science

Let’s follow that fire truck I think your house is burnin down

541.jpg

The average person misplaces up to nine items a day, and one-third of respondents in a poll said they spend an average of 15 minutes each day searching for items—cellphones, keys and paperwork top the list, according to an online survey of 3,000 people published in 2012 by a British insurance company. […]

In a recent study, researchers in Germany found that the majority of people surveyed about forgetfulness and distraction had a variation in the so-called dopamine D2 receptor gene (DRD2), leading to a higher incidence of forgetfulness. According to the study, 75% of people carry a variation that makes them more prone to forgetfulness.

{ WSJ | Continue reading }

related { Processing new information during sleep compromises memory }

photo { Daniel Bejar, The Visual Topography of a Generation Gap (Brooklyn, NY, #1), 2011 }

Postscript on the Societies of Control

445.jpg

A computer has solved the longstanding Erdős discrepancy problem. Trouble is, we have no idea what it’s talking about — because the solution, which is as long as all of Wikipedia’s pages combined, is far too voluminous for us puny humans to confirm.

A few years ago, the mathematician Steven Strogatz predicted that it wouldn’t be too much longer before computer-assisted solutions to math problems will be beyond human comprehension.

{ io9 | Continue reading }

photo { Taryn Simon }

We must embrace emptiness and burn it as fuel for our journey

243.jpg

If you’re like most people, you spend a great deal of your time remembering past events and planning or imagining events that may happen in the future. While these activities have their uses, they also make it terribly hard to keep track of what you have and haven’t actually seen, heard, or done. Distinguishing between memories of real experiences and memories of imagined or dreamt experiences is called reality monitoring and it’s something we do (or struggle to do) all of the time. […]

Perhaps you’ve left the house and headed to work, only to wonder en route if you’d locked the door. Even if you thought you did, it can be hard to tell whether you remember actually doing it or just thinking about doing it. […]

The study’s authors also found greater activation in the anterior medial prefrontal cortex when they compared reality monitoring for actions participants performed with those they only imagined performing.

{ Garden of the Mind | Continue reading }

‘The fire of hell is called eternal, only because it never ends.’ –Thomas Aquinas

45.jpg

When you really focus your attention on something, you’re said to be “in the present moment.” But a new piece of research suggests that the “present moment” is actually […] a sort of composite—a product mostly of what we’re seeing now, but also influenced by what we’ve been seeing for the previous 15 seconds or so. They call this ephemeral boundary the “continuity field.”

{ Quartz | Continue reading }

photo { Richard Sandler }

What’s the last thing that you do remember?

432.jpg

A fascinating paper asks what one man with no memory – and no regrets – can really teach us about time. […]

Researchers Carl Craver and colleagues describe the case of “KC”, a former “roadie for rock bands, prone to drinking and occasional rash behavior” who suffered extensive brain damage in a motorcycle crash. In particular, KC lost his hippocampus on both sides of the brain. This area is crucial for memory, so KC experiences profound amnesia. In fact, he’s one of the best known cases of the condition.

KC is unable to form any new long-term memories: he forgets everything that happens within a matter of minutes. He also, famously, cannot imagine anything happening in either the past or the future. Here’s a much-quoted conversation between him and neuroscientist Endel Tulving.

ET: What will you be doing tomorrow?

[15 second pause.]

KC: I don’t know.


{ Neuroskeptic | Continue reading }

photo { Archana Rayamajhi }

‘Never confuse the size of your paycheck with the size of your talent.’ —Marlon Brando

243.jpg

People often believe they have more control over outcomes (particularly positive outcomes) than they actually do. Psychologists discovered this illusion of control in controlled experiments. […] People suffering from depression tend not to fall for this illusion. That fact, along with similar findings from depression, gave rise to the term depressive realism. Two recent studies now suggest that patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) may also represent contingency and estimate personal control differently from the norm. […] Their obsessions cause them distress and they perform compulsions in an effort to regain some sense of control over their thoughts, fears, and anxieties. Yet in some cases, compulsions (like sports fans’ superstitions) seem to indicate an inflated sense of personal control. Based on this conventional model of OCD, you might predict that people with the illness will either underestimate or overestimate their personal control over events. So which did the studies find? In a word: both.

{ Garden of the Mind | Continue reading }

‘Whenever I climb I am followed by a dog called Ego.’ –Nietzsche

237.jpg

A recent paper has put a hole in another remnant of Freud’s influence, that suppressed memories are still active. Freud noticed that we can suppress unwelcome memories. He theorized that the suppressed memories continued to exist in the unconscious mind and could unconsciously affect behaviour. Uncovering these memories and their influence was a large part of psychoanalysis. Understanding whether this theory is valid is important for evaluating recovered memories of abuse and for dealing with post-traunatic stress disorder.

The question Gagnepain, Henson and Anderson set out to answer was whether successfully suppressed conscious memories were also suppressed unconsciously or whether they were still unconsciously active. […]

[T]he results do fit with a number of other findings about memory, so that it is now unwise to take the Freudian view of suppression as reliable.

{ Neuro-patch | Continue reading }

‘By letting it go it all gets done.’ —Lao Tze

5341.jpg

Male movements serve as courtship signals in many animal species, and may honestly reflect the genotypic and/or phenotypic quality of the individual. Attractive human dance moves, particularly those of males, have been reported to show associations with measures of physical strength, prenatal androgenization and symmetry. […]

By using cutting-edge motion-capture technology, we have been able to precisely break down and analyse specific motion patterns in male dancing that seem to influence women’s perceptions of dance quality. We find that the variability and amplitude of movements in the central body regions (head, neck and trunk) and speed of the right knee movements are especially important in signalling dance quality.

{ Biology Letters | PDF }

‘Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings—always darker, emptier and simpler.’ —Nietzsche

236.jpg

At one end is our everyday consciousness, and at the other is total unconsciousness, as represented by coma. Actually, the term “coma” covers two very similar states: One is the kind of coma that results from a severe head injury or cardiac arrest, and the other is the state induced in a hospital setting by means of general anesthesia.

So anyone who has had general anesthesia has been in a coma?

Yes, general anesthesia is nearly identical to what we might call “natural” coma.

{ American Scientist | Continue reading }

A roman walks into a bar, holds up two fingers and says, Five beers please

4534.jpg

Your voice betrays your personality in a split second

[…]

They extracted the word “hello” and asked 320 people to rate the voices on a scale of 1 to 9 for one of 10 perceived personality traits – including trustworthiness, dominance and attractiveness. […] “We were surprised by just how similar people’s ratings were.” […] most people agreed very closely to what extent each voice represented each trait.

{ NewScientist | Continue reading }

related { How sound affects the taste of our food }

‘The higher we soar, the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly.’ —Nietzsche

423.jpg

These fictional examples suggest that creativity and dishonesty often go hand-in-hand. Is there an actual link? Is there something about the creative process that triggers unethical behavior? Or does behaving in dishonest ways spur creative thinking? My research suggests that they both exist: Encouraging people to think outside the box can result in greater cheating, and crossing ethical boundaries can make people more creative in subsequent tasks. 

{ Scientific American | Continue reading }

‘Max I can loose is 100%. Max I can gain is unlimited.’ —Shit /r/Bitcoin says

74.jpg

The arguments for ditching notes and coins are numerous, and quite convincing. In the US, a study by Tufts University concluded that the cost of using cash amounts to around $200 billion per year – about $637 per person. This is primarily the costs associated with collecting, sorting and transporting all that money, but also includes trivial expenses like ATM fees. Incidentally, the study also found that the average American wastes five and a half hours per year withdrawing cash from ATMs; just one of the many inconvenient aspects of hard currency.

While coins last decades, or even centuries, paper currency is much less durable. A dollar bill has an average lifespan of six years, and the US Federal Reserve shreds somewhere in the region of 7,000 tons of defunct banknotes each year.

Physical currency is grossly unhealthy too. Researchers in Ohio spot-checked cash used in a supermarket and found 87% contained harmful bacteria. Only 6% of the bills were deemed “relatively clean.” […]

Stockholm’s homeless population recently began accepting card payments. […]

Cash transactions worldwide rose just 1.75% between 2008 and 2012, to $11.6 trillion. Meanwhile, non traditional payment methods rose almost 14% to total $6.4 trillion.

{ TransferWise | Continue reading }

The anal stage is the second stage in Sigmund Freud’s theory of psychosexual development, lasting from age 18 months to three years. According to Freud, the anus is the primary erogenous zone and pleasure is derived from controlling bladder and bowel movement. […]

The negative reactions from their parents, such as early or harsh toilet training, can lead the child to become an anal-retentive personality. If the parents tried forcing the child to learn to control their bowel movements, the child may react by deliberately holding back in rebellion. They will form into an adult who hates mess, is obsessively tidy, punctual, and respectful to authority. These adults can sometimes be stubborn and be very careful over their money.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

related { Hackers Hit Mt. Gox Exchange’s CEO, Claim To Publish Evidence Of Fraud | Where are the 750k Bitcoins lost by Mt. Gox? }