Scientists hope to learn whether arachnophobes’ perception of spiders as larger than actual size causes their fear—or whether it is the fearfulness itself that causes their visual misperception.
MEDFORD, MA—In a finding that upends longstanding assumptions about human mental capabilities, a Tufts University study published Monday has determined that gratification can actually be deliberately postponed. “We now have sound scientific evidence that suggests one can intentionally enjoy something at a point in time beyond this very moment,” said study co-author Bennett Sims…(read more)
In the confines of a London dinner party, comedian Tim Minchin argues with a hippy named Storm. While Storm herself may not be converted, audiences from London to LA have been won over by Tim’s wordplay and the timely message of the film in a society where science and reason are portrayed as the enemy of belief.
Written and performed by Tim Minchin @timminchin. Directed by DC Turner @dcturner. Produced by Tracy King @tkingdoll. http://www.stormmovie.net
— Gizmodo (@Gizmodo) August 28, 2014
Our co-found and Editor-At-Large. Though this snapshot looks vintage, it was actually taken fairly recently, around 2007, back when he had a bit less gray hair, and long before he had a 3-D printer. But his hobbies are essentially the same. He’s currently heading up our Hong Kong Bureau, where his time and space doesn’t allow for recreational rocket building, so I’m sure he’ll enjoy this archival snapshot as a winsome reminder of a cherished pastime.
The narrator talks fast. I like that. Look for the phrase “Hormonal Rodeo”.
Being a teenager is hard. Especially when hormones play their part in wreaking havoc on the teenage body and brain. In this episode, Hank explains what is happening to the during the angsty-time.
Are you scientifically literate? Take the quiz
You may have an opinion on climate change, evolution education, stem-cell research, and science funding. But do you have the facts to back up your opinion? This quiz will test your basic scientific literacy.
I took the test, and did not do as well as I hoped, but I learned a few things. Perhaps you’ll do better?
So many images created in the name of science are brilliant works of art. Magnetic resonance imaging, for instance, produces beautiful reconstructions of the human brain, with all its neural tracts traced in different colors. And, when a geologist photographs a thin slice of peridotite, lit with polarized light, the sample resembles brightly-colored stained glass.
This idea of scientists seeing the artistry in their work certainly hasn’t been lost on Wellcome Images, the world’s leading collection of photographs, X-rays and illustrations chronicling the history of medicine. Each year, the Wellcome Image Awards celebrate the cream of the archive’s new crop of pictures, chosen, as Catherine Draycott, head of Wellcome Images, says, “for their scientific and technical merit as much as for their aesthetic appeal.”
This year’s batch of 16 winners, on display at the Wellcome Collection in London through December 31, depicts cancer cells, bacteria, the connective tissue from a person’s knee and even the surface of a living human’s brain…
via >> Collage of Arts and Sciences smithsonianmag.com
In the world of sci-fi movie geekdom, Aug. 29, 1997, was a turning point for humanity: On that day, according to the Terminator films, the network of U.S. defense computers known as Skynet became self-aware—and soon launched an all-out genocidal war against Homo sapiens.
Fortunately, that date came and went with no such robo-apocalypse. But the 1990s did bring us the World Wide Web, which is now far larger and more “connected” than any nation’s defense network. Could the Internet “wake up”? And if so, what sorts of thoughts would it think? And would it be friend or foe?
Neuroscientist Christof Koch believes we may soon find out—indeed, the complexity of the Web may have already surpassed that of the human brain. In his book Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist, published earlier this year, he makes a rough calculation: Take the number of computers on the planet—several billion—and multiply by the number of transistors in each machine—hundreds of millions—and you get about a billion billion, written more elegantly as 1018. That’s a thousand times larger than the number of synapses in the human brain about 1015.
Koch, who taught for more than 25 years at Caltech and is now chief scientific officer at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, is known for his work on the “neural correlates” of consciousness—studying the brain to see what’s going on when we have specific conscious experiences. Of course, our brains happen to be soft, wet, and made of living tissue, while the Internet is made up of metal chips and wires—but that’s no obstacle to consciousness, he says, so long as the level of complexity is great enough…
More >> via >> Christof Koch, Robert Sawyer – Slate Magazine.
Call it what you want – neuroscientism, neurobabble – it’s evidence that quackery is on the rise. No matter what the question, it seems, brain research has the answer… more»
For decades, the U.S. government banned medical studies of the effects of LSD. But for one longtime, elite researcher, the promise of mind-blowing revelations was just too tempting…
Stanford, the other from Hewlett-Packard—donned eyeshades and earphones, sank into comfy couches, and waited for their government-approved dose of LSD to kick in. From across the suite and with no small amount of anticipation, Dr. James Fadiman spun the knobs of an impeccable sound system and unleashed Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68.” Then he stood by, ready to ease any concerns or discomfort.
For this particular experiment, the couched volunteers had each brought along three highly technical problems from their respective fields that they’d been unable to solve for at least several months. In approximately two hours, when the LSD became fully active, they were going to remove the eyeshades and earphones, and attempt to find some solutions. Fadiman and his team would monitor their efforts, insights, and output to determine if a relatively low dose of acid—100 micrograms to be exact—enhanced their creativity.
It was the summer of ’66. And the morning was beginning like many others at the International Foundation for Advanced Study, an inconspicuously named, privately funded facility dedicated to psychedelic drug research, which was located, even less conspicuously, on the second floor of a shopping plaza in Menlo Park, Calif. However, this particular morning wasn’t going to go like so many others had during the preceding five years, when researchers at IFAS (pronounced “if-as”) had legally dispensed LSD. Though Fadiman can’t recall the exact date, this was the day, for him at least, that the music died. Or, perhaps more accurately for all parties involved in his creativity study, it was the day before.
At approximately 10 a.m., a courier delivered an express letter to the receptionist, who in turn quickly relayed it to Fadiman and the other researchers. They were to stop administering LSD, by order of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Effective immediately. Dozens of other private and university-affiliated institutions had received similar letters that day.
That research centers once were permitted to explore the further frontiers of consciousness seems surprising to those of us who came of age when a strongly enforced psychedelic prohibition was the norm. They seem not unlike the last generation of children’s playgrounds, mostly eradicated during the ’90s, that were higher and riskier than today’s soft-plastic labyrinths. (Interestingly, a growing number of child psychologists now defend these playgrounds, saying they provided kids with both thrills and profound life lessons that simply can’t be had close to the ground.)
When the FDA’s edict arrived, Fadiman was 27 years old, IFAS’s youngest researcher. He’d been a true believer in the gospel of psychedelics since 1961, when his old Harvard professor Richard Alpert (now Ram Dass) dosed him with psilocybin, the magic in the mushroom, at a Paris café. That day, his narrow, self-absorbed thinking had fallen away like old skin. People would live more harmoniously, he’d thought, if they could access this cosmic consciousness. Then and there he’d decided his calling would be to provide such access to others. He migrated to California (naturally) and teamed up with psychiatrists and seekers to explore how and if psychedelics in general—and LSD in particular—could safely augment psychotherapy, addiction treatment, creative endeavors, and spiritual growth. At Stanford University, he investigated this subject at length through a dissertation—which, of course, the government ban had just dead-ended.
Couldn’t they comprehend what was at stake? Fadiman was devastated and more than a little indignant. However, even if he’d wanted to resist the FDA’s moratorium on ideological grounds, practical matters made compliance impossible: Four people who’d never been on acid before were about to peak…