science

The content of suffering merges with the impossibility of detaching oneself from suffering. […] In suffering there is an absence of all refuge. It is the fact of being directly exposed to being. It is made of the impossibility of fleeing or retreating. The whole acuity of suffering lies in this impossibility of retreat.

At the root of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a memory that cannot be controlled. It may intrude on everyday activity, thrusting a person into the middle of a horrifying event, or surface as night terrors or flashbacks. Decades of treatment of military veterans and sexual assault survivors have left little doubt that traumatic memories function differently from other memories. […]

The people listening to the sad memories, which often involved the death of a family member, showed consistently high engagement of the hippocampus, part of the brain that organizes and contextualizes memories. When the same people listened to their traumatic memories — of sexual assaults, fires, school shootings and terrorist attacks — the hippocampus was not involved. […]

“traumatic memories are not experienced as memories as such,” but as “fragments of prior events, subjugating the present moment.” The traumatic memories appeared to engage a different area of the brain — the posterior cingulate cortex, or P.C.C., which is usually involved in internally directed thought, like introspection or daydreaming. The more severe the person’s PTSD symptoms were, the more activity appeared in the P.C.C. What is striking about this finding is that the P.C.C. is not known as a memory region, but one that is engaged with “processing of internal experience”

{ NYT | Continue reading }

quote { Emmanuel Levinas, Time and the other (page 69), 1979 | PDF }

On this perfect day when everything is ripening and not only the grapes are becoming brown, a ray of sunshine has fallen on my life: I looked behind me, I looked before me, never have I seen so many and such good things together.

Unrealistic optimism or optimism bias—the tendency for individuals to overestimate the chance of favorable outcomes occurring and underestimate the chance of bad —has been found to be one of the most pervasive human traits across many domains. For instance, research has shown that individuals tend to underestimate the likelihood of developing a drinking problem or getting divorced and to overestimate their future earnings and how long they are going to live. Our established tendency toward unrealistic optimism poses an evolutionary puzzle as normative models of human judgment, like expected utility theory, suggest unbiased assessments of probabilities are advantageous. Like any other judgmental bias, optimism bias distorts the decision-making process, leading to systematic decision errors, increased rash and risky behavior and a failure to take precautionary measures. […]

There are reasons for expecting that the optimism bias may be associated with cognitive ability. Supportive empirical evidence for this framework comes from the experimental literature on cognitive ability and judgmental biases. For instance, intelligence has been found to lower one’s susceptibility to hindsight bias, overconfidence, framing, and the sunk cost fallacy. […]

we used an unbalanced panel of 36,312 respondents […]

The findings we present provide evidence that forecasting accuracy is linked to cognitive ability. Specifically, we find that higher cognitive ability is associated with a higher incidence of realism and pessimism in beliefs and a lower incidence of unrealistic optimism.

Taken together, our results lead us to conclude that the rash and risky behaviors associated with excessive optimism may be a side product of the true driver, low cognitive ability.

{ Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin | Continue reading }

‘Life comes in clusters, clusters of solitude, then a cluster when there is hardly time to breathe.’ —May Sarton (Journal of a Solitude, 1973)

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{ The Shortest Papers Ever Published }

‘Shrunken skull. And old.’ –James Joyce

A cornerstone of cognitive science is that mental systems are limited: There is a maximum amount of information they can process or store, beyond which performance breaks down. Yet so far the study of such limits has been focused on core systems like attention and memory. Here we explore the limit of self-representation, the ability to represent someone or something as you. […]

results are consistent with the view that the mind employs a cognitive architecture that can represent at most one self at a time, and which serially switches out the items it represents. […]

The self-representational limit of one item at a time differs markedly from known limits on other systems, like attention and short-term memory. The number of items we can both track and remember in short-term memory is greater than one, and somewhat flexible depending on the nature of the stimuli and their relations. For instance, people can track more items if they are evenly spaced out on the display rather than clumped together (Alvarez & Franconeri, 2007), remember more items if they are less complex (e.g., simple colors rather than shaded cubes) (Alvarez & Cavanagh, 2004), and both track and remember more items if they span the visual hemifields rather than occur within a single visual hemifield (Alvarez & Cavanagh, 2005; Strong & Alvarez, 2020). Self-representation appears to have a limit that is more severe and inflexible.

{ PsyArXiv | Continue reading }

Is there another word for synonym?

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{ Focus. The stairs will change direction every ~10 seconds. }

lean neck and thick hair and a stain of ink, a snail’s bed

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As the founder of Ironic, a meteorology company based in Brooklyn, Mr. Leavitt, 33, knows how temperatures and atmospheric conditions can sometimes affect weddings. […] Mr. Leavitt, who said he has conducted weather advisory for more than 2,400 events, now works as a consultant to wedding planners and venues, with fees starting at around $2,500. […]

While we can’t predict if there will be rain that day, what we can do is look at the historical weather data. We look at a specific mile in a location around the country over the past 30 years, and analyze the information. Say it’s rained three out of seven days, five out of seven days or seven out of seven days — that tells you a lot. If you know it’s going to rain five out of seven days, it’s a good idea to find a venue with an indoor option. If it’s raining once out of seven days, you can plan for an outdoor wedding.

We’re tracking every radar possible, every reporting data possible, and creating a clear picture of what the weather will be on a specific day. […] For a wedding in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., we used marine data to look at the wave height to determine when boats should transport guests for the easiest ride with the most peaceful, calm waters. At what time will people become less seasick? We did it in Lake Como, Italy, too.

For a Florida wedding on the beach, a couple wanted to get married outside in the afternoon, but didn’t want guests to be sitting in direct sunlight or holding up parasols and blocking the view. We produced a sun study — looking at the topography of the land, trees on the property, angle of the sun, height of the house and the sun’s path — to choose the precise time to start the ceremony with the most shade.

As meteorologists, we should never ever suggest what people do with their hair. But we can give you all the information on wind, speed, humidity and temperature, so you can take that to a hair stylist. If someone has naturally frizzy hair in a humid climate, or they’re more likely to sweat that leads to oily hair, we can give them the context so they can plan.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

art { Ellen Gallagher, DeLuxe, 2004–5 (detail) }

Sleep no more

no known drug, including caffeine, can effectively reverse sleep deprivation.

The reason has to do, in part, with the circadian rhythm of a chemical called adenosine that plays a major role in the regulation of sleep.

When you awake from a restful night of sleep, the adenosine level in your brain is at its nadir. Throughout the day, it steadily rises and gradually produces the pressure to sleep in the evening. During sleep, adenosine is cleared from the brain, which helps us wake up and stay alert.

Caffeine is a powerful antagonist at adenosine receptors in the brain, blocking the sedating effects of adenosine and making you feel stimulated and mentally sharp.

Here’s the problem. If you cut short your normal night of sleep, adenosine is not fully cleared from the brain. With chronic sleep deprivation, adenosine levels continue to rise, creating a persistent sense of fatigue and sleepiness and impairing cognitive function.

The brain adapts to this flood of adenosine by increasing the number of adenosine receptors in an attempt to get you to fall asleep, which of course only makes you feel more tired.

You will probably respond by increasing your caffeine consumption, in an attempt to block rising adenosine activity, which can only be restored by a normal night of sleep — the very thing my patient was trying to cut short.

Sleep deprivation doesn’t just make you tired. It impairs the brain’s ability to consolidate memory.

During sleep, your neurons are remodeled and change their firing pattern, which helps burn in the memories that are formed during the day.

Too little sleep can also exacerbate preexisting depression and anxiety disorders and make people with no previous mental health problems generally more angry and impulsive. […]

Intriguingly, while caffeine can’t eradicate sleep deprivation, it does appear to offset some of the harmful cognitive effects of sleep loss on memory. […]

Caffeine is usually metabolized within four to six hours. […] Some people are genetically slow metabolizers of caffeine and will have significant sleep-onset insomnia even from early morning coffee.

And here’s the most effective trick for falling asleep, which has been studied and shown to be as effective — if not more — than any hypnotic drug. Don’t do anything in bed except sleep or have sex — no reading, listening to music or anything else.

{ Washington Post | Continue reading }

‘What a loss to spend that much time with someone, only to find out that they are now a stranger.’ —Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

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The present studies investigated the relationships between men’s perceived risk of experiencing sperm competition (i.e., when the ejaculates of two or more men simultaneously occupy the reproductive tract of a single woman), and their use of strategies to detect, prevent, and correct their partner’s sexual infidelity.

We investigated these associations using self-reports provided by men (Study 1, n = 113), partner-reports provided by women (Study 2, n = 136), and dyadic reports (Study 3, n = 103 couples).

The results of these studies indicated that the attractiveness of women was consistently associated with men’s use of benefit-provisioning mate retention behaviors (e.g., buying expensive gifts for one’s partner, showing signs of physical affection) and semen-displacing behaviors (e.g., deeper copulatory thrusting, more thrusts during copulation), whereas the infidelity risk of women was often associated with men’s use of cost-inflicting mate retention behaviors (e.g., threatening to end the relationship, monopolization of partner’s free time).

{ Evolutionary Psychology | Continue reading }

Previous work provides evidence of adaptations to sperm competition in men. For example, men’s testes size relative to body weight is larger than for the monandrous gorilla, which experiences very low sperm competition risk. However, men’s relative testes size is smaller than that of chimpanzees, whose polygynandrous mating system generates substantial sperm competition. […]

Several studies provide evidence that men unconsciously increase sperm number in an ejaculate when they are at greater sperm competition risk. Specifically, men who spent a greater proportion of time apart from their partners since the couple’s last copulation (time during which a man cannot account for his partner’s sexual behavior) produce more sperm in their next in-pair copulatory ejaculate. […]

Researchers have also theorized that the morphology of the human penis suggests an evolved function as a semen displacement device. […]

Both sexes reported that men thrust more deeply and more quickly at the couple’s next copulation when they experienced contexts in which sperm competition is more likely to occur. […] Goetz and colleagues also found that as sperm competition risk increased, men performed more copulatory behaviors that might act to displace the sperm of a potential rival that may be present (such as more thrusts and deeper thrusts during copulation). […]

Symons (1979) argued that women’s orgasm and associated physiological structures such as the clitoris are byproducts of selection on male genitalia and orgasm. […] Research also indicates that orgasm increases the retention of sperm. […] ancestral men who were particularly interested in the occurrence of their partner’s copulatory orgasm may have been more successful in the context of sperm competition.

{ Personality and Individual Differences (2010) | Continue reading }

The infidelity-detection hypothesis for oral sex proposes that men perform oral sex to gather information about their partner’s recent sexual history. […] men at a greater recurrent risk of sperm competition expressed greater interest in, and spent more time performing, oral sex on their partner

{ Personality and Individual Differences (2012) | Continue reading | More: Is Cunnilingus-Assisted Orgasm a Male Sperm-Retention Strategy? }

Love is all. It gives all, and it takes all.

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{ In contrast to an epiphany, an apophany does not provide insight into the nature of reality nor its interconnectedness | Images acquired over 3 Mars years showing heart-shaped features found on Mars | NASA }

‘The purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things.’ –Rainer Maria Rilke

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[T]he reason someone may live beyond 100 years starts with their DNA […] “You can’t make it out that far without having already won the genetic lottery at birth” […] The longer your parents live, the more likely you’ll live a healthier, longer life, experts say. […]

“It’s probably not one single gene but a profile, a combination of genes”

Nir Barzilai, the director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, has studied the lives of hundreds of centenarians, the people they’ve married and their kids. The children of centenarians are “about 10 years healthier” than their peers, Barzilai said. […]

The plan is to use artificial intelligence to help find the genes and develop drugs from them

{ Washington Post | Continue reading }

‘A happy memory is perhaps on this earth truer than happiness itself.’ –Alfred de Musset

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Adult individuals frequently face difficulties in attracting and keeping mates, which is an important driver of singlehood.

In the current research, we investigated the mating performance (i.e., how well people do in attracting and retaining intimate partners) and singlehood status in 14 different countries, namely Austria, Brazil, China, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Peru, Poland, Russia, Spain, Turkey, the UK, and Ukraine (N = 7,181).

We found that poor mating performance was in high occurrence, with about one in four participants scoring low in this dimension, and more than 57% facing difficulties in starting and/or keeping a relationship.

Men and women did not differ in their mating performance scores, but there was a small yet significant effect of age, with older participants indicating higher mating performance.

{ Evolutionary Psychology | Continue reading }

design { Ken Kelleher }

‘Not only were we happy, but we knew it.’ –Rudyard Kipling

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The cells that make up our body are constantly making new cells by dividing. A biological technicality causes us to lose a bit of DNA at the ends of our chromosomes (structures made up of DNA and proteins) after each replication. DNA contains the blueprint for our lives, so in order to make sure we aren’t losing crucial information during these divisions, the long molecules of DNA are protected by shorter segments of DNA at their ends called “telomeres.” An analogy would be the plastic tips on a shoelace that prevent it from unraveling. When a cell multiplies, the only part of the chromosome that is lost is a piece of the telomeres. But as we age, our telomeres get shorter, until they reach a critical point where the cell can no longer replicate without damage to its essential DNA. When this occurs, the cell becomes inactive or dies. Shortening of telomeres is linked to senescence and increased risk of disease. Other contributors to aging include oxidative stress (hence the appeal of antioxidants).

Lobsters have a perpetual supply of telomerase – the enzyme that can restore telomeres, helping cells avoid that fateful end. Humans also have telomerase, just not enough to overcome the constant shortening of telomeres. In fact, telomerase is often found in cancer cells, giving tumours a survival advantage.

[A] large supply of telomerase can be a double-edged sword. Lobsters are still more likely to die with age because their hard-shell exoskeleton moults and has to be regrown. This requires reams of energy, eventually too much. As a result, common causes of death for lobsters are exhaustion, immobility, and shell disease, although the leading cause is still predation.

{ McGill | Continue reading }

Spinoza defines the first kind of knowledge as the lowest or most inadequate kind. It is also the natural way humans have knowledge.

Humans can think about possible states of the world without believing in them, an important capacity for high-level cognition.

Here we use fMRI and a novel “shell game” task to test two competing theories about the nature of belief and its neural basis.

According to the Cartesian theory, information is first understood, then assessed for veracity, and ultimately encoded as either believed or not believed. According to the Spinozan theory, comprehension entails belief by default, such that understanding without believing requires an additional process of “unbelieving”. […]

findings are consistent with a version of the Spinozan theory whereby unbelieving is an inhibitory control process.

{ PsyArXiv | Continue reading }

BREAKING NEWS FROM PLANET BULLSHIT

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Elon Musk is going to launch a satellite that displays ads in space, reports @BusinessInsider.

He is one of several billionaires investing vast sums on the space race.

SpaceX will launch the satellite with a display screen in 2022.

Ad space will be bought using cryptocurrency.

{ AJPlus | More: Daily Mail }

Smartphone is now ‘the place where we live’

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Nimrod, the builder of cities from Babel to Calah, was the first “mighty man” on earth, and a “mighty hunter before the Lord.” So were other African, Asian, European, and New World kings. They hunted everything from lions to guanacos, on four of the six continents, from the beginning of recorded time. But why?

Hunting provided meat, and it may have also provided military exercises; but most kings subsisted on domesticated animals and plants and delegated their wars to specialists. […]

Hunting was extremely expensive. Kings lost time with their ministers and with their families; they spent enormous resources on elephants and horses, hounds, hawks, manpower, and fodder. In addition to the obvious time and money costs, there were huge risks. Hunting kings and their sons were often wounded. And more than a few died. […]

Some were felled by stray arrows, whereas others were felled by their own arrows; some caught cold in the forest, and others fell off their horses. It is impossible to quantify the time and money costs or the morbidity and mortality risks. However, a list of anecdotes is impressive: Plenty of kings were wounded or killed chasing game in the woods. […]

The benefits seem to have been outweighed by the costs. […]

Evolutionary psychology is predicated on the assumption that humans are collections of vestiges; that Pleistocene ecologies shaped our mental and physical traits, which are often at odds with modern environments, and maladaptive behaviors resulted. Hunting was the human adaptation on the savannah for hundreds of thousands of years. Good hunters won mates by providing meat; or they attracted them by showing off the talents involved in killing game. Human bodies and minds should have been shaped to reflect those facts.

{ Cross-Cultural Research | PDF }

image { Horse Laughs (1891) }

Parlour games (dominos, halma, tiddledywinks, spillikins, cup and ball, nap, spoil five, bezique, twentyfive, beggar my neighbour, draughts, chess or backgammon)

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Eye Contact Marks The Rise And Fall of Shared Attention in Conversation

Conversation is the platform where minds meet —the venue where information is shared, ideas co-created, cultural norms shaped, and social bonds forged. Its frequency and ease belie its complexity.

Every conversation weaves a unique shared narrative from the contributions of independent minds, requiring partners to flexibly move into and out of alignment as needed for conversation to both cohere and evolve. How two minds achieve this coordination is poorly understood.

Here we test whether eye contact, a common feature of conversation, predicts this coordination by measuring dyadic pupillary synchrony (a corollary of shared attention) during natural conversation.

We find that eye contact is positively correlated with synchrony as well as ratings of engagement by conversation partners.

However, rather than elicit synchrony, eye contact commences as synchrony peaks and predicts its immediate and subsequent decline until eye contact breaks. This relationship suggests that eye contact signals when shared attention is high.

Further, we speculate that eye contact may play a corrective role in disrupting shared attention (reducing synchrony) as needed to facilitate independent contributions to conversation.

{ PsyArXiv | Continue reading }

photo { Edward Weston, Flora Chandler Weston, 1909 }

Like the chocolate of Vavey, in the sun they’ll melt away

In building your book I wanted to pursue my own process of decomposition.  I began to think about the ways in which paper degrades.  Rotting in the ground, exposure to rain, chemicals (I used Xylene, a paint thinner, for the image transfers on the cover), and fire.  Although rain or burying paper in the ground would have created unique and unpredictable patterns of ruin in the paper, these seemed like passive processes, whereas burning paper could achieve some level of stochastic design but in a more involved, active, and risk-exposed situation.   I followed the traditional recipe for Chinese blackpowder: 75% potassium nitrate, or saltpeter, 15% carbon, 10% sulphur. […]

On a hot plate, outside, the potassium nitrate is usually dissolved in a pot of water, however instead of water I poured into the potassium nitrate a jar of my stale, sunbaked urine since it accelerates the burn process.  

{ Big Other | Continue reading }

Why is it hard to talk and make eye contact at the same time?

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{ Prosopometamorphopsia is an extremely rare disorder of visual perception characterised by facial distortions }

Natura naturans

for every generation until now, climate change has always been “the next generation’s problem.”

{ Real Life | Continue reading }

‘I don’t want to be 20 cent’ –50 cent

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Between the 1970s and the early aughts, the incidence of myopia in the US nearly doubled, to 42 percent. Myopia’s rise has been the starkest in Asia; one survey in Korea found a rate as high as 96 percent among teenagers.

Clearly, something is going on. But scientists can’t agree on exactly what. Being constantly tethered to devices and books indoors might be part of it: Based on a handful of large epidemiological studies on myopia, spending time outdoors—especially in early childhood—reduces the onset of myopia. […]

Neuroscientists discovered the classic animal model for myopia by accident in the 1970s, when they were sewing one eye shut in newborn monkeys to study the development of the brain’s visual system. […] Around the same time as the eye-sewing experiments, neuroscientists figured out they could do the same in chickens and tree shrews—much easier to keep in the lab than monkeys. And instead of sewing the eyelid shut, they could just put what looks like half a ping pong ball over the eye. This “form deprivation” model of myopia has inspired some fascinating science. In 2010, for example, Morgan’s collaborators found that exposure to bright light could reverse this type of induced myopia in chickens. Further experiments pinned down the mechanism, too: Light activates the neurotransmitter dopamine, which prevents the eyes from growing longer.

{ Wired | Continue reading }