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Calculating the Moby Quotient

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If you spent your musically developmental and formative years in the basement of a college radio station, you know the satisfaction that comes from championing some unknown alterna-electro funk band from Portland. With this satisfaction comes the devastating emptiness when they inevitably sell their catchy debut single to Mitsubishi for use in a commercial for a sedan with above average gas mileage. The rise of illegal downloading, the shrinking of radio playlists, and the decline in CD sales have forced many artists to "sell out," often in television commercial form, to make ends meet.

The Washington Post recently enlisted an expert in hyperbolic geometry (!?!) to devise a formula that equates the precise degree of sell-out your favorite garage band has committed, bringing new meaning to the subgenre specific term math-rock. The mathematical result is represented by the Greek letter mu, here as "The Moby Quotient," named for the electronic artist that (in)famously sold every single last song on his 1999 album, Play, to varying commercial interests.

Being an expert in both barely relevant indie-rock minutiae and crippling sell-out related heartbreak, I've compiled a list of the most egregious offenders and punched their stats into the sell-out calculator.

Of Montreal for Outback Steakhouse

Song: "Wraith Pinned to the Mist (And Other Games)"
Not only did Of Montreal allow the steakhouse to use the song, they also changed the words from "Let's pretend we don't exist/Let's pretend we're in Antartica" to "Let's go Outback tonight/Life will still be there tomorrow." Nothing says 18 oz. rib eye medium-rare like Indie-pop!!

Mu =114.98

Devo for Dell Computers

Song: "Watch Us Work It"
Certainly tired of being portrayed as a chubby guy in a suit in Apple commercials, PC company Dell has turned to the next logical place "“ satirical social commentary disguised as angular new wave punk. The Devo track "Watch Us Work It" appears here hawking laptops.

Mu = 39.51

Nick Drake for Volkswagen

Song: "Pink Moon"
This Cabrio commercial not only sold lots and lots of cars. In a perfect stroke of synergy, it also sold lots and lots of Nick Drake albums. The relatively obscure English folk songwriter developed an American cult following based on the success of this advertisement featuring his song "Pink Moon". This commercial was also directed by Little Miss Sunshine duo Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Farris.

Mu = 29.46
(let's not be so hard on him, he'd been dead for over 25 years when the commercial aired)

Sting for Jaguar

Song: "Desert Rose"

Frustrated with regularly selling mere millions of albums, former Police frontman Sting granted British luxury carmakers Jaguar the rights to not only his track "Desert Rose" but also himself. Team Sting shot the video for the single with the intent of pitching it to Jaguar as a commercial. It worked, and Sting gave his song and his likeness to Jaguar for free, figuring it to be worth the asking price in free advertising. Ultimately, Brand New Day became Sting's best selling solo record to date.

Mu = 32.48 (plus an additional one million sell-out points for living in a castle"¦literally)

Band of Horses for Ford Edge

Song: "Funeral"
Northwestern indie-rock group Band of Horses appears in this commercial despite the obviously questionable choice of having a song titled "Funeral" to promote your recall-prone Ford brand. The alternative label Sub-Pop, once famous for anti-commercialism, has seen a handful of their roster promoting such products as M&Ms, McDonalds and Walmart recently. Movin' on up!

Mu = 145.61

Mangesh, Jason and Matthew for Enron

Say an editor or two from mental_floss joined an upstart writer like me (I'd play bass) and formed a dance-punk band, promptly selling our first song to Enron. We'd be so indie that nobody would have ever heard of us. Plus, we could quit these boring day jobs and focus on what really matters "“ the music, man.Mu = 170.44

Plug in your own bands and post your Moby Quotients!

Matthew Smith is an occasional contributor to mentalfloss.com

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Brain Training Could Help Combat Hearing Loss, Study Suggests
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Contrary to what you might think, the hearing loss that accompanies getting older isn't entirely about your ears. Studies have found that as people get older, the parts of their brain that process speech slow down, and it becomes especially difficult to isolate one voice in a noisy environment. New research suggests there may be a way to help older people hear better: brain training.

The Verge reports that a new double-blind study published in Current Biology suggests that a video game could help older people improve their hearing ability. Though the study was too small to be conclusive, the results are notable in the wake of several large studies in the past few years that found that the brain-training games on apps like Luminosity don't improve cognitive skills in the real world. Most research on brain training games has found that while you might get better at the game, you probably won't be able to translate that skill to your real life.

In the current study, the researchers recruited 24 older adults, all of whom were long-term hearing-aid users, for eight weeks of video game training. The average age was 70. Musical training has been associated with stronger audio perception, so half of the participants were asked to play a game that asked them to identify subtle changes in tones—like you would hear in a piece of music—in order to piece together a puzzle, and the other half played a placebo game designed to test their memory. In the former, as the levels got more difficult, the background noise got louder. The researchers compare the task to a violinist tuning out the rest of the orchestra in order to listen to just their own instrument.

After eight weeks of playing their respective games around three-and-a-half hours a week, the group that played the placebo memory game didn't perform any better on a speech perception test that asked participants to identify sentences or words amid competing voices. But those who played the tone-changing puzzle game saw significant improvement in their ability to process speech in noise conditions close to what you'd hear in an average restaurant. The tone puzzle group were able to accurately identify 25 percent more words against loud background noise than before their training.

The training was more successful for some participants than others, and since this is only one small study, it's possible that as this kind of research progresses, researchers might find a more effective game design for this purpose. But the study shows that in specific instances, brain training games can benefit users. This kind of game can't eliminate the need for hearing aids, but it can help improve speech recognition in situations where hearing aids often fail (e.g., when there is more than one voice speaking). However, once the participants stopped playing the game for a few months, their gains disappeared, indicating that it would have to be a regular practice.

[h/t The Verge]

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Need to Calm Yourself Down? Try This Military-Approved Breathing Technique
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Whether you’re dealing with co-worker chaos or pressure to perform on a project, it’s difficult to excel at work when you're extremely stressed. Can’t escape the office? Take a cue from real-life soldiers and try a technique called tactical breathing—also known as combat breathing, four-count breathing, and diaphragmatic breathing—to lower your heart rate and regain control of your breath.

“It’s one you can use when things are blowing up around you”—both literally and figuratively—“and you need to be able to stay calm,” explains clinical psychologist Belisa Vranich, who demonstrates a version of tactical breathing in Tech Insider’s video below.

Vranich is the author of 2016’s Breathe: The Simple, Revolutionary 14-Day Program to Improve your Mental and Physical Health. Watch, learn, and—of course—inhale and exhale along with her until you feel zen enough to salvage the remainder of your workday.

[h/t Business Insider]

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