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They Might Be Giants Release Educational Science Album for Kids

Nerd parent alert: new TMBG album of science stuff for kids available now! (iTunes Link)

Indie pop icons They Might Be Giants have long been known for embedding factoids in their songs. For example, their cover of "Why Does the Sun Shine" features the opening hook: "The sun is a mass of incandescent gas; A gigantic nuclear furnace; Where hydrogen is built into helium at a temperature of millions of degrees!" (To be fair, TMBG didn't write that tune; see the original version by Tom Glazer.) But then there's the presidential nerd material: TMBG wrote a detailed trivia-heavy song about the oft-forgotten president "James K. Polk," and the art trivia like "Meet James Ensor." And don't get me started on their cuneiform-heavy explanation of "The Mesopotamians."

So it comes as no surprise that TMBG has come out with a CD/DVD combo release called Here Comes Science (link opens iTunes), again combining facts with pop, but finally aiming their laserbeam of awesomeness at one of my favorite topics: science. From an interview with the Underwire blog, the two Johns say:

"We wanted to be sure to get our facts right, so we brought in a wonderful fellow named Eric Siegel, who is the director of the New York Hall of Science," Flansburgh said. "Hopefully, that vetting process was rigorous enough to stave off a cultural boycott from the scientific community. We covered mostly the classic stuff: the elements, astronomy, the circulatory system, cells, photosynthesis and the light spectrum. But there isn't a lot of material about applied science on the album, although there is a song about computer-assisted design that has a mind-bending video on the DVD."

And here's the charming video for "Electric Car" off the new release, featuring vocals from Robin Goldwasser:

More Awesome TMBG Stuff for Kids

TMBG have now done four albums aimed at kids. Links below open iTunes, though these are also available as CDs and in the case of Here Come the 123s as a CD/DVD set.

TMBG Kids Stuff: Here Come the ABCs -- the fun way to learn the ABCs; Here Come the 123s -- a video/audio combo for learnin' your numbers; and No! -- an album about being a kid and being different.

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Tracing Vladimir Nabokov's 1941 Cross-Country Road Trip, One Butterfly at a Time
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Vladimir Nabokov is most famous as a writer, but the Russian scribe was also an amateur—yet surprisingly accomplished—lepidopterist. Nabokov first began collecting butterflies as a child, and after moving to the U.S. in 1940 he began volunteering in the Lepidoptera collections at the American Museum of Natural History.

The following year, the author took a cross-country road trip, driving 4000 miles from Pennsylvania to California. Along the way, he stopped at kitschy roadside motels, which provided atmospheric fodder for his 1955 novel Lolita. Nabokov also collected hundreds of butterfly samples at these rest stops, most of which he ended up donating to the AMNH.

Nabokov would go on to publish multiple scientific papers on lepidoptery—including the definitive scholarly study of the genus Lycaeides, or the “blues”—and produce perhaps thousands of delicate butterfly drawings. Multiple butterfly species were also named after him, including Nabokov’s wood nymph.

In the AMNH’s 360-degree video below, you can trace the author's 1941 cross-country road trip state-by-state, see some of the specimens he collected, and learn how museum curators are using his westward journey to better understand things like species distribution and migration patterns.

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Trying to Save Money? Avoid Shopping on a Smartphone
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Today, Americans do most of their shopping online—but as anyone who’s indulged in late-night retail therapy likely knows, this convenience often can come with an added cost. Trying to curb expenses, but don't want to swear off the convenience of ordering groceries in your PJs? New research shows that shopping on a desktop computer instead of a mobile phone may help you avoid making foolish purchases, according to Co. Design.

Ying Zhu, a marketing professor at the University of British Columbia-Okanagan, recently led a study to measure how touchscreen technology affects consumer behavior. Published in the Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, her research found that people are more likely to make more frivolous, impulsive purchases if they’re shopping on their phones than if they’re facing a computer monitor.

Zhu, along with study co-author Jeffrey Meyer of Bowling Green State University, ran a series of lab experiments on student participants to observe how different electronic devices affected shoppers’ thinking styles and intentions. Their aim was to see if subjects' purchasing goals changed when it came to buying frivolous things, like chocolate or massages, or more practical things, like food or office supplies.

In one experiment, participants were randomly assigned to use a desktop or a touchscreen. Then, they were presented with an offer to purchase either a frivolous item (a $50 restaurant certificate for $30) or a useful one (a $50 grocery certificate for $30). These subjects used a three-point scale to gauge how likely they were to purchase the offer, and they also evaluated how practical or frivolous each item was. (Participants rated the restaurant certificate to be more indulgent than the grocery certificate.)

Sure enough, the researchers found that participants had "significantly higher" purchase intentions for hedonic (i.e. pleasurable) products when buying on touchscreens than on desktops, according to the study. On the flip side, participants had significantly higher purchase intentions for utilitarian (i.e. practical) products while using desktops instead of touchscreens.

"The playful and fun nature of the touchscreen enhances consumers' favor of hedonic products; while the logical and functional nature of a desktop endorses the consumers' preference for utilitarian products," Zhu explains in a press release.

The study also found that participants using touchscreen technology scored significantly higher on "experiential thinking" than subjects using desktop computers, whereas those with desktop computers demonstrated higher scores for rational thinking.

“When you’re in an experiential thinking mode, [you crave] excitement, a different experience,” Zhu explained to Co. Design. “When you’re on the desktop, with all the work emails, that interface puts you into a rational thinking style. While you’re in a rational thinking style, when you assess a product, you’ll look for something with functionality and specific uses.”

Zhu’s advice for consumers looking to conserve cash? Stow away the smartphone when you’re itching to splurge on a guilty pleasure.

[h/t Fast Company]

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