The Light Side: Mad Magazine Editor Was Satirical Humor Pioneer

There’s No Taste in Cutting Restaurant Prices
Cheap 3D Printed Lens Could Help Detect Disease
How to See Without Glasses


Fans of Mad magazine, the satirical humor publication, were saddened upon the passing of Al Feldstein, its longtime editor of 28 years.

Although Mad still lives on today as a website and a printed publication of six issues a year, the magazine thrived under Feldstein from 1956 to 1984. Not only did Mad appeal to the immature, snickering kid in all of us with its juvenile humor, it also offered more sophisticated laughs by lampooning pop culture, politics, movies, TV, and celebrities. Its circulation topped 2 million during its prime in the 1970s.

According to Feldstein’s Wikipedia page, the writer, painter, and editor was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and began his career as a comic-book artist after serving in the U.S. Air Force. The gifted Feldstein took off under Bill Gaines, publisher of Entertainment Comics, or EC, whose content included serious subject matter ranging from domestic violence to drug addiction, as well as horror, crime, and suspense titles.

According to Wikipedia, when government pressures nearly shut down all of EC due to its content, Gaines converted Mad from a comic book to a magazine to avoid regulations three years after its 1952 debut. And when Mad‘s founding editor left the publication shortly thereafter, Gaines enlisted Feldstein to take over.

With Feldstein at the helm, Mad grew into a juggernaut whose brand was led by the iconic fictional character of Alfred E. Neuman, a freckle-faced, elephant-eared, and gap-toothed kid with the signature phrase, “What, me worry?” Feldstein relied on a steady stable of top-flight freelance cartoonists and writers, and the magazine churned out memorable and innovative departments, including “Spy vs. Spy” and a fold-in cartoon that transformed into a funny and oftentimes dirty image. Revenues from paid subscriptions and newsstand sales were such that Mad ran without advertising for decades.

Satirizing issues like the Cold War and later the Vietnam War, recreational drugs, the sexual revolution, the generation gap between adults and then-young Baby Boomers, as well as parodying TV shows, movies, and celebs, the self-aware Mad inspired legions of satirists and media legends that would follow. Its loyal fans ranged from movie critic Roger Ebert, to musician Patti Smith, to Bill Oakley, producer of the animated The Simpsons.

For decades, before copycat publications and the Internet came along, Mad, through its humor and subversive nature, taught generations to question everything, defy authority, and see through the phoniness of things that were happening around them.

Oakley once said, “Basically everyone who was young between 1955 and 1975 read Mad, and that’s where your sense of humor came from.” Before his death, Ebert had praised Mad, citing it as his inspiration for becoming a movie critic. “I did not read the magazine, I plundered it for clues to the universe,” Ebert noted.

Feldstein retired in 1984. He died on Tuesday at his ranch in Montana at the age of 88.

There’s No Taste in Cutting Restaurant Prices

Maybe this is why Starbucks addicts don’t mind paying higher and higher prices for their triple venti soy caramel macchiatos.

Cornell University researchers, in Ithaca, N.Y., recently collaborated with a local high-end Italian buffet restaurant in a pricing experiment by marketing the same all-you-can-eat meal at $4 and $8 to 139 test diners. They found that those who paid the higher price perceived their food and the restaurant as more enjoyable, while those who paid $4 felt less enthusiastic about their experience.

“Simply cutting the price of food at a restaurant dramatically affects how customers evaluate and appreciate the food,” said one of the researchers, Brian Wansink, a professor at Cornell’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management.

Wansink, author of the upcoming book Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life, added that this social study illustrates how a person’s interaction with his or her food can be changed in a way that doesn’t entail dieting. His work supports that of public health advocates who say eating behaviors can be guided by small psychological changes.

“The pricing very much affects how you are going to feel about your meal,” said Ozge Sigirci, a researcher at Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab, who conducted the study and presented findings at Experimental Biology 2014 in San Diego earlier this week.

More practically, the research recommends that consumers find the most expensive buffet they can afford because they will have a better experience and go to a cheaper place if they want to control their appetite.

Cheap 3D Printed Lens Could Help Detect Disease

Credit: Australian National University

Credit: Australian National University

Researchers at the Australian National University (ANU) have created an inexpensive 3D printed lens that can attach to a smartphone and detect some skin diseases.

Traditionally, lenses are manufactured by using a grinding and polishing method or through the pouring of gel materials into prefabricated molds. While these methods have been very effective, they’re also quite complex and expensive.

To bypass this costly construction, ANU researchers began exploring how clear liquids can bend light and act as a lens when stabilized. Remarkably, through their research, the ANU team developed a completely new method for manufacturing lenses that requires only an oven, a silicon polymer, and a glass slide.

In a modest tone, lead researcher Dr. Steve Lee stated, “What I did was to systematically fine-tune the curvature that’s formed by a simple droplet with the help of gravity, and without any molds.”

To be specific, Lee’s process places a droplet of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) on the face of a glass slide. Once placed, the slide is baked at 70°C until it’s hardened. After the first droplet of PDMS has been cured, another dose of PDMS is planted on top of the cured material, and the slide is flipped and baked a second time.

Using gravity and PDMS’s surface tension, a parabolic lens of several millimeters thickness is created. What’s more, the lens has a magnification power of 160x and a resolution of 4 microns — all for the bargain basement price of $2.

Given its ability to fit directly over the lens of a smartphone’s camera, the ANU lens could lead to better and more widespread diagnosis of a number of skin diseases that plague poorer parts of the planet. But even if the ANU lens doesn’t make it to full-scale, mass-manufactured production, it’s method of production is proof that precision optics don’t necessarily have to carry an enormous price tag.

How to See Without Glasses

If you wear glasses, you know they have a penchant for getting lost or stepped on, their lenses popped off, their frames bent, etc. So if you’re like me, you know that packing a pair of backup glasses is always a good idea, because you never know what may happen in the course of the day that affects the most critical of your five senses.

However, if you’re having “one of those days” and find yourself in the predicament of blurred vision and no backup glasses, the following video shows what you can do to restore some semblance of sight. The only challenge that remains afterward is explaining the funny looks you’ll get with two curled hands making pinholes in front of your eyes.

The video appears on Engineering.com‘s MinutePhysics channel.

This article and the preceding article (by Kyle Maxey) were originally published on Engineering.com and are adapted in their entirety with permission. For more stories like this please visit Engineering.com.

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