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Julian Oliver: Cartography – the most influential art form? July 13, 2008

Posted by Ana Bird in art, politics, religion, science, sociology.
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from: Julian Oliver Vimeo
Vodpod videos no longer available.

Video documentation of Julian Oliver’s keynote: Cartofictions: Maps, the Imaginary and GeoSocial Engineering at Inclusiva-net, Madrid 2008.

Abstract:
From the earliest world maps to Google Earth, cartography has been a vital interface to the world. It guides our perceptions of what the world is and steers our actions in it. As our knowledge about the world has changed, so have maps with it (or so we like to think).

In this lecture Julian shows a darker side of map-making, covering various reality-distorting effects innate to the graphic language of cartography and how they can be easily exploited for gain..

In doing so Julian positions cartography as an abstract and influentual creative practice, rich with the power to engineer political views, religious ideas and even the material world itself.

Training can increase fluid intelligence, once thought to be fixed at birth July 7, 2008

Posted by Ana Bird in science.
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from: National Science Foundation
Plastic Brain Outsmarts Experts

Illustration showing the memory storage area of the brain with a nerve network.

Can human beings rev up their intelligence quotients, or are they stuck with IQs set by their genes at birth? Until recently, nature seemed to be the clear winner over nurture.

But new research, led by Swiss postdoctoral fellows Susanne M. Jaeggi and Martin Buschkuehl, working at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, suggests that at least one aspect of a person’s IQ can be improved by training a certain type of memory.

Most IQ tests attempt to measure two types of intelligence–crystallized and fluid intelligence. Crystallized intelligence draws on existing skills, knowledge and experiences to solve problems by accessing information from long-term memory.

Fluid intelligence, on the other hand, draws on the ability to understand relationships between various concepts, independent of any previous knowledge or skills, to solve new problems. The research shows that this part of intelligence can be improved through memory training.

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How Does Your Memory Work? July 4, 2008

Posted by Ana Bird in science.
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Aired: March 25, 2008 on BBC2

Horizon takes viewers on an extraordinary journey into the human memory. From the woman who is having her most traumatic memories wiped by a pill, to the man with no memory, this film reveals how these remarkable human stories are transforming our understanding of this unique human ability.
John Forbes is not like most of us. The hardware for his memory was damaged at birth. Although he’s an intelligent young man, his specific injury prevents him from doing simple tasks such as catching a bus, or cooking a meal, because he constantly forgets what he is doing. And, the same areas of the brain used to process memories also produce our ideas about the future. So, without a past, John is also unable to imagine his own future.

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Intuition can be explained July 3, 2008

Posted by Ana Bird in science.
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from: Linkoping University


Intuition, or tacit knowledge, is difficult to measure, so it is often denigrated. A dissertation in education research shows that there is a neurobiological explanation for how experience-based knowledge is created.

“Can’t ‘splain sump’n to somebody who doesn’t understand it”; “my legs think faster than I do” (Swedish alpine skiing champion Ingemar Stenmark). “Skate where the puck´s going, not where it´s been” (Wayne Gretsky).

Lars-Erik Björklund uses these quotations in his dissertation to illustrate what we mean by intuition, tacit knowledge, hands-on knowledge, or practical wisdom.

“In studies from the 1980s on nurses, it was shown that those who had been in the profession for a long time saw more and made better judgments more quickly,” says Lars-Erik Björklund, who devoted his thesis to a review of research in various fields involving this knowledge.

The fact that people with long experience are often better at what they do, that practice makes perfect, is nothing new. But no good explanations have been put forward as to why this is the case.

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Can Machines Be Conscious? June 28, 2008

Posted by Ana Bird in philoshophy, science, tech.
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By Christof Koch and Giulio Tononi

Image: Bryan Christie Design

Would you sell your soul on eBay? Right now, of course, you can’t. But in some quarters it is taken for granted that within a generation, human beings—including you, if you can hang on for another 30 years or so—will have an alternative to death: being a ghost in a machine. You’ll be able to upload your mind—your thoughts, memories, and personality—to a computer. And once you’ve reduced your consciousness to patterns of electrons, others will be able to copy it, edit it, sell it, or pirate it. It might be bundled with other electronic minds. And, of course, it could be deleted.

That’s quite a scenario, considering that at the moment, nobody really knows exactly what consciousness is. Pressed for a pithy definition, we might call it the ineffable and enigmatic inner life of the mind. But that hardly captures the whirl of thought and sensation that blossoms when you see a loved one after a long absence, hear an exquisite violin solo, or relish an incredible meal. Some of the most brilliant minds in human history have pondered consciousness, and after a few thousand years we still can’t say for sure if it is an intangible phenomenon or maybe even a kind of substance different from matter. We know it arises in the brain, but we don’t know how or where in the brain. We don’t even know if it requires specialized brain cells (or neurons) or some sort of special circuit arrangement of them.

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The (Real) Sound of Silence June 11, 2008

Posted by Ana Bird in art, creative, music, science.
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Science shows what we all instinctively know: pauses in music speak loudly to the brain.

by Meera Lee Sethi

The (Real) Sound of Silence
Image: Yaroslav B/Anna Gosline

In the second section of Samuel Barber’s exquisitely mournful composition “Adagio for Strings,” the cellos, violas, and violins join together to build to a rising melodic climax, reaching a thrilling, almost keening peak of grief – and then sharply stop. There is a breathtaking silence that lasts several long seconds. Finally, after more than a few thudding heartbeats, the instruments resume their play with a series of soft chords that now seem painfully delicate, carrying the piece to its sighing, fading conclusion.

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Marc Hauser + Errol Morris June 11, 2008

Posted by Ana Bird in art, film, politics, science.
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The evolutionary psychologist and the documentary filmmaker discuss game theory, Stanley Milgram, and whether science can make us better people.

From: Seed Magazine

Errol Morris Credit: Julian Dufort

Documentary filmmaker Errol Morris has made a career of trafficking in moral ambiguity and complexity. Evolutionary psychologist Marc Hauser has pioneered research into the idea of a universal morality grounded in biology. Hauser believes humans possess a moral grammar; Morris isn’t so sure. The two met when Morris asked Hauser to be part of his short film for the 2007 Oscars. They kept in touch, exchanged ideas, and Hauser attended an early screening of Standard Operating Procedure, Morris’s film about the abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib. Recently in Boston they debated game theory, Stanley Milgram, and whether science can make us better people.

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Predictably irrational, variably dishonest: June 10, 2008

Posted by Ana Bird in science, Uncategorized.
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from: Mind Hacks

Behavioural economist Dan Ariely was the guest on the latest edition of ABC Radio National’s All in the Mind where he discusses why we’re so bad at predicting what’s best for us, and why honesty is a shifty behaviour.

As well as being a researcher, Ariely is also author of a psychology book called Predictably Irrational which is currently riding high in the book charts.

It’s worth catching the mp3 version of the programme, as it’s slightly extended, and I found the last part, where Ariely talks about honesty, the most interesting.

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Evolving a belief in God June 10, 2008

Posted by Ana Bird in religion, science.
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Our capacity for religious belief is the result of natural selection

by Simon Underdown

guardian.co.uk

    The idea that humans are in some way special or set above all other species is an old one. Creation mythologies frequently see humans given dominion over the whole world as a result of recognising the god figure. The theory of evolution undermines this concept of superiority by demonstrating that humans are subject to the same evolutionary pressures as all other living things, hence the antipathy between evolutionary science and religious believers. However, as discussed from a religious perspective by Joanna Collicutt in her recent article, research in cognitive neuroscience suggests that religious belief is “hardwired” into our brains, through a desire to attach agency and purpose to inanimate objects and the most impersonal forces.

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