Learn to smile in your mask!

With faces covered to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, some of the facial cues that people rely on to connect with others—such as a smile that shows support—are also obscured.

This will be particularly true for North Americans, says Jeanne Tsai, a professor of psychology at Stanford University and director of the Stanford Culture and Emotion Lab, who value high energy emotions—such as excitement or enthusiasm, which are associated with big, open smiles—more than East Asians do…

…Research has shown that North Americans judge people with bigger smiles to be friendlier and more trustworthy than East Asians, so face coverings may make it harder for them to connect with strangers…

As people navigate a masked world, they’ll need to focus more on the eyes and voice to connect with those around them, a psychologist argues.

Pic of the Day

Click to enlarge — AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

Newspapers, other media, even galleries displaying the work of photographers stick to the protocol of detailing not only every technical jot of taking the photo; but, they persist in describing the context and incidence of the photo. This is one of those photos where I think it doesn’t matter in the least.

It’s an interesting picture. Use your imagination.

If you really need to know what’s going on – click over here.

Finding and retrieving books with Swarmanoid robots


Swarms of small, intercommunicating robots are now being eyed up for all sorts of potential uses, including the creation of communications networks for disaster relief, mapping out hazardous environments, or even perhaps helping with the colonization of Mars.

Since 2007, a group of European research groups have been collaborating on the now-completed Swarmanoid project, in which a variety of purpose-specific mini robots where programmed to cooperate in order to accomplish a task.

Although the bots have been perfecting their book-stealing routine since 2009, a video depicting the task won the Best Video award at last week’s 2011 Artificial Intelligence Conference in San Francisco, and was many peoples’ introduction to Swarmanoid.

Stunning, funny, delightful film, delightful topic.

Mystery eye problem at dairy show caused by cows

Well, not so much the cows as their pee.

The cause of a mystery eye ailment that struck about 50 visitors to a dairy pavilion at an agricultural show in Australia has been traced — to cow urine.

The Royal Adelaide Show had to close its dairy cattle pavilion after an rising number of people reported sore eyes when visiting the judging marquee.

Officials from the South Australia (SA) Health Department were called in to investigate and found the cause of the outbreak was stagnant cow urine.

Show spokeswoman Michelle Hocking told local reporters that a recent spell of wet weather may have created conditions within the pavilion where ammonia from cow urine was released…

Maybe feeding them oregano would cure that problem, as well?

Hubble has a new camera courtesy of NASA and a couple of astronauts

The Hubble Space Telescope has new eyes and a new nervous system. It took all of the astronaut Andrew J. Feustel’s experience as a mechanic and an old Jaguar restorer, however, to accomplish the eyeball part.

The first task on a five-day set of repair and maintenance spacewalks from the space shuttle Atlantis was to install a new camera, the Wide-Field Camera 3, on the Hubble. But to get it in, astronauts first had to remove the old camera by unscrewing a seven-foot bolt known as the “A” latch, which was last moved in 1993 when astronauts on the first Hubble servicing mission installed the camera.

At first, the latch did not want to move. For about an hour, Dr. Feustel, working on the end of the robot arm, tried a variety of computer-controlled wrenches and settings, while John M. Grunsfeld, mission specialist, floated about fetching tools.

Finally, mission controllers gave Dr. Feustel permission to apply as much muscle as he wanted, even if the balky bolt broke. If that happened, the old camera, which has performed flawlessly for almost 16 years, would have to stay in the telescope and the new $126 million camera would have to go home — not a great start to the servicing mission.

But the bolt finally budged and then turned freely. “Woo hoo, it’s moving out,” Dr. Feustel said.

“That’s been there for 16 years,” Dr. Grunsfeld said.

Dr. Feustel replied, “And it didn’t want to come out.”

An hour later, as the Atlantis was sailing over the southwest Pacific, Dr. Feustel was sliding the new camera into the telescope and latching it down. Controllers from the ground reported that the camera had passed electrical tests and was “alive.”

Good news for science, good news for expanding our knowledge of the universe.

Seeing further back towards the beginning of the current incarnation of the known universe is likely to provoke as many questions as answers – but, that’s what sound science very often accomplishes. Then, we move forward from there.

Good scientists don’t worry about everything being “known” at some point in time. They just understand that everything is knowable.