Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Cool. But also I realized that almost every post recently has been related to getting old and/or dying so I had to find something different.
Traditionally, scientists have treated patternicity as an error in cognition. A type I error, or a false positive, is believing something is real when it is not (finding a nonexistent pattern). A type II error, or a false negative, is not believing something is real when it is (not recognizing a real pattern—call it “apatternicity”). In [Michael Shermer's] 2000 book How We Believe (Times Books), [he] argue[s] that our brains are belief engines: evolved pattern-recognition machines that connect the dots and create meaning out of the patterns that we think we see in nature. Sometimes A really is connected to B; sometimes it is not. When it is, we have learned something valuable about the environment from which we can make predictions that aid in survival and reproduction. We are the ancestors of those most successful at finding patterns. This process is called association learning, and it is fundamental to all animal behavior, from the humble worm C. elegans to H. sapiens.

via Scientific American

Please Let This Work

By my estimate I'll be looking at Alzheimer's about 2043.
In the U.S. some five million people have Alzheimer’s disease and 10 million boomers will be at risk for memory problems over their lifetime. Worldwide, more than 100 million people may have Alzheimer’s by the year 2050. As clinicians, we have learned to recognize that jokes about “old-timer’s disease” and “Teflon brain” are often calls for help from seniors worried about their memory lapses. Living longer is obviously no fun if you cannot remember your home address or drive a car. Although we have made tremendous progress in understanding brain changes that accompany aging and dementia, no medications have proven effective for preventing Alzheimer’s to date. In recent years, however, more evidence is pointing to a non-medical way to bolster brain health as we age: exercise.
via Scientific American

Houses of Hemp

Houses made of hemp, timber or straw could help combat climate change by reducing the carbon footprint of building construction, according to researchers at the University of Bath.

via Science Daily

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Why Do We Forget Things?

In the past several decades, cognitive psychologists have determined that there are two primary memory systems in the human mind: a short-term, or "working," memory that temporarily holds information about just a few things that we are currently thinking about; and a long-lasting memory that can hold massive amounts of information gained through a lifetime of thoughts and experiences.

These two memory systems are also thought to differ in the level of detail they provide: working memory provides sharp detail about the few things we are presently thinking about, whereas long-term memory provides a much fuzzier picture about lots of different things we have seen or experienced. That is, although we can hold lots of things in long-term memory, the details of the memory aren’t always crystal-clear and are often limited to just the gist of what we saw or what happened.

Via Scientific American