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The Yield Curve As Recession Predictor: Should We Worry Today?
Source:  Forbes Real Time
Saturday, 14 July 2018 07:09

The yield curve has proved to be a valuable indicator of future recessions. Some economists are getting nervous right now, as signals are flashing yellow—not quite red, but certainly not green. However, the yield curve is only indicative of a recession. It is neither definitive nor causal.

Man with second-longest fingernails in the world moves to the number one spot [Interesting]
Source:  Fark
Saturday, 14 July 2018 07:06

Interesting [link] [3 comments]

Can you hear these silent GIFs? You may have a new form of synesthesia.
Source:  Vox
Saturday, 14 July 2018 07:04

Scientists are starting to figure out why these GIFs are so damn loud.

Can you “hear” visual motion? If so, you’re hardly alone. There’s a huge Reddit community of 114,000-plus people who post and discuss silent videos that have the illusion of making noise.

And now a new study in the journal Cortex finds around 20 to 30 percent of people will experience an auditory sensation when they view moving, energetic — but silent — GIFs like this:

Or this:

Or this:


Psychologist Chris Fassnidge, the lead author of the Cortex study, calls this weirdly common phenomenon vEAR, or “visually evoked auditory response.” He and his co-authors believe it may be a new form of synesthesia, the rare neurological phenomenon wherein different sensory experiences are connected.

Even if it’s not precisely synesthesia, vEAR may be a window onto a better way to understand how all our senses are complexly connected. It’s possible that just like we combine taste and smell to get a complete experience of flavor, we may in part hear with our eyes.

“The more we learn about the brain,” says Fassnidge, who recently completed his PhD at City University of London, “the more we learn it’s a very multisensory organ and that the senses can influence one another.”

What is synesthesia?

 Getty Images

In people with synesthesia, activation of one sense triggers perception of another. The classic example is people who see a different color for different letters of the alphabet or for different numbers. In others, sounds will take on color.

There’s a form of synesthesia where certain sounds produce physical sensations on the skin and in the body. It’s believed these crossovers happen because neurons from one area of the brain are highly connected to another, or because the connections between the brain areas are easily triggered. And it’s pretty rare: Around 3 percent of people have these forms of synesthesia.

Similarly, vEAR could be a crossover of the visual and auditory systems of the brain. And the experience of it “varies from person to person,” Fassnidge says. “Some people describe it as a buzzing sound in their head. For other people, it’s kind of like a white noise. And then other people say it varies depending on what it is they are looking at.”

There are only a handful of studies on vEAR; the first one was published in 2008. Though the work is early, the published papers on vEAR suggest it’s a common phenomenon, with around 20 to 30 percent of people reporting hearing silent images.

“A lot of people don’t realize they have this thing until you start testing for it in the laboratory,” Fassnidge says. In the study in Cortex, the scientists had participants view 24 GIFs and rate if they noticed an auditory sensation on a scale of 0 to 5. Those who rated more than half of the GIFs at a level of 3 or above were considered to have experienced vEAR.

We may not think about the sound visual motion makes because sound and motion co-occur all the time. “Maybe because they co-occur so frequently you either aren’t aware of the mental sound until you strip away everything else,” Fassnidge says.

In the GIF above depicting the transmission towers jumping rope, I noticed a slight thudding sound. At first, I thought I was just noticing my heartbeat. But then I counted: The power line is jumping at 52 beats per minute; my heart is going at 72. “It would be odd that your heartbeat would be syncing with what you are seeing so closely,” he says. For me, the experience is weirder than the normal experience of hearing. It’s somewhere at the hazy intersection between a real sensation and imagination. (I don’t hear anything with the other GIFs.)

The rising popularity of GIFs (which are really just silent slices of film) seems to have made many people aware of the sensation for the first time. The Reddit forum /r/noisygifs is filled with people posting and discussing the GIFs that fill their heads with sounds. It’s part of a growing trend: The internet is proving to be an intriguing space for people to gather and discuss the peculiarities of human perception. There are millions of people who watch YouTube ASMR videos to experience a mysterious tingling sensation. In the past, these people perhaps would have just kept their unusual experience to themselves. Today, they can share.

How do I know if I have vEAR?

You can test yourself for vEAR with this survey here. It’s similar to what Fassnidge and his PhD adviser Elliot Freeman used in their new study in Cortex. The survey shows you GIFs, and all you have to do is rate how much of an auditory sensation each one elicits.

With data from more than 4,100 participants (some volunteer, some paid; it’s not a representative sample), the pair found that the experience of vEAR is very common. But they also found certain moving images provoke the experience more than others.

GIFs that predicted sounds (like the power line towers jumping rope above) were more likely to produce vEAR. So were GIFs that had a higher intensity of motion, like this glittering disco ball (Freeman says in an email this GIF produced one of the strongest responses in the survey).

 Via Elliot Freeman

People who report getting pieces of music stuck in their heads often (a.k.a. earworms) are also more likely to experience vEAR. “It might be that their auditory cortex is more excitable,; it doesn’t stop working,” Fassnidge says. It’s also more common in people who have other forms of synesthesia, suggesting something similar is going on.

Why would people “hear” what they see?

As with any new field of scientific study, there are a few alternative hypotheses to explain vEAR.

Fassnidge admits that his survey may be “observing several different effects at once,” and that there are overlapping explanations for why a person might hear a silent GIF.

For some people, the experience might be a true synesthesia that they can’t turn off. Other people might just be highly suggestible and using their imaginations to hear the sounds (or people who sense something in the realm between noise and imagination). It’s also possible that some of the people in the survey were just being agreeable and responding with what they thought the researchers wanted to hear.

Another part of the effect can be the result of learning: We’ve learned to expect certain sounds when we see certain objects in motion. We expect a ball bouncing on a court to make a bouncy noise, and so when we see it happen, our imaginations fill in the gaps. But even when Fassnidge and Freeman strip GIFs of all real-world connotations, and just show participants simple blinking lights, around 20 percent of study participants will say they hear something.

The follow GIF mimics the vibration pattern in the jumping power cable GIF but has no real-world images. Do you still hear anything? I don’t.

 Elliot Freeman

In another study of people who self-reported experiencing vEAR, Fassnidge and Freeman played faint audio while the participants watched flashes of light. The flashes of light, they thought, would be the simplest visual cue to provoke the vEAR, and the least weighed down with connections to things that make noise in the real world. “The people who reported being able to hear the visual events were more inclined to miss the auditory sound if it coincided with the flash,” Fassnidge says. “The imagined sound masks the real sound.” That makes them suspect vEAR is indeed working on the auditory system in the brain.

Is this really synesthesia?

There are a few clues that vEAR may not be exactly the same thing as other types of synesthesia. Other types tend to have very specific pairings, like the letter A being linked with the color red. “It’s hard to get that level of specificity with the auditory sensations,” Fassnidge says. More work needs to be done to try to pin down the phenomenon and trace how it works in the brain.

But at the very least, the phenomenon does illustrate how deeply the areas of the brain are connected.

Consider how blind people can achieve a certain sense of vision restored with special electrodes that attach to their tongue. These sensory substitution devices, as they are called, translate the visual world into small zaps of electricity users can feel on a grid placed on their tongue. Studies suggest these devices actually stimulate the visual areas of the brain. “It’s not biological vision as we know it, but it’s visual information conveyed to the visual cortex,” Fassnidge says.

Similarly, if electrical stimulation from the eyes happens to stimulate the auditory center of our brains, “it becomes more a philosophical question: Is that hearing?” Fassnidge says. Maybe.

And the research could perhaps help us explain why art forms that work upon many of our senses, like dance, are so appealing. In dance, music is timed with motion. “Why is that so pleasing to us as a species? is it because it is ticking all these neurological boxes?” Fassnidge wonders.

There are so many little curiosities about how we perceive the world. I’ve sworn that my eyes see slightly different variations of color. There are people who claim to have no internal eye, no ability to imagine physical objects that aren’t in front of them. Other people have trouble memorizing faces. Perception is our interface with the world, and the peculiarities of it make for fascinating research.

“Everyone has a strange thing about how they perceive the world,” Fassnidge says. “It gets people engaged in a way that a lot of other neuroscience topics don’t. It fires up their imaginations.”

U.S.-Russia Summits, From Gravely Serious To Absurdly Comical
Source:  NPR
Saturday, 14 July 2018 07:02

U.S.-Russia summits have ignited, and defused, global crises. There was also the time the U.S. Secret Service found Boris Yeltsin in his underwear and slurring his words, desperate for a pizza.

(Image credit: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

How to DVR the World Cup Final Without Cable
Saturday, 14 July 2018 07:00

One of the biggest events–sports or otherwise–in the world, the World Cup final is set to get underway Sunday when France and Croatia go head-to-head inside Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. Fortunately, if you can’t watch the game live, there are still plenty of ways to DVR it and watch later.

Even without a cable box or a TV, you can DVR the World Cup final (or watch it live) on your computer, phone or streaming device by signing up for one of the following cable-free, live-TV streaming services:


The “Fubo Premier” bundle, which includes both Fox (English broadcast) and Telemundo (Spanish broadcast), comes with 30 hours of Cloud DVR service (with the ability to upgrade to 500 hours). You can sign up for a free 7-day trial right here, and you can then DVR the game (you can also watch it live if you want) and watch later. You’ll be able to watch on your computer via the FuboTV website, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the FuboTV app.

Moreover, what makes FuboTV the best option for watching the game later is the “72-Hour Lookback” feature, which allows you to watch the game (both the English and Spanish broadcast) on-demand up to three days after it airs even if you forgot to record it. So, even if you don’t sign up for FuboTV until Monday, or if you simply forget to DVR the game, you can still watch it via FuboTV until Wednesday at about 1 p.m. ET.

Hulu With Live TV

“Hulu with Live TV,” which gives you access to a bundle of live television channels in addition to Hulu’s on-demand streaming library, comes with 50 hours of Cloud DVR storage, as well as the ability to upgrade to “Enhanced Cloud DVR,” which gives you 200 hours of DVR space and the ability to fast forward through commercials.

You can sign up for “Hulu with Live TV” right here, and you can then DVR the game, then watch it later on your computer via the Hulu website, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the Hulu app.

Sling TV

While DVR isn’t included in the main “Sling Blue” package (which you’ll need for access to Fox), you can get 50 hours of cloud DVR storage as an additional add-on. You can sign up for a free 7-day trial of both “Sling Blue” and the DVR add-on, and you can then DVR the game to watch later.

You can watch on your computer via the Sling TV website, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the Sling TV app.


This is one of the most surprising World Cup finals we’ve ever seen.

France was dubbed as one of the favorites at the start of the tournament, so it’s not surprising to see them in Moscow even though they faced a murderer’s row of opponents–Argentina, Uruguay, Belgium–in the knockout rounds, but Croatia certainly wasn’t expected to make it this far, especially after finishing behind Iceland and needing to win a playoff game against Greece just to qualify for the World Cup.

But here we are. France’s supreme talent in the form of Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante has shined as expected, while Croatia’s combination of a stellar midfield (Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic, Ivan Rakitic), strong defense and a never-say-die attitude (they’ve come from behind in all three of their knockout-stage games, and they’ve won two of those via PK’s) has them in their first-ever World Cup final.

France are the favorites, and it’s hard to argue considering who they’ve knocked off, along with Croatia’s potentially tired legs, but that doesn’t matter. This is the World Cup final, and especially in a tournament where unexpected results have been the norm, anything is possible.

Will the talented Les Bleus capture World Cup title No. 2? Or will Croatia bring the trophy home to a population of just over four million? Either way, it’s going to be a thriller. Whether it’s live or on DVR, just make sure you watch.

She Sells Beer And Brings Cheer To Fans In D.C.'s Baseball Stands
Source:  NPR
Saturday, 14 July 2018 07:00

Nationals Park beer seller Christy Colt talks to a customer in the stands before a recent Nationals  game.

Beer vending at baseball games is a male-dominated industry. Christy Colt , a beer vendor at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., shares what it takes to be successful at her job.

(Image credit: Tyrone Turner/WAMU)

The Russia Investigations: 6 Key Insights From The Cyberspy Indictment
Source:  NPR
Saturday, 14 July 2018 07:00

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (center) holds a news conference at the Department of Justice Friday in Washington, D.C. Rosenstein announced indictments against 12 Russian intelligence agents for computer hacking.

This week the Justice Department unveiled another information-packed indictment from the special counsel's Robert Mueller office that reveals much about the Russian attack on the 2016 election.

(Image credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Heart And Soul Of Armenia Lives In A Slab Of Wood
Source:  NPR
Saturday, 14 July 2018 07:00

At the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C., Vahagn Amiryan of Armenia prepares to carve an inscription on a block of wood that would sit atop the "mother pillar" inside a traditional house in his country.

For Vahagn Amiryan, the act of carving wood is a way to bring the country's ancient traditions into the modern era.

(Image credit: Paul Chisholm/NPR)

Belgium vs England World Cup Live Stream: How to Watch
Source:  Variety
Saturday, 14 July 2018 07:00

On one hand, both Belgium and England get to compete without the pressure of their entire nations’ hopes for soccer history on their backs, and Harry Kane and the rest of the Three Lions are probably relieved to be able to play a game without “It’s coming home” ringing in their ears. It’s a battle […]

How Can Brands Leverage Technology To Better Connect With Customers?
Source:  Forbes Real Time
Saturday, 14 July 2018 07:00

Making your technology enhancements more personal can ultimately help you increase the overall customer experience and create more opportunities for face-to-face interactions.

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