Creative creativity

In “you-can’t-make-this-up-but-we-did” news, first dates could become much less stressful and awkward thanks to an emotion detector that could tell if a person has the hots for you. If such a thing existed. Which it doesn’t.

The new device features an earpiece which measures body functions (top), and a sort of combination electric fan/death ray that attaches to the the bottom of your cellphone (below).  Neither actually do anything.

Ear-piece

However, the plausibly real device is at this stage still pure fiction, and while not creating it has inspired imaginative use of the word “plausible”, it has been not built to convey a serious message.

The device is inspired by the Voight-Kampff machine (created by designers Jon Voight and Mine Kampff) featured in the film Blade Runner. And the new machine bears notable similarities to that machine, such as being fictional. Also, as in the movie, the prototype device causes thick billows of smoke to emanate from the wearer’s head (below), which reduces the awkwardness of first dates by giving the couple something to talk about. “Hi, Harrison, I’m Callista. It’s very nice to meet you. Why is your head on fire?”

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The design team — which includes the Centre for Spatial Analysis (CASA) at University College London (UCL) — insists it has been (not) built created to convey a serious message.

“How many times are we going to have to keep saying this? We (not) built created this device to convey a serious message!  We know there’s an extra ‘A’ in the acronym CASA. It’s not like there’s even one A in our acronym before the S. But when we used our original acronym CSA, oversensitive campus radicals kept confusing us with Confederates for Spatial Analysis, and claimed that their hurt feelings were causing global warming. Rather than mock them mercilessly, we decided to change the acronym and leave the mockery to others.  And yes, I did say ‘built created’!”  (The design team was granted anonymity in case they ever wanted to get real jobs.)

Neat, bright, compact and totally fictional, the detector clips onto a smartphone or tablet, according to neat, bright, compact and occasionally fictional scientist Natalie Portman (below, right).

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(Disclaimer: The picture above shows Ms. Portman being bright, compact, and fictional. Her appearance is also surprisingly neat, given how hard it’s raining.)

The nonexistent device comes in flaming screaming bright yellow, making it nicely inconspicuous on first dates when worn by everyone from Minions to Moe (pictured below).

 

Team leader Professor Paul Coulton, Lancaster University’s design fiction expert, hailed the potential of the imaginary device, which he says is attracting a lot of attention. “Not as much attention as my cancer-curing cold fusion time machine, but close. Maybe if we picked a color that wasn’t so inconspicuous.”

Design fiction is, in broad terms, a combination of Powerpoint slides and outright fraud which heralds what might come about in a future world where research grants can be generated by wishing really hard.  In narrow terms, it’s just making stuff up.

“The factor that differentiates and distinguishes design fiction from other approaches is the word ‘fiction’. By making our products 100% reality-free, we cut down on development costs and product defects.  Plus, our fantasy process is entirely eco-friendly.  Well, mostly. There’s still a lot of smoke coming from Harrison Ford’s head.”

“But this is actually a tool for creating some pretty serious discussions around the dorms at 2:30 in the morning, once we’ve decided who would win in a fight: Tris from Blade Runner or Cameron from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.” (below)

The research team presented a paper in San Jose at CHI, the world’s leading conference on Completely Hallucinatory Inventions.

Click here to read the amazing untrue story.

Editor’s Note: University College London did not respond to our queries about why the Centre for Spatial Analysis employs a design fiction expert, or what emotion detectors have to do with spatial analysis in the first place.  We hope their silence is because they’re too busy analyzing space.

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Bohemiatic Rhapsodology

In obvious confirmation news, a bunch of Europeans sat around listening to old 70’s records and 8-tracks and then wrote about it using big words.

Regardless of what they might think personally about Queen, most rock critics and music fans alike wish they could get grant money to sit around and listen to classic rock.  Now, a group of Austrian, Czech, and Swedish researchers with nothing better to do conducted research on lead singer Freddy Mercury (top), the results of which were published in the journal Logopedics Phoniatrics Vocology for Dummies.

The research began after a logopedian, a phoniatrician, and a vocolologist walked into a bar and were refused service. An exopsychochemist who couldn’t hear over the loud music declined to participate when he found out they were studying Freddy Mercury and not Eddie Murphy (below).

eddie murphy

The researchers requested anonymity because they were out at a bar when they were supposed to be working.

What they discovered was that he likely employed subharmonics, an artificial ventricular fold enhancer banned by the European Tenors Committee.  Most humans never speak or sing with their ventricular folds to avoid being sued for causing global warming by environmental litigators.

They couldn’t confirm the long-held belief that Mercury’s range spanned four octaves, or any other hypothesis, because Freddy Mercury died in 1991.  (Disclaimer: Attempts to reanimate him as a zombie revenant are still tied up in court.)  However, they did discover some convenient interesting tidbits the night before the paper was due.  For one, despite being known largely as a tenor, identifying himself as a tenor, and singing in a tenor voice, the researchers determined that claiming he was a baritone was better click-bait.  That, coupled with anecdotal evidence that Mercury once turned down a gig with the Queen Lantern Corps (below) because he was afraid fans would think he wasn’t a tenor, led to the conclusion that they could say anything they wanted.

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It’s true that without a living test subject, the researchers were free to make up stuff without anyone being able to prove otherwise.  With no one to stop them, the team brought in professional rock vocolologist Daniel Zangger-Borch (below), killed him, and reanimated his corpse into a zombie revenant.*   (Full disclosure: Zangger-Borch (below, before and after) does drive a Mercury Cougar, and was trying to grow a mustache before his reanimation.)

They filmed his larynx at 4000 frames per second in order to look at exactly how someone who is not the Queen frontman created the iconic rough growls and jaw-dropping vibratos.  (The video is currently posted on the website NaughtyLarynxes.com.)

The predetermined conclusion was clear from the beginning: Freddie Mercury has a voice unlike anyone else in rock ‘n’ roll.**

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Former child star and logopediatrician Danica McKellar (shown above improving the self-esteem of young girls by forming conclusions first and justifying them using numbers afterwards) analyzed the film and determined that Zangger-Borch’s stomach was growling from a hunger for brains, and advanced decomposition had caused his jaw to drop off.  She said that while a typical vibrato will fluctuate between 5.4Hz and 6.9Hz, Mercury’s was 7.04Hz, one of the most italicized numbers ever made up for this article.

There’s a lot of scientific and analytical music terminology in the full study, most of which is only understandable to other phoniatricists.  Frankly, we didn’t understand any of it, so we quit reading after the first page.

Click here for even more logopological, phoniatrical, vocolological fun.

* The art of creating zombie revenant singers is called Phoniatrics.
** At a press conference, the researchers issued a correction, saying that “Freddy Mercury has a voice unlike anyone else in rock ‘n’ roll.  Except Daniel Zangger-Borch, of course.  Clearly Daniel has exactly the same voice as Freddy Mercury.  That’s what makes our findings so grant-worthy, if you catch our meaning.”  

Reining in crime

In godforsaken criminology news, police in Russia have started outsourcing criminal transport to reindeers.

According to Moscow’s Izvestiya newspaper, the Ministry of the Interior is considering a request from officers in the Yamalo-Nemets region to buy up herds of reindeer, after representiatives from the Ministry of the Exterior went inside to warm up.

A police source said that perpetrators of domestic violence, hooliganism, and thefts often flee to remote icy spots to escape the long arm of the law (23.2 meters, according to the 2010 Russian census).  The source was granted anonymity because he suffers from hooliganism, which is considered a disease under the Russians with Disabilities Act of 2004.

“Criminals go into hiding in the tundra and hard-to-reach places on their own reindeer sleds.  Officers don’t always have the means to follow them there,” the source said, “which is why we call them ‘hard-to-reach places’.  The same problem arises when Santa is delivering suspects to the station on Christmas eve.”

Irina Pimkina, a police spokesperson person of spokes for the Caribou Siberian Investigations Unit in Moscow (CSI: Moscow) added, “We already have snowmobiles but you have to understand that they are machines. When the robot apocalypse comes, we know whose side the snowmobiles are going to take.” She also remarked, “In the meantime, reindeer would be useful to beat officers who patrol far-off areas.”  (Disclaimer: It is legal in Russia to beat law enforcement personnel with ruminants, but only for disciplinary purposes.)

A reindeer (pictured above) has keen hearing that allows it to detect crime by sound alone, and an antenna array which can occasionally pick up police radio broadcasts from as far away as Minsk when pointed in the right direction.

Reindeer are still a way of life for tens of thousands of indigenous herders on the ice planet of Hoth, where temperatures can drop to -50º C.  (Disclaimer: the C stands for “Cold”.  At -50º, who cares whether it’s Fahrenheit or Centigrade.)

The animals are used for meat, for skins, to make clothes and tents, and to tow sleds. Every year, reindeer make thousands of tents which are sold at tundra craft shows across Siberia. During the Soviet period, reindeer herds were collectivized into the Supreme Soviet Reindeer Worker’s Party (C-SPAN in Russian). Reindeer shamanism was also repressed, with thousands of reindeer shamans forced to renounce their belief in Santa Claus.

Izvestiya said police needed the reindeer in the Yamalo-Nemets region because many crimes were committed by the indigenous people who were already there when the crimes occurred.  That claim could not be immediately verified, but we threw it into the article anyway because we needed to fill the entire column. (Disclaimer: we didn’t bother to verify any of the other claims, either.  Heck, we’re not even sure Siberia has cops.  Or reindeer for that matter.)

Native communities historically have been subjected to prejudice and persecution, and insisted police should stop worrying about the people who were there when the crimes occurred, and instead investigate all the wealthy Muscovites who head out to Yamalo-Nemets for tundra getaways during spring break.

Izvestiya said that a legal basis for police to use camels, mules, and reindeer was confirmed by a 2012 Interior Ministry directive. The directive was revised in 2013 after 3500 camels and mules froze to death.

Click here to learn more.

Editor’s Note: Namalo-Yemets is an anagram for “Maltose Meany”, a notorious Siberian crime lord named after the villain in the Ukrainian children’s show “Seaman Motley”.  Namalo-Yemets is also an anagram for “Seaman Motley”.

In a mirror, temporally

In cosmic archery news, scientists are once again asking questions they can’t answer about things that don’t matter instead of trying to make a difference.

They seem like obvious questions: “Why does time only go in one direction?” and “How do I turn this obvious question into grant money?”  Giant space brains (below) worked the answers out eons ago and moved on.  But they have troubled scientists for over a century.

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A new theory has proposed an answer — time used to run in both directions, but somebody from the Mirror Universe took the other “arrow of time”.

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Most scientists believe that the universe is some sort of giant star-spangled bell (above) with the open end on the right.  And usually, when scientists model the beginning of the universe, they point the bell in the right direction.

An experiment to recreate the beginning of our universe suggests that as the Big Bang happened, someone held up a mirror, creating a mirror universe that took the other arrow and ran backwards to get away.  This Big Bang theory gained widespread acceptance on Thursday night at 8.

The experiment solves a key problem in theoretical physics: why can’t you just turn the bell around and point it in the other direction?

The current theory suggests that entropy — the force of the universe that converts lost socks into keys that you don’t remember what they go to — also drives time forward. Since the universe began with two million billion zillion socks and only one lock and key, as it gets more disorganized, it takes longer to find the right key to unlock the door to the laundry, allowing socks more time to disappear into a parallel universe.*

While that is many scientists’ working theory, it is impossible to prove. Scientists love when theories are impossible to prove, so when this theory meant they could just say that time doesn’t have to flow in just one direction, theoretical physicists got all excited.

This other, or “mirror”, or “wrong” universe has the bell pointing to the left (below). As a result, all the printing in that universe is backward and hard to read**, making the denizens of this Mirror Universe particularly cranky and evil.

mirror big bang

Early negotiations between Spocks from both universes (see picture at top) to share the arrows broke down after our universe started allowing every Rom, Dax, and Harry (below) with a transporter to access their universe and interfere with their Empire.

Eventually, the other Arrow of Time decided it was not inspirational enough for the cranky and evil Mirror Universe, so it faked its own death.  It had to become something else: it had to become the Green Arrow of Time (below).

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Attempts to re-open negotiations with the Mirror Universe (Motto: “Building a Better Yesterday”) began earlier this year, but have been stalled amid allegations that due to differences in the flow of time, Ambassador Spock (below left) has become his own mirror grandfather.

When the universe began, it could have created another one flowing in the other direction when no one was looking, wrote Julian Barbour, Tim Koslowski, and Flavio Mercati.  “Any internal observer will only be aware of the records of one branch because they’re observing internally,” they write.  “Would it kill them to try observing externally every once in a while?  It’s a nice day!”  Their ideas have not gained wide acceptance, however, because they were written down in backward script, causing those who read them to become cranky and evil.

Click here in either the past or future to explore this theory.

* Some scientists have postulated the existence of a perpendicular universe where the arrow of time points up, but to date nobody cares.

** Interestingly, this mirror time flow allows for the correct sequence of events for the development of the first stars, galaxies, planets, and giant space brains (billions of years ago), the Dark Ages (500-1000 A.D), and the period of high inflation (1974-82).

The other major point of contention is why we keep sending them all those unmatched socks.

Fortune favors the Swift

In pop geopolitical news, a study released by the Fortune Institute for Ranking Great Leadership has named singer Taylor Swift the greatest female leader.

The timing of the announcement is curious, coming two days before Pope Francis called for multilateral talks among leaders of the Fortune 6 Great Powers (Apple, the European Bank, China, the Vatican, India, and Taylor Swift) to discuss rising tensions between Ms. Swift and neighboring India.  Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has expressed alarm at the sudden rise in greatness of Taylor Swift and concern that her combination of power and great leadership could be felt as far away as Beijing and Cupertino by next year. India has been conducting military exercises along its border with Taylor Swift.

The United Nations has downplayed the power of Taylor Swift (above), once thought to be limited making her eyes glow and talking to sea turtles.  However, the discovery of great leadership from the singer, who celebrated the 25th anniversary of her founding in December, became clear after she successfully crossed swords with Spotify.

Author’s Note: I’m pretty sure Spotify is a gentle shampoo for getting tough stains out of Dalmatians and leopards.  I’m not sure why a great leader like Taylor Swift would spend time fencing with it.

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Swift came in at number six on the overall list.  In past years, Cylon Tricia Helfer and Prisoner Patrick McGoohan have also held the role of Number 6.  In a press statement, Ms. Helfer (above) praised the decision.  “As a tall, hot blonde with glowing eyes, I am gratified to see Fortune recognize the great leadership of tall, hot blondes with glowing eyes, some of whom have been leading men on for years!”

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Home invasion for the holidays

In seasonal apocalyptic cheer news, leaders of Minnesota’s drunken zombie Santa community are calling for calm after one of their members paid an early visit to a St. Paul family.

The Santa, whose name is being withheld because he had been too dead to remember it and too drunk to pronounce it, was cited for premature breaking and entering by an undead intoxicated person, and hunting teenagers out of season.

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Rats of contrition

In rodent psychology news, rats are capable of feeling regret about their own decisions, in sharp contrast to the popular stereotype of rats as confident pests with high self-esteem.

Researchers set up a test called “Put a Bunch of Food on the Floor and Wait to See What Happens”, in which they put a bunch of food on the floor and waited to see what happened.

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Labor pain

In violent rhetorical question news, experts at the Massive Internal Trauma (MIT) Technology Review are asking, “Industrial robots should be able to hurt their human coworkers, right?  Who’s with me on this?”

Setting limits on the level of pain a robot may “accidentally” inflict on a human is a crucial goal, according to the Automatons for Flaying, Ligatures, and Crushing Internal Organs (AFL-CIO), the nation’s largest machine union.  Existing guidance from regulators assumes that robots operate only when humans aren’t nearby, drastically reducing their opportunity to inflict pain on humans.

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Universal service

In cosmic connectivity news, a hotspot of powerful, ultrahigh-energy particles may help scientists answer a century-old question: can we get a decent wi-fi signal in Ursa Major?

Gordon Thomson, of the University of Utah, worked with a team of scientists to capture 72 cosmic rays over a period of five years.  The signals were captured by the Telescope Array cosmic ray observatory, an isolated pavillion with a solar panel on the roof next to a telephone pole (above).  (Disclaimer: Based on the lack of reference points, this might just be an uncomfortable lounge chair.)

Thomson is the co-principle investigator for the Telescope Array observatory.  “Our main principle is ‘No findings, no grant money’.  Our co-principle is ‘Don’t be too specific.’  That’s where I come in.  I make sure that our findings are vague enough that they can’t be contradicted.”

Asked to describe his findings, Thomson said, “All we see is a blob in the sky, and inside this blob there is all sorts of stuff — various types of objects.”  He added,  “Now we know where to look,” referring to the blob of stuff and objects.  Continue reading