Monthly Archives: April 2012

Predicting Ten Thousand Deaths in the Next Big Tokyo Earthquake

Millions of people in Japan are getting ever more nervous that “The Big One” will come soon – the earthquake that strikes Tokyo, the heart of Japan. This concern is certainly justified, ever since the 2011 earthquake raised the probability so dramatically. The last time I reported, newest research from the Tokyo University’s Earthquake Research Institute (ERI) found that there’s a 70% chance that a magnitude 7 quake will hit by 2016. Though a M7 is not nearly as big as the M9 quake that caused last year’s tsunami, Tokyo is one of the most heavily populated cities in the world, so the death toll will likely be substantial.

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Top 5 Reasons that Prove Life is Not Fair (in April)

There have been a lot of recent news stories that make us just sit back in awe. April was full of them, and some were more publicized than others. Let’s look at the stories that were not so publicized, under five categories that organize the absurdity thematically. The five things which prove this month that life is not fair are: Health, bosses, craziness, wealth, and school. It was certainly an eventful month.

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Faces in the Crowd – Kony 2012 and the Occupy Movement

Sometimes what you see is what you get. Other times, there’s more than meets the eye. I don’t want to talk so much about how we are manipulated by what we see on mediums like the TV and the internet, but rather what we don’t see. With so much access to information, there’s not enough time in the day for us to get all the different perspectives on a story. We could sit around a TV all day and still be ignorant of what’s happening in many places in the world. However, it’s becoming increasingly clear that in order to understand the complex events happening around us, we need to be open to the possibility that we don’t know as much as we think – especially when we’re jumping on the bandwagon like every other face in the crowd.

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Japanese Students’ Opinions Can Be Manipulated by Stranger’s Opinion (Study)

If I asked a straight-forward question about your opinion on a simple topic, you would likely be able to articulate you thoughts. Now what if I asked that question, but before you gave an answer, you read the opinion of a stranger who answered the same question. Assuming you already have an opinion, you probably would not be affected by this, right? I have my doubts – perhaps the presentation of a relatively obvious argument might still influence someone’s opinion. Instead of sitting around wondering, I decided to find this out for myself, so I conducted a simple experiment.

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The Ten Most Educated and Smartest Countries in 2012

An interesting ranking was recently reported by Yahoo! Finance, on the ten most educated countries of the world. That is, which countries have the highest percentage of people with post-secondary education. Apparently college and university graduation rates have increased in half a century by almost 200%, but the rates among countries vary greatly. And while it’s not surprising to see countries that spend a great deal of their GDPs on education, many of the countries on the list spend comparably little, and yet see high numbers of graduates. So after you check to see if your country made the list, be sure to ask yourself: Just what does this really mean?

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The 2012 Pigasus Awards

Magician and skeptic James Randi recently announced the winners of his annual Pigasus award. The awards go to five individuals, associations, or institutions which have been particularly harmful to the public in the past year. The reason he has this annual award is, as he says, because “no amount of evidence will ever convince the true believer,” whether that belief regards ghosts, precognition, or the ability to talk to those from beyond the grave. So here are the five categories, with their winners…

Category: Scientist

Winner: Daryl Bem

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Love Plus Imagination – Part 3: Why Visual Novels (and Manga Comics) are More Popular in Japan

“Only a Japanese person would like that…” An ignorant and perhaps subtly racist statement, sure. However, for a different reason, there’s some truth to it when it comes to manga (Japanese comics) or visual novels (a video game genre that entails slow-paced story-telling, lots of reading, and pop-up options that can completely change the course of the game). To be clear, the statement is not true because Japanese people are inherently more inclined to like visual novels; but rather, they are more likely to give such games a chance and overlook issues that most English-speakers/Westerners would not tolerate as easily, because of their culture. The information below will reveal what the English-speaking world is ignorant of in several specific aspects of Japanese popular culture.

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Is Getting Rid of Low-Value Currency Good for the Economy?

“Free your pennies from their prisons,” said Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty last week. This is his call to get Canadians’ coins from their piggybanks to the market place, where they can finally be retired. That is, the government’s federal budget for 2012 left the penny out of the equation, and the Royal Canadian Mint will no longer produce them. What kind of impact may this have on the economy, and is this a good thing for Canada ?

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New Model Restriction Law a Major Victory for Body Image

Who decides what is sexy? The interesting thing about the fashion industry is that there is no simple answer. Fashion designers would love to say “I decide what is sexy,” but that’s like giving a teacher all the credit for a student’s success. As the late American costume designer Edith Head once said, “A designer is only as good as the star who wears her clothes.” So no matter how beautiful an article of clothing is, it won’t matter unless someone wears it. What designers make depends on what people wear, and what people wear depends on what is being made. This cyclical interaction makes it hard for experts to predict what will be popular, making most people feel unqualified to make predictions. However, when it comes to the models themselves, everyone has an opinion on what is sexy. Since models are getting skinnier, it is distorting the ideal of beauty into an unrealistic and unhealthy image for many young girls. The only way to break the spell of shrinking models and a dangerous image of beauty is by doing what Israel has just started doing: Restricting overly-skinny models from modelling.

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Centenarians: “The Key to a Long Life is Video Gaming”

Apparently the fountain of youth may come with batteries. Recent research suggests that sedentary activities such as watching an hour of TV may take off 22 minutes of your life, but they didn’t say that about video gaming. Physical activity is obviously important, but there are people who thank video games for their mental health. For those who scoff at this activity as just a mindless form of entertainment, it would be best to wait until you hear them speak about it. They may make you change your mind.

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