Watch Those Fingers
Imagine you had the opportunity to meet President Obama in Prague this week. Now imagine that you had no idea who he was, and so you decided to stick your fingers in his nose and eyes. Such are the joys of being a baby, as captured in a heartening and humanizing White House photo by Pete Souza.
Scientists at MIT have discovered that the phenomenon of “motion aftereffect”–staring at something so long you see it after averting your eyes–may happen across several senses. Using a small device called “DaVinci,” which uses small pins to imprint a pattern on a subject’s fingertips, researchers have found that feeling a pattern can also stimulate visual areas of the brain, making for a cross-talk that was previously thought impossible.
In other words, let’s say you put a finger on DaVinci, and looked at a computer screen with a row of dots; feeling DaVinci’s pins move would give you the impression of seeing the dots on the screen do the same. That’s significant because it implies that our brains do not process different sensory input discretely, as once thought–the brain may use a cenral conduit to process all the data coming in from our five senses. For those of us with tactile or visual deficiencies, it could mean the possibility of treatment or therapy that would have been impossible before.
Toyota will unveil a new Scion model this week at the New York Auto Show, based on a Japanese model called the iQ. The car’s distinctive characteristics aren’t technological, ecological, or even economical; the iQ isn’t battery or hybrid, and it isn’t bargain-basement cheap. Nope. It’s just tiny.
At just under nine feet long and with two doors, the iQ uses advanced “packaging” technology to fit engine, drivetrain and electronics in an impossibly tiny space, leaving more room for bodies. It gets good fuel economy–a little better than the Prius–but it still runs on gas. That begs the question: will people buy a small car just because it’s small?
Toyota seems to think that once the world’s economy improves, pent-up car demand may reveal a deep desire for these vehicles in the US and elsewhere, according to this article in the Japan Times. They cite Diamler AG’s success with the Smart as precedent. But the Smart might have gotten its boost in the US out of sheer novelty: look at it on an American road next to our minivans and trucks, and yes, it’s tirelessly cute. But the novelty may be waning as gas stays cheap and our green guilt subsides.
When it comes time to pick a daily driver, how many Western car-buyers will be content to buy a car because of its small parking footprint, and not because of its technological cool or its performance? Is Toyota overestimating our appreciation of small cars? We ended up with dealerships full of massive unsold SUVs because car companies misjudged buying trends. Could it be happening all over again?
It’s Good Friday today, and Catholics worldwide have been preparing for this weekend’s Easter festivities with Holy Week celebrations rich in color, tradition, pageantry and penitence. For a beautiful summary of the week in photos, check out this series from Boston.com.
South Park Humbles Kanye West
Kanye West might be one of the most self-congratulatory artists on the modern scene, but he’s not without his detractors to balance him out. But instead of declaiming this week’s South Park episode, which skewered West on a whole range of flaws (including being a gay fish), West responded with humility on his blog. See the video and the hat-in-hand response below.
It’s worth noting that West is obsessive about modernity and technology, and few other artists would have taken the South Park episode as a natural opportunity for discourse the way he has.
Turns out that continuing to play the underdog after gaining unprecedented success and control can truly grate on people’s nerves. Of course, George W. Bush could have told Kanye as much last year.
A fascinating full-length article in the New York Times Magazine this week explores the dynamics of using SeekingArrangement.com, a site where young vapid women can meet wealthy older men. The connections usually work out with some kind of financial arrangement: the men usually pay the women an allowance in exchange for conjugal visits, many of them extra-marital, at hotels and vacation homes.
The site’s administrators say they like to think of the “arrangements” being made as mutually beneficial, but the article comes to a different conclusion: the men are left feeling as if their only worth is monetary, and the women end up having to do mental and emotional acrobatics to avoid feeling like prostitutes. Still, SeekingArrangement is “a piece of contemporary society,” says one academic expert on courtship interviewed for the piece. “It’s simply more explicit and transparent about the bargains struck in the traditional model of dating.”