News for Nerds - The Smell-O-Vision Edition

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  • Posted by: Dom Testa|
  • 4/5/2013 |
  • 10:00 am
News for Nerds - The Smell-O-Vision Edition

Welcome back to News for Nerds. This week we learn what kind of science experiment you can come up with on a $2 billion budget, we show you how to brush your teeth in space, and we take a closer look at the scary disappearance of honey bees. But first, here are your headlines.

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There aren't many limits to what companies will do to get you to buy their product. From scare tactics promoting cartoons to singing rodents shilling sandwiches, we've pretty much seen it all.

But that didn't stop a team of Japanese scientists from inventing a real-life Smell-O-Vision TV set, which promises to make that fast food hamburger commercial actually stink up your living room.

It works by feeding odors from tiny gel pellets into four air streams situated in each corner of the screen. By varying the strength and direction of air streams using fans, it will seem to viewers that the smells are coming directly from whatever object is on screen at that time. ("Hurry, turn off the TV! Mike & Molly is about to come on!")

For now the TV can only handle one smell at a time, but the next step will be to integrate a whole range of scents, not unlike the way a household printer carries multi-colored ink cartridges. So get excited for that.

Here's hoping that this attempt at Smell-O-Vision turns out better than the infamous 1960 film Scent of Mystery, which aimed to release odors inside the theater at specific intervals, but which instead just annoyed (and repelled) moviegoers.

- from The Daily Mail (UK)

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If you've ever heard a recording of your voice -- and then cringed at the sound of it -- you're not alone. Pretty much everyone hates the sound of their own voice. But why?

Like so much in life, it has to do with expectations. We spend all our lives hearing our own voice via bone-conducted sound -- that is, the bones in our skull trick us by lowering the frequency of vocal sounds -- which gives us a faulty impression that our voices are lower-pitched than they actually are.

Hearing others talk, or hearing a recording of ourselves, happens via air-conducted sound. This requires a complex series of bodily tasks that includes your eardrums, three bony vibrating ossicles, and a fluid-filled spiral structure called your cochlea. Without the sounds being filtered through your own bony skull, however, the pitch is truer.

So that explains why it sounds different. But why is it so unpleasant? Because of our expectations. We've grown accustomed to hearing ourselves a certain way, and the differences are jarring.

One scientist who studies this sort of thing compares it to the way we get comfortable looking at ourselves in the mirror, but are sometimes horrified to see ourselves in pictures. Subconsciously, seeing your hair parted on the opposite side (or any number of tiny differences) doesn't match up with what our brain expects to see, so we instinctively dislike it.

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Here are a few other science-related stories you might enjoy:

  • A $2 billion science experiment aboard the International Space Station has turned up a small item of interest: the 'first significant hint' of dark matter, the mysterious substance whose only claim to fame is holding the universe together.
  • One of the truly scary stories that I've been following the past few years is the rapid demise of the honey bee population. If you think this is no big deal, just wait until it threatens our entire food supply. Yikes.
  • And finally, on a lighter note, take 90 seconds and watch an astronaut demonstrate the special tricks required to brush your teeth in space:

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That's all for now! I'll be back with more News for Nerds next week, but be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter, and to sign up for the free e-Newsletter so that you can properly get your nerd on every single month! And please send any juicy News for Nerds tips to me right here!

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