Think youre giving your infant a competitive edge by plopping him in front of the TV for some educational-video time? According to one new study, thats not the case. In fact, you may actually be doing him more harm than good.
Frederick Zimmerman, a researcher at the University of Washington, worked with colleagues to gather information on the vocabularies of 8- to 16-month-olds, and how frequently they watched videos like Baby Einstein. After controlling for factors like parental education and socioeconomic status, the team found that for every hour per day spent watching the videos, kids vocabularies dropped by 17 percentile points relative to babies who didnt watch the videos.
Zimmerman speculates that these programs may simply pacify children, rather than teach them anything. Its like empty calories for the mind, Zimmerman told Science magazine. —Megan Miller
Okay, so you've all heard about the spate of crack addicts, homeless people, freelancers and other layabouts advertising on Craigslist that they'll stand in the iPhone line at the Apple store for $200. But this post marks a new low: linesitters for the line. "Will let you pee for cash"? Somebody just bomb us—we're done for. —Megan Miller
Andy Budd and Jeremy Keith, of the U.K.-based superstar Web-design firm Clearleft, led a rousing and rather subversive seminar at SXSW Interactive this morning (which included the buzzword bingo game pictured at left—I didn't win) called "Bluffing Your Way through Web 2.0." The point was basically to make fun of the widespread abuse of the term "Web 2.0." What the hell does that mean, exactly?
The term connotes different things to different people, depending on whether they work in the areas of business, design or development. To business people, it means the functionality of communities: getting users to rate stuff and comment; creating cool apps that you can sell to Google for millions of dollars. To designers, it means a certain style defined by bright colors, reflective surfaces, "lickable," candy-like logos, rounded corners and modern fonts. To developers it means API mashups and AJAX.
Budd and Keith proposed abandoning the term altogether, since, though it was useful when it was introduced two years ago, it's actually becoming a hindrance to design firms like Clearleft, who now have to field requests for proposals that say things like "we want a total Web 2.0 site that operates according to all the Web 2.0 design standards." (There are standards for Web 2.0? Who knew?)
More useful is to think of Web 2.0 in terms of social media. In fact, maybe we should all just start saying "social media" instead, since the main point is to involve the community and provide a platform for user participation.
My favorite takeaway from the panel—apart from the "toxic and needs to die" statement, from Mr. Budd—came from the development angle, however: "Don't ever learn any code if you can help it," Keith suggested. "Just copy someone else's. That's Web 2.0." —Megan Miller
Normally, we're not one to toot our own horn, but at yesterday's 2006 Magazine Publishers of America Digital Awards, we walked away with three prizes—more than any other magazine Web site. So, toot-toot! We won the shiny trophy pictured at left in the "Best Online Tool" category for our Best of What's New microsite. Contributing troubadour Jonathan Coulton got well-deserved props with second place in the podcast category for his PopSci Podcast from the Moon. And we also got second place for "Best Sports/Enthusiast Web Site," losing out only to Sports Illustrated's big-budget, big-staff SI.com. Not bad for a bunch of geeks, huh? —Megan Miller
A screwdriver, fan and a whole lotta spray-on plastic make for one sexy data storage device. In this week's edition, web editor Megan Miller demonstrates a foolproof technique for tricking out your flash drive by stripping it bare.
As always, our 5 Minute Projects are available in video podcast form—subscribe here. And check out the whole series at popsci.com/5minutes.
The PopSci staff is a diverse group with wide-ranging interests—our extracurricular activities include, in no particular order, hand-stand classes, sci-fi conventions, kickball, triathlons, furries…and we even have a factchecker who plays in a gamelan ensemble. But there are two things dear to every PopSciers heart: robots and tasty alcoholic beverages.
This week we're unveiling PopSci's House of the Future in California—a real, live wonder-mansion built in partnership with Sunset magazine that contains all sorts of amazing gadgets and new technologies designed to make everyday life easier, more fun and better for the planet. As I write this, our publisher and ed-in-chief are in the Bay Area, preparing to fête the houses big opening day. (Stay tuned for lots of coverage of the house in the coming months.)
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, PopSci.com is celebrating the futuristic-house concept with the launch of a brand-new video blog called "Future Girl" (yup, thats me). The first episode is all about—you guessed it—"Houses of the Future." I talked to Barry Bergdoll, newly appointed curator of architecture and design at MoMA, about emerging trends in home design. I don't want to give too much away, but Bergdoll's vision includes "interactive membranes." (It's probably best if you just watch the video.)
So what's the plan for "Future Girl"? Each month I will interview a notable innovator or expert from the world of science and technology, and probably dance around to the awesome theme song written by contributing troubador Jonathan Coulton. You will watch and laugh and learn. Doesnt that sound nice? Check out the video here and let me know what you think. —Megan Miller
Link: Future Girl video
We handpicked a host of lovely and powerful cyborgs to illustrate Annalee Newitz's essay on pop-culture fembots, but film and TV history has blessed us with many, many more. Who did we miss? Which 'bot in this gallery is your favorite? Next week I'd like to crown one fembot with a People's Choice Award. Personally, I think Kelly LeBrock (Weird Science) portrayed the hottest fembot ever. What do you think? Tell us in the comments section below.
Amino acids are having a moment. Theyre nutritions new black, if you will. Not that you shouldnt keep taking your antioxidants and bioflavanoids or whatever, but those supplement bottles lined up on your kitchen counter just reek of 2005. This seasons miracle micronutrients dont need to be taken in pill form—theyre already in everything from your favorite energy drink to your trusty hangover remedy.
Exhibit A: A new study conducted at Cincinnatis Genome Research Institute indicates that leucine, an amino acid found in meat and dairy, may be responsible for regulating the neural circuits that control appetite. Does this explain why eating a big steak is so satisfying? Maybe. But my moneys on the fact that its just plain delicious.
Exhibit B: For reasons unknown, the folks at Red Bull recently installed a fridge full of their trademark jitter-inducing soft drinks at PopSci HQ—right outside my cubicle. And you wouldnt believe how quickly the staff is putting them away (our general manager, in particular, has a real problem). Although I suspect the drinks heavy dose of caffeine has a lot to do with their popularity, they also contain taurine, a basic building block of protein, which may or may not live up to the companys claim of giving you a superhuman boost of energy.
Exhibit C: On Friday evening, a group of friends and I tested out Kampai, a powdery supplement that contains L-glutamine and L-alanine and is purported to stop hangovers in their tracks. You just suck down a packet of the stuff before you begin drinking, and its supposed to dramatically reduce the adverse effects of alcohol consumption. I felt groovy the next morning after drinking four beers and sleeping only five hours, so my unscientific opinion is that the stuff definitely helped. My friends, however, went overboard with the beer drinking and reported feeling as lousy as ever on Saturday. —Megan Miller
According to a report in Englands Daily Mail, Limey soldiers will soon begin skydiving into war zones wearing carbon-fiber stealth wings fitted with mini turbojets that allow them to cruise up to 125 miles—literally under the radar—into enemy territories, at speeds of up to 140mph (!). Theyll do all this after jumping from planes at 27,000 feet, while carrying a couple hundred pounds of equipment on their backs. Whoa. My first thought was that once they land, these guys are going to look superdorky walking around with big, awkward airplane wings strapped to their backs. My second thought was that a fleet of 300-pound dudes in black bat suits speeding through the sky sounds terrifying, like the creepiest possible real-life version of the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz. My third thought was: Could I jump off the roof of my building and commute to work in one of these getups? How do I get one? —Megan Miller
Related: The Navy's Swimming Spy PlaneStealth ThreatThe Science of Stealth