Models and Stars: You Can Never Look Like Them Because They Don’t Look Like Them, Either
“I’ll never look like the women with beautiful bodies in the glossy magazines.”
Right. You won’t. Because they don’t.
This wonderful photo compilation by a model generously and compassionately reveals the insider secrets—published photos of male and female stars or models, before and after they’d been edited and photo-shopped.
We all know that images are manipulated, but it’s something else, and consoling, to see precisely how and how much.
Photographic and visual editing is in one sense as old as the Medicis, who insisted that artists improve and “correct” their portraits for the record. This sort of editing is more dispiriting, however, in a photographic genre that seems accurate, and real.
And we’re not talking about minuscule, mercy changes, here, such as the airbrushing of a scratch, or pimple. In some of these photos, entire bellies have been cleaved off, breasts massively augmented, and serious wrinkles magically erased. Some of the models have lost what looks like at least 10 or 15 pounds, all through the instantaneous diet of the virtual X-acto knife.
Magazines will continue to give you these doctored images, just as long as real humans keep falling short of their needs, and real readers keep buying the magazines.
So young women and men, especially, need to develop a high Visual IQ. They have to understand what they’re looking at—really understand it, and internalize it--because the photos are otherwise dangerously and depressingly deceptive. Generically, they “code” as if they’re accurate.
We need to flex our visual IQ by practicing reading the photos as things closer to art, or cartooning, or even human caricature, where the aim is to capture the gist of the body, or a gesture, or to exaggerate its iconic, signature features, but not to represent it truthfully and with ruthless precision, a la Depression documentarian Walker Evans.
There’s nothing wrong with taking pleasure in the images, so long as they’re read visually as representations of reality rather than reality itself.
It’s like those Betty Boop cartoons from the 1930s. No one really expected a woman to look like Betty, with her non-existent waist, bovine eyes, and huge boobs. Instead, she represented a convention of femininity, rendered through artistic liberty and exaggeration.
In a similar way, the Fashion Week runway shows present extreme clothing that few of us would ever actually wear, in order to dramatize and highlight trends in silhouette, color, hem length, fabric, attitude, and so on. The images of the models’ bodies in magazines are as suggestive (not literal) as the dramatic, “editorial” fashions that the models wear on the runway: neither is to be taken entirely literally.
We can take pleasure in the images for what they are: pictures with things that magazine editors and others feel are aesthetically pleasing, ideal physical traits and characteristics, for both the male and female body, that exist somewhere between documentary and expressive art.
A large new study uses an online game to inoculate people against fake news.
- Researchers from the University of Cambridge use an online game to inoculate people against fake news.
- The study sample included 15,000 players.
- The scientists hope to use such tactics to protect whole societies against disinformation.
Researchers hope the technology will further our understanding of the brain, but lawmakers may not be ready for the ethical challenges.
- Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine successfully restored some functions to pig brains that had been dead for hours.
- They hope the technology will advance our understanding of the brain, potentially developing new treatments for debilitating diseases and disorders.
- The research raises many ethical questions and puts to the test our current understanding of death.
The image of an undead brain coming back to live again is the stuff of science fiction. Not just any science fiction, specifically B-grade sci fi. What instantly springs to mind is the black-and-white horrors of films like Fiend Without a Face. Bad acting. Plastic monstrosities. Visible strings. And a spinal cord that, for some reason, is also a tentacle?
But like any good science fiction, it's only a matter of time before some manner of it seeps into our reality. This week's Nature published the findings of researchers who managed to restore function to pigs' brains that were clinically dead. At least, what we once thought of as dead.
What's dead may never die, it seems
The researchers did not hail from House Greyjoy — "What is dead may never die" — but came largely from the Yale School of Medicine. They connected 32 pig brains to a system called BrainEx. BrainEx is an artificial perfusion system — that is, a system that takes over the functions normally regulated by the organ. The pigs had been killed four hours earlier at a U.S. Department of Agriculture slaughterhouse; their brains completely removed from the skulls.
BrainEx pumped an experiment solution into the brain that essentially mimic blood flow. It brought oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, giving brain cells the resources to begin many normal functions. The cells began consuming and metabolizing sugars. The brains' immune systems kicked in. Neuron samples could carry an electrical signal. Some brain cells even responded to drugs.
The researchers have managed to keep some brains alive for up to 36 hours, and currently do not know if BrainEx can have sustained the brains longer. "It is conceivable we are just preventing the inevitable, and the brain won't be able to recover," said Nenad Sestan, Yale neuroscientist and the lead researcher.
As a control, other brains received either a fake solution or no solution at all. None revived brain activity and deteriorated as normal.
The researchers hope the technology can enhance our ability to study the brain and its cellular functions. One of the main avenues of such studies would be brain disorders and diseases. This could point the way to developing new of treatments for the likes of brain injuries, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and neurodegenerative conditions.
"This is an extraordinary and very promising breakthrough for neuroscience. It immediately offers a much better model for studying the human brain, which is extraordinarily important, given the vast amount of human suffering from diseases of the mind [and] brain," Nita Farahany, the bioethicists at the Duke University School of Law who wrote the study's commentary, told National Geographic.
An ethical gray matter
Before anyone gets an Island of Dr. Moreau vibe, it's worth noting that the brains did not approach neural activity anywhere near consciousness.
The BrainEx solution contained chemicals that prevented neurons from firing. To be extra cautious, the researchers also monitored the brains for any such activity and were prepared to administer an anesthetic should they have seen signs of consciousness.
Even so, the research signals a massive debate to come regarding medical ethics and our definition of death.
Most countries define death, clinically speaking, as the irreversible loss of brain or circulatory function. This definition was already at odds with some folk- and value-centric understandings, but where do we go if it becomes possible to reverse clinical death with artificial perfusion?
"This is wild," Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times. "If ever there was an issue that merited big public deliberation on the ethics of science and medicine, this is one."
One possible consequence involves organ donations. Some European countries require emergency responders to use a process that preserves organs when they cannot resuscitate a person. They continue to pump blood throughout the body, but use a "thoracic aortic occlusion balloon" to prevent that blood from reaching the brain.
The system is already controversial because it raises concerns about what caused the patient's death. But what happens when brain death becomes readily reversible? Stuart Younger, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University, told Nature that if BrainEx were to become widely available, it could shrink the pool of eligible donors.
"There's a potential conflict here between the interests of potential donors — who might not even be donors — and people who are waiting for organs," he said.
It will be a while before such experiments go anywhere near human subjects. A more immediate ethical question relates to how such experiments harm animal subjects.
Ethical review boards evaluate research protocols and can reject any that causes undue pain, suffering, or distress. Since dead animals feel no pain, suffer no trauma, they are typically approved as subjects. But how do such boards make a judgement regarding the suffering of a "cellularly active" brain? The distress of a partially alive brain?
The dilemma is unprecedented.
Setting new boundaries
Another science fiction story that comes to mind when discussing this story is, of course, Frankenstein. As Farahany told National Geographic: "It is definitely has [sic] a good science-fiction element to it, and it is restoring cellular function where we previously thought impossible. But to have Frankenstein, you need some degree of consciousness, some 'there' there. [The researchers] did not recover any form of consciousness in this study, and it is still unclear if we ever could. But we are one step closer to that possibility."
She's right. The researchers undertook their research for the betterment of humanity, and we may one day reap some unimaginable medical benefits from it. The ethical questions, however, remain as unsettling as the stories they remind us of.
Many governments do not report, or misreport, the numbers of refugees who enter their country.
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