The Null Device


Cognitive neuroscience researcher Ogi Ogas describes how he used techniques from neuroscience to win a quiz show, getting questions he did not consciously know the answer to:

Cognitive models developed by my advisor Gail Carpenter suggest that a more effective way to evaluate an intuition is to consider its mnemonic associations. If you can mentally trace some of the cognitive links of an intuition (through a process similar to priming), these links may suggest whether the intuition is meaningfully connected to the correct answer or whether the link is trivial, incidental, or wrong. For example, given the question "Bucharest is the capital of what European country?", you might have an intuition that the answer is Hungary, because the actual capital of Hungary--Budapest--sounds like "Bucharest" and is thus unconsciously linked. In this case, naively following your unexamined intuition would lead you away from the correct response: Romania.
My $250,000 question presented me with a case of pure intuition. "The department store Sears got its start by selling what specific product in its first catalog?" Since pop culture esoterica and business origins are outside my domains of interest, I did not know the answer. But for some reason, even before the four possible answers appeared, I thought of watches. When "watches" turned up as one of the choices, I reflected on it further. I did not feel any certainty. But why did my brain come up with "watches?" ... As I concentrated on my watch intuition, I began to think about railroads. My brain's memory pattern of watches was somehow linked to a memory pattern of railroads, and my railroad memory also evoked a memory of Sears. Though I still could not work out the explicit connection between watches and Sears, I satisfied myself that "watches" had some deep mnemonic relationship to both railroads and Sears--perhaps at some point in my life I had read that Sears originally delivered their watch catalogs by railroad?
Later, in the tranquility of my apartment, I discovered that 23-year old railroad station agent Richard Sears sold watches to other station agents along the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railway for a full year before meeting up with Alvah C. Roebuck. I never did discover how this obscure factoid had left its faint trace upon my brain.

(via mindhacks) cogsci hacks mind neuroscience psychology 0

Hot on the heels of the TrollTech Greenphone, a company named FIC is releasing an open-source, Linux-based mobile phone. The OpenMoko won't have WiFi (as the GreenPhone will), but it will have a GPS receiver built in, as well as Bluetooth, USB, a MicroSD slot and a multi-touch touchscreen capable of understanding two-fingered dragging gestures. More importantly, it's not so much a mobile phone (which is to say, a locked-down proprietary appliance) as an openly hackable general-purpose computer with a GSM module and GPS receiver attached. (The radio components are, for regulatory reasons, closed modules; everything else, though, is fair game.) And apparently it will have a Debian-style package management system built in which can download new (or updated) software components on demand. And, also unlike the Greenphone, it will be released to the mass market (they say in January, which could mean sometime in the first half of 2007).

(via /., gizmodo) gadgets gps linux open-source phone 0

And it looks like the Democrats have control of the Senate. And here is a list of policies they intend to use their new power to force down the throats of God-fearing America:

2. Drug-filled condoms in schools
6. Withdraw from Iraq, apologize, reinstate Hussein
13. Freeways to be removed, replaced with light rail systems
16. Comatose people to be ground up and fed to poor
20. Jane Fonda to be appointed Secretary of Appeasement
21. Outlaw all firearms: previous owners assigned to anger management therapy
23. Ban Christmas: replace with Celebrate our Monkey Ancestors Day
It's rather telling about the mindset of the American Right (or the author's depiction of it) that the cocktail of caricature loony-liberalisms feared to be unleashed by the Democrats' ascendancy includes such things as mandatory abortion and homosexuality, Islamic fundamentalism, atheism, belief in evolution, and replacing road transport with public transport.

Meanwhile, the copyfighters aren't rejoicing just yet; the Democrats (i.e., the Party of the Lesser Evil) have a long history of closeness to Hollywood (which, for all the Republicans' pro-corporate ideology, was a bit too Godless and liberal), and look set to put a MPAA shill in charge of internet policy.

(via Boing Boing) politics satire usa 0

And more on the recent US elections: not surprisingly, Kinky Friedman didn't win the governorship of Texas.

eccentrics politics usa 0