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Comment Re:No, MINE is the most important discovery ever! (Score 1) 892

Practically speaking, what has relativity done for us? Or plate tectonics, for that matter? We still have catastrophic earthquakes, and we still can't time-warp with wormholes. How long have these theories been around now? Sure, they may be useful down the road, but probably not within the next decade or two. And evolution? Don't get me started on the practical applications of pondering our origins and the immediate tangible rewards thereof.

Theory provides the foundation for scientific disciplines. Einstein's early breakthroughs eventually led to the computing revolution. Plate tectonics is an integral part of geology, and probably helped petroleum companies make plenty of discoveries. Evolution is the basis of biology today, and understanding our ecological impact on the environment would be considerably more difficult without it. Without these ideas, there is practically no understanding of the universe that we live in- we could have all of this data, but it would make no sense.

And speaking of the obesity epidemic, heart disease, and whatnot... How many of these phenomena were caused directly by "scientific breakthroughs"? It could be (and has been) argued that artificial sweeteners, one such breakthrough, have actually contributed significantly to the obesity epidemic. There can be little doubt that our mostly sedentary lifestyles directly contribute to obesity as well as heart disease, and how much do you think we would sit around without our modern technology? And while we may be more aware of the world we live in now, how much of it have we destroyed or defiled with our science? (See also: DDT, plastics, killer bees.)

It is rather difficult to make any kind of coherent argument without knowing considerably more about your topic. Am I to believe that reading books, since one is technically sedentary while reading, contributes to fat accumulation? Particular nutrients (carbohydrates) break down easily into glucose, which drives insulin secretion, which regulates fat accumulation.

Here is Taubes' Berkeley lecture from 2007, hopefully you'll find it edifying:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVvZP2av5Mk

Don't get me wrong, the quest for knowledge is a noble one. We have learned how to treat many diseases, feed more people, squeeze ever more people onto a planet that can barely support them, and even look for other planets that may be our only hope of continued existence once we've finished this one off. But human beings are ill-prepared to handle the knowledge we seek. We learn how to string hydrocarbons together, and what do we make? Styrofoam! We learn how to launch satellites, and what fills our exosphere? Space junk. We learn how to split atoms, and what's the first thing we make? Yeah.

The misuse of knowledge is a very old problem, and it will not go away by putting our head in the sand. We must become considerably smarter if we're going to use technology safely.

Comment Re:I Want To Blow Your Mind (Score 1) 892

I must admit that I am very confused by your post. Are you trying to say that people do not experience hallucinations?

No, what I'm saying is that every person would go through this transition where they would have auditory/visual hallucinations, and its clear that not everyone at the time, centuries ago, did.

I do not believe that Jaynes' theory implies that exactly. As I understand it, there are particular social conditions that were once widespread that encouraged hallucinatory experiences. I would expect people to still experience hallucinations today, and they do: imaginary childhood "friends", dead relatives, and "god".

but I haven't seen anything that can be used to dismiss it today

I have, see the following;

Block, N. (1981). Review of Julian Jayne's Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Cognition and Brain Theory

Implying that consciousness is a cultural construct?!

I believe Ned Block's criticism was that culture somehow changed to reflect what humans were doing all along. With what we understand about the role of language in thought, this now looks like nonsense. Broadly speaking, yes, consciousness is a cultural construct, but so is agriculture, and the Internet.

Asaad G, Shapiro B. What about the bicameral mind? Am J Psychiatry 1987

Dennett, Daniel (1986). "Julian Jaynes's Software Archeology". Canadian Psychology

That auditory hallucinations played such a major role in human human mind and history is somewhat difficult to believe.

An audio hallucination sounds just like the real thing to the brain. It can be pretty mysterious if you experience it, and do not know what it is. I do not find it at all difficult to accept that a group of people could adopt a "useful" interpretation of such an experience, such as attributing it to "god" or some other relation. In fact, I've met people who currently have these experiences, and attribute them to "ghosts" or "god" or whatever. It would seem that such talk is readily dismissed as nonsense. I tend to have some respect for the experiences of others, though perhaps not their interpretations.

Though I have been quite a fan of Dennett over the years, I am not familiar with his latest views, if they have in fact changed.

As for the transition from a bicameral world to the one we inhabit today, Jaynes discusses his idea in detail, perhaps you've forgotten it?

Well if your talking about religion, schizophrenia and the general need for external authority in decision-making as being the "left overs" of bicameralism, I would argue schizophrenia is a real chemical imbalance that has nothing to do with religion, but might have more in common with creative genius, http://www.personalityresearch.org/papers/byrd.html

I do not find "a real chemical imbalance" to be very illuminating, even if it does imply a neurotransmitter deficiency. There are a few interesting associations with schizophrenia, but Jaynes proposes a far more useful way of looking at the condition.

And a need for external authority in decision-making, that's not a real strong argument in itself, as there are plenty of other reasons for this from even an evolutionary perspective.

I do not understand this criticism at all, please elaborate.

Comment Re:I Want To Blow Your Mind (Score 1) 892

I must admit that I am very confused by your post. Are you trying to say that people do not experience hallucinations? Browsing the relevant scientific literature will show you that the phenomena is alive and well. There are certainly many questions that arise with Jaynes' theory (as with all great theories), but I haven't seen anything that can be used to dismiss it today. As for the transition from a bicameral world to the one we inhabit today, Jaynes discusses his idea in detail, perhaps you've forgotten it?

Comment Re:No, MINE is the most important discovery ever! (Score 1) 892

How well do you understand major scientific breakthroughs like Evolution, Plate Tectonics, and Relativity?

Right now part of the scientific community is buzzing with discussion of this idea of Diseases of Civilization. The problem is an old one, but recently science writer Gary Taubes has taken a stab at sorting out the confusion. His book was first published almost three years ago, and conservative estimates expect social changes in a decade or so. Considering the widespread concern over the Obesity Epidemic, heart disease, and whatnot, I would hope we could change things sooner than that. You could get a jump on this if you get into the science, but I suppose the biochemistry and social history is way too much trouble for most people.

Comment I Want To Blow Your Mind (Score 1) 892

I want to blow your mind.

I grew up in a Christian environment, and the only way that I have found to avoid cognitive dissonance is to adopt the view that the universe is understandable. So I examine religious experience as a series of related phenomena.

A common form of religious experience involves groups of people gathering together to sing, and to listen to some appointed person that performs motivational-type monologues, often intertwined with narration. Extra-curricular study of religious texts is strongly encouraged, so the central memes are reinforced.

The human brain is divided into semi-symmetrical hemispheres, with the left usually being dominate with speech. Imagine the individual moving through environments that are either unsafe or safe, the organism defending itself or opening itself up for influence. The religious context is one of safety (or at least where the participants defenses are lowered), and I believe from a meme standpoint, also one of suggestibility (to use a computer metaphor, programmability). Split-brain observations (see Michael Gazzaniga or Roger Sperry) have given rise to Dual Brain Theory, so under this paradigm we might suppose that each hemisphere has a semi-separate emotional experience, and consequently different memories of those experiences. Interestingly, dolphins in the wild appear to alternate which hemisphere is sleeping/functioning, with conditions varying from safe (captivity- both hemispheres can sleep), to dangerous (swift current- rapid cycling of hemispheres). Now try and imagine Dissociative Identity Disorder and Schizophrenia within this model.

So, "god" exists, but is actually just the non-dominant hemisphere programmed in a religious environment. The great psychologist Julian Jaynes put together a fascinating theory in his influential The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, and it remains a classic in psychology more than three decades after its original publication. Religion would be an evolutionary adaptation to larger tribes, made possible by agriculture. And Jaynes' ideas would not seem so radical if the field of psychology kept within the same vein of understanding pioneered by William James and Dr. Bois Sidis (it was however sidetracked by followers of Freud, and later Skinner). One of his most important works was The Psychology of Suggestion (1898).

So, science is definitely not religion. And we need to figure this communication problem out very soon, because a "perfect storm" of crises is upon us and our old tricks of technologically accommodating a mentality that believes that useful energy is infinite or that growth is inherently good has come to an end. To grasp the historical significance of not coping adequately with this mentality, all one has to do is look at the great disasters of the 20th century, beginning with WWII.

Comment You need to wake up! (Score 1) 617

Apple has produced a device in both hardware and software that exceeds in areas of form factor, performance, and functionality. The size is comparable to a magazine and fairly lightweight at 1.5-1.6 pounds. The interface is intuitive and very responsive, and it functions pretty much all day. Apple's mature app-store and the device's elegance are encouraging the morphing of the computing landscape. The iPad will likely usher in the post-Flash web. The Internet has been waiting for this device for about 15 years. This is the dawn of a new era of computing, and those tablets that you mentioned were just the prologue.

Sure, there are competitors (JooJoo, HP Slate, Dell, Acer, etc.), but they fail in form factor, interface, simplicity, longevity, expandability, or responsiveness. When Google and Microsoft get their act together, we'll finally see some real competition, but they'll be minor players fighting over what is left of the market.

In the meantime, naysayers will see that neither cameras nor Flash will be necessary for success, but 'fun' is. Cameras will likely be an important and integral feature to appear in future iterations.

Comment This is a revolution (Score 1) 532

When a new artifact appears that is so well designed that its likeness becomes ubiquitous, what do we call that? It doesn't matter that there were similar things before that pioneered the artifact-space, they didn't have the features to succeed. We should be glad that the bar is being set so high with the iPad. As with the iPhone, alternatives will exist, but Google still hasn't figured out the app-store, and Microsoft is just now figuring out the touch interface. This is a huge indication of how far ahead Apple is in their thinking. It is the very definition of visionary- like Google with search. It is as if up to that point everyone else was trying to make due with the current technology, hacking away one little piece at a time, banging about in the dark, groping for a tiny bit of success. Will the JooJoo or Slate prove to be as useful, elegant, and fun to use?

In just a few years, these devices will be very low-margin products that will be in the price range of far more of us (less than US$100), the batteries will likely cycle a magnitude more, they'll be better for us and the environment, we'll be able to make good use of them outdoors, and it'll be a special occasion when we leave our bloody pads behind.

As for Flash, in all the years that I've used it on Linux, Mac, and Windows, it has been among the slowest and least reliable software. I banish thee to the deepest abyss of cold space, never again to entertain the gravity well of a sentient's dust speck!
Science

Invisibility Cloak Created In 3-D 113

An anonymous reader writes "Scientists have created the first device to render an object invisible in three dimensions. The 'cloak,' described in the journal Science (abstract; full text requires login), hid an object from detection using light of wavelengths close to those that are visible to humans. Previous devices have been able to hide objects from light travelling in only one direction; viewed from any other angle, the object would remain visible. This is a very early but significant step towards a true invisibility cloak." The "object" hidden in this work was a bump one micrometer high. The light used was just longer than the wavelengths our eyes detect. To get a visible-light cloak, the features of the cloaking metamaterial would need to be reduced in size from 300 nm to 10 nm.
Earth

Piezo Crystals Harness Sound To Generate Hydrogen 187

MikeChino writes "Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have discovered that a mix of zinc oxide crystals, water, and noise pollution can efficiently produce hydrogen without the need for a dirty catalyst like oil. To generate the clean hydrogen, researchers produced a new type of zinc oxide crystals that absorb vibrations when placed in water. The vibrations cause the crystals to develop areas with strong positive and negative charges — a reaction that rips the surrounding water molecules and releases hydrogen and oxygen. The mechanism, dubbed the piezoelectrochemical effect, converts 18% of energy from vibrations into hydrogen gas (compared to 10% from conventional piezoelectric materials), and since any vibration can produce the effect, the system could one day be used to generate power from anything that produces noise — cars whizzing by on the highway, crashing waves in the ocean, or planes landing at an airport."
Image

The 10 Most Absurd Scientific Papers 127

Lanxon writes "It's true: 'Effects of cocaine on honeybee dance behavior,' 'Fellatio by fruit bats prolongs copulation time,' and 'Are full or empty beer bottles sturdier and does their fracture-threshold suffice to break the human skull?' are all genuine scientific research papers, and all were genuinely published in journals or similar publications. Wired's presentation of a collection of the most bizarrely-named research papers contains seven other gems, including one about naval fluff and another published in The Journal of Sex Research."

Comment Suggestion and theory of fat accumulation key (Score 2, Informative) 276

There is some scientific disagreement over the nature of fat accumulation (consider Gary Taubes landmark book Good Calories, Bad Calories), and I would think that this plays an important role in how the culture views the qualities of various foods. Furthermore, as has been mentioned in other posts, TV ads are designed to affect those who watch them. It is non-trivial to resist the sophisticated suggestions (see Boris Sidis' The Psychology of Suggestion 1898) that vulnerable people encounter in broadcast media.
Image

Police Called Over 11-Year-Old's Science Project 687

garg0yle writes "Police in San Diego were called to investigate an 11-year-old's science project, consisting of 'a motion detector made out of an empty Gatorade bottle and some electronics,' after the vice-principal came to the conclusion that it was a bomb. Charges aren't being laid against the youth, but it's being recommended that he and his family 'get counseling.' Apparently, the student violated school policies — I'm assuming these are policies against having any kind of independent thought?"
Image

Man Sues Neighbor For Not Turning Off His Wi-Fi 428

Scyth3 writes "A man is suing his neighbor for not turning off his cell phone or wireless router. He claims it affects his 'electromagnetic allergies,' and has resorted to being homeless. So, why doesn't he check into a hotel? Because hotels typically have wireless internet for free. I wonder if a tinfoil hat would help his cause?"
Space

Super-Earths Discovered Orbiting Nearby, Sun-Like Star 242

likuidkewl writes "Two super-earths, 5 and 7.5 times the size of our home, were found to be orbiting 61 Virginis a mere 28 light years away. 'These detections indicate that low-mass planets are quite common around nearby stars. The discovery of potentially habitable nearby worlds may be just a few years away,' said Steven Vogt, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UCSC. Among hundreds of our nearest stellar neighbors, 61 Vir stands out as being the most nearly similar to the Sun in terms of age, mass, and other essential properties."

Comment Re:Call a psychologist/We need a new paradigm (Score 1) 300

Maybe one of the central problems is that these disciplines actually need to be the same? We lack a unified theory of psychology that is evolutionary and ecological in nature, where the basis of the individual is rooted within the group, or tribe. The problems our civilization now face, where the needs of our economic system depend upon growth, contradict the necessity of developing an adaptation to live within the limitations of our ecology. Our current systems of law and history are in flux between an older religious mentality that stresses authority, and a newer one that explores the limits of scientific thinking. The inability of leadership to handle the complexity of the current crisis should be sensed by most of the population, even if they cannot properly articulate it in words. The popular culture has long explored dramatic themes of an apocalyptic future (usually involving nuclear annihilation), and I would guess that this is an expression of massive social anxiety.

The role of deception and economics in facilitating war (i.e. Gulf of Tonkin & The Vietnam War, Chamberlain's 3-Bloc system & pre-WWII Germany, 9/11) remains largely unexplored in popular history, which further exasperates communication problems when intellectuals try to discuss the real world.

Confirmation bias is incredibly widespread, and modern practitioners of older paradigms fail to address the critical short-comings of their views. The classic example goes back the the Copernican Revolution regarding whether the Sun orbits the Earth, or vice-versa. A modern example relates to the Obesity Epidemic. How many nutritionists have seriously considered the scientific implications of Gary Taubes' Good Calories, Bad Calories? I believe Richard Rhodes called it the most important book on diet and nutrition in the past 100 years!

Psychologists need a much better paradigm if they are going to seriously contribute to solving our current crisis.

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