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Relief for Couch Potatoes, Canine Contraceptives and One Charmingly Alarming Solution


Losing the remote is so last year with the new device that detects hand movements to control a television. Australian researchers have developed a box that can recognize seven different hand motions, from the thumbs up to an outstretched hand, to signal different commands for a television, DVD player or video recorder. The device supposedly works in any light and from a range of distances. Once the researchers get the box small enough to fit on a television, we'll finally be able to watch TV without all that hassle of actually lifting up a remote.

The iMartha

All those style-blind guys out there trying to match ties and shirts have help on the way. HP has announced a research project that would allow people to use their camera-phone to match colors. After sending a picture of themselves or an object they want to match, users will receive a text message a few minutes later with color recommendations. The pictures are processed and analyzed pixel-by-pixel for color value, erasing the effects of bad lighting. HP officials say the new tool will help women trying to buy makeup, but I can guarantee I'll use it almost every day to figure out what color shirt I should wear with my jeans.

Insert Tiger Woods pun here
caddyshack12.jpgMembership at your country club might get a little less exclusive if a team of American scientists has their way. They're advocating that golf courses be used as animal sanctuaries, since 70 percent of the well-manicured land isn't even used for playing. The greens are ideal places for animals, since they can be altered to mimic natural habitats and would be protected. On the other hand, this idea opens the door to all kinds of Caddyshack gopher-style animal hijinx.

PLUS: An Argentinian Snowfall, An Alarmingly Good Idea and Confidence via FDA-approved Nose Candy after the jump.

Snow in Buenos Aires?!
I'll admit, after living my entire life up north where winters are cold and snow is common, I can't empathize with people who joyfully greet every flurry by trying to have a snowball fight. But even my heart was warmed by the story of Buenos Aires getting its first taste of snow in almost 90 years. There have been cold temperatures plaguing Argentina since May, but a moisture-laden system moving in caused the snowfall on Argentina's Independence Day, the city's first since 1918. Sure, the story is dampened by the 23 deaths from exposure to cold, the energy crisis that has hit the country in light of the cool temperatures and the knowledge that this is just more evidence of how screwy our weather system has become, but the thought of Argentine children making snow angels is too much to not be happy.

nasal spray.jpgBoost Your Confidence, Via Nose
We've all been told that the best way to get over a fear of public speaking is to imagine everyone in their underwear. Apparently, the second-best way is a confidence-boosting nasal spray. Australian researchers developed the spray, which releases oxytocin into the bloodstream. In tests of 70 men and women, the drug was shown to reduce shyness in stressful social situations. Following large-scale tests, the spray should be commercially available in five years, so shy guys will finally have the courage to talk to girls at the bar after putting a little something up their nose. Sounds like a totally novel idea that will do great in the 1980s.

Neuter no more
Until now, dog birth control has been pretty one-sided; it's either neuter or nothing. But now an Australian company has unveiled a contraceptive implant for use in male dogs that will curb testosterone for months at a time, leaving a less permanent and relatively more comfortable alternative. The implant controls the hormone linked to testosterone production, not only killing the dog's sex drive, but also relaxing his aggressive behavior. Dogs aren't quite out of the water yet; the company still urges neutering as the best option if the owners don't want any breeding.

Picture 13.pngIsn't it time you gave her a ring?
Don't worry, I'm not talking about proposing. Since I reward myself for enduring the obnoxious buzz of my alarm clock with five more minutes of sleep, I think I might be in line for this sleek alarm from Yanko Design. The alarm is actually a ring that can be programmed to vibrate at a certain time. The vibrations of the ring then awake you in a manner slightly less jarring than the blaring horn of most clocks. This innovative alarm is especially useful for the hearing-impaired and couples waking up at different times.

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science
Scientists Analyze the Moods of 90,000 Songs Based on Music and Lyrics
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iStock

Based on the first few seconds of a song, the part before the vocalist starts singing, you can judge whether the lyrics are more likely to detail a night of partying or a devastating breakup. The fact that musical structures can evoke certain emotions just as strongly as words can isn't a secret. But scientists now have a better idea of which language gets paired with which chords, according to their paper published in Royal Society Open Science.

For their study, researchers from Indiana University downloaded 90,000 songs from Ultimate Guitar, a site that allows users to upload the lyrics and chords from popular songs for musicians to reference. Next, they pulled data from labMT, which crowd-sources the emotional valence (positive and negative connotations) of words. They referred to the music recognition site Gracenote to determine where and when each song was produced.

Their new method for analyzing the relationship between music and lyrics confirmed long-held knowledge: that minor chords are associated with sad feelings and major chords with happy ones. Words with a negative valence, like "pain," "die," and "lost," are all more likely to fall on the minor side of the spectrum.

But outside of major chords, the researchers found that high-valence words tend to show up in a surprising place: seventh chords. These chords contain four notes at a time and can be played in both the major and minor keys. The lyrics associated with these chords are positive all around, but their mood varies slightly depending on the type of seventh. Dominant seventh chords, for example, are often paired with terms of endearment, like "baby", or "sweet." With minor seventh chords, the words "life" and "god" are overrepresented.

Using their data, the researchers also looked at how lyric and chord valence differs between genres, regions, and eras. Sixties rock ranks highest in terms of positivity while punk and metal occupy the bottom slots. As for geography, Scandinavia (think Norwegian death metal) produces the dreariest music while songs from Asia (like K-Pop) are the happiest. So if you're looking for a song to boost your mood, we suggest digging up some Asian rock music from the 1960s, and make sure it's heavy on the seventh chords.

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Space
Watch NASA Test Its New Supersonic Parachute at 1300 Miles Per Hour
NASA/JPL, YouTube
NASA/JPL, YouTube

NASA’s latest Mars rover is headed for the Red Planet in 2020, and the space agency is working hard to make sure its $2.1 billion project will land safely. When the Mars 2020 rover enters the Martian atmosphere, it’ll be assisted by a brand-new, advanced parachute system that’s a joy to watch in action, as a new video of its first test flight shows.

Spotted by Gizmodo, the video was taken in early October at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Narrated by the technical lead from the test flight, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Ian Clark, the two-and-a-half-minute video shows the 30-mile-high launch of a rocket carrying the new, supersonic parachute.

The 100-pound, Kevlar-based parachute unfurls at almost 100 miles an hour, and when it is entirely deployed, it’s moving at almost 1300 miles an hour—1.8 times the speed of sound. To be able to slow the spacecraft down as it enters the Martian atmosphere, the parachute generates almost 35,000 pounds of drag force.

For those of us watching at home, the video is just eye candy. But NASA researchers use it to monitor how the fabric moves, how the parachute unfurls and inflates, and how uniform the motion is, checking to see that everything is in order. The test flight ends with the payload crashing into the ocean, but it won’t be the last time the parachute takes flight in the coming months. More test flights are scheduled to ensure that everything is ready for liftoff in 2020.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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