Quick links from the past week of experiments in the World Wide Lab
The Stanford Prison Experiment at America's airports: A biased article, but I like the insight comparing the Stanford prison experiment to recent changes in TSA regulations. My personal spin is that we've willingly traded security theater (gotta' love that term) and a measure personal freedoms for the perception of safety.
Daniel Rubin: The essence of fame: One man's social experiment to become famous. To be fair, he produces Howard Stern's show, so he's got a little bit of a leg up than most of us would have. As in all experiments, I wonder what he'll measure, and what his definition of success is.
Is Wi-Fi killing trees? Maybe: An interesting meta-story about science and the danger of results being reported before a proper experiment was run. What is the role of such a "preliminary" experiment?
Obama on 'Mythbusters': What happened with his 'death ray'?: The president selected the Archimedes Heat Ray (a device to focus sunlight onto approaching ships, causing them to catch fire) for the test. I love the MythBusters show and I think it's a brilliant way to popularize engineering and skepticism. I like the comment one of the shows stars made:
But at the end Jamie explained that failure in science isn't bad. It's just the beginning. You've ruled something out, and you never know what else you might discover. For instance, to somebody on the boat, the mirrors were very dazzling and distracting, to the point where suspicious attackers might just have sailed away.
Adele's freaky dream cheese experiment: As part of an upcoming book, an author is will direct six volunteers to eat cheese for six consecutive nights, recording their dreams. Be prepared, though, for someone who says "my dreams stink."
Chrome Experiments - "Google Gravity" by Hi-ReS!: I'm not a Google Chrome user (I have too many Firefox shortcuts and plugins I'm tied to), but I love this site for its creativity and sheer fun. Here the goal is to make it easy for people to experiment with web technologies. I like it because play is important in science, and is one class of source of accident and discovery.
After Quick Redhead Experiment, Cher Is Back to Black: I bring this up because it seems to me at once frivolous and profound. Frivolous because, well, who cares what her hair color is? And profound because playing with our identities is an important class of experimentation, certainly when we're growing up, but later as a tool to shake us out of our self-image.
YouTube Experiments with New, Personalization-Heavy Homepage: Another example of the value of testing new ideas before rolling them out. I don't know in the case of YouTube how "light" this product was to create, and most of us don't have their audience for testing, but we can certainly apply prototyping to our personal lives.
Kinect For A Healthier Life - An Experiment In Weight Loss: An example of how making a new technology widely available inspires experimentation.
Imagining Gorging On Your Favorite Food Eases Cravings And Helps You Eat Less: I'm immediately turned off by prose starting "This amazing discovery," Think, Try, Learn says "Don't trust me, show me." Anyone want to try it? The idea:
If you want to lose weight, imagine that you are devouring your favorite food repeatedly; apparently your cravings will ease, you will end up eating less food, and your diet is more likely to be successful,