The Null Device
If The Sun is to be believed, the Chernobyl nuclear disaster has spawned a generation of mutant super-kids, with higher IQs, faster reaction times and stronger immune systems.
New Scientist has a survey of ways of optimising the functioning of one's brain, covering everything from the effects of diet, sleep and various kinds of mental and physical exercise to the possibilities of smart drugs and technological augmentations:
According to research published in 2003, kids breakfasting on fizzy drinks and sugary snacks performed at the level of an average 70-year-old in tests of memory and attention. Beans on toast is a far better combination, as Barbara Stewart from the University of Ulster, UK, discovered. Toast alone boosted children's scores on a variety of cognitive tests, but when the tests got tougher, the breakfast with the high-protein beans worked best.
Say you're trying to master a new video game. Instead of grinding away into the small hours, you would be better off playing for a couple of hours, then going to bed. While you are asleep your brain will reactivate the circuits it was using as you learned the game, rehearse them, and then shunt the new memories into long-term storage. When you wake up, hey presto! You will be a better player. The same applies to other skills such as playing the piano, driving a car and, some researchers claim, memorising facts and figures. Even taking a nap after training can help, says Carlyle Smith of Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario.
Neurofeedback grew out of biofeedback therapy, popular in the 1960s. It works by showing people a real-time measure of some seemingly uncontrollable aspect of their physiology - heart rate, say - and encouraging them to try and change it. Astonishingly, many patients found that they could, though only rarely could they describe how they did it.
I'm back in London, having spent the last week in Melbourne. I had little time to access the net, spending most of my visit catching up with people and attending to various matters, hence the lack of blogging.
Melbourne was still where it had always been. A few things had changed (there's a JB Hi-Fi in Bourke St. where a discount clothing shop had been, 3RRR have moved out to Brunswick, and new trains had replaced most, but not all, of the old Hitachi trains), but generally, it felt as if I hadn't been away. People I knew were still there, and many of the familiar landmarks were as I remembered them. Oh, and EMI are still releasing corrupt CDs there.
My flight to Melbourne was a Qantas flight, whereas my flight back was with British Airways. Which are roughly similar, except that Qantas has better entertainment systems in cattle-class (you can actually play Tetris-like games on the screen in front of you), whereas BA has better in-flight duty-free shopping. The BA seats also had regular headphone sockets, thus allowing one to use something better than the craptacular headsets provided by airlines. (I had my Sennheiser PX200s with me, and they worked remarkably well; I'd say that actual noise-cancelling headphones are probably overkill.)
I briefly considered buying a PSP in Singapore (where they are out, unlike in Europe), though thought better of it, partly because of a lack of compelling titles (I've heard good things about Katamari Damacy, though that's not out on the PSP), and partly because no-one has figured out how to run user code on a current one yet.
Anyway, during my visit, I took some photos documenting Melbourne's café culture (the like of which I haven't seen in London); these photos may be found here.