What makes a hero?

Dr Joan Harvey who led the research, says: “We found that people were making judgements on how heroic a deed is based on whether it was personal – so involving a neighbour or children, whether they could empathise with the situation and whether the person worked for the emergency services or not.

“It seems that people consider someone a hero if they go beyond the call of duty – but in the case of the emergency services, that duty never seems to stop.”

The work is published in the Journal of Risk Research today, Thurs 30th July.

The Newcastle University researchers found that people appeared to think that those who worked for the emergency services were trained to deal with difficult situations – even if they were off-duty – so therefore they were in a position to apply their knowledge before acting. Psychologists describe this as being able to cognitively appraise the situation.

In the case of 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre, Dr Harvey says: “The fire-fighters were trained to cope with fire and smoke but they weren’t trained to judge when a building might collapse from 80 floors up. This may influence how the public perceives them – they are considered heroes – and our admiration of them may have increased because they made judgements based on their knowledge but they didn’t have the correct knowledge about the building.”

Given five real-life scenarios to read, members of the public rated the heroism of the acts and indicated whether it was a risk worth taking. A clear difference emerged when there was a successful outcome and people were rescued but also between the perception of the public about professionals (fire fighter and off duty police officer) and lay-people.

In one scenario, an off-duty police officer stops two young men trying to steal a car but as a result is stabbed in the chest with a screwdriver. The public perceived this as a risk not worth taking (a mean score of 3.47 out of 10) and he received average admiration as a hero ( 5.41).

In another scenario, an accounts clerk rescues two children and a baby from his neighbour’s burning house. The public perceived this as a risk worth taking (8.05) and he received a high level of admiration as a hero (8.90).

From: How do we perceive heroes? Joan Harvey, George Erdos & Lisa Turnbull. Published in: Journal of Risk Research. Vol 12 Issues 3-4 2009 Pages 313 – 327, DOI: 10.1080/13669870802519430

Worth a laugh


“Why is God considered an explanation to anything? It’s not – it’s a failure to explain, a shrug of the shoulders, an ‘I dunno’ dressed up in spirituality and ritual. If someone credits something to God, generally what it means is that they haven’t a clue, so they’re attributing it to an unreachable, unknowable sky-fairy. Ask for an explanation of where that bloke came from, and odds are you’ll get a vague, pseudo-philosophical reply about having always existed, or being outside nature. Which, of course, explains nothing.”

My Life According to Matthew Good


The task:  Using only song names from ONE ARTIST, cleverly answer these questions.

Pick your artist:
Matthew Good (Band)

Are you a male or female?:
Man of Action

Describe yourself:

How do you feel?:
Near Fantastica

Describe where you currently live:
Life Beyond the Minimum Safe Distance

If you could go anywhere, where would you go:

Your favorite form of transportation:
Black Helicopter

Your best friend is:

Your favorite color is:
Alert Status Red

What’s the weather like?:
Blue Skies Over Bad Lands

Favorite time of day:
Strange Days

If your life was a TV show, what would it be called?:
Middle Class Gangsters

What is life to you?:
Sort of a Protest Song

Your relationships:
True Love Will Find You in the End

Your fear:
Failing the Rorschach Test

What is the best advice you have to give?:
Let’s Get it On

If you could change your name, you would change it to:
Man From Harold Wood

Thought for the day:
The Devil’s in your Details

How you would like to die:
Fought to Fight it

Your soul’s present condition:
Hello Time Bomb

Your motto:
Look Happy, Its the End of the World

Why preservation is important…

WASHINGTON — NASA could put a man on the moon but didn’t have the sense to keep the original video of the live TV transmission.

In an embarrassing acknowledgment, the space agency said Thursday that it must have erased the Apollo 11 moon footage years ago so that it could reuse the videotape.

But now Hollywood is coming to the rescue.

The studio wizards who restored “Casablanca” are digitally sharpening and cleaning up the ghostly, grainy footage of the moon landing, making it even better than what TV viewers saw on July 20, 1969. They are doing it by working from four copies that NASA scrounged from around the world.

“There’s nothing being created; there’s nothing being manufactured,” said NASA senior engineer Dick Nafzger, who is in charge of the project. “You can now see the detail that’s coming out.”

The first batch of restored footage was released just in time for the 40th anniversary of the “one giant leap for mankind,” and some of the details seem new because of their sharpness. Originally, astronaut Neil Armstrong’s face visor was too fuzzy to be seen clearly. The upgraded video of Earth’s first moonwalker shows the visor and a reflection in it.

The $230,000 refurbishing effort is only three weeks into a monthslong project, and only 40 percent of the work has been done. But it does show improvements in four snippets: Armstrong walking down the ladder; Buzz Aldrin following him; the two astronauts reading a plaque they left on the moon; and the planting of the flag on the lunar surface.

Nafzger said a huge search that began three years ago for the old moon tapes led to the “inescapable conclusion” that 45 tapes of Apollo 11 video were erased and reused. His report on that will come out in a few weeks.

The original videos beamed to Earth were stored on giant reels of tape that each contained 15 minutes of video, along with other data from the moon. In the 1970s and ’80s, NASA had a shortage of the tapes, so it erased about 200,000 of them and reused them.

How did NASA end up looking like a bumbling husband taping over his wedding video with the Super Bowl?

Nafzger, who was in charge of the live TV recordings back in the Apollo years, said they were mostly thought of as data tapes. It wasn’t his job to preserve history, he said, just to make sure the footage worked. In retrospect, he said he wished NASA hadn’t reused the tapes.

Outside historians were aghast.

“It’s surprising to me that NASA didn’t have the common sense to save perhaps the most important historical footage of the 20th century,” said Rice University historian and author Douglas Brinkley. He noted that NASA saved all sorts of data and artifacts from Apollo 11, and it is “mind-boggling that the tapes just disappeared.”

The remastered copies may look good, but “when dealing with historical film footage, you always want the original to study,” Brinkley said.

Smithsonian Institution space curator Roger Launius, a former NASA chief historian, said the loss of the original video “doesn’t surprise me that much.”

“It was a mistake, no doubt about that,” Launius said. “This is a problem inside the entire federal government. … They don’t think that preservation is all that important.”

Launius said federal warehouses where historical artifacts are saved are “kind of like the last scene of `Raiders of the Lost Ark.’ It just goes away in this place with other big boxes.”

The company that restored all the Indiana Jones movies, including “Raiders,” is the one bailing out NASA.

Lowry Digital of Burbank, Calif., noted that “Casablanca” had a pixel count 10 times higher than the moon video, meaning the Apollo 11 footage was fuzzier than that vintage movie and more of a challenge in one sense.

Of all the video the company has dealt with, “this is by far and away the lowest quality,” said Lowry president Mike Inchalik.

Nafzger praised Lowry for restoring “crispness” to the Apollo video. Historian Launius wasn’t as blown away.

“It’s certainly a little better than the original,” Launius said. “It’s not a lot better.”

The restoration used four video sources: CBS News originals; kinescopes from the National Archives; a video from Australia that received the transmission of the original moon video; and camera shots of a TV monitor.

Both Nafzger and Inchalik acknowledged that digitally remastering the video could further encourage conspiracy theorists who believe NASA faked the entire moon landing on a Hollywood set. But they said they enhanced the video as conservatively as possible.

Besides, Inchalik said that if there had been a conspiracy to fake a moon landing, NASA surely would have created higher-quality film.

Back in 1969, nearly 40 percent of the picture quality was lost converting from one video format used on the moon — called slow scan — to something that could be played on TVs on Earth, Nafzger said.

NASA did not lose other Apollo missions’ videos because they weren’t stored on the type of tape that needed to be reused, Nafzger said.

From NewsWatch

The History of Field Settlement Cemetery

I’m currently working on a multi-faceted project that explores the history of my hometown, Watertown, NY.  While researching tonight, I stumbled upon some very interesting information that struck close to home- a quarter of a mile away to be exact.  I’ll explain:

When I was ten years old, my family moved from the city of Watertown in to the rolling countryside three miles out.  Growing up in the city had been an adventure, but living in the country afforded me with the opportunity to romp, stomp and explore more of the world than I ever could have before.  It also provided me with a new variety of landscapes.  Swamps, streams, sand pits, fields, forests… and cemeteries.

Cemeteries can be one of the most the most mysterious places you’ll ever tread, regardless of age.  So when I learned there was a very old within my realm of exploration, I was enticed.  This one in particular was called Field Settlement Cemetery.  It was a forgotten place at the top of a big hill, encompassed by a vast corn field and teetering on one side next to a massive swamp, riddled with the ivory skeletons of dead trees.  This cemetery was a place of deep mystery in my mind and my friends and I would often mount scouting expeditions into the forbidden grove of headstones.  We never damaged anything, merely explored until fear, our imaginations, or both, got the better of us.  Our departure was usually marked by goosebumps, screams and fleeing.

Looking back now, I can wipe away the childish fears of the paranormal and appreciate the cemetery for what it is: a landscape of history.  I’ve made several visits to the cemetery in my adult life and each time the archaeologist in me has felt the need to do something to preserve it.  I’ve made rubbings of some of the stones, copied and deciphered some of the engravings and made a crude map of the burial placements.  Imagine my surprise when while clicking my way through the web tonight, I discovered a study that had been performed in 1999 on the Field Settlement cemetery.  The website detailed the names and dates of the people buried there, including information on relationships and some of the contributions that those buried there made during their lifetime.

Here are some of the interesting individuals who are buried there:

Isaac Brintnal  (Died 7 Jan 1822 – Age 71 years)

Massachusetts Revolutiony War Veteran he served 1 month 13 days, at Rhode Island with Captain Robert Cutting’s Company.  He was part of Colonel McIntosh’s Regiment, in General Lovell’s Brigade.  He enlisted 1 Aug 1778, discharged on 10 Sep 1778.

Elijah Field (Born 20 Apr 1756 – Died 29 Sep 1828)

Revolutionary War Veteran.

Porter A. Cleveland (Died 7 Feb 1862 – Age 20 years)

Civil War Veteran he enlisted at Lorraine, New York with the rank of Private, into Company C 94th New York Infantry.  Died of an unknown disease.

Oliver G. Cleveland (Died 8 Aug 1862 – Age 22 years)

Civil War Veteran he enlisted at Northville, New York with the rank of Corporal in to Company C 94th New York Infantry.  Killed at the Second Battle of Bull Run.

Four veterans from two important conflicts in my country’s history, that’s amazing!  And unexpected.  For years I assumed it was only farmers and their families who were buried there, but now I see in slightly more detail the lives of those interred there.

In the next few months I’ll be posting my own research so that a more complete historical record of the cemetery exists.  Stay tuned.