midwestern curiosity

science, art, tech, education stuff. lots of music.

The Hannah Montana Hypothesis »

Fears about the cult of celebrity run amok aren’t new. Historian and social critic Christopher Lasch wrote about it in his 1979 bestseller, The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in An Age of Diminishing Expectations. Back then, a new global media— TV—was being blamed for spreading fast fame in days when only three major TV networks existed. Today with our access to thousands of TV channels, millions of YouTube videos, and 1.73 billion social media users, the debate is more heated than ever: Does easier access to fame spread narcissism like germs—especially to the young—or simply enable pre-existing narcissists to draw more attention?

What makes people contribute to Wikipedia? »


This computer simulation of a hummingbird in flight, surrounded by turbulent vortices of air.  Haoxiang Luo, a professor of mechanical engineering at Vanderbilt, built this incredibly detailed simulation based on videos of the real thing (captured by Ty Hedrick at UNC):

When most birds fly, they produce lift as their wings flap downwards, but when their wings flap back up, they do the opposite - they produce a little negative lift.  But hummingbirds tilt their wings so they produce positive lift on both upstroke and downstroke.

Luo’s research could be used to help perfect a hummingbird drone. One company in California has already given it a try. Here’s an early prototype, in slow mo, followed by a newer version with a camera attached: