Spore and the Obvious

Spore is a new game coming out this fall and recently a creature creator was released to show off a bit of the game. Given that this is a game more or less about evolution, with male and female creatures, it did not take long until “Sporn” hit the Internet.

I’ve pasted the “nature video” in all its glory below, so please take that into account before playing it. I found it very funny–ah, the things people put their minds to–but I wouldn’t show it to my kids. The tagline for the game goes, “Starting with single-cell organisms, players work on designing life with ever more complexity.” Or designing it right into the gutters… The hattip goes to Greg Laden.

Our own Greg adds: Warning: Video contains graphic scenes of pink-skinned animated aliens mating, including growling, circling hearts, and funky dance moves. Please don’t click if you are without a sense of humor.

Grand Central Freeze

Improv Everywhere pulled off a great social experiment, a couple hundred people freezing all at once for five minutes in the main terminal of New York’s Grand Central Terminal. Here’s the video:

People’s reactions show public culture in action, backed up by the commentary on the making and enactment of the video at Improv Everywhere. I thought this was striking, of how the volunteers both took the mission on and brought their own creativity to it:

It was fun to see all the different choices people made for their frozen moment. I didn’t give any instructions in advance. I just told everyone to be doing something realistic and not jokey. One guy dropped an entire briefcase full of papers the second before he froze, leaving his papers scattered before him for five minutes. Many froze midway through eating or drinking. A few froze while taking off a jacket. One couple froze kissing.

At the Improv post, you can see lots more video on particular scenes, so plenty of great real-live data on a real-life experiment. And there are other “missions” like making a little league game the “best game ever” and The Moebius, where seven agents got stuck in a time loop at a Starbucks.

Free Running and Extreme Balance

Mostly this is an excuse to link to these great videos of free running and parkour, unusual because they show much of the full sequence rather than mash-ups. But to go all scholarly on you, Cognitive Daily had a recent piece on learning to walk and children’s sense of balance. Leaning with backpack weights was a learned process, not an intuitive one, even with toddlers who knew how to walk.

These videos also give me the chance to plug Greg’s early piece on our sense of balance. Rather than an innate module gifted to us by evolution, “The evidence seems very clear that the sense of balance (again, with all the caveats of calling it ‘a’ single ‘sense’) can be trained to wide range of different challenges and to operate more efficiently or from different sets of information depending upon the task constraints. The variability of equilibrium was driven home to me in my research on capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial art and dance.”

Similarly with “l’art de displacement” through mixing balance, jumping, climbing and running. Wow!

Just like elite runners, I bet they stay focused on the task on hand, and not on the pain of a misstep or the fear over a missed jump—dissociation from risk and worry through expert technique. And this focused and skilled activity also relies on significant sensory integration of balance, vision, and touch. In turn, sensory integration, plenty of training and experience, and focus on the task help make free running predictable, understandable and controllable, and thus integrated into the person’s everyday interactive design.

Anyways, here’s a couple popular YouTube videos in the mash-up music video style:

The Allegory of the Trolley Problem Paradox

Back in January we discussed the trolley problem when considering Pinker’s proposal for a moral instinct. But here’s a much funnier take on the whole issue! (Click on the image to make it larger if you can’t read the small lettering.)

The hat tip goes to the very cool Bioephemera, or biology + art (also see the old version here for more art & biology). That led me to Saint Gasoline, or a fine mixture of intellectualism and fart jokes, and their discussion of the trolley problem.