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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Can You Get Sucked Into a Video Game?

September 12, 2016

Video Game Design Kit

If you’ve found yourself crushing candy in your dreams or felt the urge to fling a Poké Ball at a whining air conditioner, you may have fallen victim to Tetris Syndrome. After a marathon session battling it out in front of a screen, your mind begins to project a game’s strategy onto the real world, warping the way you interact with objects and people. The phenomenon was first described in a 1994 Wired article, in which the author noticed some strange side effects to his non-stop Tetris playing: “At night, geometric shapes fell in the darkness as I lay on loaned tatami floor space… During rare jaunts from the house, I visually fit cars and trees and people together.”

Old-school gamers also describe the effect: Sodoku players start to see streets as vertical or horizontal numerical puzzles, and speedcubers mentally twist their surroundings like a Rubik’s Cube. Scientists hypothesize that the way we play is linked to our procedural memory, and the sensation felt after a game bender taps into our innate desire to organize and create. And while it may just be a harmless hallucination, if you start seeing the world scroll after hours of shredding on Guitar Hero, your mind might be telling you it’s time to take a break.

Bloxels Video Game Design Kit | $49.95

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Can Artists Win Olympic Gold?

August 10, 2016

Dancer Pose Print | Yoga Art | UncommonGoods

They once could. It was the great vision of International Olympic Committee founder Pierre de Coubertin to exalt both brain and brawn in a single program. While the concept was met with apprehension at first, in 1912 his dream was realized, and through 1948 the committee awarded artists medals alongside their sporty counterparts. There was one caveat: works of art were only considered if they “glorified a sporting ideal, an athletic competition or an athlete.” Additionally, professional artists were prohibited from entering, resulting in a largely forgettable event that has receded into history. Today, the art contest of yore has evolved into as a parallel exhibition and festival held at the sites of the games, carrying on the Olympics founder’s goal to marry the aesthetic and the athletic.

Dancer Pose Print | $40-$95

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Which City Could Have Become the 51st State?

July 11, 2016

NY Token Watch | UncommonGoods

It would make sense that the novel idea of slicing off the Big Apple from the rest of the state would come from a novelist.

In the 1960s, New York City was suffering as crime rates climbed and the mighty metropolis lurched toward bankruptcy. While long-standing politicians offered few new ideas on how to wake the City That Never Sleeps from its fatal slumber, the unlikely duo of novelist Norman Mailer and columnist Jimmy Breslin seized the opportunity to shake up the status quo during the 1969 Democratic Mayoral Primary election–by running for Mayor and City Council president, respectively.

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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Can Fatherhood Rewire a Man’s Brain?

June 13, 2016

Brain Dots Tie | UncommonGoods
Fatherhood can change a man’s life; it can also change his brain. While most studies of the neurological changes that occur in early parenthood have focused on mom, scientists have recently discovered that dad experiences his own distinct mental shifts after bringing home his little bundle of joy. Some of these changes are immediate, and others occur gradually as the proud papa settles into his new role.

A study analyzed 16 fathers several weeks after their babies were born, and again a few months later. At each check, the researchers used an MRI to image the brain. Compared with the earlier scans, the MRI at three to four months postpartum showed growth in the hypothalamus, amygdala, and other regions that regulate emotion, motivation, and decision making. In men exclusively, parts of the brain that related to self-related thinking and responding to threats shrank, while the area responsible for empathy and auditory processing grew. This is your brain on baby.

Brain Dots Tie | $40

Maker Stories

Tony Holman’s Problem-Solving Pottery

June 9, 2016
Tony Holman | UncommonGoods

Tony Holman working in his Plano, TX studio, photos by NéQuana Rollings

 

“Being a full time artist is never easy, but it’s certainly worth the hard work (and gray hairs),” says Tony Holman, a potter who makes practicality and purpose look good.

Tony began honing his pottery skills almost 40 years ago at Indiana University, fine tuned them soon after at Bloomington Pottery, and now runs his own studio in Plano, Texas. It’s here where he creates his line of handcrafted helpers that play a vital part in the well-appointed kitchen.

Statues in the Holman's yard

Tony created these statues in grad school. They now stand in the Holmans’ garden

His kitchen creations—an all-in-one fondue warmer and platter setself-draining utensil caddy, and omelet maker that turns out fluffy eggs in 45 seconds flat, to name a few—are an irresistible blend of form and function.

Utensil Draining Caddy | UncommonGoods

Utensil Draining Caddy | UncommonGoods

 

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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Who Is The Animal Kingdom’s Best Dance Crew?

April 25, 2016

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Snowball the cockatoo was left at an Indiana animal rescue center with a note from his owner. “Snowball likes to dance to this,” it said, referring to what was also left: a Backstreet Boys CD.

In 2007, Neurobiologist Aniruddh Patel stumbled upon a YouTube video of the bird, who appeared to be getting down to the boy band’s “Everybody.” If this bird were actually grooving to the beat, he wondered, it might have circuits in the brain for processing rhythm similar to ours.

So Patel paid a visit to Snowball and created an experiment to determine whether he was truly dancing—characterized by synchronized movements—or just looked like he was. Patel remixed the song at 11 different tempos, then recorded what Snowball did when his jam came on. For nine out of the 11 variations, he bobbed enthusiastically in sync (no pun intended)—well enough to consider him the first-ever nonhuman “dancer.”

Inspired by Snowball’s fancy footwork, Adena Schachner, then a psychology grad student at Harvard, went back to YouTube and narrowed thousands of clips of animals purportedly dancing to just 39 who seemed to genuinely synchronize. Twenty-nine were parrots, like Snowball, and the rest were Asian elephants, deeming a recreation of Dirty Dancing’s “the lift” highly unlikely.

Boogie Monster Dance Kit | $40

Maker Stories

You’ve Got This, Baby! The Inspiration Behind Haily Meyers’ No-Fuss Memory Book

February 17, 2016

It can be a heroic challenge for parents to find the time to chronicle the most important moments of their child’s dynamic first year. During those maiden days of parenthood, time and energy are beyond maxed-out by around-the-clock feedings, diaper changes by the dozen, and learning to decode and calm a fussy baby, all on little to no sleep.

When Arizona-based designer Haily Meyers became pregnant with her first child, she was overjoyed to welcome this little life into the world, and began designing baby bump sticker sets as an expression of her happiness and excitement. And like many new moms, she purchased a baby book before her daughter was born and excitedly anticipated creating a beautiful, lasting record of her baby’s “firsts.” But once her little girl arrived on the scene, Haily found herself caught up in the exhilarating and exhausting whirlwind of motherhood. She only got halfway through before calling it quits, due to the labor-intensive process  (see what we did there?) required to complete the book.

As a result, Haily, like many moms, developed a case of what she calls “baby book guilt.” But rather that beat herself up over the bespoke baby book she dreamed of crafting but could never find the time to complete, she conceived a design-minded solution that would put an end to “baby book guilt” once and for all.

Baby's First Year Memory Book | UncommonGoods

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