Archive for: August, 2012

Yup, it really does all sound the same. The evolution of modern pop music.

Aug 13 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

NOTE: Sci is usually at SciAm Blogs on Monday, but they're doing some updates to the site, and I thought I would stay over here for today, just in case.

I have an officemate (and I know they’re reading, everyone say hi to my awesome officemate!) who likes to listen to pop music in the lab. One time, the latest David Guetta (and various artists) was on, and we were working away like good little labrats. And then I made my officemate stop the music. I made them go back, and skip through some of the songs, playing about the first 20 seconds of each.

…they all sounded awfully alike. If you didn’t know what track number you were on, you’d never be able to tell whether you were about to hear Niki Minaj or Snoop Dogg within the first 10 seconds. The opening beats were similar, the opening chords were similar.

But we kept on chair-dancing along. I mean, it’s fun music.

But it did make me think. Is it just me, or does a lot of modern pop music really sound…the same? Or more alike, anyway, than in the past?

And luckily for me, a study came out that answers my question. It’s not just me and being old (get offa my lawn!) pop music really is becoming more…the same.

Serra et al. “Measuring the Evolution of Contemporary Western Popular Music” Scientific Reports, 2012.

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Friday Weird Science: But oh, those summer nights. Seasonal variation in sex seeking.

Aug 10 2012 Published by under Friday Weird Science

I can’t help it, I read the abstract of this and just…

But fear not, horny teenagers everywhere! You now have a scientific excuse for wanting to get it on in the hot days of summer. And the cold nights of winter. For all the horniness during spring and fall? Sorry, you’re on your own.

Markey et al. “Seasonal Variation in Internet Keyword Searches: A Proxy Assessment of Sex Mating Behaviors” Achives of Sexual Behavior, 2012.

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Look deep into my eyes: Do I look straight to you?

Aug 08 2012 Published by under Behavioral Neuro

(Probably I could have saved this for Friday Weird Science, but I can't help myself, it's getting a lot of press, and hey...who doesn't want two Fridays in a week? Happy Wednesday!)

We all know how it goes.

They stood, framed by stormclouds, together on the windswept cliff. The stranger held Rosamund in an iron grasp, and she thought for a moment he would, indeed, cast her into the waves. But then, as lightning flickered across the sky, she caught his gaze. His eyes lingered on hers, on her tear stained cheeks, on her alabaster neck, pale with cold and damp with rain. In his eyes, she saw a mingling of rage and something else. Was it...desire? Slowly, his hard expression thawed, and Rosamund knew that this night, at least, she was not meant to die.

(Oh yes, some day, I will write one of these...)

Yeah. That's how it goes. The music swells, you look deep into their eyes, and see...what exactly? I don't know about you but I don't ever think I've seen passion in someone's pupils.

But it turns out I might be wrong.

(Nice eye...but is it TURNED ON... Source)

Rieger and Savin-Williams. "The Eyes Have It: Sex and Sexual Orientation Differences in Pupil Dilation Patterns" PLoS ONE, 2012.

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It's all about sex: the connectome of a C. elegans male

Aug 06 2012 Published by under Behavioral Neuro

Sci is at Sci Am Blogs today, talking about a new paper which mapped the connectome, the series of connections between neurons, for the posterior section of a C. elegans male. And what's in the posterior section? Well it's all about mating, of course! Head over and check it out.

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Friday Weird Science: Why do we collect dinosaur eggs? To woo the ladies of course!

Aug 03 2012 Published by under Friday Weird Science

Preliminary note: When I look at some of these papers, I start out amused. Then I gradually get more and more annoyed. Who the HECK let this one past any kind of preliminary review?! And how come THIS got published when my perfectly decent study that actually addresses a hypothesis that makes rational sense came back with major revisions?! HUH?!?!?

*cough* Anyway.

Did you collect things as a kid? I know I did. Most of the kids I knew did. One girl had all the American Girl dolls, one kid collected baseball cards, a boy collected matchbox cars, and I collected rocks. What? Nothing wrong with rocks! They are cheap, it's hard to find cool ones, and if you go for the smaller sizes they don't take up much space. I do not regret my rock-spent youth.

But did you ever pause to wonder why we collect things? Well, if you haven't, I assure you that other people have. And the answers they come up with will surprise you. First, because of course they involve sex, and secondly, because they don't make any sense.

Apostolou, M. "Why men collect things? A case study of fossilised dinosaur eggs" Journal of Economic Psychology, 2011.


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How do we pick the voice from the crowd? Focus, my friend, focus.

Aug 01 2012 Published by under Behavioral Neuro

Imagine for a minute. You're in a coffeeshop, or a bar, or at a swanky cocktail party (whichever you prefer). There are people around, chatting nearby. But you're speaking to the person directly across from you. Somehow, you can pick their voice out of the chatter and attend to what they are saying, even though the conversations around you might be just as loud or louder (especially in a bar!) than the one you're interested in.

Have you ever wondered how you do that? I know I have. It's kind of a mind-boggling problem (and is, in fact, called the Cocktail party problem), trying to separate out speech, and make sense of it, in comparison to all the noise. And it's not just something to think about for us humans. Voice recognition technology and recording wrestles with this all the time: how to pick out the voice from the crowd?

As it turns out, it's all about attention, and how that attention can change your brain.

Mesgarani and Chang. "Selective cortical representation of attended speaker in multi-talker speech perception" Nature, 2012.

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