Pepsi & Me

Sometimes Pepsi lurks where you least suspect it.

Certainly, one can expect a modicum of Pepsi to find its way into convenience store coolers and the bellies of vending robots. To be sure, it is no surprise to have it offered as an apologetic substitution after having ordered Coca-Cola in a restaurant. Pepsi’s blue banners can be seen ballyhooing their sponsorship of everything from cricket matches to university dining halls.

But in my life I have also seen Pepsi positioned as pay, as payola, and even as a possible font of propaganda and dubious dietary science in its latest attempt to reach the new generation — this time by hijacking a trusted corner of the blogging world.

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On Highest Authority from Soviet Russia: Sundman Novels “not shit Dan Brown”

So, checking my Wetmachine referer logs this morning, I found that this livejournal entry has already sent me 54 visitors. Since the page is what appeared to be (and in fact is) Russian, I turned to Google Translate, which provided this wonderful text:

A good example for the present writer can become a success John Sandmena.

This is a modern writer, he wrote great novels of an action and distributes them for free. About how this is done you can ask from him, look at the website or call in at

In place of, say, Lukyanenko, I have started to click links Sandmen requested for the next novel 5 000 dollars. Who? Yes to all. “Kick” it just for this purpose and is intended to collect money from the crowds of internet users in all sorts of interesting initiatives.

John had something to show his readers:

novels “Acts of the Apostles” and “Developing Obama”[Ed: ????] is not shit Dan Brown. “If Brown was Sandmenom, according to Jeffrey Zeldman,” he would have realized that this thriller is far from absurd, flat and one-dimensional. “

Credit confidence Sandmenu from the Internet community for the next novel, ”Science works” expressed in the amount of U.S. $ 8 059. Slightly more than requested by the author. And how much money you need to write this novel?

Note — my final Kickstarter tally was not quite as great as the amount pledged — about $900 did not clear when presented to credit cards; plus, and clearing house each take cuts (including on that $900, by the way). But still, not half bad. Or as we say in Russian, according to Google Translate, недурно.

Tinfoil hats — who you calling “fringe”?

MIT puts science to good use:

Among a fringe community of paranoids, aluminum helmets serve as the protective measure of choice against invasive radio signals. We investigate the efficacy of three aluminum helmet designs on a sample group of four individuals. Using a $250,000 network analyser, we find that although on average all helmets attenuate invasive radio frequencies in either directions (either emanating from an outside source, or emanating from the cranium of the subject), certain frequencies are in fact greatly amplified. These amplified frequencies coincide with radio bands reserved for government use according to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). Statistical evidence suggests the use of helmets may in fact enhance the government’s invasive abilities. We speculate that the government may in fact have started the helmet craze for this reason.

By the way, this is why I have a problem with scientists: always pointing out problems, never solutions. Nevertheless, it’s important to keep asking. Here is the proper form of address when formulating a question for scientists.

Slow News Day

Wetmachine is a bit sclerotic of late (content wise). Maybe it just needs an emitic or whatchacallit, an enema. Or a little more science. In any event, here’s a link to some earlier work I did towards A General Theory of Everything.

Sample quote:

My theory will not account for the chemical or atomic or subatomic: that’s covered elsewhere (See: scientists). Nor will I deal with cosmic stuff, for that’s too big to be of concern to us. Astrophysicists are on some kind of trip, we’ll agree on that, but what it has to do with you and me and the price of dough nuts is a closed question. So that leaves us with the human scale, that where we live, us’ns, and that’s what my theory shall reconcile, just like Milton, only updated.

Maybe that will be enough to scare some of the other wetmachiners in to action. After all, there’s more where that came from.

Nature's take on Bush V. Kerry

By Nature, of course, I mean the the magazine. In a (mostly) free area the position of the candidates on various scientific issues is discussed, from stem cells to climate change to nuclear waste and weapons. Also, they rehearse the Bush administration’s apparent manipulation of science for its own ends.

Those needing additional grist for the mill can find it in the specials – us election page.

Where regret lives

The role of the frontal lobes in the regulation of emotion-motivated behavior has long been known. Lobotomies are designed to cut off the forebrain, and the behavior change is dramatic (see One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). A recent study published in the latest issue of Science used a gambling scenario to compare the behavior of normal people vs. those who had lesions in the orbitofrontal cortex.

Regret is an emotion related to “what if” – missed opportunities, mistakes. It is primarily associated with past events over which we had some level of control. The study compared “normal” people vs. those with lesions in the pre-frontal cortex in a gambling scenario. In one case, the subjects could choose the wager, and in the other, they could not. If normal subjects “lost” in a random gambling situation where they had no control, they felt no regret (nor much elation when they “won”). Where they had control, they reported experiencing negative and positive emotions associated with losing and winning, and changed their behavior to successfully promote winning.

People with lesions in the orbitofrontal cortex felt no different winning or losing in either scenario. They did not change their behavior, but placed the bets they could control without learning from past losses. They continued to lose. They had no sense of regret.

If wonder why some people never learn from their mistakes, there may be a wiring issue.

Camille et al., The Involvement of the Orbitofrontal Cortex in the Experience of Regret, Science 2004 304: 1167-1170

Here’s the abstract.

Two Wetmachine Con Artists

Your wetmachine host (that would be moi, John Sundman) and prolific wetmachiner and legal good-guy Harold Feld will be panelists at the Science/Speculative Fiction convention (“con” )

Arisia , to be held in Boston this weekend.

(It was at last year’s Arisia that Harold & I met, and I was so impressed with his general smartosity that I invited him to blog here. Lord only knows why he accepted the offer.)

If you’ve never been to an SF con (as I had not been before 2000), let me warn you that, in full conformity to stereoptype, cons are populated by weirdos. However, con-goers, who sometimes call themselves Fen, are some damn smart and well-read and thoughtful and articulate weirdos. And actually, come to think of it, now that I’ve been to about a dozen cons and have been on more than a dozen panels myself, I guess I’m one of the Fen too. Damn, how did that happen?

word for the day: neuroeconomics

I first heard the term neuroeconomics in a review of Decisions, Uncertainty, and the Brain: The Science of Neuroeconomics by Paul W. Glimcher in the journal Acumen . (Another review can be found at My interest piqued by this new (to me) turn of phrase, a-Googling I did go, and turned up, a blog run by Kevin McCabe, who runs the Behavioral and Neuroeconomics laboratory at George Mason University.

Like the pure psychoanalysts who shuddered to find their theories applied to advertising, I find myself discomfited at seeing my own interest in how the brain works specifically applied to matters of money.