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Lectures for a New Year: Temple Grandin on Autism

This is a TED classic: Temple Grandin explaining what it's like to be autistic, shortly after the release of a movie based on her book Thinking in Pictures. In the book and in the talk, Grandin explains how her cognitive experience as an autistic person differs from that of an average person (let's not say "normal"). Grandin's brain is very visual, and that has helped in her animal husbandry work -- she can think as an animal presumably thinks, and because of that, she's uniquely situated to understand why animals behave as they do.

Grandin's lecture shows two crucial qualities in a good lecture: first, an engaging persona -- we enjoy Grandin's enthusiasm about tangents like church steeples and her repeated concerns about whether kids these days will be taken care of; and second, an actual point -- she's saying, quite simply, there are different kinds of minds. Rather than pathologize these differences and try to "fix" them, we can celebrate them, and as a society we actually need all these different sorts of thinkers. The Q&A at the end is also surprisingly good (albeit brief). Oh, and she even wears a super-cool shirt. I mean, this is pretty much solid lecture gold.

Topics: the autistic spectrum, thinking in pictures, how to teach kids, why we need different kinds of people, and some thoughts on her book and the movie that was made based on it.

For: everyone, especially parents.

Viewing note: you can watch a higher-quality video on the TED site. The YouTube quality is not too bad on this one, though.

Further Reading

I highly recommend Grandin's book Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism. This is a book that appeals to basically everyone: there's a strong element of memoir, a bunch of information about what it's like to be autistic (including some amazing material about Grandin's hug machine), and a bunch of stuff about animal husbandry (which, quite frankly, most people never think about). It was adapted into an excellent HBO movie (YouTube trailer link) with a stellar performance by Claire Danes and directed by Mick Jackson (who did L.A. Story, among others). If you want a sample of the movie, check out this clip.

Transcript

TED provides an interactive transcript as well as subtitles, downloads with subtitles, and so on.

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Art
The Simple Optical Illusion That Makes an Image Look Like It's Drawing Itself
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Artist James Nolan Gandy invents robot arms that sketch intricate mathematical shapes with pen and paper. When viewed in real time, the effect is impressive. But it becomes even more so when the videos are sped up in a timelapse. If you look closely in the video below, the illustration appears to materialize faster than the robot can put the design to paper. Gizmodo recently explained how the illusion works to make it look like parts of the sketch are forming before the machine has time to draw them.

The optical illusion isn’t an example of tricky image editing: It’s the result of something called the wagon wheel effect. You can observe this in a car wheel accelerating down the highway or in propeller blades lifting up a helicopter. If an object makes enough rotations per second, it can appear to slow down, move backwards, or even stand still.

This is especially apparent on film. Every “moving image” we see on a screen is an illusion caused by the brain filling in the gaps between a sequence of still images. In the case of the timelapse video below, the camera captured the right amount of images, in the right order, to depict the pen as moving more slowly than it did in real life. But unlike the pen, the drawing formed throughout the video isn't subject to the wagon-wheel effect, so it still appears to move at full speed. This difference makes it look like the sketch is drawing itself, no pen required.

Gandy frequently shares behind-the-scenes videos of his mechanical art on his Instagram page. You can check out some of his non-timelapse clips like the one below to better understand how his machines work, then visit his website to browse and purchase the art made by his 'bots.

And if you think his stuff is impressive, make sure to explore some of the incredible art robots have made in the past.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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science
Narcissists Are More Likely to Be Compulsive Facebook Users
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Updating your Facebook status throughout the day is probably a sign you need a different hobby, but according to a new study, the habit can also indicate something else. As PsyPost reports, people with Facebook addiction are also likely to be narcissists.

For their recent study published in the journal PLOS One, scientists from Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany followed the Facebook activity of 179 German students over the course of a year. They were looking for cases of so-called Facebook Addiction Disorder (FAD) based on the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale, a system developed by University of Bergen researchers that measures factors like mood modification, withdrawal, and relapse in relation to Facebook use.

They wanted to find out whether FAD was linked to other mental health problems. In addition to gauging Facebook compulsion, they also surveyed subjects on their depression and anxiety levels, social support systems, physical health, narcissism, and general satisfaction with life. The results showed a strong correlation between FAD and narcissism. Rather than Facebook making its users more narcissistic, the researchers state that people with narcissistic personalities are at a greater risk of developing the social media addiction.

"Facebook use holds a particular meaning for narcissistic people," they write in the paper. "On Facebook, they can quickly initiate many superficial relationships with new Facebook-friends and get a large audience for their well-planned self-presentation. The more Facebook-friends they have, the higher is the possibility that they attain the popularity and admiration they are seeking; whereas in the offline world they might not be as popular since their interaction partners can quickly perceive their low agreeableness and exaggerated sense of self-importance."

The researchers also found a connection between Facebook addiction and higher levels of stress, depression, and anxiety.

Studies investigating Facebook Addiction Disorder have been conducted in the past, but there’s still not enough research to classify it as an official behavioral addiction. The researchers hope their work will lead to similar studies pinning down a link between FAD and mental health consequences.

[h/t PsyPost]

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