities and our country from corruption by passing city, state and federal Anti-Corruption Acts.

Problem = Corruption.
Solution = Anti-Corruption Act.

The American Anti-Corruption Act sets a standard for city, state and federal laws that break money’s grip on politics:

  • Stop political bribery by making it illegal for elected officials to raise money from interests they regulate.
  • End secret money by mandating full transparency of all political spending.
  • Empower voters with an opt-in, individual tax rebate for small political donations.
May 1, 2015 | By | 1 Reply More

How artificial sweeteners cause obesity

I had heard that using artificial sweeteners can cause obesity, but hadn’t before seen an explanation. This article by Tom Philpott of Mother Jones describes the mechanism:

[A] slew of studies have shown that faux sugars may actually contribute to the very diet-related maladies they’re marketed to protect us from—type 2 diabetes, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, strokes, and heart attacks… [T]hose who drank at least one diet soda per day were 43 percent more likely to suffer strokes and heart attacks than people who drank none, even after controlling for such factors as weight, level of exercise, diabetes, high blood pressure, and intake of calories, cholesterol, and sodium. Another large population study, published in 2009, found that daily diet soda drinkers were 67 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than people who shun them—again, even after adjusting for lifestyle and demographic factors. …

Purdue University behavioral neuroscientist Susan Swithers suggests that fake sweeteners do their dirty work by confusing our digestive systems’ Pavlovian response to sugar. When you smell food, she explains, you begin to salivate and your stomach begins to grumble; that’s your body preparing for what it assumes from experience is a hearty meal to come. Similarly, she says, a sweet taste is a “pretty good indication that sugar is going to arrive in your body”—that is, a blast of easily digestible calories. So, quaff Pepsi, and your body starts releasing digestive hormones and increases its metabolic rate, “because you have to expend energy to get energy out of your food,” she explains.

Fake sweeteners appear to subtly disrupt the trillions of microbes that live in our digestive tracts. But when you start ingesting sweet blasts that then don’t deliver the usual calorie blast, your body no longer knows what to expect. As a result, Swithers says, tests have found that “animals who have experience with artificial sweeteners don’t seem to be as good at regulating their blood sugar levels when they get real sugar”—hence the associations with diabetes and other metabolic troubles. And this mechanism would appear to be independent of the kind of low-calorie sweetener used.

April 27, 2015 | By | Reply More

A Fun Way to be More Successful

Eric Barker shows the research: worker bees are not the most successful workers, and it’s because they are focusing only on the work while ignoring their social needs and becoming unhappy in the process.

Barker recommends this excellent TED talk by Shawn Achor:

Another helpful post is Barker on getting organized/happy.

April 26, 2015 | By | Reply More