30 November 17 -

Super8: Eight intriguing articles from November.

As we hurtle towards the holidays, there’s no slowing down in November. If you’re feeling a little weary on the cusp of the silly season, then relax. In any case, I’ve got the cure, and besides, it’s perfectly natural. Just like the inspiration for this edition of Super8.

This month, I take a look at Japanese trains designed to ‘fly’ like birds; dissect online troll campaigns that ‘poke the bear’; check out the buzz associated with search algorithms mimicking fruit flies; and analyse the bullish marketing bravado of LaVar Ball. It’s all here in Super8 in November!

1. Biomimicry: How designers are learning from the natural world.

  • Read the full article here.
  • Written by Christophe Haubursin. 
  • Contributor: Vivi Chau. 

Step into the intriguing world of biomimicry, where design and nature collide. This article considers the 1989 redevelopment of Japan’s Shinkansen Bullet train, where a lead designer and keen birdwatcher used biomimicry to address noise pollution and speed.

Life has been around on Earth for 3.8 billion years and designers are starting to realize that represents a lot of research and development time.

It wasn’t a small task: the train needed to be quieter, faster, and more efficient. Inspired in equal parts by owls, penguins and kingfishers, each design element of the train is resonant with our environment—creating a piece of nature within Japan’s urban underground.

2. What Tesla’s Model 3 UI reveals about its vision for the future.

  • Read the full article here.
  • Written by Tom Johnson. 
  • Contributor: Elliott Grigg.

As we wait in anticipation for Tesla’s latest release, some of us have begun to put the pieces together. Tom Johnson provides us with an in-depth examination of how Tesla’s touchscreen UI components work in harmony.

His findings are based on sneak peeks and product hints, drawing parallels between Tesla’s vision and Apple’s initial release of the iPhone.

The insight? We may be heading for a future where touch-screen interfaces move from our pockets to our cars.

3. Our love affair with digital is over.

  • Read the full article here.
  • Written by David Sax. 
  • Contributor: Zoe Warne.

This article by David Sax explores our relationship with digital as we flit between analog and online environments. The analog world is great at encouraging human interaction, while digital is good for fostering community and transferring information.

Both have their benefits, but our world of near constant connection allows us to redefine our relationships with them. It’s not as simple as one or the other, but striking a healthy balance of both.

What we can do is to restore some sense of balance over our relationship with digital technology, and the best way to do that is with analog: the ying to digital’s yang.

4. The science of giving yourself a pep talk.

  • Read the full article here.
  • Written by Dinsa Sachan. 
  • Contributor: Sarah El-Atm. 

While we all give ourselves pep talks from time to time, there’s new research to suggest they might be more beneficial if completed in third-person. This article by Dinsa Sachan looks at two experiments where participants were asked to self-reflect following exposure to uncomfortable imagery, or while dwelling on painful memories.

One group was asked to self-talk in the first person, while the other referenced themselves in third-person. Pep talks completed in third-person were measured as being more effective in both scenarios. So the next time you’re psyching yourself up, consider this technique.

5. What reality TV teaches us about Russia’s influence campaign.

  • Read the full article here.
  • Written by Farhad Manjoo.  
  • Contributor: Aziza Mohamed.

Is it the trolls’ world, or is it ours? This piece looks at parallels between reality TV and a Russian troll campaign. The campaign started with a phony Facebook page urging 254,000 followers to protest the opening of a new Mosque in Houston.

In response, United Muslims of America planned a counter-protest for the same time and place. What appear to be real people sharing real reactions to an event, are in fact opposing protests planned and promoted by Russian trolls.

It’s a matter of poking the bear and watching things unfold; in the same way that drama sparks interest on reality TV, there’s a ravenous appetite for conflict in news feeds.

6. Is the loudest man in sports a marketing genius?

  • Read the full article here.
  • Written by Martin Gardt.  
  • Contributor: David Baddock.  

Is LaVar Ball, father of recent NBA #2 draft pick, Lonzo Ball, a complete buffoon or a marketing genius? While he never made it big in amateur or pro basketball, LaVar has become one of the most well-known figures in US sports.

His PR strategy is as subtle as a brick. Either he compares his boys to the best to ever play the game, or he starts beef with the NBA’s bonafides.

He is the epitome of confidence and despite his unfounded bravado, he’s managed to grow the (until recently non-existent) Big Baller Brand to achieve an annual profit of $450,000 USD. Here’s how he bet on his own brand, and won.

7. Hackers say they’ve cracked iPhone X’s Face ID.

  • Read the full article here.
  • Written by Andy Greenberg.  
  • Contributor: Melanie Bruning.

Apple’s iPhone X has made it possible for us to unlock our phones using only our faces. While the tech is backed by a claim that we’re one in a million, Vietnamese hackers have unlocked the iPhone X using a custom-built mask.

Made from plastics, 3D-printed material and silicone, it’s not the most efficient way to gain access, but it does bring security concerns to the surface. What do we risk by using Apple’s Face ID, and how do we protect our privacy?

8. Scientists build better search engine by mimicking a fruit fly’s brain.

  • Read the full article here.
  • Written by Torah Kachur.
  • Contributor: Isabel Silvis.

Improving the efficiency of search results is no small feat. It’s why companies like Google invest millions into their custom algorithms. We delved into biomimicry earlier in the piece; here’s another scenario where nature knows best.

It’s just a matter of time before computer science can begin to mimic the power of the biological computer—the brain.

This article takes a look at how fruit flies could influence the development of future search engines. If search algorithms can mimic the fly’s way of searching through data, research suggests the results would be more accurate using the same amount of power. Scientists and techies alike are abuzz at the development; find out why, and how it works.