Charlyn Wee via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Charlyn Wee via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Spooky Science Behind Ouija Boards

Charlyn Wee via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Charlyn Wee via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Since the 19th century, the Ouija board has been viewed as both a dangerous instrument of the occult and a kitschy game to break out at parties. To use it, a group of people must place their fingers on the pointer, or planchette, and watch as the "spirits” glide it over the letters and numbers on the board, effectively spelling out their message. Some attribute this phenomenon to supernatural forces, while others point to deceptive pranksters. The real answer, however, is as spooky as it is scientific. 

The ideomotor effect occurs when someone moves themself or an object without being conscious of their actions. This combined with a strong subconscious need for an answer, like what one might feel when using a Ouija board, leads to players moving the planchette without any knowledge of doing so. 

A 2012 study from the University of British Columbia investigated this effect by having test subjects answer factual yes or no questions both verbally and with a Ouija board. For the Ouija board portion of the experiment, participants were blindfolded and told they’d be answering with another person, but when the experiment began their partner quickly removed their hands from the planchette. For questions they were unsure about, participants using the Ouija answered correctly 65 percent of the time compared to just 50 percent of the time when responding verbally.

The results of the study suggest people have a "second intelligence" buried in their subconscious mind that can only be accessed under the right conditions. "Ask someone ...'What's the capital of Cambodia?' and they might say, 'I have no idea,'" said Docky Duncan, one of the researchers from UBC's Visual Cognition Lab who furthered their research on the subject in 2014. "But they might have heard it somewhere, and it may actually be inside your brain."

The fact that Ouija board games are more of a psychological experiment than a communion with the dead makes them no less creepy. Feel free to share this scientific tidbit at your next impromptu seance, or keep it to yourself and use the knowledge to extract secrets from the minds of your friends.

[h/t: Nerdist]

George Washington’s Incredible Hair Routine

America's Founding Fathers had some truly defining locks, but we tend to think of those well-coiffed white curls—with their black ribbon hair ties and perfectly-managed frizz—as being wigs. Not so in the case of the main man himself, George Washington.

As Robert Krulwich reported at National Geographic, a 2010 biography on our first president—Washington: A Life, by Ron Chernow—reveals that the man “never wore a wig.” In fact, his signature style was simply the result of an elaborately constructed coiffure that far surpasses most morning hair routines, and even some “fancy” hair routines.

The style Washington was sporting was actually a tough look for his day. In the late 18th century, such a hairdo would have been worn by military men.

While the hair itself was all real, the color was not. Washington’s true hue was a reddish brown color, which he powdered in a fashion that’s truly delightful to imagine. George would (likely) don a powdering robe, dip a puff made of silk strips into his powder of choice (there are a few options for what he might have used), bend his head over, and shake the puff out over his scalp in a big cloud.

To achieve the actual ‘do, Washington kept his hair long and would then pull it back into a tight braid or simply tie it at the back. This helped to showcase the forehead, which was very in vogue at the time. On occasion, he—or an attendant—would bunch the slack into a black silk bag at the nape of the neck, perhaps to help protect his clothing from the powder. Then he would fluff the hair on each side of his head to make “wings” and secure the look with pomade or good old natural oils.

To get a better sense of the play-by-play, check out the awesome illustrations by Wendy MacNaughton that accompany Krulwich’s post.

"American Mall," Bloomberg
Unwinnable Video Game Challenges You to Keep a Shopping Mall in Business
"American Mall," Bloomberg
"American Mall," Bloomberg

Shopping malls, once the cultural hub of every suburb in America, have become a punchline in the e-commerce era. There are plenty of malls around today, but they tend to be money pits, considering the hundreds of "dead malls" haunting the landscape. Just how hard is it to keep a mall afloat in the current economy? American Mall, a new video game from Bloomberg, attempts to give an answer.

After choosing which tycoon character you want as your stand-in, you're thrown into a mall—rendered in 1980s-style graphics—already struggling to stay in business. The building is filled with rats and garbage you have to clean up if you want to keep shoppers happy. Every few seconds you're contacted by another store owner begging you to lower their rent, and you must either take the loss or risk them packing up for good. When stores are vacated, it's your job to fill them, but it turns out there aren't too many businesses interested in setting up shop in a dying mall.

You can try gimmicks like food trucks and indoor playgrounds to keep customers interested, but in the end your mall will bleed too much money to support itself. You can try playing the bleak game for yourself here—maybe it will put some of the retail casualties of the last decade into perspective.

[h/t Co.Design]


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