Isaiah Berlin once divided thinkers into two types. Foxes (which know many things) and hedgehogs (which know one big thing). The foxes used to roam free across the hills. Today the hedgehogs rule.
A polymath (from the Greek: πολυμαθής, polymathēs, "having learned much") is someone whose expertise covers a significant number of different subject areas. By todays sandards, most ancient scientists were polymaths. Today, they appear to be extinct.
Life is interesting! There are so many things around us which are absolutely stunning - if we just look at them from the right angle. In this context the world wide web offers a great potential of learning, gaining knowledge and discovering new things - if one manages not to get flooded with too much information. On this page I would therefore like to collect selected scientific findings, articles and visualisations - not because of their subject area but their interestingness and potential to helping to see beyond one's own nose.
An incredible yet simple (using google translate API) tool, which allows you to visualize any word's translation to more than 30 European languages. Using basic vocabulary, a lot of historic roots and influences and can be oberserved (e.g., tea: Cantonese cháh vs Amoy dialect vs Latin herba). Check out other interesting words such as rose, church, pineapple, apple, bear, etc or simply compare the results to this map of lexical distance among languages spoken in Europe measured by the commonality of their vocabulary: http://elms.wordpress.com/.../lexical-distance-among.../
Histogram of optimal color tuning of glob cells recorded in alert macaque monkey shown as a polar plot.
Globs are regions of posterior inferior temporal cortex (including V4, PITd and posterior TEO) that show higher fMRI responses to equiluminant color than to black-and-white 19 and 20. Single-unit responses were obtained from two monkeys using microelectrodes targeting globs (for all methods and detailed description of the stimuli see ). Number of cells tuned to each color is indicated by the radius (308 cells; smoothing: 1-bin-wide boxcar). Cells were tested with stimuli of optimal spatial configuration, varied only in color (Table S1 in the Supplemental data gives C.I.E. values; colors around the perimeter are approximate). Color tuning was assessed with three sets of equiluminant colors: one set was equiluminant with the adapting gray field (thick dark-gray line); one set was higher luminance than the adapting field (thick light-gray line); and one set was lower luminance than the adapting field (thin black line). The location of the cardinal color axes is shown, along with the average location of unique colors judged by human subjects from two studies (squares, ; triangles, ).
Martin Daumiller's insight:
Using a brain scanner "globs" of specialized cells have been detected in the primate brain's posterior inferior temporal cortex which detect distinct hues following the four non-reducible unique hues (red, green, yellow, and blue), which have been recognized in their importance across disciplines. Interestingly there are different sized neuron clusters for these colors, suggesting that areas of the brain are encoded for the perception of specific colors with differing "importance". This explicit neural representation of unique hues at some stage of the visual system has not been found in humans yet and thus still "remains one of the central mysteries of color science”.
Large-scale networks of human interaction, in particular country-wide telephone call networks, can be used to redraw geographical maps by applying algorithms of topological community detection. The geographic projections of the emerging areas in a few recent studies on single regions have been suggested to share two distinct properties: first, they are cohesive, and second, they tend to closely follow socio-economic boundaries and are similar to existing political regions in size and number. Here we use an extended set of countries and clustering indices to quantify overlaps, providing ample additional evidence for these observations using phone data from countries of various scales across Europe, Asia, and Africa: France, the UK, Italy, Belgium, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, and Ivory Coast. In our analysis we use the known approach of partitioning country-wide networks, and an additional iterative partitioning of each of the first level communities into sub-communities, revealing that cohesiveness and matching of official regions can also be observed on a second level if spatial resolution of the data is high enough. The method has possible policy implications on the definition of the borderlines and sizes of administrative regions.
Martin Daumiller's insight:
The authors show civic dividing lines in major countries using network data about communication patterns. The findings show that, for all the digital connectivity around us, people still connect in a geographically cohesive way: Following communication data they were able to reconstruct the regional nature of various countries, including political and linguistic barries. Communicational patterns reflect not only pre-existing political lines, but also "a more natural geography that emerges from the people" and can be studied over time.
Don’t Panic – is a one-hour long documentary produced by Wingspan Productions and broadcasted on BBC on the 7th of November 2013.
The visualizations are based on original graphics and stories by Gapminder and the underlaying data-sources are listed here. Hans’s — “All time favorite graph”, is an animating bubble chart which you can interact with online here and download offline here.
Hans presents some results from our UK Ignorance Survey described here.
Martin Daumiller's insight:
The latest documentary by statistics enthusiast Hans Rosling, depicting the development of the world (birth rates, income division, ...) and the skewed perception of it. (To many people) ''mundane'' statistics, such as the current global total fertility rate of 2.36 kids / woman are presented in a very appealing and highly visual manner: Fun with statistics.
The financial crisis clearly illustrated the importance of characterizing the level of ‘systemic’ risk associated with an entire credit network, rather than with single institutions. However, the interplay between financial distress and topological changes is still poorly understood. Here we analyze the quarterly interbank exposures among Dutch banks over the period 1998–2008, ending with the crisis. After controlling for the link density, many topological properties display an abrupt change in 2008, providing a clear – but unpredictable – signature of the crisis. By contrast, if the heterogeneity of banks' connectivity is controlled for, the same properties show a gradual transition to the crisis, starting in 2005 and preceded by an even earlier period during which anomalous debt loops could have led to the underestimation of counter-party risk.
In their 2005 study, Adamic and Glance coined the memorable phrase ‘divided they blog’, referring to a trend of cyberbalkanization in the political blogosphere, with liberal and conservative blogs tending to link to other blogs with a similar political slant, and not to one another. As political discussion and activity increasingly moves online, the power of framing political discourses is shifting from mass media to social media.
Continued examination of political interactions online is critical, and we extend this line of research by examining the activities of political users within the Wikipedia community. First, we examined how users in Wikipedia choose to display their political affiliation. Next, we analyzed the patterns of cross-party interaction and community participation among those users proclaiming a political affiliation. In contrast to previous analyses of other social media, we did not find strong trends indicating a preference to interact with members of the same political party within the Wikipedia community.
Our results indicate that users who proclaim their political affiliation within the community tend to proclaim their identity as a ‘Wikipedian’ even more loudly. It seems that the shared identity of ‘being Wikipedian’ may be strong enough to triumph over other potentially divisive facets of personal identity, such as political affiliation.
Martin Daumiller's insight:
Online media characterises an important source for information, also in the political world. Notable since the 2004 U.S. elections, the medium has been used vastly for that purporse.
Social identity in online communities can be developed by individuals by means of an common identity or common bonds and can be seen by the commitment the member feels toward the online community's purpose.
The results of this study show that highly politically involved users are also very involved in the online community. They have a tendency of editing articals which are about political topics and especially if these articels are related to the ideology of their party. However there does not seem to be a preference for inner-party relationships: Users work together independend from their political views. In more personal spaces, though, intercations with other members of their party are much higher.
"However, we did see evidence for preference to interact with members of the same party in user walls. It is interesting that we observe this tendency in these more personal spaces, but not on article talk pages. It may be that in the course of conducting activities that are central to the Wikipedia community (e.g. editing articles), the identity of being a Wikipedian is activated and, as a result, the political identity is not salient. In the context of interactions on user walls, where personal activities take greater precedence, the importance of political ideology may shine through more strongly."
Using an artificial intelligence framework combining Markov Decision Processes and Dynamic Decision Networks, IU School of Informatics and Computing researchers Casey Bennett and Kris Hauser show how simulation modeling that understands and predicts the outcomes of treatment could reduce health care costs by over 50 percent while also improving patient outcomes by nearly 50 percent.
The work by Hauser, an assistant professor of computer science, and Ph.D. student Bennett improves upon their earlier work that showed how machine learning could determine the best treatment at a single point in time for an individual patient.
By using a new framework that employs sequential decision-making, the previous single-decision research can be expanded into models that simulate numerous alternative treatment paths out into the future; maintain beliefs about patient health status over time even when measurements are unavailable or uncertain; and continually plan/re-plan as new information becomes available. In other words, it can "think like a doctor."
Martin Daumiller's insight:
In order to prove their hypothesis they worked with clinical data, demographics, etc of over 6700 patients. Their model using the Markov decision processes and dynamic decision networks considered the specifics of the patient's current state and by determining the probabilities of the possible outcomes, suggested treatment.
Simulating 500 random cases they could show that they model improved patient outcomes by nearly 35 percent. This research goes together with recent developments in the field of data analysis in the health care system, such as IBM adveriting two new commercial versions of its Watson system.
However it is without questions that any computer model should replace physicians' judgment - both entities should rather be working together, in order to maximize the potential of both.
Passengers on the Millennium Falcon or the Enterprise actually wouldn't be able to see stars at all when traveling that fast, found a group of physics Masters students at England's University of Leicester. Rather, a phenomenon called the Doppler Effect, which affects the wavelength of radiation from moving sources, would cause stars' light to shift out of the visible spectrum and into the X-ray range, where human eyes wouldn't be able to see it, the students found.
"The resultant effects we worked out were based on Einstein's theory of Special Relativity, so while we may not be used to them in our daily lives, Han Solo and his crew should certainly understand its implications," Leicester student Joshua Argyle said in a statement.
Martin Daumiller's insight:
Physics students of the University of Leicester argue that space would not appear as shown in many sci-fi movies (long stretched stars) when approaching the speed of light but rather as a centralized bright glow. "If the Millenium Falcon existed and really could travel that fast, sunglasses would certainly be advisable," said research team member Riley Connors. "On top of this, the ship would need something to protect the crew from harmful X-ray radiation." In fact the increased X-ray radiation would result in higher pressure, pushing the ship back and consequently leading to higher requirement of energy than formerly thought.
In the proposed model, which we call SDS (Social Dynamics of Science), we build a social network of collaborations whose nodes represent scholars, linked by coauthored papers as illustrated in Figure a. Each scholar is represented by a list of disciplines indicating the scientific fields they have been working on, and every discipline has a list of papers. Similarly, each link is represented by a list of disciplines with associated papers describing the collaborations between two scholars. The social network starts with one scholar writing one paper in one discipline. The network then evolves as new scholars join, new papers are written, and new disciplines emerge over time.
At every time step, a new paper is added to the network. Its first author is chosen uniformly at random, so that every scholar has the same chance to publish a paper. In modeling the choice of collaborators, we aim to capture a few basic intuitions: (i) scholars who have collaborated before are likely to do so again; (ii) scholars with common collaborators are likely to collaborate with each other; (iii) it is easier to choose collaborators with similar than dissimilar background; and (iv) scholars with many collaborations have higher probability to gain additional ones23, 24. We model these behaviors through a biased random walk25, illustrated in Fig. 2(b). The random walk traverses the collaboration network starting at the node corresponding to the first author. At each step, the walker decides to stop at the current node i with probability pw, or to move to an adjacent node with probability 1 – pw. In the latter case a neighbor j is selected according to the transition probability where wij is the weight of the edge connecting scholars i and j, that is, the number of papers that i and j have coauthored. Each visited node becomes an additional collaborator. Note that the walk may result in a single author.
Each paper is characterized by one main topic and possibly additional, secondary topics. The discipline that is shared by the majority of authors is selected as the main topic of the paper. Each coauthor acquires membership in this main topic, to model exposure of scholars to new disciplines through collaboration. Additionally, a paper with authors from multiple disciplines inherits the union of these disciplines as topics. This choice is motivated by a desire to capture highly multidisciplinary efforts that are likely to lead to the emergence of new fields. This mechanism could be modified to reflect a more conservative notion of discipline by adopting a stricter rule for discipline inheritance.
At every time step, with probability pn, we also add a new scholar to the network. The parameter pn regulates the ratio of papers to scholars. The new scholar is the first author of the paper created at that time step. To generate other collaborators, an existing scholar is first selected uniformly at random as the first coauthor. Then the random walk procedure is followed to pick additional collaborators. The new scholar acquires the main topic of the paper.
We introduce a novel mechanism to model the evolution of disciplines by splitting and merging communities in the social collaboration network. The idea, motivated by the earlier observations from the APS data, is that the birth or decline of a discipline should correspond to an increase in the modularity of the network. Two such events may occur at each time step with probability pd.
Martin Daumiller's insight:
The proposed model manages to describe and evaluate the relationships between scientific disciplines, scholars and publications by focusing on the interatctions between scholars. Comparing the data this model yielded in a computer simulation to realistic historical facts, a high empirical validty could be shown. It thus provides support for the key role of social interactions in the world of science, describing the number of publications and emergence of new disciplines.
Lactase persistence (LP) is common among people of European ancestry, but with the exception of some African, Middle Eastern and southern Asian groups, is rare or absent elsewhere in the world. Lactase gene haplotype conservation around a polymorphism strongly associated with LP in Europeans (1−13,910 C/T) indicates that the derived allele is recent in origin and has been subject to strong positive selection. Furthermore, ancient DNA work has shown that the −13,910*T (derived) allele was very rare or absent in early Neolithic central Europeans. It is unlikely that LP would provide a selective advantage without a supply of fresh milk, and this has lead to a gene-culture coevolutionary model where lactase persistence is only favoured in cultures practicing dairying, and dairying is more favoured in lactase persistent populations. We have developed a flexible demic computer simulation model to explore the spread of lactase persistence, dairying, other subsistence practices and unlinked genetic markers in Europe and western Asia's geographic space. Using data on −13,910*T allele frequency and farming arrival dates across Europe, and approximate Bayesian computation to estimate parameters of interest, we infer that the −13,910*T allele first underwent selection among dairying farmers around 7,500 years ago in a region between the central Balkans and central Europe, possibly in association with the dissemination of the Neolithic Linearbandkeramik culture over Central Europe. Furthermore, our results suggest that natural selection favouring a lactase persistence allele was not higher in northern latitudes through an increased requirement for dietary vitamin D. Our results provide a coherent and spatially explicit picture of the coevolution of lactase persistence and dairying in Europe.
With 200 billion stars, there’s a lot to see in our galaxy, and through tapping a myriad of imagery and data from a range of sources, including NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), Google plots the nearest stars to Earth’s Sun.
Using Chrome’s WebGL, CSS3D, and Web Audio support, you can zoom in and out to explore the layout of the stars, set against a dreamy soundtrack. You can click on each name to learn more about it and see a digital rendition, and zoom all the way out to get a little context for where l’il ol’ us sits in the grand scheme of things.
Emerging infectious diseases present a complex challenge to public health officials and governments; these challenges have been compounded by rapidly shifting patterns of human behaviour and globalisation. The increase in emerging infectious diseases has led to calls for new technologies and approaches for detection, tracking, reporting, and response. Internet-based surveillance systems offer a novel and developing means of monitoring conditions of public health concern, including emerging infectious diseases. We review studies that have exploited internet use and search trends to monitor two such diseases: influenza and dengue. Internet-based surveillance systems have good congruence with traditional surveillance approaches. Additionally, internet-based approaches are logistically and economically appealing. However, they do not have the capacity to replace traditional surveillance systems; they should not be viewed as an alternative, but rather an extension. Future research should focus on using data generated through internet-based surveillance and response systems to bolster the capacity of traditional surveillance systems for emerging infectious diseases.
Martin Daumiller's insight:
In this study published in Lancet Infectious Diseases, Dr Wenbiao Hu found that the occurrence of epidemics could be accurately predicted by the spikes in searches for information about infectious diseases. This is an important finding, as there often is a time lag of two weeks before traditional surveillance methods can detect an emerging infectious disease. Search engine algorithms such as google trends and google insights strive after similar goals and managed for instance to detect the 2005/06 avian "bird flu" two weeks before the official reports. Hu concludes that the inclusion of social media such as Twitter or Facebook could further enhance the effective detection of disease outbreaks. Google Flu Trends: http://www.google.org/flutrends/about/how.html
A large international consortium of researchers has produced the first comprehensive, detailed map of the way genes work across the major cells and tissues of the human body. The findings describe the complex networks that govern gene activity, and the new information could play a crucial role in identifying the genes involved with disease.
“Now, for the first time, we are able to pinpoint the regions of the genome that can be active in a disease and in normal activity, whether it’s in a brain cell, the skin, in blood stem cells or in hair follicles,” said Winston Hide, associate professor of bioinformatics and computational biology at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and one of the core authors of the main paper in Nature.
“This is a major advance that will greatly increase our ability to understand the causes of disease across the body.”
The research is outlined in a series of papers published March 27, 2014, two in the journal Nature and 16 in other scholarly journals. The work is the result of years of concerted effort among 250 experts from more than 20 countries as part of FANTOM 5 (Functional Annotation of the Mammalian Genome). The FANTOM project, led by the Japanese institution RIKEN, is aimed at building a complete library of human genes.
Researchers studied human and mouse cells using a new technology called Cap Analysis of Gene Expression (CAGE), developed at RIKEN, to discover how 95% of all human genes are switched on and off. These “switches” — called “promoters” and “enhancers” — are the regions of DNA that manage gene activity. The researchers mapped the activity of 180,000 promoters and 44,000 enhancers across a wide range of human cell types and tissues and, in most cases, found they were linked with specific cell types.
“We now have the ability to narrow down the genes involved in particular diseases based on the tissue cell or organ in which they work,” said Hide. “This new atlas points us to the exact locations to look for the key genetic variants that might map to a disease.”
The study of social identity and crowd psychology looks at how and why individual people change their behaviour in response to others. Within a group, a new behaviour can emerge first in a few individuals before it spreads rapidly to all other members. A number of mathematical models have been hypothesized to describe these social contagion phenomena, but these models remain largely untested against empirical data. We used Bayesian model selection to test between various hypotheses about the spread of a simple social behaviour, applause after an academic presentation. Individuals' probability of starting clapping increased in proportion to the number of other audience members already ‘infected’ by this social contagion, regardless of their spatial proximity. The cessation of applause is similarly socially mediated, but is to a lesser degree controlled by the reluctance of individuals to clap too many times. We also found consistent differences between individuals in their willingness to start and stop clapping. The social contagion model arising from our analysis predicts that the time the audience spends clapping can vary considerably, even in the absence of any differences in the quality of the presentations they have heard.
Martin Daumiller's insight:
The plot shows the median proportion of individuals in the audience who have started clapping (black line), stopped clapping (red line) and are currently clapping (green line), aggregated over 10 000 simulations showing the optimal linear contagion, which is very similar to the observed results. The authors found in their experiments that spatial proximity does not matter (clapping is in its volume probably loud enough to be perceived acoustically) and that global social influences are more important than internal informations on the decision of stopping to clap. They could show striking analogies to the spread of infectious diseases with the only major difference that 'recovered' clappers help the recovery rate of infected individuals. The results imply that lengthy applause sessions have less to do with the performance and more with the individuals in the audience.
Podczas pomarańczowej rewolucji w 2004 na Majdanie trwało radosne święto, chociaż zima była równie dotkliwa. Z Polski przyjechało tysiące młodych ludzi, by wspierać przemiany.
Martin Daumiller's insight:
Pessimistic about the development of the European Union, the polish author Andrzej Stasiuk, comments on the protests in Kiew. Although this article is in Polish, it is a very interesting point of view. Stasiuk describes Europe as lacking moral values, being obsessed about its own wealth and stagnating:
"Nawet mój kraj - tak proukraiński i skłonny do uczestnictwa w cudzych powstaniach i rewolucjach - wyczekuje, przygląda się, obserwuje. Jakby te parę unijnych i szengeńskich lat nauczyło go wyrachowania i ostrożności. Nie rwie się na barykady jak kiedyś. Ogląda się za siebie i czeka na to, co powie europejska reszta" Even "his" country - so pro-ukrainian and willing to participate in other peoples' uprisings and revolutions (such as the orange revolution in 2004) - waits, observes and watches. As if these few years the EU and Schengen taught it only self-interest and prudence.
Stasiuk considers the Ukrainian Winter 2014 as a European defeat: Looking at the pictures from the icy Kiev, people who are willing to die for freedom, and seeking in the last decades for a "European" revolt of similar strength, the only protest he can consider equal is against the threat to Internet freedom.
The scientific debate on the relation between Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and self reported indices of life satisfaction is still open. In a well-known finding, Easterlin reported no significant relationship between happiness and aggregate income in time-series analysis. However, life satisfaction appears to be strictly monotonically increasing with income when one studies this relation at a point in time across nations. Here, we analyze the relation between per capita GDP and life satisfaction without imposing a functional form and eliminating potentially confounding country-specific factors. We show that this relation clearly increases in country with a per capita GDP below 15,000 USD (2005 in Purchasing Power Parity), then it flattens for richer countries. The probability of reporting the highest level of life satisfaction is more than 12% lower in the poor countries with a per capita GDP below 5,600 USD than in the counties with a per capita GDP of about 15,000 USD. In countries with an income above 17,000 USD the probability of reporting the highest level of life satisfaction changes within a range of 2% maximum. Interestingly enough, life satisfaction seems to peak at around 30,000 USD and then slightly but significantly decline among the richest countries. These results suggest an explanation of the Easterlin paradox: life satisfaction increases with GDP in poor country, but this relation is approximately flat in richer countries. We explain this relation with aspiration levels. We assume that a gap between aspiration and realized income is negatively perceived; and aspirations to higher income increase with income. These facts together have a negative effect on life satisfaction, opposite to the positive direct effect of the income. The net effect is ambiguous. We predict a higher negative effect in individuals with higher sensitivity to losses (measured by their neuroticism score) and provide econometric support of this explanation
Martin Daumiller's insight:
The authors reexamined the relationship between life satisfaction and GDP without imposing a particular functional form and found robust evidence of a clearly increasing relationship among poor countries and a non monotonic relation for richer countries, supporting the idea that the conflict between cross-sectional evidence (showing a positive relationship between GDP and life satisfaction – and the times-series evidence generally finding no relationship) can be explained with the GDP effect disappearing after some point.
They found a strictly monotonic relation between GDP and life satisfaction not introducing country-specific dummies and replicated results of estimating the effect of life satisfaction over GDP by using the WVS and controlling for country effects with a logarithmic model.
"Unilateral hand clenching increases neuronal activity in the frontal lobe of the contralateral hemisphere. Such hand clenching is also associated with increased experiencing of a given hemisphere’s “mode of processing.” Together, these findings suggest that unilateral hand clenching can be used to test hypotheses concerning the specializations of the cerebral hemispheres during memory encoding and retrieval. We investigated this possibility by testing effects of unilateral hand clenching on episodic memory. The hemispheric Encoding/Retrieval Asymmetry (HERA) model proposes left prefrontal regions are associated with encoding, and right prefrontal regions with retrieval, of episodic memories. It was hypothesized that right hand clenching (left hemisphere activation) pre-encoding, and left hand clenching (right hemisphere activation) pre-recall, would result in superior memory. Results supported the HERA model. Also supported was that simple unilateral hand clenching can be used as a means by which the functional specializations of the cerebral hemispheres can be investigated in intact humans."
Martin Daumiller's insight:
This article recieved a lot of media coverage lately, however it lacks in scientific quality, with the hypothesis having hardly any (rather even: contradictive) basis in literature, as little as 9 participants per group (typeII errors!), but a very high number of overall groups, which have not even been reported and only one significant result (which still did not include correction for multiple comparisons). The denoted "strong trends" are nothing but trends, but lead to an impressive impact in populac-scientific journals.
A positivity advantage is known in emotional word recognition in that positive words are consistently processed faster and with fewer errors compared to emotionally neutral words. A similar advantage is not evident for negative words. Results of divided visual field studies, where stimuli are presented in either the left or right visual field and are initially processed by the contra-lateral brain hemisphere, point to a specificity of the language-dominant left hemisphere. The present study examined this effect by showing that the intake of caffeine further enhanced the recognition performance of positive, but not negative or neutral stimuli compared to a placebo control group. Because this effect was only present in the right visual field/left hemisphere condition, and based on the close link between caffeine intake and dopaminergic transmission, this result points to a dopaminergic explanation of the positivity advantage in emotional word recognition.
Martin Daumiller's insight:
For this study participants (n=66) were randomly assigned to a placebo control group or a caffeine group, which recieved an intake of 200mg of caffeine (eq. to 2-3 cups of coffee). In the 30min afterwards word-recognition test (Berlin Affective Word List in a 3 (EMOTION)*2 (LEXICALITY) design) participants were asked to distinguish pseudowords from proper words in a divided visual field lexical decision task.
Participants were right-handed and consequently likely with language processing-centers in thei left hemispheres.
Caffeine is known to stimulate dopamine, therefore the research suggests that the processing of positive words being quicker than of negative or neutral words, is likely due to that neurotransmitter. That goes in concordance with known studies showing the importance of dopamine in regulating reward and pleasure.
Research has demonstrated that the physical attributes of the containers from which we eat and drink can influence our perception of various foods and beverages and the overall consumption experience. In the present study, we extended this line of research in order to investigate whether the consumer's perception of a hot beverage (namely hot chocolate) would be influenced by the color of the plastic vending cup from which it was served. To this end, 57 participants tasted four samples of hot chocolate from four cups of the same size but different color (red, orange, white and dark cream). The participants had to rate each sample of hot chocolate (two of which had been sweetened) on a number of sensory scales. The results revealed that orange (with a white interior) and dark-cream colored cups enhanced the chocolate flavor of the drink and consequently improved people's acceptance of the beverage. By contrast, sweetness and chocolate aroma were less influenced by the color of the cup, but the results still showed that the hot chocolate, when consumed from the dark-cream cup, was rated as sweeter and its aroma more intense.
Martin Daumiller's insight:
The sweetness and the aroma (smell) where hardly influenced by the colour of the cup. This shows that there is no correlation between the intensity of the color and the perception of the sweetness of the beverage, as one might expect from an evolutionary point of view and after consideration of the linkage between cocoa content and color internsity. In addition to that it turned out, that the cream-colored cup did not enhance the creaminess of the beverage.
The result of this study therefore demonstrate that the color of the cup directly influences the sensory-discriminative and hedonic evalutations of a hot beverage and poses the challenging theoretical question as to why such effects occur.
On the other hand practical implications are stressed, as every chef has to reconsider the paid focus on colors. It goes without saying that the results of this study cannot be generalized to all kinds of beverages or food and that in fact we might assume completely different - but strong - effects of its color.
Design student Pei-Ying Lin took Parrot|s Classification of Human Emotions as a base and tried to add different emotions to it, which don't exist in English, but in other languages, such as Hebrew, Russian, German, Italian, Mandarin, etc.
She tried to express similarities and closeness to other emotions and managed to visualize the relationship between the foreign emotion-words and the English ones.
In Lins words, her project is one "that investigates human emotions and languages. By re-looking at how humans communicate, it searches for a way to connect our inner self and personal emotions, through the design of a personal language and several new ways of communication. It is an investigation of how language can be improvised to connect our emotions in this multilingual world."
This is a nice example and visualization of the culture-rootedness of emotions. It underlines the historical and social background necessary for the development of a certain set-of-mind required to feel and express specific emotions.
There might just be a sweet revolution following the news that corporate giants Coca Cola and Cargill filed for 24 U.S. patents related to stevia, a South American herb used for centuries to sweeten food and drinks.
“Stevia is the world’s only zero-calorie, zero-glycemic, all-natural sweetener,” says Steve May, innovator of Arizona-based SweetLeaf stevia products. “It’s kind of the holy grail of the sweetener business.”
Stevia is 300 times sweeter than sucrose and in October the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent a warning letter to the organic foods firm Hain Celestial Group, which uses the product in certain tea and drink mixes, saying it had concerns about the effects the sweetener had on blood sugar levels, the cardiovascular system, and the reproductive system.
Still media reports say Coke and Cargill are working to petition the FDA for the product’s approval. “The tide is changing for this little leaf. It’s almost a perfect storm,” May says.
For quick-service restaurants, that could mean that one day, green packets of stevia sweeteners will be as omnipresent as white, pink, and blue packets at coffee counters. And since all-natural extracts are part of everything from sodas to marinades, the change could even cross over into the kitchen.
Cargill plans to experiment with various food products, adding its stevia extracts to “anything it makes sense to add it to—ice creams, desserts,” says Anne Tucker, spokeswoman for the Minneapolis, Minnesota-based company. “People are more concerned about where things come from, what’s in their food. There’s nothing added to this. It’s an all-natural, zero-calorie sweetener.”
Coca Cola and Cargill spent more than four years researching stevia before submitting information for patents. “This is another step toward meeting the public’s need for all-natural,” says Coca Cola spokeswoman Wanda Rodwell. “It’s an alternative we want to be able to deliver to our consumers.”
Neither company has a timetable for introducing stevia in the U.S. or worldwide. The process for U.S. approval of food additives can take years, according to the FDA. Companies submit information attesting to the ingredient’s safety and wait for it to clear. If and when Coke and Cargill achieve FDA approval, stevia could be sold as a sweetener and used as a food and drink ingredient.
Coca Cola is now planning to launch products in one of 12 countries where stevia is permitted, but hasn’t decided where or in what product the sweetner will be used, Rodwell says.
British people - and many others across the world - have been brought up on the idea of three square meals a day as a normal eating pattern, but it wasn't always that way.
People are repeatedly told the hallowed family dinner around a table is in decline and the UK is not the only country experiencing such change.
The case for breakfast, missed by many with deleterious effects, is that it makes us more alert, helps keep us trim and improves children's work and behaviour at school.
Breakfast as we know it didn't exist for large parts of history. The Romans didn't really eat it, usually consuming only one meal a day around noon, says food historian Caroline Yeldham. In fact, breakfast was actively frowned upon.
"The Romans believed it was healthier to eat only one meal a day," she says. "They were obsessed with digestion and eating more than one meal was considered a form of gluttony. This thinking impacted on the way people ate for a very long time."
The Industrial Revolution in the mid-19th Century regularised working hours, with labourers needing an early meal to sustain them at work. All classes started to eat a meal before going to work, even the bosses.
At the turn of the 20th Century, breakfast was revolutionised once again by American John Harvey Kellogg. He accidentally left some boiled maize out and it went stale. He passed it through some rollers and baked it, creating the world's first cornflake. He sparked a multi-billion pound industry.
"The farthest flight by a paper aircraft is 69.14 meters (226 feet 10 inches), achieved by Joe Ayoob and aircraft designer John M. Collins (both USA), at McClellan Air Force Base, in North Highlands, California, USA on 26 February 2012."