Are All of Your Photo Memories Actually Making You Forget?
We’ve all done it; we’ve all taken a zillion pictures on that beach vacation or at a wedding. And why not? It’s easier than ever with a camera burning a hole in our pockets at all times. Not to mention, it’s not just easier to take the well-timed photo, it’s easier than ever to share our Instagrammed lives. But is all that memory-making actually making you forget? A new study in the journal Psychological Science says it's quite possible.
The study, which set out to find out how taking photographs impacts our memory, used undergraduate students as subjects. The students were led on a tour around a museum and instructed to photograph certain objects and simply observe others. The following day their memory of what they'd seen, and clicked, was tested. The result was what the study’s author, Linda Henkel of Fairfield University, describes as the “photo-taking-impairment effect.”
If participants took a photo of each object as a whole, they remembered fewer objects and remembered fewer details about the objects and the objects’ locations in the museum than if they instead only observed the objects and did not photograph them.
Henkel found that there were exceptions to the click-and-forget phenomenon—when you zoom in, rather than taking your standard wide-angle shot.
…when participants zoomed in to photograph a specific part of the object, their subsequent recognition and detail memory was not impaired, and, in fact, memory for features that were not zoomed in on was just as strong as memory for features that were zoomed in on.
Former San Diego Mayor Avoids Jail Time, Sentenced to Home Confinement
Former San Diego mayor, Bob Filner, managed to avoid jail time, instead receiving three months of home confinement during a sentencing hearing on Monday. Filner, who also received three years probation, pleaded guilty to a felony charge of false imprisonment and two misdemeanor battery charges in October all the result of inappropriate sexual conduct with a series of women while in office. “In the felony case, Filner grabbed a woman in a headlock,” reports the Los Angeles Times. “In the misdemeanor cases, Filner kissed one woman and grabbed another on the buttocks.” Filner will be tracked by a GPS monitor during his home confinement.
Filner, who appeared in court on Monday, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, “appeared rested and in good spirits at the hearing spoke briefly to the judge and apologized.”
"I want to apologize to my family who have stood by me through this ordeal, to my loyal staff and supporters, to the citizens of San Diego and, most sincerely, to the women who I have hurt and offended," he said. "To all of you I make the same promise that I made to my family, to earn back your trust and my integrity no matter how long it takes and what I have to do."
Accusations against the 10-term congressman first became public in July, but Filner remained defiant and refused to leave office. The accusations continued to mount, however, and six weeks later, facing increasing pressure to leave office, Filner resigned. In October, Filner reached a plea deal with prosecutors that barred him from running for office, mandated he seek mental health treatment, and forfeit a portion of his government pension.
Huge Stores of Fresh Groundwater Discovered Beneath Ocean Floor
Scientists have discovered vast reserves of freshwater underneath the ocean floor, according to a new study. The discovery, published in the journal Nature last week, is part of “mounting evidence for the global occurrence of offshore fresh and brackish groundwater reserves.” Once thought to be a rare occurrence, the study estimates that half a million cubic kilometers of low salinity water sits below the seabed off the coasts of Australia, China, North America and South Africa and could provide a new source of drinking water, which is becoming increasingly scarce, according to Science Daily.
"The volume of this water resource is a hundred times greater than the amount we've extracted from the Earth's sub-surface in the past century since 1900," Vincent Post, the study’s lead author told Science Daily. "Knowing about these reserves is great news because this volume of water could sustain some regions for decades."
Lawyer: Zimmerman's Girlfriend Wants Charges Dropped, to "Be With George"
The latest twist in the ongoing legal saga of George Zimmerman, via ABC News, which appears to have landed the scoop directly from Zimmerman's legal team:
Zimmerman's girlfriend who called Florida police [last month] to say he was breaking her stuff and was brandishing a weapon no longer wants to press charges against him and instead wants to get back together with him. Zimmerman ... is asking to have conditions of his bail modified so he can resume contact with Samantha Scheibe.
According to court documents filed by Zimmerman's attorney Jayne Weintraub, Scheibe, 27, gave a sworn statement in which she wrote, "I do not want George Zimmerman charged." Scheibe's new affidavit taken Dec. 6 stated, "When I was being questioned by police I felt very intimidated...I believe that the police misinterpreted me and that I may have misspoken about certain facts in my statement to police."
Scheibe wrote that Zimmerman "never pointed a gun at or toward my face in a threatening manner" and that "I want to be with George." Weintraub claims that Scheibe reached out to her and asked that the order barring contact between herself and Zimmerman be lifted.
Zimmerman is charged with third-degree felony aggravated assault, which carries with it up to 5 years in prison if convicted, and a pair of misdemeanors. According to police, Scheibe originally claimed that Zimmerman pointed a shotgun at her face during the domestic dispute, and also broke a table, pushed her out of the home and then barricaded the door with furniture. (Prosecutors also say that Scheibe later told them that he tried to choke her about a week before the incident.) Zimmerman has denied that's how things played out, and used his own 911 call on the day of the dispute to tell a police dispatcher that his girlfriend went "crazy on [him]."
ABC News appears to be the only outlet to have seen the affidavit, so for now we have to go only on their report on it. But it's worth pointing out that it appears as though Scheibe is suggesting only that Zimmerman didn't point the gun at her "in a threatening manner," not that he didn't brandish a firearm at all. (Although, clearly, what constitutes a "threatening manner" is up for debate, particularly when we're talking about a gun.)
Last month Judge Frederic Schott granted Zimmerman bail and ordered him to stay clear of Scheibe and her home, and not possess guns or ammunition while he awaits trial. His next hearing is currently set for January.
Slatest PM: Ancient Martian Lake Raises (Small) Hopes of Life
An Ancient Martian Lake: Washington Post: "NASA’s steady reconnaissance of Mars with the Curiosity rover has produced another major discovery: evidence of an ancient lake with water that could plausibly be described as drinkable, and which was part of a long-standing, wet environment that could have supported simple forms of life. Scientists have known that the young Mars was more Earthlike than the desert planet we see today, but this is the best evidence yet that Mars had swimming holes that stuck around for thousands or perhaps millions of years. ... Scientists had announced this year that they’d found signs of an ancient, fresh-water lake within Gale Crater, but the new reports provide a much more detailed analysis, including the first scientific measurements of the age of rocks on another planet."
Where There's Water...: New York Times: "Whether any life ever appeared on Mars is not yet known, and Curiosity was not designed to answer that question. But the data coming back from the planet indicate that the possibility of life, at least in the ancient past, is at least plausible. John P. Grotzinger, a professor of geology at the California Institute of Technology who is the project scientist for the Curiosity mission, said that if certain microbes like those on present-day Earth had plopped into that ancient Martian lake, they would most likely have found a pleasant place to call home. ... But that location would have been an extremely challenging environment for life to take hold — very salty and highly acidic. Later, the scientists said the soils had been soaked not so much by water as by sulfuric acid. ... What has not been found yet is solid evidence for the carbon molecules known as organics that could serve as the building blocks of life. Such molecules are not always preserved in stone and are destroyed by radiation."
The Strongest Evidence Behind the Dubious Claim That the World Cup Draw Was Rigged
This being the Internet and this being the world's most popular sport, it didn't take long after Friday's World Cup draw for people to begin espousing conspiracy theories making the somewhat dubious case that the eight groups in the once-every-four-years global soccer tournament were never actually left up to chance as FIFA contends.
Nothing necessarily new here, of course. Conspiracy theories surrounding sports draws and lotteries are about as common as UFO sightings—and with so much of the world watching this particular one, it was only a matter of time before someone on the Internet cried foul.
But perhaps what's most interesting about the evidence being offered by such FIFA truthers is that journalists, try as they might, haven't been able to completely debunk the X-Files-themed evidence being offered as proof. At least not yet.
Vladimir Putin Just Replaced Russia's Best State-Run News Outlet With a State-Run PR Firm
Of all the state-owned media outlets in Russia, RIA Novosti stood largely alone in its willingness to challenge the Kremlin. I use the past-tense there because, as of today, the well-known and relatively well-respected news wire is no longer. In a surprise move even by Russian standards, Vladimir Putin announced this morning that the government is shuttering RIA Novosti and replacing it with a new state-run outlet that will serve largely as a PR firm for the government—or, in Putin's own words, "to highlight abroad the state policy and public life of the Russian Federation."
Healthcare.gov Joins New Coke, BP Spill as Case Studies in PR Mismanagement
Politico's Hadas Gold has an interesting-if-insidery look this morning at healthcare.gov's troubled rollout as a PR case study in how not to manage a crisis:
Far from the world of government and politics, the botched launch of Healthcare.gov has become an instant classic. It has replaced such notorious bungles as New Coke and the BP oil spill as a real time example in the crisis management world of how not to respond when everything goes wrong. Experts are eagerly cashing in on the administration’s missteps, offering critiques in private interactions with clients, as well as publishing blog posts and op-eds on the basic rules of crisis management that were not followed.
“I have to believe there are lots of people in our business who are looking at this and saying, ‘Gee, these are the five things they did wrong. Here are the things I would’ve done differently,’ ” Marlin Collingwood, the president of CHT, told POLITICO. “This will be taught in a lot of business and marketing courses, and probably just as importantly in a lot of technology courses on how do you launch a new product. You certainly don’t do it like this.”
The near consensus of those PR pros the paper spoke to was that the White House's cardinal crisis-management sin was failing to more quickly own up to the fact that there were very real problems with the site, instead largely brushing them off as "glitches." Other missteps included: setting expectations too high, not touting success stories enough, and failing to have a single, effective spokesperson for Obamacare and the website.
You can check out the full story here. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that the article—like the majority of the current Obamacare-focused debate and coverage since the Oct. 1 rollout—is about the failures of healthcare.gov, the website, not the law itself.
Ukraine Protesters Topple Lenin Statue in Kiev
Hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered in Kiev Sunday for what was the largest protest in the country since the 2004 Orange Revolution. Some 500,000 people, according to the Associated Press estimates, flooded the streets to angrily demand that President Viktor Yanukovich go back on his plans to forge close ties with Russia while turning away from Europe. The crowds pulled down a statue of Vladimir Lenin in Kiev, decapitating it and hitting it with hammers in what Reuters calls “a symbolic rejection of Moscow’s power.” Protesters allegedly took turns hitting the statue while those around them chanted, “Glory to Ukraine!” Numerous Lenin statues have been removed from Kiev in previous years, notes CNN.
The protesters crowded into Independence Square on Sunday with the rallying cry, “Ukraine is Europe!” Opposition leaders called on Yanukovich to resign and said they gave him 48 hours to get rid of his prime minister or otherwise they would march on his residence outside Kiev and shut him inside, reports the Guardian. The demonstrations began last month but the protests keep growing in a sign of “just how deeply roiled this nation of 46 million people has become in the weeks since Mr. Yanukovich said he would not complete political and free-trade agreements with the European Union that he had been promising to sign for more than a year,” reports the New York Times. It is unclear how the government will respond. So far its apparent strategy of hoping things die down on their own seems to have failed, but a crackdown by security forces could galvanize protesters. Still the opposition is hardly united and there appears to be little agreement among leaders on what they should do next.
CIA Spy Program Has Been a “Colossal Flop”
After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the CIA began a big push to expand its spy program. Specifically, the agency wanted to increase the number of operatives working under what’s called “non-official cover,” meaning they do not work inside an embassy but rather as undercover agents in businesses and universities. The whole effort “was a colossal flop,” a former CIA official tells the Los Angeles Times. After spending at least $3 billion on the program, the Agency has little to show for the effort that increased the number of deep undercover spies from dozens to hundreds. Only a few of the deep undercover officers have actually been successful.
The program suffered from numerous shortcomings, including bureaucratic hurdles. Although the CIA paid a lot of attention to Iran, Tehran was always good at exposing operatives. But mostly the deep-undercover agents suffered from “some of the same shortcomings as other CIA officers—too few spoke Urdu, Pashto, Dari or other necessary languages, or could disappear in local cultures,” notes the Times.