Category: Random

The call of the savannah

We are more animal and more ancient than we admit.

Our higher selves wrestle with the great philosophical challenges of the day. Why is there no wi-fi? Why do the cleaners over-stuff the paper towel dispenser? Do I really want to have a smart meter? And, will the Russians hack it if I do?

Meanwhile, deep within, our brains arrange things the way that – based on two million years of evolution – they always have been.

Continue reading “The call of the savannah”

DeFender of the Faith – Andy Mooney, @Fender

It must be tough building a business whose core products were launched in the 1950s. Fender is best known for its solid-body guitars and electric basses: the Telecaster (1950), the Stratocaster (1954) and the Precision Bass (1951).

The Times this week has a profile of Fender’s CEO, Andy Mooney, who took the reins in 2015. It’s a fascinating read both for gear-heads (I’m a life-long Fender fan) and strategy gurus.

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Plants hear bees buzz

Here’s an interesting piece from the National Geographic on how plants respond to the vibration of buzzing bees to sweeten their nectar.

To test the primroses in the lab, Hadany’s team exposed plants to five sound treatments: silence, recordings of a honeybee from four inches away, and computer-generated sounds in low, intermediate, and high frequencies. Plants given the silent treatment—placed under vibration-blocking glass jars—had no significant increase in nectar sugar concentration. The same went for plants exposed to high-frequency (158 to 160 kilohertz) and intermediate-frequency (34 to 35 kilohertz) sounds.

But for plants exposed to playbacks of bee sounds (0.2 to 0.5 kilohertz) and similarly low-frequency sounds (0.05 to 1 kilohertz), the final analysis revealed an unmistakable response. Within three minutes of exposure to these recordings, sugar concentration in the plants increased from between 12 and 17 percent to 20 percent.

But then, thinking of plants “hearing” is maybe a case looking down the wrong end of the telescope. Isn’t it possibly how hearing evolved in animals?

Read the article, here.

 

Photo by Stefano Ghezzi on Unsplash

Save our cappuccino – Ben Macintyre in The Times

Ben Macintyre has a sobering column in Saturday’s Times:

Most wild coffee species are under threat, with 60 per cent facing possible extinction from shrinking natural habitat, deforestation and climate change, according to researchers at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew. Wild arabica, the original of the world’s most widely used coffee, has in the past few years been classified for the first time as endangered.

Read the full column, here.

 

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Death of Venice

The Times has a couple of sad pieces on Venice.

Kneeling, he touches the foundation of one of the marble columns holding up St Mark’s Basilica, which symbolised Venetian power for a millennium. Fragments come away in his fingers.

“Water now enters the church 200 times a year,” said Mr Tesserin, administrator of the 11th century Italo-Byzantine masterpiece overlooking St Mark’s Square. “The marble is literally crumbling thanks to the corrosive salt.”

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The sovereignty of the Ouija board

We sovereign professionals are a strong-willed lot, always completely in control and aware of the forces acting on us. So, I love this psychology study on Ouija users.

Psychologists at Aarhus University tracked the eye movements of users in the normal, involuntary, spirit-driven state and when using the planchette (pointer) to deliberately spell out words in a “voluntary” state.

Spoiler alert!

The experimenters found that:

when looking to see whether at least one participant in a pair made a predictive eye movement, the rates of prediction were just as high as for individuals in the voluntary condition (i.e. for any given move of the planchette, at least one person usually knew where it was going); second, rates of prediction increased in the Ouija board condition, but not the voluntary condition, presumably as the participants became increasingly aware of the diminishing number of meaningful options available.

Read the full spookiness, here.

 

Photo by dragonoak on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND