A scientific formula for a successful relationship?

Wouldn’t it be dandy if there was a scientific formula which predicted how long a relationship would last? We wouldn’t have to rely on the advice of buddies, astrologers, and agony aunts. Most importantly we would have a leg up before investing time, money, and energy into one of the most important decisions of our lives.

Recently, a high-profile research paper published in Psychological Science suggested that the best predictor of how long a relationships lasts is a parameter known is Language Style Matching or LSM. USA Today published a short description of this innovative approach:

The kind of language style the researchers focused on was the use of such words as personal pronouns (I, his, their); articles (a, the); prepositions (in, under), and adverbs (very, rather) — the types of words most people don’t give much thought to.

“You are four times more likely to match and probably go on a date if your language style matching is even just above average”…

Earlier in the year, a blogger at The Economist commented on LSM too:

A drop in the LSM score can mean a relationship is going down the tubes, though not necessarily; for instance, one year Freud and Jung’s LSM score dropped when they were still on good terms, which the researchers think may have been because Jung was ill and stressed that year.

Okay, so this is heavy-duty stuff. So I decided to investigate a bit more.

It turns out that there are two research papers which describe LSM  in writing and how the algorithm “predicts relationship initiation and stability“. What I really wanted was to put it to the test before reading more about the algorithm or the claims made in the media. Fortunately, the authors created an online application which you use to check the Language Style Matching of two people in order to predict how successful their relationship will be.

Once you enter your words in the interaction and then the other person’s words, you will get a number back that assesses the degree to which the two of you match. This number, called a language style matching, or LSM score, ranges from about .50 to 1.00. The closer you are to 1.00, the more in synch the two of you are.

Other studies have found that the LSM score is associated with how long a relationship lasts and its overall quality.

It sounded good to me. In theory, it is plausible that two people engaged in a conversation who use a similar structure in their language might be more likely to have a successful relationship. Or even the opposite: two people in a long-term relationship might be more likely to share similar language structure. Or whatever. Psychology isn’t a discipline always known for giving two hoots about trifling matters such as correlation not being equal to causation.

But I digress. What better way to test the predictive power of LSM than to examine the writing of two people in a relationship who very much love each other?

In other words, me and me.

Or put another way, I decided to test a random sample of my own writing to see if my relationship with myself might be predicted to last my own lifetime. For the examination, I took the text from the most popular post on this blog and compared it to the one I wrote less than a week later. I then compared the popular post to the first chapter of my PhD thesis. Next, I compared two posts which I had deliberately written in the same flippant style here. Finally, I compared the text of an editorial I wrote on the lung cancer genome last year to a business task force recommendation I wrote the same week.

And what did I find?

When I checked how my relationship with myself was going based on my different writing styles I got back Language Style Matching numbers for each pair which always varied from 0.69 to 0.71. So what does this LSM mean?

According to the website:

Compared to other general writing samples that we have analyzed, your LSM score is within the average range. To give you an idea, most LSM scores for general writing samples range between .60 and .90, with the average being around .78. The more the authors of the two samples are thinking in similar ways, the higher the LSM.

So, in other words, the matching between two different samples of my writing is less than the average for two different random people. But in my case, for the single test I ran with writing in what I thought was in the same style, I got the same result which was also lower than for two random people.

Apparently, I don’t even think like myself.

Now, I understand the problem in examining different types of writing for different purposes. And I see a broader use for this application which might even result in better informed outcomes for hapless folks such as mangliks which does  not involve tree marriage.

But excuse me if I’m not totally sold on this yet.

Will you get the same results that I did? Will I get the same results again with other samples of writing? Or do I suffer from multiple personality disorder in which one me absolutely hates another me?

I don’t know. But for now, I’m sticking to reading coffee grinds. They may not predict how much I love myself, but I certainly feel better after drinking the Turkish brew at the top of the cup.

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Someone sleeps to forget. The rest of us sleep to remember.

I just read a clinical report of a patient who claimed that her working memory got erased every morning after a night of sleep. This is important news for Hindi movie-directors in need of a new type of amnesia for the big screen, but the rest of us will find it interesting too:

Since an automobile accident in 2005, patient FL has reported difficulty retaining information from one day to the next. During the course of any given day, she describes her memory as normal. However, memory for each day disappears during a night of sleep. She reports good memory for events that occurred before the accident. Although this pattern of memory impairment is, to our knowledge, unique to the medical literature, it was depicted in the fictional film “50 First Dates”.

The patient was clearly able to recall event that happened the same day, but did poorly when asked about events that happened the previous day. When the researchers mixed questions about current and past events without the patient’s knowledge, she did fairly well. What that might suggest is that she had been lying all along, but researchers also found genuine lapses in procedural memory involving motor skills – something much harder to fake.

What is worth noting is that researchers couldn’t find anything physically wrong with her brain after multiple tests so they concluded that she suffered from a genuine type of functional amnesia similar to that depicted in the movie 50 First Dates. Although the patient claimed to not having seen the movie, she did admit that Drew Barrymore, who acted in it, was one of her favorite actresses.

Researchers hypothesized that this peculiar form of amnesia might have actually developed from her knowledge of plot elements in the movie. This isn’t art imitating life. This is art (or more accurately, a cheesy movie) influencing life.

There is a happy ending here though. In a hospital, the patient was trained to overcome her amnesia by waking up every 4.5 hours.

Why is this bizarre story so amazing? Well, there is a huge body of evidence which suggests that sleep plays a major role in the consolidation of memories. In other words, while we sleep new, adaptable memories become embedded into our memory network and become more stable. Even a single night of sleep-deprivation has the ability to impact memory retention, which explains why I don’t remember anything from my exam-induced college all-nighters. In the way memories are consolidated, the patient FL seems to be different from most other people.

So what can you do to improve your memory?  I was hoping you’d ask.

Here are a few tips on how to sleep to remember:

  • Even short naps of minutes to hours are effective in increasing memory retention, but the best improvements are witnessed after a full night of sleep.
  • If you wake up often in the middle of the night, it might be due to stress, which in turn, might influence your memory.
  • You may be more alert in the morning and remember what you’ve learned through the day, but sleeping three hours after learning works better than sleeping more than ten hours later.
  • If you’re a morning person, you may find short naps useful. If you’re a night-owl, be sure to get at least some shut-eye.

Lastly, if you forget everything I’ve written here, perhaps you need to re-evaluate your sleep hygiene.

Text: © 2010-2012, Anirban

The psychology and the physics of stampedes

Why bother to think about stampedes?

As we know, even poorly-organized humans in groups have tremendous capacity for destruction of property and life. The raw power of collectivism has the innate potential to take a chaotic turn in the fury of the mob and the panic of the stampede. And by appreciating the fact that individuals think and act differently when in groups than when alone, calamities can be understood better and possibly averted.

Just before dawn on September 30, 2008, events unfolded at the Chamunda Devi temple in Jodhpur’s Mehrangarh Fort that left a tragic trail of death and destruction in its wake. That morning approximately 25,000 Hindu devotees approached the temple to mark the first day of Navratri. As soon as the door of the temple opened, there was a frenzied scramble of devotees trying to get inside. Within moments a stampede ensued in which, by most accounts, close to 250 pilgrims lost their lives and more than 400 others suffered various injuries. Agonizingly, this stampede was the fourth lethal one at a religious gathering in India that year. Just in the previous month, over one hundred pilgrims died in a stampede at the Naina Devi temple in Himachal Pradesh.

Why are locations in India particularly prone to human stampedes? A quick glance at a list of all the major stampedes that have resulted in a loss of life has revealed that most occurred at religious gatherings. Some of the most revered sites in Hinduism are in remote locations on hills and mountains. Accessibility has no bearing on the auspiciousness of a site and devotees take the physical strain of getting there in their stride as part of part of the pilgrimage.

Unfortunately, even in the most-accessible of locations there is always a possibility of things turning ugly. At stadiums, trained crowd-managers at stadiums look out for potential troublemakers. But even a simple spark can turn into a riot. The situation is substantially more complex at a remotely-located religious site, especially during peak pilgrimage seasons. Inaccessibility means that it is difficult to put into place adequate crowd management and safety measures. For example, by eyewitness accounts, the entrance to the Chamunda Devi temple was very narrow and there were no exits to escape out of in case of emergency.

A second major problem is that crowd-managers at events in which freely-moving crowds participate can only make preparations based on turnout estimates. Obviously, even these numbers can go awry. Those guiding temple devotees at best have a very nebulous idea of how many will turn up on any given day. In addition, the task of managing the crowd flow at religious sites is noticeably difficult because these crowds are never homogeneous. There will always be children and the elderly who will have special needs in the unfortunate case an evacuation is required.

Finally, there are the “black-box” parameters that can perturb even the best-managed crowds. Changes in weather, accidents, fires, spreading rumors, and changes in mood have all known to cause escape panic.

For all structures hosting mass events, architects and structural engineers need to consider the psychology of individuals in a group in order to be able to design effective emergency exits to prevent avoidable calamities. Sadly, only recently has crowd psychology gained traction as a practical consideration in the design of structures. Until recently, the primary guiding principle in the design of structures for mass use was fluid dynamics, the branch of physics dealing with the flow of fluids such as water. The assumption was that crowds move in a way similar to water in a pipe – evenly distributed with an equal speed at any given time.

Put plainly, this assumption does not hold water. Individuals in a group exhibit crowding behavior, something that cannot be accurately accounted for by comparing to fluids. Once we think about it, it isn’t surprising at all. From experience, we know that often one queue is longer than another at the movie theater for no apparent reason and that people do not spread out evenly in all the compartments of a local train.

In an escape panic situation, individuals deviate from fluids even further. Under duress, individuals tend to walk faster than usual. They tend to push and shove others ahead of them in the perceived escape route. In the heat of the moment, other escape routes are frequently overlooked. In confined areas such as crowded exit points, moving becomes uncoordinated and physical forces build up to a point that steel fences and brick walls can get damaged. No wonder then that many people fall in the melee and get injured! These people then become obstructions that have to be overcome by the rest of the crowd.

Partly because it is unscrupulous to conduct experiments that force people to hurt themselves in panic situations (besides being an opportunity for massive legal action), there is little scientific data on how real people react under extreme pressure. However researchers led by Dirk Helbing at the Dresden University of Technology in Germany used computers to model crowd behavior in escape panic. Helbing simulated the exit of 200 pedestrians through a one metre-wide exit of a room 225 square meters in area.

Helbing’s landmark account was different from many other studies on crowd dynamics because he incorporated both physical and psychological parameters in his computer model. For example, physical considerations included the average mass of individuals in the crowd, the average starting velocity of the moving individuals, and a realistic estimate for acceleration time upon panicking. For example a parameter based on human psychology which should be taken into account is the tendency of individuals to avoid physical contact with one another as much as possible which, of course, is true for most of us.

From computer simulations, Helbing calculated that the exit of pedestrians from a room would be regular until the pedestrians began to rush to get out. When a threshold velocity was reached, pedestrians actually began to block the exit. Impatience caused further clogging which led to fewer people exiting in the escape panic then would have gotten out under normal circumstances.

This is something that you might have also noticed in real life when observing passengers trying to get on to a bus through a narrow door. People swarm in a while trying to get on the bus, but the number of passengers actually entering does not increase proportionally with the force applied by the crowd at the door.

The obvious answer to this problem is to increase the size of the exits, but within the constraints of Helbing’s test, increasing the exit routes could not prevent congestion completely. For all types of structures, increasing exit points is not feasible either. Imagine trying to increase the doors of buses and trains and you see the problem. Instead, Helbing recommended a radical solution – placing columns in front of exits. By placing column at strategically located asymmetrical points, crowds would not be able to build up pile up to deadly physical forces.

As we have now observed through these examples, completely falling under the sway of crowd behavior can be quite detrimental. Of course, this does not indicate that at all times individuals should strive to automatically oppose any consensus. There may be an intelligible reason why an idea is held in favor by a majority. In a burning, smoke-filled room there may be a crowd near the single known exit, but searching for another exit might also be time-consuming and ultimately futile. Taking the life of another human that has meant no harm might seem deeply individualistic, but there are also valid reasons why most societies find this sort of behavior particularly reprehensible. Therefore, we should strive to strike a reasonable balance between being individualistic and social.

How, then is such an intricate balancing act possible? There are no sweeping, black-and-white answers to this question, and unfortunately, any attempt at one is no more than a hollow platitude. What we can do is examine each scenario on a case-by-case basis to determine when we want to follow the crowd and when we want to act alone. And we can increase the likelihood for an acceptable outcome through analysis of prior outcomes and increased personal experience whenever possible.

(This is an excerpt from a much longer piece on groupthink and the psychology of crowds.)

© Text, 2010-2012, Anirban

What scientists say at meetings versus what they actually mean

What they say: I’d like to thank the organizers for inviting me to this session…
What they mean: I’d like to thank the organizers for inviting me to Hawaii in December. In return, I am inviting them to talk in my department’s seminar series.

What they say: The raw data is in the graph next to the results…
What they mean: I hope the graph which has n=9 and error bars convinces you what I’m saying is true even though no one believes me.

What they say: A very interesting talk. In our lab we’ve shown…
What they mean: I don’t believe you.

What they say: On the left is a representative gel showing an experiment we performed…
What they mean: After getting a graduate student to run this experiment a hundred times, this was the only gel that turned out presentable.

What they say: These were very hard experiments to perform…
What they mean: Don’t even think about competing with us, and if you do, these results are not reproducible.

What they say: To the best of our knowledge…
What they mean: We were too lazy to do a proper literature review.

What they say: This is my last data slide.
What they mean: I am over time but also technically correct when I say that this is my last data slide. The next five slides deal with the conclusions, broader implications, future directions, and acknowledgments.

What they say: The implications of this study are profound and have the potential to influence cancer drug discovery.
What they mean: The implications of this study are profound and have the potential to get me a good postdoctoral position.

What they say: How much time do I have left?
What they mean: I know I am over my allotted time by twenty minutes, but this ploy always gets me an extra ten minutes.

What they say: I think we’ve set the stage now and we’re actively looking opportunities to commercialize our invention.
What they mean: I think we can get a patent out of this, but I have no clue how an actual commercial entity works and what they look for in potential products.

What they say: I’m happy to share the source code and reagents with anyone who is interested…
What they mean: I am happy to share this source code and reagents with anyone who is interested but not before we’ve milked them dry for additional publications and conference abstracts.

What they say: This slide represents five years of work done by a graduate student in my lab, Wong.
What they mean: This slide represents nine years of work done by a graduate student in my lab, Partha.

What they say: I see you’re reading my poster and I won’t bother you, but if you have any questions let me know.
What they mean: Screw you. My Principal Investigator would only let me come to Hawaii if I presented a poster.

What they say: Do you want me to run you through my poster?
What they mean: Do you have twenty minutes to listen to me talk about my work without making eye-contact while assuming that you already know the background of my work?

What they say: I have a comment and a question…
What they mean: I have neither a comment nor a question, but I am a tenured windbag. I have a timeshare and am close to retirement.

What they say: I have a question with two parts…
What they mean: I have five questions with seven parts for each.

What they say: No, we haven’t gotten around to doing those experiments. But certainly those are ones that we were planning on doing.
What they mean: No, we haven’t gotten around to doing those experiments. And frankly, we hadn’t thought of them before either.

What they say: That is a very interesting question…
What they mean: That is a lame question. Were you Reviewer 3 who had the particularly harsh comments on our manuscript?

© Text, 2010-2012, Anirban

The Neuroshopping Network: direct-to-mind marketing

In a future presented in Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report, crime is prevented by catching would-be criminals before they commit the act. The process used in the science-fiction story, neuroimaging, works by detecting activity in different parts of the brain. As you might have guessed, the different physicals regions of the brain are more active than others during specific activities. These differences  can be observed through brain scans.

There are many types of scans which are being heralded in crime detection. Some can indicate which individuals have a greater tendency to exhibit certain behaviors, such as the tendency to become aggressive. There needs to be additional studies before we can even consider using brain scans regularly for new purposes because there isn’t a clear idea about how scans correlate with criminal actions. We also know from common sense that simply because someone can be aggressive doesn’t mean that he or she is going to be a criminal. Consequently, the promise of these tools is currently greater than the utility.

fMRI brain scan

If you follow the news carefully, you may have noticed a recent firestorm of controversy over whether functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), one of the most powerful techniques of neuroimaging, can be used as better lie detectors. Results are inconclusive so far and favor not using the technique, but the debate will not abate anytime soon.

Still, the remarkable power of neuroimaging is undeniable. A research article published last week in the prestigious American journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences used fMRI to record brain activity of speakers and listeners during the act of verbal communication. The article found something called neural coupling occurring during active communication. In simple terms,  brain scans showed that the listener’s brain activity mirrors that the brain activity of the speaker. Detectable neural coupling happens only when the listener understands the speaker. So, if you’re speaking in Bangla, I can act like I don’t understand a word you’re saying, but my brain will leave tell-tale signs of my bluff. Will this be useful for crime detection? Maybe not right now. For one, my guess is that we don’t really know what happens if the listener concentrates on not paying attention to the speaker.

Now, let us switch gears and focus on a corporate setting. Suppose you’re a customer given the choice between an established soft drink and a new one being tested prior to product launch. Companies now rely on focus groups, surveys, and other tests to try to gauge customer preference. These do the job, but are notoriously unreliable.

But what if you didn’t need to verbally respond? What if the company could detect your preference for their drink or a competitor’s advertisement by scanning your brain? In addition, what if the company knew exactly which part of the brain the product appealed to and could make it even more irresistible? Companies wouldn’t need full-scale roll-outs or even smaller pilot projects to determine if they had a customer-base.

That is the goal of neuromarketing and it is being heralded as the next big advance in marketing. In theory, through neuromarketing it should be possible to tailor-design products so that a customer is compelled to buy it (and in case of food products consume in large quantities). Quite a fearful thought, but I doubt that will worry shareholders of the companies as their profits soar.

Let us now break down the central requirements for successful neuromarketing. The key steps are finding out which parts of the brain are involved in making the purchasing decision by observing subjects,  feeding this data into a computer to generate a mapping template, and successfully predicting the likelihood that a naive subject will make a purchase solely by comparing his or her brain scan.

A few years ago, a landmark research study published in Neuron entitled “Neural Predictors of Purchases” showed that at least the underlying assumptions of neuromarketing are not outlandish. In those series of experiments, researchers found, quite amazingly, that there are distinct brain circuits involved in the act of shopping.

In other words, different parts of the brain get activated when you consider buying an item and during the actual purchase. And we should be able to know without asking you just by scanning your brain. At least for the data used in the study, the model is predictive. What that also means is that with a sophisticated fMRI machine it may be possible to make an informed guess about whether or not you’re likely to buy something way before you do. No need for you to be polite or to lie. Just sit back while the companies ask your brain and let your mind do the talking!

But why should we stop there? After all, a customer does need to leave the sofa, go to a computer or a brick-and-mortar shop and make a purchase. There are just too many opportunities for the customer to change his or her mind before the actual transaction is made.

There is a way to get around customer indecision, lethargy, and changes in preference and although it requires a leap in science and technology, it is definitely within the realm of the possible. I propose to call it neuroshopping and here it how it goes:

You are sitting in your living room wearing an iShop helmet device with sensors monitoring synaptic activity in various parts of your brain. These signals are being fed into a computer that has access to your bank account information. You’re watching products flash by in 3D on the Neuroshopping Network. As soon as brain scans show that you’re interested in purchasing a product, a computer makes an automatic purchase on your behalf.

Perhaps, you repent later and you return some of your purchases, but if you’re anything like I am, you’re too lazy to return even the items you don’t need or can’t afford. The company makes a profit because it has connected directly to your impulses and has reduced marketing to the simplest essence – telling you that you need something and getting you to purchase instantaneously without giving you a chance to rationalize or second-guess your decision. (Bye bye Amazon.com).

Quite honestly, as I mentioned earlier, a major stumbling block right now is the technology. A decent fMRI machine costs around one million dollars per Tesla. It also requires dedicated staff to run and costs in the hundreds of thousands of dollars every year to operate.

I was trained as a scientist, not as an engineer. But I do know a little bit about the short history of personal computers. I’ll wait for those with the “know-how” to make it happen. I keep thinking to myself: give it some time. Technology always gets cheaper.

The bottom-line is that one day that you will impulsively spend even more than you do now. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Image courtesy of Erik1980 and licensed under GDFL by the creator. If you also have time take a look at this interesting one-paragraph short story by Surekha Pillai.

© Text, 2010-2012

New products that every Indian needs!

I am as lazy as the next person, so when Telesky Shopping Network comes on and the TV remote isn’t within foot-length, I sit there and watch the commercials touting products with religious and cultural overtones. In previous posts, I’ve come up my own versions of Rudraksh and Nazar Suraksha, but these products only augment existing ones. What we really need are innovative products that can be marketed to desis with disposable incomes.

Now, I’d like to present a few product ideas that won’t need much marketing. I’m pretty confident that these sell themselves. I don’t know why you would be reading my blog if you have any money to invest. But, if you do please drop me a line and we can work out licensing of these products.

1) Soul-purifying Deodorant:

Tired of the nasty odors that cling to your soul as you go through the day cheating, stealing, and lying to others? Well, you’ve come to the right place then! Atmasaaf™ roll-on soul-purifying deodorant will purify your soul with one application to the armpits  after your daily bath. Long-lasting protection with our proven formula fights evil auras and bad karma for up to 24 hours. No need for costly and time-consuming daily mantras, vaastu, or visits to holy sites. You’ve taken care of your atomic smells, not deal with your atmic ones.

Available with a fragrance consisting of the combination of the proven soul-cleansing ingredients of pancha gabya or milk, curd, ghee, cow urine, and cow dung.

2) Vedic Dentistry:

Fed up with the twice-daily chore  of flossing and brushing? Bills to the dentist piling up when you fail to pay attention to your molars? You too can obviate the need for proper dental hygiene using Vedic Dentistry, a concept we have trademarked as the Sanskrit-sounding Daantestree™.

Just as dipping in the Ganga is known to wash away a lifetime of transgressions, gargling with our patented mouthwash whenever you have a toothache, unwanted plague buildup, or gingivitis will  get rid of dental problems. Your breath may smell like rotting flowers and corpses floating in the Ganges, but you should be safe in the knowledge that “your teeth will last as long as you fast ™”!

3) Extrasolar  Astrology:

Traditional Vedic astrology or Jyotish-vidya gives you only nine grahas or “planets” including the sun and Rahu and Ketu, which frankly are so-called “celestial positions” which no one really understands. Even with the recent demotion of Pluto from planetary status, we think it is still unfair to customers not to have additional planets to chose from. At least 450 extrasolar planets have been identified and all of these impact your life. Did you know that marital discord is the result of TrES-3 in the fourth quadrant?  What we offer now is the ability to predict your future accurately based on accurate charts using these extrasolar planets. Now, for a limited time, avail of these services included in our Extrastrology™ package for the introductory price of 101.01 USD.

Please note that our charts can be interpreted only by our trained astrologers and scientists who are now independent consultants. Act now and for a limited time you’ll get both a CD and a printout of your own accurate chart!

Postscript: I came up with two out of these three ideas on Twitter, but I felt that I needed to expand to include a full-fledged advertising campaign. I’m hoping to make this a regular series too.

On another note, if you liked my last post on corporate lingo, check out LEB’s post on what a manager says and what he or she means.

© Text, 2010-2012, Anirban

Facile technology for warding off the evil-eye: inexpensive “nazar suraksha”

Abstract: The “evil-eye” better known as nazar is a severely detrimental energy field that impacts the well-being of individuals in South Asia. Previously, others have demonstrated the effectiveness of the evil-eye deterring pendant known as Nazar Suraksha Kawach which works by interfering the dangerous frequencies of the evil-eye. However, this is inadequate since the protective rays are blocked by layers of clothing and temperatures above and below room-temperature. Further, the pendant must always be in the line-of-sight of the nazar.  Therefore, an effective evil-eye deterring system which would be effective under all circumstances was desperately needed. Here, were describe a facile evil-eye deterring system that counters both the emission of evil-eye rays of the nazarwale and the reception in the brain of the nazarlagi.

Introduction: The evil-eye is the most detrimental cause of lack of progress in South Asia. Earlier scientific studies including television commercials have demonstrated that when individuals either related or unrelated look at others with jealousy or “extreme love” they case nazar or the evil-eye-induced harm (Figure 1).

Nazar is well known in popular culture too. For example, in the film Sasural, Rafi sahab sang the line “Teri pyari pyari soorat ko kisiki nazar na lage” (Your lovely, lovely face anyone’s evil-eye not touch) which is a very strong argument for the existence of this form of jealous energy.

Figure 1: mechanism of action of evil-eye

Women in South Asia have known this for ages and have often drawn a spot on their face to ward off the evil eye. But this is uneffective. According to the television commercial “extreme neurotic rays” converge on the center of the brain and are shot out of the eyes like red arrows created using Microsoft PowerPoint (Figure 1).  These arrows enter the head of the unfortunate recipient and “cause mental disturbance” which casts a dark cloud on the future. Evil-eye technology and other companies have come up with a Nazar Suraksha Kawach which emits blue cooling rays that intercept the red nazar rays much like arrows in B.R. Chopra’s  mythological television serial Mahabharat. Nazar interception may have also been the driving force behind President Ronald Reagan’s ill-fated “Star Wars” program.

There are a number of problems with the evil-eye deterring pendant that independent observers have noticed. First, it is not effective at temperatures above 24 degree Centigrade or below 18 degree Centigrade. The “ions” get restless under either condition. Second, the protective rays don’t work when the pendant is covered by layers of clothing, humidity is high, or the nazar enters through the back of the head. Finally, the cost for a set of evil-eye deterring pendants can run in the hundreds of dollars.

Therefore it was necessary to come up with a cost-effective method to ward off the evil-eye. In this research paper, we  present facile technology for warding off the evil-eye.

Figure 2: Current protection against evil-eye

Our approach was simple. Since anyone can give off rays through the evil-eye or nazar (even unknowingly), it would be best to filter these rays out completely. So we designed glasses coated with five layers of nazar-protecting material (Figure 3). Now when you wear these glasses (which have been scientifically proven to work), harmful rays can not come out of your eyes. They may look like ordinary sunglasses, but they are not. They have been tested in a nazar chamber with various saasbaahu (mother-in-law and daughter-in-law) pairs from desi teleserials.

To protect the brain from nazar rays already in the atmosphere, we designed the nazar-reflective helmet. This may look like an ordinary baseball cap with a bit of aluminum foil over it, but it is not.  It has undergone extensive testing and bears the ISO 90210 seal of approval. It is a protective device that will reflect all evil-eye rays and boomerang them back to the evil-eye-caster.

To order these two life-saving products please leave your name, address, and credit card information in the comments section of this article. It is our hope that finally, through the use of these two devices the menace known as nazar will finally be eradicated from South Asia.

Figure 3: A new effective system for blocking nazar (the evil-eye)

Can you afford to live your pathetic life in abject despair? We say no! Order now.

This is the second installment of a new series of posts on schemes that will help you either get rich fast or get lynched by an angry South Asian mob. To read the first installment click here.

Disclaimer: I guess I should tell people that nazar is real but the rest of the post is a joke, but I won’t. Go ahead. Do your worst. Cast the evil-eye. I’ll be waiting with my helmet and glasses.

Also worth reading Yogesh’s account of how you can make money by importing the Kawach from other countries.

Fair-use rationale for images: All images are low-resolution. Figures 1 and 2 are used only for purposes of demonstration for no monetary gain where a free alternative does not exist. The new product image (Figure 3) was taken by me and created using PowerPoint. Please feel free to share, but attribute the source, m’kay?

© Text, 2010-2012, Anirban