Friday, January 22, 2010

Law Dean John Farmer on The Colbert Report

Last night one of our very own was interviewed by Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central's The Colbert Report. Rutgers Newark Law School Dean and professor John Farmer went on the show to talk about his book, The Ground Truth: The Untold Story of America Under Attack on 9/11

You can view the full interview here (courtesy of

For more information on John Farmer, visit his profile on the School of Law's website.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Something in the way he moves: bringing the science of body language perception to Dr. Oz

[ Today's post is written by Ashley Blanchard, Rutgers University graduate student. Ashley can be contacted at ]

ArthurTo what great lengths will men go to appease their wives or girlfriends? That question was recently answered when three men, in relationships of varying lengths, agreed to be on The Dr. Oz Show. (At left, Arthur Bakai suits up)

In preparation for the show, all three men came to the Motion Capture Lab in the Psychology department at Rutgers-Newark to have their walking motions recorded within our motion capture system. Each man had to wiggle into a tight fitting lycra outfit and stand still while James Thomas, another graduate student in Maggie Shiffrar’s lab, and I carefully attached 30 sensors to the joints of his limbs and head. In this thoroughly uncomfortable situation, each man sighed that he couldn’t believe what he let his partner talk him into. Aaah, what men will do in the name of love. (Below, Joe Zilder stands still while Dr. Schiffrar, John Franchek and Ashley Blanchard arrange the equipment)

Joe Zilder
After being suited up, the men were asked to walk casually within a 3 x 4 meter capture area while our system measured the 3D locations of each of the 30 sensors several times per second. After collecting these motion capture data, each of the men was freed from the sensors and lycra suit. Let me tell you, after an hour or two, these guys were happy to be done with motion capture technology. Our lab manager and technician extraordinaire, John Franchak, took the motion capture data from each man and used it to construct a point-light movie of each man’s gait. These movies show only the locations of the moving sensors and thus are devoid of the face and bodily form information visible in typical movies. Previous research has demonstrated that naive observers can determine a person’s gender, identity, mood, and even the intention to deceive from the movements of these points. The Dr. Oz Show plans on showing these point-light movies to the partners of these men to determine whether the women could identify their partner, and if so, whether women in longer relationships were better able to identify their partner’s gait. Past research on action perception from our lab suggests that this should be the case. (At right, the last participant of the day, James Davis, has a little fun in his suit)

Above, what the computer sees - these images will be cleaned up and an anonymous 'body' will be overlayed so that it will look like a person walking.

For more information on motion capture technology and our research on the visual perception of body language, please visit the ROAR (Research on Autism at Rutgers) website.

Note: This episode was taped on Jan 12th and has not yet aired. Visit The Dr. Oz Show for more information.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Fed Challenge Team Beats Harvard, Northwestern to Win 2nd Place

On Dec. 2, 2009, students Lakshya Aeri, Sharissa Barrow, Victor Castaneda, Diego LaFuente and Michael Martins scored a second place finish - beating Harvard and Northwestern Business Schools, and winning a $15,000 award from the Moody’s Foundation - at the national finals of the ninth annual College Fed Challenge. Their coach is Economics Department Chair John Graham.

The team is pictured at left on the steps of the the Federal Reserve in Washington DC.

Just before the break, I managed to get in contact with Sharissa Barrow for her thoughts on the experience. (That's her smiling from her perch in Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke's chair!)

This is what she had to say:

"The College Fed Challenge is hard work. Preparation requires extensive and constant reading, analysis of data, and an understanding of both macroeconomic theory and the economic and financial systems. At the beginning of the semester, I knew very little about the Federal Reserve or about the intricacies of the economy. That has certainly changed; changed so much in fact that my daily routine now includes following the release of data for key economic indicators and reading the Wall Street Journal and speeches.

That said, participating in the Fed Challenge has been the most remarkable experience of my college career. Not only have I learned more in two to three months than I would have ever expected, but I was able to work as a part of a team that was made up of some very bright people. Professor Graham was fantastic—his patience and dedication to getting us through the competition were unbelievable.

The team poses in the boardroom of the Federal Reserve before the competition

Then there was Washington. Beating Harvard and Northwestern was certainly a feat. We didn’t win, but we did break a tradition—Harvard and Northwestern are no longer the only schools to have placed first and second in the competition. I am proud to have been a part of that! And being in the very room that the Federal Open Market Committee meets to discuss current economic conditions and sitting in Chairman Bernanke’s chair and shaking his hand weren’t so bad either :) !"

For more coverage of this story, see Rutgers Students Capture 2nd Place in National Contest