About John Mansfield

Mansfield in the desertA third-generation southern Nevadan, I have lived in exile most of my life in such places as Los Alamos, Baltimore, Los Angeles, the western suburbs of Detroit, and currently the northern suburbs of Washington, D.C. I work as a fluid dynamics engineer. I was baptized at age twelve in the font of the Las Vegas Nevada Central Stake Center, and on my nineteenth birthday I received the endowment in the St. George Temple. I served as a missionary mostly in the Patagonia of Argentina from 1985 to 1987. My true calling in the Church seems to be working with Cub Scouts, whom I have served in different capacities in four states most years since 1992. (My oldest boy turned eight in 2004.) I also currently teach Sunday School to the thirteen-year-olds. I hold degrees from two universities named for men who died in the 1870s, the Brigham Young University and the Johns Hopkins University. My wife is Elizabeth Pack Mansfield, who comes from New Mexico's north central mountains and studied molecular biology at the same two schools I attended. We have four sons, whose care and admonition, along with care of my aged father, require much of Elizabeth's time. She currently serves the Church as Mia-Maid advisor, ward music chairman, and choir director, and plays violin whenever she can. One day, I would like to make shoes.

Ars Gratia Multitudinis

Years ago I knew a young man who trained as an artist and was trying to get started in the profession. I taught seminary in the same room where he taught Sunday School, and there would sometimes be an interesting chalk sketch left that I unfortunately had to erase. Contrary to stereotypes, he had no sense of entitlement that the world owed him an opportunity to create, and accepted that work he might produce for profit would have to serve the purposes of those buying it as well as his own. In that vein, he once explained that painting nudes was self-indulgent and not viable for a working artist. There were few art buyers who wanted such works for their living rooms. Continue reading

Napoleon Dynamite’s Christmas Future Revealed

For the video to accompany their fifth annual Christmas single, “Boots,” the Killers turned this time to Jared Hess, who is best known for writing and directing Napoleon Dynamite. Interspliced with cool shots of Brandon Flowers atop some building north of Fremont Street (a little west of the El Cortez, I think), is a narrative involving a fifteen-years-older Napoleon, or someone who looks quite a bit like him. Life hasn’t worked out too well for Napoleon, but occasionally music and dance can still lift him up and make his wildest dreams come true.

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The Spirit of Elijah Will Spare the World from the Curse . . . of Low Test Scores

As seen at Marginal Revolution, a study of turning the hearts of the children to their fathers:

An initial study involved 80 undergrads spending five minutes thinking about either their fifteenth century ancestors, their great-grandparents or a recent shopping trip. Afterwards, those students in the two ancestor conditions were more confident about their likely performance in future exams, an effect that seemed to be mediated by their feeling more in control of their lives.

Three further studies showed that thinking or writing about their recent or distant ancestors led students to actually perform better on a range of intelligence tests, including verbal and spatial tasks (in one test, students who thought about their distant ancestors scored an average of 14 out of 16, compared with an average of 10 out of 16 among controls). The ancestor benefit was mediated partly by students attempting more answers – what the researchers called having a ‘promotion orientation’.

Healthy, Recognizably Mormon Faces

Five years ago, Ryan Bell wrote a post at Millennial Star considering which public figures look like Mormons, particularly Chief Justice John Roberts (“Mormon Face”). Now, researchers the University of Toronto and Tufts University have tackled the question “Can people pick out Mormons by looking at their faces?” (Thanks to Marginal Revolution for pointing out the article.)

“On the Perception of Religious Group Membership from Faces”

From the abstract:

Although religious group membership is thought to be perceptually ambiguous, folk beliefs suggest that Mormons and non-Mormons can be categorized from their appearance. We tested whether Mormons could be distinguished from non-Mormons and investigated the basis for this effect to gain insight to how subtle perceptual cues can support complex social categorizations.

The final paragraph:

In conclusion, Mormons and non-Mormons subtly differ in their facial appearance and perceivers are able to perceive these differences in a way that allows for accurate categorization. The two groups are distinguished by differences in apparent health, which appears to be expressed in facial cues signaling skin quality. These data verify a longstanding folk belief among a highly cohesive minority religious group and provide insights to the incorporation of subtle perceptual cues to support higher-level social cognitions.