Microsoft wanted Nintendo

Way back, when rumors started circulating that Microsoft was getting into the console business, there were also rumors that the big MS wanted to break in via acquiring Nintendo. Years later, the truthiness of that statement comes out (yes, I said truthiness – I like the word and know it’s not a real word).

Now it can be told. Before the bloody next-gen console war began between the Xbox 360 and Wii, Microsoft actually wanted to bag Nintendo! According to what is now part of corporate history, MS didn’t want to build a game console from scratch. Instead, the company wanted to purchase a company already in the business of making game consoles. And Nintendo was just shiny enough to catch MS attention.

“I wanted to acquire Nintendo,” recalls Rick Thompson, former vice-president of MS hardware business. However, Xbox overlord James Allard decide to do the whole project in-house. We don’t know how much MS wanted to pay for Nintendo back then, but should they re-consider buying the maker of the outrageously successful DS, it will burn a hole in their pockets the size of US$ 6.378 billion. That’s how much Nintendo will be worth a few months from now.

Honestly, I’m glad MS didn’t purchase Nintendo. I’m fairly confident that with MS in charge, Nintendo would have worked on the “escalating performance metric” console style, rather than the “just make gaming more fun for more people” console style. We’d now have PS3 vs. XBox360 that way. The way things are now, we have those 2 vs. Wii (which to let you all know, I would like to receive as a Christmas gift, so start saving – you only have a few weeks to buy and ship it to me).

[tags]Microsoft wanted Nintendo, Console wars could have been two-way instead of three-way[/tags]

The science of magic

In attempting to better understand how the mind works, scientists are looking to a group of people which has spent centuries figuring out how to trick us. Recording magicians performing tricks, the scientists study how viewers are fooled based on how the magician performs the trick.

“Magicians really have this ability to distort your perceptions, to get people to perceive things that never happened, just like a visual illusion,” he added.

The researchers looked into a magic trick called the “vanishing ball,” in which a ball apparently disappears in midair. It’s done by faking a throw while keeping the ball secretly palmed in the magician’s hand.

Kuhn videotaped himself performing two versions of the illusion. In the “pro-illusion” version, on the fake throw, his gaze and head followed an imaginary ball moving upwards. In the “anti-illusion” version, Kuhn’s eyes stayed on the hand concealing the ball .

Viewers of the pro-illusion version where about twice as likely to believe they saw the ball fly off the top of the screen.

Kuhn and his colleagues measured the eye movements of volunteers during the experiment. Surprisingly, they found that when people believed they saw the ball vanish, most claimed they spent their entire time looking at the ball, yet most actually glanced at the magician’s face prior to following the ball to help them perceive the ball’s location.

. . .

In the future, the researchers plan to investigate how other magic tricks fool the brain. Kuhn and his colleagues will report their findings in the Nov. 21 issue of the journal Current Biology.

[tags]Studying magicians to understand the mind, The science of magic[/tags]

Ig nobels – 2006 winners

I missed this when it happened, but was reminded about these recently so decided I needed to point everyone to the latest winners of the Ig Nobel awards. This year’s awards ceremony took place on October 5th at Harvard University, with the follow-up lectures on the 7th.

Since I’m sure some of my guests might wonder if this is the kind of story they would want to read through, I guess I’d better put up a few winners to give you a sample of who wins these awards.

Honestly, I’d love to get a subscription to Annals of Improbable Research, the publication from Improbable Research – the folks responsible for the Ig Nobels. They publish some of the most interesting stuff.

[tags]Ig Nobel awards, Since that makes you laugh and then think[/tags]

I think my wife funded this research

Sometimes, you hear research results that you just know will get used against you some day.

Women can be allergic to sex with men, but doctors are finding women can overcome this allergy through regular sex combined with treatments derived from semen.

“It’s really a very rare condition, but it does happen,” allergist and immunologist David Resnick at New York Presbyterian Hospital told LiveScience.

I’ve often tried to convince my wife of the benefit of treatments derived from semen – I’ve heard it’s good for the skin and throat. She doesn’t seem to accept my hypothsis as valid.

One study from the University of Cincinnati of 1,073 women who sought information on semen allergy concerning their symptoms found 130 had the allergy. In some women, the reaction occurs only with one partner while others are allergic to all partners.

How do I get in the study to help the researchers find which of these women is allergic to only one partner and which is allergic to all?

[tags]Women allergic to sex, Studies seemingly made to disenfranchise men[/tags]

Taking tests improves memory

Students, don’t cringe, but new research suggests that the very act of taking a test is enough to enhance long-term memory. Furthermore, testing helps students remember not only what they studied for the test, but also related, non-tested concepts.

There you have it. Having memory problems? Start taking tests. Or something like that.

[tags]Taking tests improves memory[/tags]