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5 Mind Memes for February 24: Galileo's Brain, Oscar Predictions and More

February 24, 2013, 10:00 AM
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NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover. Big Data Predicts the Oscars. These are among the brainiest memes included in today's Mind Memes. 

1. You're Invited to Nate Silver's Oscar Party

Nate Silver, The New York Times blogger who correctly predicted the outcome in all 50 states in last year's presidential election (resulting in accolades such as the hilarious Twitter hashtag #NateSilverFacts), is now turning his forecast model to the Oscars. Since this is an area in which Silver has a past success rate of only 75 percent, this year he has simplified his model. Silver is weighing other pre-Oscar awards as the equivalent of pre-election polls.

The Director's Guild of America's award for Outstanding Direction, for instance, has a 80 percent success rate (in terms of agreeing with the equivalent Oscar), making it the gold standard in Oscar prediction. At the other end of the spectrum is the Golden Globes, which only match the Oscars half the time. Silver weighs these polls accordingly, and aggregates the results. 

So which film is favored to win Best Picture in Silver's model? It's Argo, by a landslide. Read more here.

2. Why do cats lend themselves so well to memes?

Not every cat meme is cat-friendly. For instance, revelations that pet cats are responsible for killing billions of creatures every year, even endangering the survival of certain island-bound species, has caused an alarm, and indeed fueled the Evil Cat meme.

Here's a particularly precious example. Maria Papova at Brainpickings directs us to William Cole's 1982 "vintage gem" The Cat-Haters Handbook, illustrated by children's book author Tomi Ungerer. The cats portrayed on these pages are downright sadistic.

3. Is NASA Overly Obsessed with Mars?

Sure, the landing of the Mars Curiosity Rover was a huge PR coup for NASA last summer, but John Matson pushes back against the Mars Curiosity meme, arguing that NASA's preoccupation with Mars comes at the expense of the rest of the solar system. 

Read it here at Scientific American.

For those of you who are unapologetic Mars buffs, NASA has fed its robot rover's narcissism with a self-portrait along with an interactive panoramic version.

4. BenSmithing

The former Politico star Ben Smith shocked a lot of people when he went from gathering scoops at a leading political news site to gathering funny cat memes at Buzzfeed. Why throw away such a promising career? Well, it turns out Smith is proving a lot of people wrong. Not only has Smith helped make the "breaking buzz" machine that is Buzzfeed wildly successful, he's also carved out a space for smart content as well. 

A recent New York Times profile describes how Republicans coined the term BenSmithing as a meme that addresses a Democratic scandal but turns it on its head in order to benefit President Obama. However, the article also describes how BenSmithing has also become "an absurdist catchall" for all sorts of online behavior. 

According to Smith, there isn't actually a great deal of difference between the serious and the absurd, the high and the low. He tells the Times:

The fabric of politics has always been gossip and jokes and crazy personality stuff and memes...I mean, Dukakis in the tank, that’s a meme. Political coverage that wants to be solely high-minded is missing huge chunks of the actual interplay of personality and power that is what actually drives things.

5. Galileo's Brain Versus Shakespeare

Who possessed the greatest minds of the 16th century? It's hard to top Galileo and Shakespeare. They were both born in 1564. As far as we know, they both understood advanced science. At a recent Shakes Sphere talk, a science-oriented series organized by the Royal Shakespeare Company in England, the minds of the two seminal thinkers were compared, sort of.

Since neither Galileo nor Shakespeare could be around to participate, the brain scan of an actor was compared to that of an astronomer. See the experiment in the video here.

Bonus: This Office Building Has a Smaller Carbon Footprint Than You Do

The architects of the Bullitt Center, an office center planned for Seattle, used sutainability standards that are so tough that "it forced the City of Seattle to rewrite some building codes." What does this office building of the future look like? Click here.

 

5 Mind Memes for February 2...

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