Computers Totally Get Abstract Art; Probing Einstein's Brain

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Discovered: Computers predict the emotions abstract art will provoke; new photographs of Einstein's brain reveal a master mind; kids are smoking too much hookah; old spear found. 

Computers consider abstract art. Confused by Rothko? Perplexed by Pollock? Confounded by Kandinsky? Here, let this computer tell you how to feel about abstract art. Scientists led by Nicu Sebe from the University of Trento have developed a machine that analysed 500 abstract paintings and 100 viewer responses to these images, gleaning what emotions are stirred by certain formal effects. [New Scientist]

A beautiful mind? Albert Einstein's intellect certainly dwarfed most if not all of his peers', but how much of that was attributable to the physical structure of his brain? Florida State University researcher Dean Falk and Frederick Lepore of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School took 14 newly unearthed photographs of Einstein's brain as a reason to try answering that question. When Einstein died in 1955, his son gave pathologists permission to extract his brain. Now, old photographs have come to light, allowing Falk and Lepore to conclude that while Einstein's brain was no larger than normal, it did contain extra folds not found in many contemporaries. "In each lobe, there are regions that are exceptionally complicated in their convolutions," says Falk. [Science Now]

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Smoke blown over teen hookah use. As far as moral panics over teenagers go, this one's pretty mild—but public health officials are expressing concern over the amount of hookah kids these days are smoking. Cigarettes may receive all the attention from anti-smoking activists, but this water-filtered smoking method has been tried by 18.5 percent of 12th graders. Researchers led by Daniel Morris of the Oregon Health Authority are warning that it causes much of the same diseases as cigarettes and contains many similar toxins. Morris thinks that prices for flavored hookah tobacco—shisha—should be higher, saying that would be the "single most powerful intervention to reduce youth smoking." [Los Angeles Times]

Ancient spear retrieved. With images of war constantly flickering across 24-hour news stations, it seems like the more things change, the more they stay the same. If this newly uncovered stone spear-tip from 500,000 years ago tells us anything, it's that violence is hardly a modern invention. The discovery in South Africa places the emergence of spears 200,000 years before scientists previously thought human ancestors invented them. University of Connecticut professor Sally McBrearty, who wasn't involved in the research, wants further proof of this dating, though. She skeptically comments, "I would be happy to say that this is really half-a-million years old, I just want to be sure that it is."  [The Christian Science Monitor]

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