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This Week in Research: Reversing Time; The Outsider Advantage

1 Written by: | Friday, Dec 14, 2012 11:32am

I’ve got two words for you:  time reversal. From what I can tell, it’s like a combination of time travel and wizardry, and it’s something that University of Maryland scientists are working on as we speak.

UMD physicists are playing around with this new technology, which involves reversing a waveform’s direction in space and time. It’s less like leaping back in time and more like playing a record in reverse, explains physicist Matthew Frazier. Or, in other words, it’s like beaming something (power, sound, or images) back to a source without knowing that source’s exact location. Potential applications range from the mundane-but-useful (a cell phone charger that could work remotely) to the spy-movie-inspired (a security field that could disable all electronics in a certain area) to the genuinely life-saving (a device that could destroy tumors in the human body, without even knowing where the tumors are). This is the sort of thing that makes us excited about the future. (Read the full paper here.)

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There may be an upside to bullying after all:  researchers at Johns Hopkins are exploring whether social rejection may have an unintended upside — increased creativity.

The stereotypes of the bullied genius/misunderstood artist/billionaire who was teased in high school are familiar, but what Sharon Kim, a professor at the university’s Carey Business School, wanted to explore was whether the creativity led to the bullying, or the other way around. Kim and her fellow researchers gave undergraduates a series of tests that measured both their perceived place in the social hierarchy and their ability to come up with creative solutions to a problem. Some of the students were subjected to a rejection experience beforehand, while others were not.

Ultimately, writes Bret McCabe in the Johns Hopkins Magazine, “independently minded participants performed more creatively than their counterparts who had been included in the group.” In other words, it’s not just that unconventional people are ostracized — but also that people who experience social rejection may become increasingly creative as a result.

“I think the hero in this story is independence,” Kim told the magazine. “That is something that people don’t talk about often, the benefits of being different. I think as a society we’re more tolerant in many ways, but I still feel that there’s a strong pressure to conform. And I think that identifying the ways in which being independent can foster creativity is important.”

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