Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Do we vote for people who look like us ?

Seems like we do. Esp. if we are weak partisans or independents. We seem to be more favorably disposed to vote for someone who looks like us that is shares many of our own facial characterstics. Stanford University had done an interesting study on this ahead of the 2004 Presidential election.

Would be interesting to see how this plays out in the 2008 elections.

Maybe with Obama's mixed parentage both the African-American and White populations see a little bit of themselves in him. Or everybody see's their favorite grandpa in John McCain. Wonder how that all plays out :

Facial Identity Capture and Presidential Candidate Preference

To test the effect of facial identity capture on vote choice, we passively acquired digital photographs of a national random sample of voting aged citizens. One week before the 2004 presidential election, participants completed a survey of their attitudes concerning George Bush and John Kerry while viewing photographs of both candidates side by side (See Figure 1). For a random one-third of the subjects, their own faces were morphed with Kerry while unfamiliar faces were morphed with Bush. For a different one-third, their own faces were morphed with Bush while unfamiliar faces were morphed with Kerry. The remaining one-third of the sample viewed un-morphed pictures of the candidates.

Post-experiment interviews demonstrated that not a single person detected that his or her image had been morphed into the photograph of the candidate. Participants were more likely to vote for the candidate morphed with their own face than the candidate morphed with an unfamiliar face. The effects of facial identity capture on candidate support were concentrated among weak partisans and independents; for "card carrying" members of the Democratic and Republican parties, the manipulation made little difference.

Do you suffer from "nomophobia" ?

"nomophobia" : the fear of being out of mobile phone contact.

Researchers in Britain have carried out a study and found that nomophobia is plaguing our 24/7 life -- running out of battery or credit, losing one's handset and not having network coverage "affects 53 per cent of mobile users". "Being phoneless and panicked is a symptom of our 24/7 culture," Stewart Fox-Mills, the Head of Telephony at the Post Office, which commissioned the YouGov survey, was quoted by The Independent newspaper as saying. According to the survey, men suffer more than women, with 48 per cent of females and 58 per cent of males admitting to feelings of anxiety.

Looks like this should be a big fear amongst Rochesterians too esp. during winter hoping that our phones don't die out as we commute to work in a winter storm... anybody got any interesting Nomophobic stories to share ?

Gaming craze no game for parents

Gaming craze no game for parents

Deepak Seth • Community member, Editorial Board • April 29, 2008
Spring is in the air, the days are warming up and the outdoors beckons. Or does it? Not if you ask my 10-year-old son and many other boys his age.It is almost impossible to drag them away from their wintertime "screen" pastimes of TV, computer games, DS, Game Boy, Xbox, Wii, etc. The virtual world seems to be slowly encroaching upon the real.

"What happened at school today?" is more likely to be answered in terms of what armor some friend has accumulated in Runescape or what level another has reached in Super Smash Brothers Brawl. Any visit to the mall with him now includes a pilgrimage to the games store for the weekly ritual of new release browsing.

Like most other parenting decisions, this one leaves us in a bind. Is this gaming helping kids acquire skills for the future? The fighter pilots of tomorrow are more likely to toy with a joystick controller opposite a giant screen than suit up and get into a cockpit. Surgeons are going to use robotic devices guided by game-like controllers.

On the other hand, the harmful effects of too much exposure to electronic gaming on the eyes and the brain have been well-documented. Many games carry warnings about the risk of causing epileptic seizures because of the constantly flashing images.

This is just the beginning. The lure of gaming is only going to increase as teenage years commence. Discussions with friends facing the same dilemma have thrown up some interesting options:
- Restrict exposure to any screen-based device to a fixed duration, say a couple of hours per day. The kid chooses how he wants to allocate that time across various devices. "No TV if you have played Xbox for two hours.''
- A mandatory break after every 30 minutes of gaming. Luckily, some of the newer devices automatically give some warnings when the game has been going on for too long a time.
- No gaming during certain hours of the day or if the outside temperature is in a particular range or if certain mandated household chores and homework have not been completed.
- Request teachers to monitor whether the entire conversation among kids is focused on gaming exploits. Maybe try distracting them with some other activities.
- Lobby with games companies to create more "educational" games. Today a majority of the popular games primarily focus on "killing" or "capturing" or blowing things up.

Most important, maybe I need to get off the couch and go outside more often — be the positive role model I should be. Is it my incessant pounding on the keyboard or flicking from one news channel to another while the winter debris awaits cleaning in the yard outside the right example to set?
The parental guilt trip starts again.

Community members serve on the Editorial Board and write occasional columns.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Earth Day(April 22) : Confluence of Science and Religion

Long before the "Environment" and the "Earth Day" became key talking points for the glitterati and the chatterati, humankind's ancient heritage had already provided a spacious spiritual home for the environmental ethos. All religious traditions established the principles of ecological harmony centuries ago - "not because the world was perceived as heading for an imminent environmental disaster or destruction, nor because of any immediate utilitarian exigency, but through their quest for spiritual and physical symbiosis, synthesized in systems of ethical awareness and moral responsibility."

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the Bible (Genesis 8: 22) says "As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease."

Native American peoples have long recognized and celebrated in story and song the interdependence of the earth and all her creatures. 'I was born by these waters. The earth here is my mother'

Hindus in Vedic hymns (('Atharva-Veda,' XII, I, ) pray "O mother earth, kindly set me down upon a well-founded place! With (father) heaven cooperating, O thou wise one, do thou place me into happiness and prosperity"

Muslims believe that God compels them in the Quran to respect and revere the environment "Greater indeed than the creation of man is the creation of the heavens and the earth." (40:57)

His Holiness The Dalai Lama in The Buddhist Declaration on Nature, in words which breathe and pulsate with the Buddha's ethical and ecological vision: 'Destruction of the environment and the life depending upon it is a result of ignorance, greed and disregard for the richness of all living things.'

In my own Jain faith the scriptural aphorism "Parasparopagraho Jivanam" states that all life is bound together by the mutual support of interdependence. Jainism founder Mahavira proclaimed a profound ecological truth: 'One who neglects or disregards the existence of earth, air, fire, water and vegetation disregards one's own existence which is entwined with them.'

While many of us are convinced by the Science behind the need to care for the Earth and our environment, others who look for guidance on such issues from Religion can draw strength from the fact that in all likelihood their own religious traditions strongly endorse care for the Earth in some shape, way or form.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Take solar power out of the shade

Take solar power out of the shade
by Deepak Seth
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, April 14, 2008

As we deal with the vagaries of spring weather, the thought of solar energy being the panacea to deal with our rising energy costs seems pretty far-fetched.But evidently it is not as far-fetched as it sounds. Germany on an average receives significantly less sunshine than New York but is currently the world leader, accounting for nearly 50 percent of a global solar industry valued at $16 billion.

This and many other such interesting facts were highlighted by Jigar Shah, chief strategy officer of SunEdison, the leading solar energy service provider in North America.Shah was the keynote speaker at the annual banquet of the India Community Center.

With the current focus on the environment and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, solar energy enjoys more uniform support from the public than any other technology.In a survey, 89 percent of Ohio residents indicated that they were willing to pay 50 cents or more extra per month for solar power. Wind power is also environmentally friendly but suffers from "not in my backyard'' syndrome.

Many people and companies worry about the high upfront costs associated with solar power. However, solar is now moving from the expensive to the competitive state. Nuclear, coal and natural gas power plant costs have increased significantly. Transmission infrastructure has increased in cost and takes significantly longer to implement. Distributed technologies such as solar can be built quickly, averting power crises more effectively.

The entire power needs of the country can be met by 10,000 square miles of solar generating systems in the Nevada desert. But you do not even have to look farther than your own roof for installation of solar generation systems.

Several big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart, Kohl's, and J.C. Penney are already taking a lead in installing rooftop, solar power generation systems. Each year, more than 2 billion square feet of new roofs are installed. Brownfields, airports, wastewater treatment facilities and public lands are excellent sites.

I would love to see organizations in the greater Rochester area — town boards, county and city offices, school boards and the Rochester airport take the lead in evaluating and adopting this technology.

Another sunny side of this story: As a distributed resource, solar generates more jobs that any other renewable energy technology per megawatt hour. Implementing solar initiatives upstate can arguably fuel $1 billion in economic growth — 1,000 job years of employment while reducing the growth of electricity prices by half.

Community members serve on the Editorial Board and write regular columns.

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