Funny Videos - weekend guilty pleasure

Microsoft bashing - zunePhone ad:

Dancin Dubya ( Animated Cartoon from The Economist):

The founder-knows-best phenomenon

USA Today had an interesting article about how founder-led companies perform better than their non-founder-led counterparts, with a 15-year stock price appreciation of 970% vs. the S&P 500 average of 222%. Although most people will not be surprised by it, that's still a pretty powerful number, and have been studied by the investment community. From my point of view, company founders have a deep, emotional connection to the business, which make them great leaders. Other reasons explaining above numbers cited in the article include:
founders having deep industry knowledge...having a powerful presence in the company...having a huge financial stake in the success of the business...not looking for the next job so can take a long-term perspective...being street fighters early on.


Who need prenups ?


"A 2003 Harvard Law School study showed that although survey subjects knew the national divorce rate is more than 50%, they estimated their own likelihood of getting divorced one day to be about 12%. It's called optimism bias, and it's one reason only 1% of married couples reported prenups in a 2002 survey by Harris Interactive for Lawyers.com".

The feminity of poverty

Heard from NPR radio today: although women count for 51% of US population, 60% of people under the poverty line are women. 1/3 of households headed by women are under the poverty line. The main reason of this femininity of poverty ? women paid the major portion of ever increasing childcare cost.

Humans are terrible jurists

I am on jury duty this week, this reminds me of an article I read on TIME last month. It is a truly depressing analysis of the US justice system. According to this article:

"Brandon L. Garrett, a law professor at the University of Virginia, has, for the first time, systematically examined the 200 cases, in which innocent people served an average of 12 years in prison. In each case, of course, the evidence used to convict them was at least flawed and often false --yet juries, trial judges and appellate courts failed to notice. The leading cause of the wrongful convictions was erroneous identification by eyewitnesses, which occurred 79% of the time. In a quarter of the cases, such testimony was the only direct evidence against the defendant.

Faulty forensic evidence was next, present in 55% of the cases. In some of those cases, courts put undue weight on evidence with limited value, as when a defendant's blood type matched evidence from the crime scene. In others, prosecution experts exaggerated, made honest mistakes or committed outright fraud."

My takeaway is that humans are terrible jurists. Given our imperfect mind, it's crucial that we take steps to prevent, or at least discourage, some of these mental mistakes from affecting the outcome of trials.


Why kids love McDonald's - familiarity makes favorites

In psychology there is something called 'mere exposure effect', meaning if people are repeatedly exposed a subject, they begin to prefer that subject over other subjects. Many psychology experiments clearly demonstrated that our brain always prefers the familiar. This effect has a huge implications for marketers and consumers. Companies know saturating consumers sensations is a sure way to increase sales. A split second of consumers' perception is enough to generate a persuasive emotional reaction.
A recent small study (with 63 children ages 3 to 5) suggests the same hamburgers, french fries, chicken nuggets, and even milk and carrots all taste better to children if they think they came from McDonald's:
"almost 77%, for example, thought that McDonald's french fries served in a McDonald's bag tasted better, compared with 13% who liked the fries in a plain white bag. Apparently carrots, too, taste better if they are served on paper with the McDonald's name on it. More than 54% preferred them, compared with 23% each for those who liked the unbranded carrots and those who thought they tasted the same".


The world's most expensive coffee

The cost of one cup of Kopi Luwak coffee at Australia's Heritage Tea Rooms is $41.67. Brewed from beans handpicked out of civet-cat droppings, it is reputedly the world's rarest and most expensive coffee.

Cell phone usage and car crashing

Many earlier studies has concluded that cell phones can produce as high as 400% increase in relative crash risk - comparable to that produced by illicit levels of alcohol. A 2003 Gallup Poll found that 70% of Americans said cell-phone drivers cause accidents.
However, two economics students of UC Berkeley recently found in research published last week that while Americans are clearly calling-while-driving more, they are not more accident prone.
The average amount of time a cell phone subscriber spends on calls rose from 140 minutes to 740 minutes per month since 1993. Now about 40% of Americans use their phones while driving. However, according to the researchers equiped with better data and statistical methods, the number of fatal accidents has fallen or stayed flat in all states from 1987 to 2005, and during that period, the number of non-fatal crashes in seven states was also steady or down.
The researchers wonder if the public at large might be taking care to compensate for their talking say, for instance, by moving into the slow lane. Or, they theorized, the phone calls might be keeping otherwise tired drivers alert and awake.

I banned myself use cell phone in the car, unless my family called first; but that is just me. Some people like it, few even put a Portable Rotary Phone ( it's a GSM cell phone built inside an old rotary phone) up. See the picture below.


Gene and gender differences

Dr.Baumeister, a prominent social psychologist who teaches at Florida State University, recently gave a fascinating speech at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association in San Francisco, titled “Is There Anything Good About Men?”
He has found “single most under appreciated fact about gender,” is the ratio of our male to female ancestors. While it’s true that about half of all the people who ever lived were men, the typical male was much more likely than the typical woman to die without reproducing. Citing recent DNA research, Dr. Baumeister explained that today’s human population is descended from twice as many women as men. Maybe 80% of women reproduced, whereas only 40% of men did.
In his speech, Dr.Baumeister believed these vastly different reproductive odds for men and women must produce some personality differences, and he listed and explained those tricky culture difference between men and women.


Women have shopping genes

According to a new online survey of over 3,000 women, ages 18-49, by AMP Agency, how a woman approaches shopping does not change as she grows older, shifts from life stage to life stage, moves from region to region, has children, or moves income brackets. A woman's approach to shopping is very much part of who she is: "it is part of her DNA.", or personalities.

The report states that there are distinct approaches to shopping, and identified and segmented women across four distinct mind-sets or "Shopping Genes" :
1. Content Responsible (practical, loyal, efficient, neither a trendsetter nor trend spreader) - consists 20% of women surveyed.
2. Natural Hybrid (confident, balanced, classic, a cross between a social and trend-following butterfly and a grounded domestic diva) - 34%.
3. Social Catalyst (social, smart, trendy, the top of the influencer spectrum and the strongest brand advocates) - 35%.
4. Cultural Artist (creative, impulsive, adventurous, always shopping and willing to try new and different things ) - 11%.
Speaking of me, definitely the Content Responsible type.


Mom, Dad, you're my heros !

When asked to name their heros, young Americans (ages 13 to 24) make their parents the collective top pick, and said family time is what makes them most happy.
20% of youths chose their mothers as heros;
21% picked their dads,
16% picked both parents,
10% chose God,
5% chose a teacher,
4% chose Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
1% chose Al Gore, Oprah Winfrey, President Bush, Tiger Woods, Hillary Clinton, and the late crocodile hunter Steve Irwin.
Good to know ... looks like kids finally appreciate our wisdom.


Impact of whiter teeth on key first impressions

According to a recent report, whiter teeth can create good first impressions, which then can leads to greater success in work and love. In one study of randomly selected individuals who participated in two simulated job interviews, after participants teeth had been whitened, 58% were more likely to be hired (no change for the rest of 42%), 53% received higher salary offers; 65% were viewed to be more professional, and 61% were viewed to be more confident.
In a similar study about people involved in romantic first dates, whitening teeth led to 54% of participants (no change for the rest of 46%) became more desirable for further relationship, and 59% were viewed to be more outgoing.

Who knows? People have been told to not judge other people by the color of their skin; now teeth get in the way.


Why fingernails grow faster than toenails ?

In the current issue of Popular Science (Sept. 2007), there is a Q&A for this question. (I sometime ask myself the same when cutting nails). It turned out fingernails grow about 1 tenth of an inch per month, about 2 times as fast as toenails.
There are 2 theories for this disparity in growth rate. One theory suggests that hands benefits from better blood circulation - and thus, a better supply of oxygen and nutrients - because they are physically close to your heart than your feet.
Another theories the so-called trauma theory. The persistent minor traumas, such as typing, actually stimulate fingernails growth. Whereas our toes enjoys a virtually trauma-free existence inside socks and shoes.


How do we read ?

It has been long known that letters, words and sentences are all involved in humans reading process. A recent study have shown three reading processes - letter decoding, whole world recognition, and using sentence context, each make a unique, additive contribution to reading speed. The study found letter decoding account for 62% of reading speed; whole word recognition 16%; and sentence context 22%.
This study also found that among the faster readers, predicting words from sentence context made a bigger contribution to reading speed than among the slower readers.


Height, longevity, and American inferiority

The U.S. is losing ground to other countries in height and longevity.
1) in 20 years, we've fallen from 11th to 42nd in longevity. We trail most European countries, Japan, Guam, and Jordan.
2) we used to be the world's tallest people but now rank 9th and 15th in male and female height, respectively. On average, we're two inches shorter than the Dutch.
There are several reasons for American's decline. Our infant mortality rate and child poverty are too high. Our adult health care is too spotty. We've gotten way too "fat and lazy."


Higher risk suicide linked breast implants

Over a 19-year period, women who got cosmetic breast implants were 3 times as likely to commit suicide as women who didn't, according to a recent Swedish study. They were also 3 tmes as likely to die from alcohol or drug addiction. In this study, "There was no higher risk in the first 10 years afterward … but the risk was 4.5 times higher after 10 to 19 years and six times higher after 20 years."
To me, it looks like implants made some women happier for a while, but then the underlying disorder took over, driving suicide rate higher.


Solve all Rubik's Cubes in 26 moves

I played with Rubik's Cube as a kid, all ended with giving-up except once. Rubik's Cube has approximately 43 quintillion possible configurations. Even a supercomputer can't search through every possible configuration to find the quickest way to unscramble a given starting arrangement in a reasonable amount of time.

In June 2007, Kunkle, a computer scientist at Northeastern University in Boston, reported some clever mathematical and computational strategies to make the Rubik's Cube puzzle more manageable. He (or his supercomputer, rather) now proved that 26 moves are enough to solve any Rubik's Cube, no matter how scrambled. For people like me, it always take 26 days.


Baby DVDs hinder infants' language development

A study suggests "Baby Einstein" and other baby educational videos are bad for kids. Researchers found for every hour a day that babies 8 to 16 months old were shown such popular series as "Brainy Baby" or "Baby Einstein," they knew 6 to 8 fewer words than other children.
The explanation? By spending time with "DVDs and TV instead of with people," the babies lose interaction with humans who "instinctively adjust their speech, eye gaze and social signals to support language acquisition." Also, Baby DVDs are worse than educational TV shows, because the DVDs "have little dialogue, short scenes, disconnected pictures and … linguistically indescribable images."


Want to live longer ? Go south

Many people move to southern states after their retirements. According a recent research paper, this is a smart move for reasons beyond what people already know. In essence, this paper found that cold kills people more than does heat. "increases in mortality caused by cold temperature are long lasting. We find evidence of a large and statistically significant permanent effect on mortality of cold waves. By contrast, the increases in mortality associated with heat waves are short lived."
In summary, "every year, 5,400 deaths are delayed by the changing exposure to cold temperature. Such effect on longevity accounts for 8%-15% of the overall increase in longevity experienced by the US population over the last 30 years."


Why humans have sex - top 10 reasons

After asking nearly 2,000 people why they’d had sex, two psychologists Cindy M. Meston and David M. Buss (at University of Texas at Austin) have recently assembled and categorized a total of 237 reasons. Their list is a very thorough, interesting taxonomy of sexual motivations.
Below are the Top 10 :
1. I was “in the heat of the moment.”
2. It just happened.
3. I was bored.
4. It just seemed like “the thing to do.”
5. Someone dared me.
6. I desired emotional closeness (i.e., intimacy).
7. I wanted to feel closer to God.
8. I wanted to gain acceptance from friends.
9. It’s exciting, adventurous.
10. I wanted to make up after a fight.

I am glad to point out that "I wanted to have a child" is the reason No. 27.


Weekend Video - 500 Years of Female Portraits

Please enjoy this video. It is amazing how one image is blended to the next face gradually. I saw this kind morphing technique in display at the Art Institute of Chicago few years ago, but this is much richer !


Some Iraq War Statistics

8 Million of Iraqis, nearly 1/3 of the population, are without water, sanitation, food and shelter. NGO in Iraq say a humanitarian crisis there has gotten worse since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

U.S. federal funded $37.4 billion for Iraqi reconstruction. As of May 2007, nearly all of it had been spent.

Source - TIME (8/13/2007)