Light Friday: What Your Boss’s Signature Reveals

Designing a Four Year-Old’s Dream Car
Capturing the Invisible on Video
Finding Love as Tough as Finding Alien Life

Legend has it that John Hancock signed the Declaration of Independence in extra large script so that the notoriously poor-sighted King George could read it unaided. But a new study suggests that Hancock, and other leaders with extra-large signatures, may simply have outsized egos.

A study conducted at the University of North Carolina analyzed CEO signatures, comparing the size of letters and lengths of names and titles to determine what an executive’s signature says about his opinion of himself, and the usefulness of that signature as a business predictor.

The study found that the larger the signature, the more narcissistic the signer. This narcissism can lead to poor business decisions, yet narcissists statistically earn more than others. The scientific quality of these methods is, as you might imagine, a bit questionable.

“This type of assessment is a pseudoscience, often referred to as graphology or graphoanalysis, which may be enjoyable entertainment at the county fair or at parties but has as much meaning as astrology or tealeaf reading according to many people in my field,” forensic document examiner John Paul Osborn told Inc.

However, for a bit of fun, Fast Company prepared an infographic comparing some top CEOs’ signatures, and aspects of the study held true.

Credit: Fast Company

Credit: Fast Company

Designing a Four Year-Old’s Dream Car

Every car lover was once a kid who dreamed of the perfect vehicle—one that was fast, flashy, and offered the kind of extraordinary features that can’t be found in the real world. Most grow up and forget about their fantasy cars, but what if designers took these ideas seriously?

When four year-old Eli submitted his concept for a dream car to the Jalopnik car blog, readers responded with detailed renderings of what the vehicle might look like. Eli’s vision was of a BMW with 42 wheels (with 42-wheel drive, of course), 19 Porsche engines generating 459 horsepower, three seats, and three steering wheels so that every passenger can drive the car at the same time.

Even the marketing team at BMW USA took notice, providing an elaborate mock-up of the “4219ELi,” complete with a special trunk for toys, a custom vanity plate, and striping:

Credit: BMW USA

Credit: BMW USA

Capturing the Invisible on Video

Researchers have found a way to capture and show a human pulse on video, using a new method that emphasizes subtle changes invisible to the naked eye.

A team at MIT has developed an algorithm that detects subtle changes in motion and amplifies them. Using a method that combines spatial and temporal processing, the researchers demonstrate how a person’s face reddens as his heart pumps blood. The method also tracks subtle changes in motion and can amplify the seemingly invisible, such as vibrating guitar strings or lung inflation.

“We started from amplifying color, and we noticed that we’d get this nice effect, that motion is also amplified,” Michael Rubinstein, a graduate student on the team, explained. “So we went back, figured out exactly why that happens, studied it well, and saw how we can incorporate that to do better motion amplification.”

The algorithm is intended for remote medical diagnostics and monitoring hospital patients’ vital signs, though this would not be the first hands-free heart monitoring system. In 2011, a team at MIT developed a “medical mirror” that tracks and calculates a person’s heart rate through light pattern reflections. According to Wired, structural engineers could also find the method handy by tracking how wind makes buildings sway.

Check out the algorithm in action:

Finding Love as Tough as Finding Alien Life

If you celebrated Valentine’s Day with that special someone in your life, you probably feel lucky to have found such a wonderful person among the multitudes. But just how lucky are you? Mathematically speaking, the search for a perfect mate has a surprising amount in common with the quest to discover alien life in the universe.

With more than 100 billion stars in the Milky Way alone, each one of which is thought to have at least one planet in its orbit, the odds of there being intelligent life capable of communicating with Earth are higher than most would expect. Yet why haven’t we heard from them yet? Likewise, with 7 billion people on the planet, each of them looking for love at one point in their lives, why can it seem so hard to connect with someone?

In a recent episode of PBS Digital Studios’ It’s Okay to Be Smart, scientist and host Joe Hanson compares the likelihood of discovering intelligent extraterrestrials with the odds of finding love. No word yet on the chances of falling in love with an alien.

Have a great weekend, folks.



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