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Tag Archives: color

It’s not just the ears. They eye’s have it too.

The Hair of the Dog post I wrote last week came from my own tendency to play depressing music when I am feeling down and how this technique does not seem to be doing me any good. According to the article I cited, this may put me in the ruminator category of folks who try to use this music to list their spirits (or at least hope that it may), but fail at escaping the downward spiral.

ImageAbout the same time, I was watching Penn and Teller’s show about the BS we often believe in, but that is seldom true. In the episode I watched, they brought up the way color also feeds into our psyche making us tend to want to eat or not depending on the colors and pairings. They pointed to the ubiquity of red and yellow in fast food signs, logos and buildings to support their claim that franchises were exploiting this aspect of out brain’s wiring. The visual communication guy, a graphic art consultant, writes about this on his site, referring to it as the ketchup and mustard effect. Another design blog demonstrates how often this is used by listing a sampling of fast food logos like McDonald’s. Amongst the research journals, Satyendra Singh wrote a review of the literature supporting this conclusion for the Journal, Management Decision. Dr. Singh’s article proposes that, “managers can use colors to increase or decrease appetite, enhance mood, calm down customers, and, reduce perception of waiting time, among others.”

We would be fooling ourselves if we thought that we were not being constantly manipulated subconsciously by retailers, restaurants, and other marketers. Election campaign ads come to mind immediately) But how do you feel about this manipulation? Frankly, I think it’s just what I would expect – and moreover, exactly what I would do myself if it was my job to bring in and retain customers.

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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What makes the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short?

ImageHuman Nature

Tiling a bathroom floor is a good time to catch up on the long list of podcasts clogging up  my switcher queue.

Unfortunately, they all seemed to take a dark turn yesterday.  I felt hit one time after another with tales of what vicious animals we can be. As I listened I was thinking of the Faustian comic my son and I found as an iPad app / book, Howard Numlek, that tells the tale of Howard, a meek, uncertain, jobless man who is taken into the employ of Red Suit, Inc., the front company of Satan himself. Poor Howard doesn’t want to work for the Prince of Darkness, but he’s unemployed, the pay is good and he doesn’t have to sell his soul just to work there. All he has to do is collect on the contracts.

I started to think… ‘Yes, I would probably sell myself into such an evil position pretty quickly given the chance.’

The first podcast was Ira Glass’, This American Life. It’s always been a favorite of mine since I first started listening almost twenty years ago. The most recent episode is about ‘Good Guys,’ and the men who think of themselves as such. There were several acts, but the one I thought was most amusing was trying to get the ‘Good Guy Discount.’ … “Hey, you’re a good guy, I’m a good guy, how about we take a little off this purchase to ease the pain a little?” Amazingly, this kind of approach actually seems to work with some people under some circumstances. But the question is, ‘What kind of guy goes around saying he’s a good guy and looking for a reward?’

The obvious answer is: not a very good guy.Image

Next up, also on This American Life, was the story of an Afgan War veteran and his memoirs that show how effective the US Infantry is at converting a mild mannered man into someone whose greatest hope is that he will have the opportunity to kill someone.

Is this something that his experiences did to him – or is it simply uncovering the deep, dark truth inside of us all?

Finally, Freakonomics with their story “Fear Thy Nature”.  As if I wasn’t already doing that!

This story brought up the 1971 Stanford Prison experiment in which students were separated into two arbitrary groups, one becoming prisoners and the other becoming guards. The experiment was supposed to last two weeks, but was stopped after six days due to the abuses of power exhibited by the guards.

There is some controversy about whether this experiment went the way it did because that’s the way human nature takes us – or if the study volunteers knew what was happening and made an effort to play to the camera.

While I was listening to this I was reminded of a diversity training video I had seen while employed at a plastics manufacturing plant in Delaware City during college. The video illustrated just how easy it was to invent a stereotype about a group from thin air and make it sting in just fifteen minutes of conditioning.

The most amazing thing about this exercise was that I remember the trainer at our company turning off the video and starting a conversation with the employees only to find that they had picked up on the stereotype and were just as vehement in aggressively applying it as any other brand of prejudice that they had ever felt. They had to be reminded more than once that this was only made up as a lesson.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I was able to find this video from the little I remembered about seeing it twenty years ago. It’s still available as Blue Eyed with Jane Elliot from ABC Training. Although I can’t post it here because it is still used, you can follow the link and watch the entire 30 minute video online – it’s astounding.  For a taste of the lesson, watch some footage of Ms. Elliot putting this lesson in action with her 3rd grade classroom in Iowa.

What does this have to do with the low opinion of humanity’s moral character? Watch the video, see how easy it is to sow division between people. It’s a great lesson about the arbitrary nature of bigotry, but it’s also a sad testament to the willingness of people to learn a new stereotype.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Nature’s hidden beauty – A tangent from Intro Bio

Photosynthesis is a way that nature observes the first law of thermodynamics.

As we all learn in school, the sun is the primary source of energy on Earth, but only a fraction of Earth’s residents can tap into that energy directly. The rest of us, the heterotrophs (from hetero- other and troph – food), get our energy indirectly. We either eat the plants (or other organisms) that produce their own food, or we eat the things that somewhere down the line got their energy from eating autotrophs (from auto- self).

But, because the first law of thermodynamics states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but only converted from one form to another, these autotrophs could not make their food from nothing. Instead, they converted (solar) energy from the sun into chemical energy via photosynthesis.

Solar energy, which comes to Earth as photons, has characteristics of both particles and waves (as it turns out everything does). These waves have energy that is inversely proportional to the wavelength of the light- shorter wavelengths transfer more energy than longer ones. I like to think of it this way: Shorter wavelengths mean more waves per unit time. If you were one the beach watching waves come in to shore, if more waves crash on the beach in an hour on Saturday than on Sunday, then more energy was transferred per hour from the ocean waves to the shore on Saturday.

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Absorption spectrum of pigments

The visible light we can see only a small slice of the broader electromagnetic spectrum. Because we see only the light that bounces of things, if those things absorb some of that light (such as plants that use the light for photosynthesis), then we see only what they reflect back because it is not absorbed. This explains precisely why most leaves appear green – all but the green light is absorbed by pigment molecules that are collecting energy in the chloroplasts.

We can see this clearly by looking at an absorption spectrum of several pigments found in leaves.

What’s really interesting, is the beauty of flowers. These parts of the plant are not photosynthetic*, but they also contain pigment molecules. Why?

Of course we know this. Flowers are the reproductive organs of plants, and they often require assistance from insects or other animals for pollination. The way they attract pollinators is by giving a reward (nectar) and providing visual cues about where that reward can be found (the colorful flower).

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Visual spectrum comparison

But, it turns out that bees (a common pollinator) don’t see the same visual spectrum as we humans do. Instead, their spectrum is shifted slightly in the ultraviolet direction.

Naturally, this would have consequences. If bees can see UV light, it would be reasonable to expect that some flowers use pigments that make them visible at UV wavelengths. In fact, this is exactly what we see – well, what we would see if we could see UV. Here’s a representative flower shown as we see it and as a bee may see it – with a UV colored landing area right where the pollen and nectar are found.

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Natural Light / UV Light

*At least I think they aren’t. If anyone can provide an example of flower petals that photosynthesize, that would be greatly appreciated.

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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My favorite optical illusion

Although I hate the music associated with this clip. I only recently discovered this illusion when it was played as part of a show on brain tricks on the Science Channel.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4jz6__YToE&feature=related

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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