17 April 2008

Stereotipurile sexuale de acum 40 de ani

Doua jocuri pentru copii din America de acum 40 de ani: "Ce-o sa fi cand te faci mare?" Optiunile pentru baieti: politician, om de stiinta, atlet, doctor, inginer, astronaut. Optiunile pentru fete: profesoara, stewardesa, actrita, sora medicala, model, balerina.

Detalii despre joc.

16 April 2008

Cum functioneaza magia

1. Suntem tentati sa credem ca daca am vazut acelasi efect repetat de mai multe ori el a fost produs de acelasi proces. Stupefactia e rezultatul faptului ca incercam sa intelegem scamatoria gasind punctele comune (coerenta) dintre diferitele repetari, insa cum acelasi efect este produs in moduri diferite, coerenta nu exista.
2. Atribuim intentii automat si avem tendinta de a da o importanta mai mare acestor intentii atribuite decat lucurilor concrete pe care le observam (comportamentului neinterpretat).

3. Oamenii vor sa se lase pacaliti.

Penn & Teller: The Bible Is Bullshit

13 April 2008

Derek Paravicini - autism si muzica

Partea 1 | Partea 2 | Partea 3 | Partea 4 | Partea 5
(Mersi lui Gyll pentru informatia despre Derek)

Documentarul nu intra in prea multe amanunte despre autism. Cea mai frapanta caracteristica a autistilor e ca nu par capabili sa atribuie altora intentii (sa ghiceasca ce vor ceilalti), ceea ce ii impiedica sa dezvolte relatii sociale. Nu se stie exact din ce cauza au deficienta asta. Documentarul pare sa sugereze ca dezvoltarea creierului lui Derek in primele luni a fost afectata de o supra-oxigenare a creierului.

Din Encarta Encyclopedia 2008:

Many theories have been proposed to explain what goes wrong during brain development to cause autism. Research has centered on a number of factors that may be involved.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is produced in the brain. It has a range of functions in the body, including important roles in the central nervous system. It also affects mood, memory, and appetite control. In 1961 Daniel Freedman and colleagues found increased levels of serotonin in the blood of patients with autism. More recent research has found that increased serotonin, or hyperserotonemia, is present in about one-quarter of patients, is also present in some of their family members, and is caused by genetic factors.

Some children with autism show an increase in brain growth during the first year of life that later slows down so that most adults with autism do not have enlarged brains. This increased growth is thought to be due to increased connections between neurons. Most brain studies in autism have also found a decrease in the size of a particular brain region, the cerebellar vermis.

People with autism show less activity than normal in the mirror neuron system of the brain that some scientists believe allows the human brain to understand and learn from observing other people. A recent theory proposed that defects in the mirror neuron system may explain some aspects of autism. Additionally, people with autism often overreact emotionally to trivial events in their environments, suggesting a problem with the processing of what they perceive.

Many theories have been proposed to explain each of these findings, but more research is needed to understand what goes wrong during brain development.

Din Wikipedia:
Autism appears to result from developmental factors that affect many or all functional brain systems, and to disturb the course of brain development more than the final product. Neuroanatomical studies and the associations with teratogens strongly suggest that autism's mechanism includes alteration of brain development soon after conception. This localized anomaly appears to start a cascade of pathological events in the brain that are significantly influenced by environmental factors. Although many major structures of the human brain have been implicated, almost all postmortem studies have been of individuals who also had mental retardation, making it difficult to draw conclusions. Brain weight and volume and head circumference tend to be greater in autistic children. The cellular and molecular bases of pathological early overgrowth are not known, nor is it known whether the overgrown neural systems cause autism's characteristic signs. Current hypotheses include:

- An excess of neurons that causes local overconnectivity in key brain regions.

- Disturbed neuronal migration during early gestation.

- Unbalanced excitatory-inhibitory networks.

- Abnormal formation of synapses and dendritic spines.

Interactions between the immune system and the nervous system begin early during embryogenesis, and successful neurodevelopment depends on a balanced immune response. Several symptoms consistent with a poorly regulated immune response have been reported in autistic children. It is possible that aberrant immune activity during critical periods of neurodevelopment is part of the mechanism of some forms of ASD. As autoantibodies have not been associated with pathology, are found in diseases other than ASD, and are not always present in ASD, the relationship between immune disturbances and autism remains unclear and controversial.

Several neurotransmitter abnormalities have been detected in autism, notably increased blood levels of serotonin. Whether these lead to structural or behavioral abnormalities is unclear. Also, some inborn errors of metabolism are associated with autism but probably account for less than 5% of cases.

The mirror neuron system (MNS) theory of autism hypothesizes that distortion in the development of the MNS interferes with imitation and leads to autism's core features of social impairment and communication difficulties. The MNS operates when an animal performs an action or observes another animal of the same species perform the same action. The MNS may contribute to an individual's understanding of other people by enabling the modeling of their behavior via embodied simulation of their actions, intentions, and emotions. Several studies have tested this hypothesis by demonstrating structural abnormalities in MNS regions of individuals with ASD, delay in the activation in the core circuit for imitation in individuals with Asperger's, and a correlation between reduced MNS activity and severity of the syndrome in children with ASD. However, individuals with autism also have abnormal brain activation in many circuits outside the MNS and the MNS theory does not explain the normal performance of autistic children on imitation tasks that involve a goal or object.

A 2008 study of autistic adults found evidence for altered functional organization of the task-negative network, a large-scale brain network involved in social and emotional processing, with intact organization of the task-positive network, used in sustained attention and goal-directed thinking. A 2008 brain-imaging study found a specific pattern of signals in the cingulate cortex which differs in individuals with ASD.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging provides some evidence for the underconnectivity theory of autism. The underconnectivity theory of autism hypothesizes that autism is marked by underfunctioning high-level neural connections and synchronization, along with an excess of low-level processes. Evidence for this theory has been found in functional neuroimaging studies on autistic individuals and by a brain wave study that suggested that adults with ASD have local overconnectivity in the cortex and weak functional connections between the frontal lobe and the rest of the cortex. Other evidence suggests the underconnectivity is mainly within each hemisphere of the cortex and that autism is a disorder of the association cortex.

Ecologia, geopolitica si economia de piata

Vijay Vaitheeswaran, fostul corespondent de la The Economist pe teme de mediu si energie, discuta despre viitorul energiei. Explica si de ce China, incercand sa obtina surse de energie care sa nu fie controlate de SUA, pe de o parte sustine genocidul din Darfur si pe de alta parte investeste in tehnologii mai eficiente. De asemenea, mentioneaza ca primul pas spre a combate incalzirea globala nu e atat sponsorizarea energiei solare/a vantului/etc., ci eliminarea subventiilor pe care le primeste in prezent industria de petrol. Termina pe o nota optimista spunand ca industria energetica, care multumita protectiei pe care o primeste de la guverne este una dintre cele mai putin inovative sectoare ale economiei (0.5% din profituri investite in reseach & development), se schimba si noi modele de afaceri si tehnologii au inceput sa iasa la iveala. Sursa: Science and the City.

12 April 2008

Cum functioneaza masina de propaganda chineza

Cum ii faci pe oameni sa creada ce vrei tu cand toata lumea stie ca minti? Asta e dilema pe care trebuie sa o rezolve masinaria de propaganda a Chinei. The Economist analizeaza felul in care adreseaza ei dilema:
  • citeaza selectiv presa occidentala (daca si ei ne vorbesc de bine precis e adevarat),
  • la care adauga minciuni sfruntate (e.g. "Local people in London strongly opposed the attempt to sabotage the Torch Relay. And the behavior of "pro-Tibet independence" activists has aroused resentment and received condemnation in London.")
  • plus o doza serioasa de nationalism care trezeste sentimentul tribal pana si al celor care in mod normal sunt critici fata de regim.
It was very striking, during my time in China, that when it came to domestic scandals: a state-owned mine poisoning a village, say, or corruption among top officials, Chinese students or middle class urbanites would seek out news from foreign outlets, trusting foreigners to tell the truth before their own state media. But once a story became international, and involved China's role in the world, the same people became intensely tribal, choosing to disbelieve the BBC or CNN and give credit even to state run publications that they normally despised.
Acesta e motivul pentru care olimpiada si marsul tortei prin toata lumea este un succes propagandistic pentru guvernul Chinei in ciuda - si chiar multumita - protestatarilor care merg pe urma tortei.

Continuarea la Inconvenient Truth

Prezentarea lui Al Gore de la TED:

09 April 2008

Lectiile lui Feynman despre electrodinamica cuantica

Cartea lui Richard Feynman, QED - The Strange Theory of Light and Matter e una dintre putinele carti de popularizare a mecanicii cuantice in care autorul nu bate campii. Inainte de a tine lectiile din carte, Feynman le-a tinut si in Noua Zeelanda, iar acum sunt disponibile pe net. Patru prelegeri de la unul dintre cei mai tari fizicieni din toate timpurile:
  • New Queries: What does it mean, and where is it all leading?

Trei povestiri de Roberto Quaglia

Scrise impreuna cu Ian Watson. The Mass Extinction of My Beloved
My Beloved was Brigitte Bardot — one of five hundred Brigitte Bardots, but very special to me. Due to her iconic importance, firstly as a sex symbol, and secondly as a crusader for animal rights (including insect rights), the World Wildlife Fund sensibly cloned BB as their special agent and representative. That was with her permission, of course — she was eager to help. Obviously five hundred Brigitte Bardots could assist animals (and insects) more than one now-elderly Brigitte could. To begin with, the clones were all twenty-five years old. Every country in the world received its own Brigitte. Big countries such as Brazil or Russia received four or five Brigittes. Their duties: to observe and protect and intervene in animal welfare. They were allowed to use violence if necessary, or seduction. They were licensed to kill, or to love. [Continuare]
Beloved Vampire of the Blood Comet
Nowadays aristocratic vampires hang out far away from Transylvania, which is only for tourists. Aristo-vamps live in posh places such as Antibes and Baden-Baden or Venice, and they bank in Switzerland. Incidentally, they only bank money and gold and jewels, never blood. Plenty of blood-banks exist, but after a few months bottled blood isn’t at its best – and supposing interest was paid on a blood deposit, would this come from the veins of shareholders? Blood must continue circulating, otherwise it loses value. A few hundred years ago Transylvania was the cutting-edge place to be, as my beloved vampire explained to me. His name was Silviu Romanescu. [Continuare]
The Moby Clitoris of His Beloved
Yukio was only a salaryman, not a company boss, but for years he'd yearned to taste whale clitoris sashimi. Regular whalemeat sashimi was quite expensive, but Yukio would need to work for a hundred years to afford whale clitoris sashimi, the most expensive status symbol in Japan. Much of Yukio's knowledge of the world came from manga comic books or from anime movies which he watched on his phone while commuting for three hours every day. He treasured the image of a beautiful young ama diving woman standing on the bow of a whaling boat clad in a semi-transparent white costume and holding sparklingly aloft the special clitoridectomy knife. [Continuare]

01 April 2008

Cum functioneaza gandirea mea morala?

Un test psihologico-filozofic interesant: Morality Play
In this activity you will be presented with 19 different scenarios. In each case, you will be asked to make a judgment about what is the morally right thing to do. When you have answered all the questions, you will be presented with an analysis of your responses which should reveal some interesting things about your moral framework and how it compares to others who have completed the activity.
Ce mi-a iesit mie:
Your Moral Parsimony Score is 72%

What does this mean?

Moral frameworks can be more or less parsimonious. That is to say, they can employ a wide range of principles, which vary in their application according to circumstances (less parsimonious) or they can employ a small range of principles which apply across a wide range of circumstances without modification (more parsimonious). An example might make this clear. Let's assume that we are committed to the principle that it is a good to reduce suffering. The test of moral parsimony is to see whether this principle is applied simply and without modification or qualification in a number of different circumstances. Supposing, for example, we find that in otherwise identical circumstances, the principle is applied differently if the suffering person is from a different country to our own. This suggests a lack of moral parsimony because a factor which could be taken to be morally irrelevant in an alternative moral framework is here taken to be morally relevant.

How to interpret your score

The higher your percentage score the more parsimonious your moral framework. In other words, a high score is suggestive of a moral framework that comprises a minimal number of moral principles that apply across a range of circumstances and acts. What is a high score? As a rule of thumb, any score above 75% should be considered indicative of a parsimonious moral framework. However, perhaps a better way to think about this is to see how your score compares to other people's scores.

In fact, your score of 72% is slightly higher than the average score of 64%. This suggests that you have utilised a somewhat smaller range of moral principles than average in order to make judgements about the scenarios presented in this test, and that you have, at least on occasion, judged aspects of the acts and circumstances depicted here to be morally irrelevant that other people consider to be morally relevant.

Geographical Distance

This category has to do with the impact of geographical distance on the application of moral principles. The idea here is to determine whether moral principles are applied equally when dealing with sets of circumstances and acts that differ only in their geographical location in relation to the person making the judgement.

Your score of 100% is significantly higher than the average score of 72% in this category.

The suggestion then is that geographical distance plays little, if any, role in your moral thinking.

Family Relatedness

In this category, we look at the impact of family loyalty and ties on the way in which moral principles are applied. The idea here is to determine whether moral principles are applied without modification or qualification when you're dealing with sets of circumstances and acts that differ only in whether the participants are related through family ties to the person making the judgement.

Your score of 51% is not greatly different to the average score of 52% in this category.

But what is significant is that it is low enough to suggest that issues of family relatedness are a relevant factor in your moral thinking. Probably, you think that you have a slightly greater moral obligation towards people who are related to you than towards those who are not. If you do think that, then it decreases the parsimoniousness of your moral framework.

Acts and Omissions

This category has to do with whether there is a difference between the moral status of acting and omitting to act where the consequences are the same in both instances. [...]

Your score of 35% is much lower than the average score of 61% in this category.

This suggests that the difference between acting and omitting to act is a relevant factor in your moral framework. Usually, this will mean thinking that those who act have greater moral culpability than those who simply omit to act. To insist on a moral distinction between acting and omitting to act is to decrease the parsimoniousness of your moral framework.


This category has to do with whether scale is a factor in making moral judgements. A simple example will make this clear. Consider a situation where it is possible to save ten lives by sacrificing one life. Is there a moral difference between this choice and one where the numbers of lives involved are different but proportional - for example, saving 100 lives by sacrificing ten? In this category then, the idea is to determine whether moral principles are applied without modification or qualification when you're dealing with sets of circumstances that differ only in their scale, as in the sense described above.

Your score of 100% is significantly higher than the average score of 73% in this category.

It seems that scale, as it is described above, is not an important consideration in your moral worldview. But if, contrary to our findings, it is important, then it decreases the parsimoniousness of your moral framework.