Friday, August 29, 2008

Reptilian Marketing

"My theory is very simple: The reptilian always wins."

A most fascinating interview about cultural imprint and its role in marketing. Clotaire Rapaille, whose resume includes some illustrious names in the corporate world, talks about how marketers have to give products a certain je ne sais quoi and not just price or quality advantages in order to get loyalty. He has this concept of a "code" in which each culture is based, and with which people from that culture have been subconsciously imprinted. Cracking the code is challenging, but doing so gives marketers access to the sub-cortical "reptilian" brain, which handles raw emotion, childhood comfort, and primal drives, and to which they can directly appeal.

Bell Labs Closes Fundamental Physics Research Wing

After six Nobel Prizes, the invention of the transistor, laser and countless contributions to computer science and technology, it is the end of the road for Bell Labs' fundamental physics research lab.

Alcatel-Lucent, the parent company of Bell Labs, is pulling out of basic science, material physics and semiconductor research and will instead be focusing on more immediately marketable areas such as networking, high-speed electronics, wireless, nanotechnology and software.


Without internally funded basic research, fundamental research has instead come to rely on academic and government-funded laboratories to do kind of long-term projects without immediate and obvious payback that Bell Labs used to historically do, says Lubell.


Increasingly, long-term research is being carried out in universities and national laboratories with federal grants, says Lubell.

For Bell Labs, yet another chapter in its storied history of comes to a close taking the once iconic institution closer to being just another research arm of a major corporation.


Sad that a great scientific institution with such a glorious history has to get flushed. But I suppose you can't rest on laurels in a competitive world. Trouble is, much truly fundamental reearch is done in organizations that have some kind of monopolistic backing and are not under pressure to produce economically viable results for parading before stockholders. That means either the government, a private foundation or some market-dominating corporate entity. And this kind of research gives birth and impetus to technologies that are in fact economically viable and are later expoited by commercial interests that would not dare fund the insitutions that produced them in the first place.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Reading Her Lips

China's propaganda ministry moved in Tuesday, deleting many online discussion entries and blocking access to video links showing Miaoke's lip-syncing.

The Beijing organizers weren't the first to use lip-syncing for an Olympic performance. The late Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti, in great pain from pancreatic cancer, did so at the Turin Winter Games in 2006, although the voice that was heard was his own.

But China has suffered a string of recent scandals involving fake news stories, bogus photos of a rare South China tiger and a sham TV report that vendors filled dumplings with cardboard. Social experts bemoan the lack of morality or trust among government agencies, companies and individuals.

Kang Xiaoguang, a social science researcher with the Chinese Academy of Science, welcomed the online debate over the government's big show, saying it was a sign the society is maturing. But he added that the singing and fireworks misrepresentations are disconcerting.


It is quite unpleasant, I am sure, to be put in the background because of one's looks or physique. I think part of the furore is also a cultural disconnect between East and West. American actors, for example, are expected to sing their own lines in musicals, whereas in India, for example, plain-looking playback singers belting out songs for younger and more flexible actors on screen and on stage has been the way it's been for practically the entire history of Indian cinema.

She is already being called a little Milli Vanilli. That may be unfair as well. Perhaps they will now call lip-sync events "miaoke", as it is the opposite of, but kind of rhymes with "karaoke".

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

India's First Gold

India's absurdly high official-to-athlete ratio in Olympic delegations and pathetically low medals-per-capita (or even delegates-per-capita) count in the Olympic rankings have been the butt of ridicule for ages now. Last Olympics, even the tiny UAE managed a gold thanks to a marksman from Dubai, but India, a country of over a billion, has not captured a gold in any individual Olympic sport in the history of the Olympics, and in any sport for several decades. This is a truly historic event for India in the Olympics.

NEW DELHI — India’s Olympic curse has finally been lifted, by the chief executive of a computer game company with a history of back problems.

Abhinav Bindra, 25, became the first-ever Indian to take home an individual Olympic gold medal, beating top Chinese and Finnish competitors Monday in a nail-biting finish during the 10-meter air rifle shooting competition. Bindra, a bespectacled M.B.A. from the north Indian city of Chandigarh, had shown promise as a teenage shooter but failed to win a medal in Athens, and hopes were not high before he competed in Beijing.

Until Bindra’s win, India’s population of more than one billion seemed to be collectively shrugging at all the Olympic carryings-on generated by China, its neighboring emerging global-market superpower.


Incidentally, he beat Zhu Qinan, last Olympics' gold winner in the same game.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Short Story of Standstill: Fifteen Feet of Time
As RarZilla's Philipp Winterberg says, "a book about things that you always wanted to do but never had the time for." And it's so short you actually can read it no matter how little time you think you have. Great story. Great art.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Edible Cutlery: Colorful, Eco-friendly, Crispity-Crunchy

It was an idea that struck Narayana Peesapaty thousands of feet above the ground—on a flight, while he was being served refreshments. What got this 38-year-old scientist thinking was the plastic cutlery accompanying that hot meal. In a jiffy, the concept of edible cutlery—spoons, forks and chopsticks that you don’t need to throw away after use, and are healthy and nutritive enough to eat—was born. And, even if they had to be disposed, they would degrade in less than a day. "The idea was to give an alternative to people who do not want to use plastics," says Peesapaty, a Master in Forestry Management with over 16 years of consulting and research experience behind him. That was 2004.

It took Peesapaty, a former scientist at ICRISAT in Hyderabad, another two years to give commercial shape to his idea. Peesapaty began by checking out the suitability of various cereal flours—wheat, rice and sorghum (johar)—as base for his edible cutlery. He finally zeroed in on sorghum as the base flour. Vegetable pulp—spinach, beetroot and carrot—were used to add colour and nutritive value to the cutlery. Spinach gave it a green shade, beetroot red and carrots brought out a yellow tinge.

The production line, comprising blenders, slicers, dyes and an oven, had to be designed and calibrated to ensure that the spoons retained their hardness, while not losing out on their taste and nutritive value.

Not only are they eco-friendly, they also contain sorghum and vegetable pulp, making them health-friendly and nutritious as well. Pretty neat idea, really. And a much-needed one; plastic is doing enough damage to the environment in India at present, not to mention the infrastructure. The railway people have already proposed replacing the huge numbers of plastic cups used by passengers for quick train platform chai with traditional clay cups (although they will probably have to be mass-produced). This idea has already been around in some form; ice-cream served in wafer cups, for instance. One may also see some pani-puri vendors on the streets of urban India serving their fare in bowls made of heat-pressed layered leaves (my uncle in Central India manufactures such leaf-based cutlery, and industries like these help provide employment to the forest folk too). I look forward to the day when these innovations catch on, and disposable plastic becomes a rare sight. Let us wish this entrepreneur all the best for his venture, and hope there are many more like him.