Planet Rationalist

September 02, 2014

NeuroLogica Blog

Witch Hunter Sues BHA

The British Humanist Association has announced that they are being sued by notorious Nigerian “witch hunter”, Helen Ukpabio, for half a billion pounds for alleged libel. The only reasonable response to this situation, in my opinion, is to magnify the criticism of Ukpabio as much as possible.

For those who are not aware, I am also being sued for expressing my critical opinions. You can read the full details here. I have always supported my fellow skeptics in the past when they faced being silenced through legal intimidation, but now I have to disclose that I have a personal connection to this issue as well.

In any case – Ukpabio, in my opinion, represents an extreme version of the harms that result from abject superstition. She considers herself (or at least claims to) a “Lady Apostle” and makes a career out of exorcising children she believes are possessed by spirits.

The basis of her suit is particularly absurd. She claims that she exorcises children “possessed with black, red and vampire witchcraft spirits” and that the BHA ...

by Steven Novella at Tue, 02 Sep 2014 12:14 Instapaperify


Think About a Loved One You Impact to Successfully Negotiate Salary

Think About a Loved One You Impact to Successfully Negotiate Salary

When you are haggling for your salary, it might be best to put your ego aside and think about others whose lives your money will impact. In other words, think you're bargaining on behalf of your family.


by Mihir Patkar at Tue, 02 Sep 2014 12:00 Instapaperify


The Seven Step Method to Better Meetings

Notes designed by Ema Dimitrova from the Noun Project

Notes designed by Ema Dimitrova from the Noun Project

Brainstorming meetings can be disastrous, often eating up time and leading to poor decisions. Google Ventures has a way to avoid the pain of traditional meetings with a seven step method.

Over at Fast Company, Jake Knapp explains:

The next time you need to make a decision or come up with a new idea in a group, call timeout and give the note-and-vote a try.

1. Note: Distribute paper and pens to each person. Set a timer for five to 10 minutes. Everyone writes down as many ideas as they can…

2. Self-edit: Set the timer for two minutes. Each person reviews his or her own list and picks one or two favorites…

3. Share and capture: One at a time, each person shares his or her top idea(s). No sales pitch. Just say what you wrote and move on…

4. Vote: Set the timer for five minutes. Each person chooses a favorite from the ideas on the whiteboard…

5. Share and capture: One at ...

by Tanner Christensen at Tue, 02 Sep 2014 11:00 Instapaperify

Scientific American Content: Mind Matters

Chimps Outplay Humans in Brain Games

There are ways that chimpanzees are more intelligent than us

--

Tue, 02 Sep 2014 11:00 Instapaperify

Kurzweil AI

DARPA explores neuromodulation of organ functions to help the human body heal itself

DARPA ElectRx (credit: DARPA)

DARPA’s new Electrical Prescriptions (ElectRx)  (pronounced “electrics”) program aims to develop new high-precision, minimally invasive technologies for modulating nerve circuits to restore and maintain human health, initiated in support of the President’s brain initiative.

“The technology DARPA plans to develop through the ElectRx program could fundamentally change the manner in which doctors diagnose, monitor and treat injury and illness,” said Doug Weber, DARPA program manager. “Instead of relying only on medication, we envision a closed-loop system that would work in concept like a tiny, intelligent pacemaker. It would continually assess conditions and provide stimulus patterns tailored to help maintain healthy organ function, helping patients get healthy and stay healthy using their body’s own systems.”

ElectRx technologies are also expected to help accelerate scientific research aimed at achieving a more complete understanding of the structure and function of specific neural circuits and their role in health and disease.

Potential targets include recently identified circuits involved in regulating immune system function. This could providing new hope for treating a range ...

Tue, 02 Sep 2014 10:55 Instapaperify

Causal Analysis in Theory and Practice

In Defense of Unification (Comments on West and Koch’s review of *Causality*)

A new review of my book *Causality* (Pearl, 2009) has appeared in the Journal of Structural Equation Modeling (SEM), authored by Stephen West and Tobias Koch (W-K). See

I find the main body of the review quite informative, and I thank the reviewers for taking the time to give SEM readers an accurate summary of each chapter, as well as a lucid description of the key ideas that tie the chapters together. However, when it comes to accepting the logical conclusions of the book, the reviewers seem reluctant, and tend to cling to traditions that lack the language, tools and unifying perspective to benefit from the chapters reviewed.

The reluctance culminates in the following paragraph:
“We value Pearl’s framework and his efforts to show that other frameworks can be translated into his approach. Nevertheless we believe that there is much to be gained by also considering the other major approaches to causal inference.”

W-K seem to value my “efforts” toward unification, but not the unification itself ...

by admin at Tue, 02 Sep 2014 10:05 Instapaperify

Neurophilosophy | The Guardian

A brief history of psychedelic psychiatry | Mo Costandi

In the 1950s a group of pioneering psychiatrists showed that hallucinogenic drugs had therapeutic potential, but the research was halted as part of the backlash against the hippy counterculture.

This article appears in the September 2014 issue of The Psychologist magazine and has been republished here with permission from the editors. The whole issue is devoted to the use of hallucinogenic drugs in therapy and research, and is freely available online.

On 5th May, 1953, the novelist Aldous Huxley dissolved four-tenths of a gram of mescaline in a glass of water, drank it, then sat back and waited for the drug to take effect. Huxley took the drug in his California home under the direct supervision of psychiatrist Humphry Osmond, to whom Huxley had volunteered himself as a willing and eager guinea pig.

Continue reading...

by Mo Costandi at Tue, 02 Sep 2014 07:55 Instapaperify

Science-Based Medicine

The Unpersuadables

We would like to believe people are rational. We would like to believe that if they have formed a false belief based on inaccurate information and poor reasoning, they will change that belief when they are provided with accurate information and better reasoning. We are frequently disappointed.

An Example of What Should Happen:

I recently talked with a college professor who believed chiropractic treatment could lower blood pressure. His belief was based on a media report of a chiropractic study. He thought it was plausible that neck manipulation could somehow relieve obstructions to blood flow to the base of the brain, thereby somehow correcting the cause of high blood pressure. I told him that rationale was anatomically and physiologically implausible. I pointed out that the researchers used NUCCA,  a form of manipulation that is rejected by most chiropractors. He did not know what NUCCA was. I provided him with information, including links to the study itself and to chiropractor Sam Homola’s excellent critique of the study.  My friend changed his mind and thanked me ...

by Harriet Hall at Tue, 02 Sep 2014 07:00 Instapaperify

Scott H Young

Looking Back at a Year (Almost) Without English

A few days ago I came back to Vancouver, marking the end of this project Vat and I started over a year ago. Together we lived in Spain, Brazil, China and Korea, all while trying to speak as little English as possible.

In this post, I’m going to recap the successes and stumbles of the project, along with what I think it means for travel and language learning.

Side note: I haven’t forgotten about the final update for Korea. I was hoping on releasing that article first, but we hit some delays editing the interviews, so I’m switching the order and putting this one first.

Was the Project a Success?

There were three dimensions of success I was interested in throughout the project. The first, was simply how well we avoided speaking English—the namesake and primary constraint of the project. Second, what level did we reach in each language? Finally, what was the overall experience of travel, did not speaking English improve the journey?

Did We Go a Year Without English ...

by Scott Young at Tue, 02 Sep 2014 03:18 Instapaperify

September 01, 2014

Friendly Atheist» Pseudoscience

Friendly Atheist Podcast Episode 13: Tyler Measom and Justin Weinstein, Directors of An Honest Liar

Our latest podcast guests are Tyler Measom and Justin Weinstein, directors of An Honest Liar (the documentary about James Randi):

Jessica spoke with them about the movie, the archival footage they found, and Randi “victims” psychic Uri Geller and televangelist Peter Popoff.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the podcast. If you have any suggestions for people we should chat with, please leave them in the comments, too.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, get the MP3 directly, check it out on Stitcher, or just listen to the whole thing below.

And if you like what you’re hearing, please consider supporting this site on Patreon and leaving us a positive rating!

by Hemant Mehta at Mon, 01 Sep 2014 23:00 Instapaperify


Harness Your Mind's "Future Self" Bias to Make Better Decisions

Harness Your Mind's "Future Self" Bias to Make Better Decisions

We don't stick to our resolutions and future goals because our minds don't think of our future selves as "us." But instead of fighting this inherent bias, you can use it and tweak it to make better long-term decisions.


by Mihir Patkar at Mon, 01 Sep 2014 23:00 Instapaperify

h+ Magazine

Krishnamurti on The Singularity

A couple of videos of Jiddu Krishnamurti talking about artificial intelligence and the future of humanity have come to my attention and I thought they might also be of interest to h+ Readers.

Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 9.16.11 AM“Jiddu Krishnamurti (12 May 1895 – 17 February 1986) was a speaker and writer on philosophical and spiritual subjects. In his early life he was groomed to be the new World Teacher but later rejected this mantle and disbanded the organisation behind it. His subject matter included psychological revolution, the nature of mind, meditation, inquiry, human relationships, and bringing about radical change in society. He constantly stressed the need for a revolution in the psyche of every human being and emphasised that such revolution cannot be brought about by any external entity, be it religious, political, or social.”

“Krishnamurti had previously stated in talks of previous years his concern of the Computer & Genetic Technology affecting the future of mankind. Our “conditioning” being the major factor in ignorance – preventing living a holistic life. But, rather a future of technologically controlled but “conditioned (programmed)” humanity ...

by Peter Rothman at Mon, 01 Sep 2014 16:23 Instapaperify


Where Do You Fall on the Creativity Spectrum?

The Creativity Spectrum from Kevan Lee at Buffer

The Creativity Spectrum from Kevan Lee at Buffer

We often hear the advice “just start,” but it comes without a clear explanation as to how. Visualizing the gap between mediocre and great work in this way makes it evident that the only way to get on that scale is to overcome the bigger gap between nothing and something.

Over at Buffer, Kevan Lee gives us an answer by taking creative author Shirky’s notes to create The Creativity Spectrum.:

What holds you back from creating something?

For many of us, it’s fear. Fear that something might not be good enough, unique enough or novel enough.

Overcoming this fear is a huge and important step… Author Clay Shirky noted the importance of the simple act of creating—creating anything, even a silly thing—in his book Cognitive Surplus: “The stupidest possible creative act is still a creative act. On the spectrum of creative work, the difference between the mediocre and the good is vast. Mediocrity is, however, still on the spectrum; you can move from ...

by Tanner Christensen at Mon, 01 Sep 2014 16:00 Instapaperify

Andrew Gelman

On deck this week

Mon: Bad Statistics: Ignore or Call Out?

Tues: Questions about “Too Good to Be True”

Wed: I disagree with Alan Turing and Daniel Kahneman regarding the strength of statistical evidence

Thurs: Why isn’t replication required before publication in top journals?

Fri: Confirmationist and falsificationist paradigms of science

Sat: How does inference for next year’s data differ from inference for unobserved data from the current year?

Sun: Likelihood from quantiles?

We’ve got a full week of statistics for you. Welcome back to work, everyone!

The post On deck this week appeared first on Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science.

Mon, 01 Sep 2014 15:00 Instapaperify


Kurzweil AI

Shaping the Developing Brain: Prenatal through Early Childhood

This multidisciplinary conference will bring together experts in the fundamental stages of early brain development, and will focus on the connection between research and improved outcomes for children. Speakers will present the latest discoveries from cognitive neuroscience and experimental psychology, social, family, and nutritional factors that cause lasting changes to the brain; and intervention, education, and policy to help at-risk children.

Conference Highlights

Keynote Speaker

Thomas R. Insel, MD
Director, National Institute of Mental Health

Major Scientific Themes

Plenary Sessions will focus on the following topics:

  • Structural and Molecular Changes in the Developing Brain
  • Cognitive Development in Early Life
  • Socioeconomic, Family, and Environmental Influences on Brain Development
  • Nutritional Requirements and Brain Development
  • Translating Research into Intervention, Education, and Policy
  • Hot Topic Talks from Submitted Abstracts

Mon, 01 Sep 2014 07:27 Instapaperify

The Work of Michael Shermer

Surviving Statistics

How the survivor bias distorts reality
magazine cover

When I purchased my latest vehicle, I was astonished to get the license plate 6NWL485. What are the chances that I would get that particular configuration? Before I received it, the odds would have been one in 175,760,000. (The total number of letters to the power of the number of letters on the plate times the total number of digits to the power of the number of digits on the plate: 263 x 104). After the fact, however, the probability is one.

This is what Pomona College economist Gary Smith calls the “survivor bias,” which he highlights as one of many statistically related cognitive biases in his deeply insightful book Standard Deviations (Overlook, 2014). Smith illustrates the effect with a playing card hand of three of clubs, eights of clubs, eight of diamonds, queen of hearts and ace of spades. The odds of that particular configuration are about three million to one, but Smith says, “After I look at the cards, the probability of having ...

by Skeptic Webmaster at Mon, 01 Sep 2014 07:00 Instapaperify

Slate Star Codex

Book Review and Highlights: Quantum Computing Since Democritus

People sometimes confuse me with Scott Aaronson because of our similar-sounding names. I encourage this, because Scott Aaronson is awesome and it can only improve my reputation to be confused with him.

But in the end, I am not Scott Aaronson. I did not write Quantum Computing Since Democritus. To be honest, I wasn’t really even able to understand Quantum Computing Since Democritus. I knew I was in for trouble when it compared itself to The Elegant Universe in the foreword, since I wasn’t able to get through more than a few chapters of that one. I dutifully tried to do the first couple of math problems Democritus set for me, and I even got a couple of them right. But eventually I realized that if I wanted to read Democritus the way it was supposed to be read, with full or even decent understanding, it would be a multi-year project, a page a day or worse, with my gains fading away a few days after I made them into a cloud of ...

by Scott Alexander at Mon, 01 Sep 2014 05:47 Instapaperify


Privacy vs Omniveillance

Media discussions of privacy, freedom and the information age are starting to get more interesting, as folks finally start to realize a core truth... that everything eventually leaks. That the reflex of whining and demanding shadows to hide-in will never work. The data we entrust to banks and retail chains?  The trade secrets that companies rely on for competitive advantage? The cherished spy programs of our governmental professional protector caste (PPC)? If these do not leak because of hackers, or accidents, then would-be (or self-styled) whistle-blowers will see to it, sooner or later.

It has long been pointed out that information is not like other commodities.  It can duplicate itself at virtually zero cost, and those copies can escape even without you noticing it's happened.  That is Fact Number One. Everything eventually leaks.

Fact number two is one I've tried to point out for decades.  That this is fundamentally a clash of values and civilizations.  The Western Enlightenment (WE) has always been the rebel and underdog, versus the 99% standard human (and zero-sum ...

by David Brin at Mon, 01 Sep 2014 04:04 Instapaperify

Science-Based Medicine

The “CDC whistleblower saga”: Updates, backlash, and (I hope) a wrap-up


Given that this is a holiday weekend here in the US and that I’m having a bit of a staycation right now, I had thought of simply not posting today or of rerunning a “classic” (if you want to call it that) blast from the past. But the topic I wrote about last week has only festered and grown bigger since Monday; so at the very least I felt obligated to do a post updating you, our readers, on the twists and turns that have occurred in the saga of the so-called “CDC whistleblower.” For those of you familiar with the story (not to mention following my not-so-secret other blog), much of this will be familiar, but, given that this is SBM, I felt that this material should be on record here for your edification and (hopefully) education. I’ll take (more or less) a chronological approach since last Monday and then finish up by trying to put this whole mess into perspective. This is going to be longer than even my usual posts ...

by David Gorski at Mon, 01 Sep 2014 04:01 Instapaperify

Grey Matters: Blog

Review: The Knight's Tour: A Scenic Journey

One of my favorite mental challenges, as many regular Grey Matters readers know, is the Knight's Tour. The challenge is, using only the chess knight's L-shaped move, to land on each of the 64 squares once. Mentalist Richard Paddon recently released a download resource titled The Knight's Tour: A Scenic Journey. In this post, I'll take a close look at this new take on a classic feat. We'll start

by Pi Guy at Mon, 01 Sep 2014 03:15 Instapaperify

Friendly Atheist» Pseudoscience

There’s a Reason They Call Him “Amazing”

The Miami Herald‘s Glenn Garvin had a wonderful profile of James Randi in yesterday’s paper:

Hesitantly, I wondered aloud whether what the mediums were doing was really so bad, if it wasn’t simply bargain-basement psychological counseling. Letting heartbroken children think that the spirits of their dead parents live on and are happy, in return for a few dollars? Helping them let go and move on, is that so wrong?

“It’s wrong because it’s never just a few dollars, they’ll continue to spend money,” insisted Randi. “They’ll want to know more, talk more. But the message will never get beyond ‘I’m here and I’m fine.’ If you ask mom’s spirit a question like, ‘Where did you leave the will?’ you’ll never get an answer like ‘It’s behind the kitchen cabinet.’ Instead, it’ll be ‘Oh, golly, honey, I have to go now.’ Because the medium can’t answer it…

“It’s not wrong. It’s evil. I don’t recognize the concept of sin ...

by Hemant Mehta at Mon, 01 Sep 2014 02:00 Instapaperify


Citizen Power - Part II: Those Cop-Cameras...

Continuing our series on co-veillance, sousveillance and general citizen empowerment, on our streets... last time we discussed our right and ability to use new instrumentalities to expand our ability to view, record and hold others accountable, with the cameras in our pockets.

Now -- the other side of this accountability equation. 

Some ideas seem far-out "scifi"... until suddenly they become mainstream.  In the wake of the recent Ferguson, Missouri riots, a petition asking for a "Mike Brown Law" that would require all state, county, and local police to wear cameras. has achieved almost 150,000 signatures. Last August, a federal judge called for the NYPD to wear such cameras when she ruled that the department's stop-and-frisk policy violated people's constitutional rights. But as A.J. Vicens discusses in Mother Jones: "Putting Body Cameras on Cops Is Hardly a Cure-All for Abuses."

Meanwhile, Taser International (TASR), which makes the most widely used police body cameras, increased its bookings for its video unit almost twofold last quarter, signing deals with the police departments of Winston-Salem, N ...

by David Brin at Mon, 01 Sep 2014 01:41 Instapaperify

Slate Star Codex

Radicalizing the Romanceless

[Content note: Gender, relationships, feminism, manosphere. Quotes, without endorsing and with quite a bit of mocking, mean arguments by terrible people. Some analogical discussion of fatphobia, poorphobia, Islamophobia. This topic is personally enraging to me and I don't promise I can treat it fairly.]


I recently had a patient, a black guy from the worst part of Detroit, let’s call him Dan, who was telling me of his woes. He came from a really crappy family with a lot of problems, but he was trying really hard to make good. He was working two full-time minimum wage jobs, living off cheap noodles so he could save some money in the bank, trying to scrape a little bit of cash together. Unfortunately, he’d had a breakdown (see: him being in a psychiatric hospital), he was probably going to lose his jobs, and everything was coming tumbling down around him.

And he was getting a ...

by Scott Alexander at Mon, 01 Sep 2014 01:08 Instapaperify

August 31, 2014

Overcoming Bias

Beware Status Arrogance

Imagine that you are expert in field A, and a subject in field B comes up at party. You know that there may be others at the party who are expert in field B. How reluctant does this make you to openly speculate about this topic? Do you clam up and only cautiously express safe opinions, or do you toss out the thoughts that pop into your head as if you knew as much about the subject as anyone?

If you are like most people, the relative status of fields A and B will likely influence your choice. If the other field has higher status than yours, you are more likely to be cautious, while if the other field has lower status than yours, you are more likely to speculate more freely. In both cases your subconscious will have made good guesses about the likely status consequences to you if an expert in B were to speak up and challenge your speculations. At some level you would know that others at the party are likely ...

by Robin Hanson at Sun, 31 Aug 2014 14:12 Instapaperify


Fallacy Files

New Book: "Standard Deviations"

Michael Shermer's latest "Skeptic" column in "Scientific American" is not a review exactly, but is at least based on a new book by Gary Smith, "Standard Deviations: Flawed Assumptions, Tortured Data, and Other Ways to Lie with Statistics"....

Sun, 31 Aug 2014 06:00 Instapaperify

The Rationalist Conspiracy

How To Detect Fictional Evidence

Based On: The Logical Fallacy of Generalization from Fictional Evidence

Some fictional evidence is explicit – “you mean the future will be like Terminator?”. But it can also be subtle. Predicting the future can be done “in storytelling mode”, using the tropes and methods of storytelling, without referring to a specific fictional universe like the Matrix; one obvious example is Hugo de Garis. How can we tell when “predictions” are just sci-fi, dressed up as nonfiction?

1. The author doesn’t use probability distributions.

Any interesting prediction is uncertain, to a greater or lesser extent. Even when we don’t have exact numbers, we still have degrees of confidence, ranging from “impossible under current physics” through to “extremely likely”. And many important predictions can be done as conditionals. We may have no idea how likely event B is, but we might be able to say it’s almost certain to follow event A.

But stories aren’t like that. An author creates an “alternate world”, and any given fact (“Snape kills Dumbledore!”) is either true or ...

by sandorzoo at Sun, 31 Aug 2014 04:58 Instapaperify

August 30, 2014

Scientific American Podcast: 60-Second Mind

Talking to Strangers Makes You Happy

People who had to strike up conversations on a subway later reported feeling happier than those who didn’t. Christie Nicholson reports.

--

Sat, 30 Aug 2014 22:00 Instapaperify

There is some truth in that

Pritchard on pragmatics of knowledge ascriptions

I'm working on a review of Duncan Pritchard's book Epistemological Disjunctivism. I'll probably try out a few ideas here over the next couple of months. I want to start out by focusing on something from near the end of the book—§8 of Part III. Here, Duncan is trying to deal with what he considers to be a challenge to the particular form of neo-Moorean disjunctivist response to the skeptical paradox he's been developing. The salient element of the view is that, contrary to skeptical intuitions, one does typically know that e.g. one is related in the normal way to the world, rather than being a brain in a vat. This, even though one lacks the ability to discriminate perceptually between being related in the normal way to the world and being a brain in a vat.

The challenge Duncan considers in this section is that Moorean assertions like "I know I'm not a brain in a vat" seem conversationally inappropriate. As he puts it earlier in the book ...

by Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa at Sat, 30 Aug 2014 21:40 Instapaperify

Blog of the Long Now » Futures

We are Walking Rocks: Friends of the Pleistocene Explore the Geologic Now

Geopoetry Smudge Studio

In The Life and Death of Buildings: On Photography and Time Joel Smith writes:

Imagine making a picture using film so insensitive to light – so slow, in photographic parlance – that to burn an image onto it required an exposure of twenty-five centuries. Geologically speaking, the blink of an eye. The picture from that negative would reveal a world made of stone, and stone only. It would be a world where plants and people, seasons and civilizations, had come and gone, quite untouched, and unbothered, by mankind. And yet, here it is, a world, unmistakably shaped by human hands.

Perhaps one of humanity’s greatest weaknesses is that our power of imagination tends to be dwarfed by our power of transformation. Twenty-five centuries ago, Rome was little more than a small town; Confucius had just resigned from his government post; Olmec society had slid into decline; and none of the languages we speak today had yet evolved. Entire civilizations rise and fall within the blink of a geologic eye – and whether as cause or consequence, we ...

by Charlotte Hajer at Sat, 30 Aug 2014 19:55 Instapaperify


Use a “Before” Picture to Avoid Getting Overwhelmed By Any Project

Use a “Before” Picture to Avoid Getting Overwhelmed By Any Project

Working on a new project can be intimidating, especially when you see how far you still have to go. Try taking a picture when you start so you'll keep track of all you've accomplished.


by Dave Greenbaum at Sat, 30 Aug 2014 19:00 Instapaperify

The Daily Brain

Study: Fish Oil Prevents Brain Shrinkage and Cognitive Decline in Older Adults

Three more cases of Alzheimer’s disease will have been diagnosed by the time you finish reading this article. More than 5 million people have Alzheimer’s in the United States alone (44 million worldwide), and the rate of new diagnosis is about one patient every minute, with no cure on the horizon. Now a new study adds evidence to the argument that fish oil supplementation could be one of the best preventives we have against the disease--at least for people not at genetic risk of developing it.

Researchers from Rhode Island Hospital studied three groups of older adults, ages 55-90, using neuropsychological tests and brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) every six months. The group included 229 adults with no signs of the disease; 397 who were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment; and 193 with Alzheimer’s. All participants were part of the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), which began in 2003 and ended in 2010.

Results showed that adults taking fish oil, who had not yet developed Alzheimer’s, experienced significantly less cognitive ...

by David DiSalvo at Sat, 30 Aug 2014 16:17 Instapaperify

Improve Your Learning and Memory.

Handwritten Notes Lead to Better Learning

In response to the trend to abolish teaching of cursive in schools, about a year ago I posted an article on what I thought were the developmental benefits of handwriting ( That post has generated over 230 comments.

Now there is evidence that handwriting of lecture notes, compared to typing on a laptop, improves learning by college students. Following up on prior studies that indicated relative ineffectiveness of taking notes by laptop, researchers Pam Meuller and Daniel Oppenheimer provide clear evidence that handwritten note-taking produces better learning in college students.

They reported three experiments that compared the efficacy of college students taking notes by handwriting or with a lap top. Those who used handwritten notes that they studied later scored significantly higher than students using laptops, including fleet typists who took vastly more copious notes. Handwriters took fewer notes overall with less verbatim recording. There are many possible explanations, beginning with the "less is more" idea in which too much information produces cognitive overload. Notably, when the typing ...

by W. R. Klemm at Sat, 30 Aug 2014 15:32 Instapaperify

Andrew Gelman

On deck this month

Bad Statistics: Ignore or Call Out?

Questions about “Too Good to Be True”

I disagree with Alan Turing and Daniel Kahneman regarding the strength of statistical evidence

Why isn’t replication required before publication in top journals?

Confirmationist and falsificationist paradigms of science

How does inference for next year’s data differ from inference for unobserved data from the current year?

Likelihood from quantiles?

My talk with David Schiminovich this Wed noon: “The Birth of the Universe and the Fate of the Earth: One Trillion UV Photons Meet Stan”

Suspicious graph purporting to show “percentage of slaves or serfs in the world”

“It’s as if you went into a bathroom in a bar and saw a guy pissing on his shoes, and instead of thinking he has some problem with his aim, you suppose he has a positive utility for getting his shoes wet”

One-tailed or two-tailed

What is the purpose of a poem?

He just ordered a translation from Diederik Stapel

Six quotes from Kaiser Fung

More bad news for the buggy-whip manufacturers ...

Sat, 30 Aug 2014 15:00 Instapaperify


Aunt Pythia’s advice: the nerdy edition

Aunt Pythia is ginormously and ridonkulously excited to be here. She just got back from a nifty bike ride to the other side of the Hudson and took this picture of this amazing city on this amazing day:


The bike traffic on the GWB is not too bad at 7:10am.

OK, so full disclosure. Aunt Pythia kind of blew her load, so to speak, on the sex questions last week, so she’s making do with coyly answering nerdy questions. Because that’s what we got.

I hope you enjoy her efforts, and even if you despise them – especially if you despise them – don’t forget to:

please think of something to ask Aunt Pythia at the bottom of the page!

By the way, if you don’t know what the hell Aunt Pythia is talking about, go here for past advice columns and here for an explanation of the name Pythia.


Hi Aunt Pythia,

I’m a math student at MIT, where you did a postdoc. I’m also into computers, and am ...

by Cathy O'Neil, mathbabe at Sat, 30 Aug 2014 14:11 Instapaperify


h+ Magazine

Transhumanist Science Fiction: The Most Important Genre The World Has Ever Seen? (An Interview with David Simpson)


David Simpson profile imageScience fiction has been part of creative literature for several centuries, with the genre having come into modern form in the early 19th century. Unbeknownst to the casual reader perhaps, the role of science fiction in society has changed to some extent over this period of time, with new styles, mediums and subgenres developing, each with differing goals and appeals.

Exploring possible future technologies and their implications is only one aspect of the science fiction genre, but in regards to this facet writer and futurist Dr. Thomas Lombardo has said that science fiction speaks to the total person about the future, believing that it resonates with all the fundamental dimensions of the human mind and human experience. While science fiction fans may immediately grasp this sentiment and concur, I think it begs the question: why, if it does indeed address human identity in a deep and holistic way, has the genre (in written form in particular) always been somewhat of a marginalized interest? I dont believe there is an easy answer to this question ...

by Peter Rothman at Sat, 30 Aug 2014 14:00 Instapaperify

Dan Ariely

Ask Ariely: On Mandatory Meetings, the Meaning of Free Will, and Macroeconomist Musings

Here’s my Q&A column from the WSJ this week  and if you have any questions for me, you can tweet them to @danariely with the hashtag #askariely, post a comment on my Ask Ariely Facebook page, or email them to


Dear Dan,

I’ve been recently been promoted, and I now receive all sorts of requests for activities that have little to do with my love for my job. I recognize the importance of doing things for coworkers and the organization as a whole, but these other activities are taking up too much of my time and making it impossible for me to do my job. How can I set my priorities better? 


Ah yes—the perils of success. Promotions usually sound good, but once we get them, we realize that they come with extra demands and annoyances.  We also don’t seem to remember this lesson from promotion to promotion, so every time, we’re surprised when we discover those extra obligations.

Here’s how I suspect ...

by Dan Ariely at Sat, 30 Aug 2014 13:02 Instapaperify

Neurophilosophy | The Guardian

Meet the mother and father of cognitive neuroscience | Mo Costandi

Independently and almost single-handedly, husband and wife Uta and Chris Frith have transformed the way we view autism and schizophrenia.

Chris Frith sits at the kitchen table in his northwest London home, cutting slices of smoked salmon into irregularly-shaped pieces and then placing them in a meticulous tiling pattern onto pieces of buttered brown bread. It is, according to his wife Uta, the kind of obsessive, repetitive behaviour that is characteristic of children with autism.

There are people with perfectly normal personality variants who behave in an autistic-like way, says Uta, hovering behind him as she prepares a pot of tea. There was a time when autism was under-diagnosed and we wanted to raise awareness of it. Now, it has gone the other way these people are diagnosing themselves, and Im worried about over-extension of the diagnosis.

Continue reading...

by Mo Costandi at Sat, 30 Aug 2014 10:30 Instapaperify