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Monday, November 29, 2004

Our Brains Work Differently When We Lie New research on the brain suggests that our brains behave differently when we're telling a lie than when we're telling the truth. Lying makes the brain work harder. "There may be unique areas in the brain involved in deception that can be measured with fMRI. There may be unique areas in the brain involved in truth telling." Wired 11/30/04

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Where's The Outrage? No, Seriously, Where Is It? To hear some "pro-family" groups and government regulators tell it, you would think that America's television screens had recently been hijacked by a marauding band of pornographers, and that the future of the republic depended on their being beaten back. Frank Rich has had it with the so-called "moral values" crowd and their false piety, especially since even a cursory investigation reveals that no one seems to get exercised about TV smut until they're instructed to do so by well-funded professional outrage groups. Even worse, the supposed stacks of complaints received by the FCC regarding certain televised "incidents" have been grossly exaggerated, and usually consist of dozens of carbon copies of the same professionally generated complaint letter. The New York Times 11/28/04

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

When Was America Turned Over To The Crackpots, Eh? As viewed from Canada, America's new morality crusade is not only pathetic and wrongheaded but maddening. "Religious right. Moral majority. Family values. Pick a catchphrase and behold the stupefying ascent of the shrill and pathetic, the petty and disconnected, the scolding band of castigators hellbent on telling others what they can watch and hear and even think... Who are these snivelling whiners? These self-righteous, holier-than-thou grumblers who have programmed 'FCC' into their speed dial?" Toronto Star 11/24/04

Monday, November 22, 2004

The Software Art Connoisseur A group of Dartmouth researchers have developed software they say can detect whether artwork is authentic or not. "There are properties in an artist's pen and brush strokes that aren't visible to the human eye, but that are there nonetheless. And we can find them, through mathematical, statistical analysis." Wired 11/22/04

Is Liberal Arts Education Endangered? Ivy League educators got together recently to worry about the future of liberal arts education. "The fact that professors at Harvard, Princeton, and Dartmouth are worried about the health of liberal education is noteworthy. If the liberal arts are perceived to be struggling at these institutions, does liberal education stand a chance anywhere?" Boston Globe 11/21/04

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Looking Inside The Head (How It Works) New medical scans are showing the relationship between thinking, emotions and the brain. "It can show, for example, the parts of the brain that operate when we fall in love and when we have food cravings. It has even recently revealed the differences in the brains of Democrats and Republicans. But the technique also holds out the promise of answering deep questions about our most cherished human characteristics. For example, do we have an inbuilt moral sense, or do we learn what is right and wrong as we grow up? And which is stronger: emotions or logic?" Wired 11/21/04

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

When Inmates Run The Encyclopedia The Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia written and edited by its readers. As of November 2004, according to the project's own counts, nearly 30,000 contributors had written about 1.1 million articles in 109 different languages." While the stats are impressive, and the concept of "distributed editing" is Utopian, it's user beware, according to a former chief editor at Britannica. Tech Central Station 11/17/04

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Something Borrowed (Now I'm Blue) "Words belong to the person who wrote them. There are few simpler ethical notions than this one, particularly as society directs more and more energy and resources toward the creation of intellectual property. In the past thirty years, copyright laws have been strengthened. Courts have become more willing to grant intellectual-propert protections. Fighting piracy has becom an obsession with Hollywood and the recording industry, and, in the worlds of academia and publishing, plagiarism has gone from being bad literary manners to something much closer to a crime." The New Yorker 11/15/04

Sunday, November 14, 2004

New Tech - As Found In Nature Biomimetics is the fusion of ideas found in the natural world and technology. And science is learning to make new products by mimicing things found in nature. "Nature has been conducting evolutionary experiments for millions of years, so if we're lucky enough to find something close to what we require in nature, then it's very likely to have been highly optimized, and we're unlikely to do much better." Wired 11/04

Unity Is Overrated Ever since the U.S. presidential election, commentators and politicians everywhere have been calling for a return to national unity. Hogwash, says Julia Keller. Conformity and unity of thought have never helped the world advance, either culturally, politically, or artistically. "Only through avoiding consensus, only through steadfastly refusing to be unified, have artists progressed and evolved," and the same holds true for politicians, activists, and American society as a whole. Chicago Tribune 11/14/04

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Patently Absurd The world's patent system is a mess. Far too many patents are being applied for and too many are being granted. This has led to backups in the system. And America's changes in patent law have made things worse. "It not only ushered in a wave of new applications, but it is probably inhibiting, rather than encouraging, commercial innovation, which had never received, or needed, legal protection in the past." The Economist 11/11/04

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Obesity Tied To Mental Declines A new study concludes that overweight people are at greater risk of mental decline as they age... San Francisco Chronicle 11/10/04

Students Oppose Copyright Abuse (From The Other Side) Students at several American colleges are organizing to oppose expansion of copyright laws. "They are forming Free Culture groups on campuses to explain copyright law to fellow students. Stressing its importance for culture and society, the group says copyright law is being abused. To illustrate their point, the groups hold remixing contests, promote open-source software and rally against legislation like the Induce Act, which would hold technology companies liable for encouraging people to infringe copyrights." Wired 11/10/04

Tuesday, November 9, 2004

Immune To Ads? Advertising is everywhere; it's hard to escape. "Advertisers will spend hundreds of billions of dollars trying to reach consumers this year. The result? Advertising clutter. Researchers guesstimate the average American is exposed to hundreds, or even thousands, of ads each day. But marketers may be losing ground. We've been sprayed so much that we've begun developing immunities." Wired 11/09/04

Monday, November 8, 2004

The Next Frontier: Elective Neurology? "Some neurologists have recently wondered whether their field is the next frontier in elective medicine. The specialty now tries to protect ailing brains from conditions such as Parkinson's disease or migraine headaches. But doctors' efforts may one day extend to improving normal brains. This is coming, and we need to know it's coming. There's even a name for the field: cosmetic neurology." Philadelphia Inquirer 11/08/04

Sunday, November 7, 2004

Plug In (And Get Smarter) "Sending a weak electrical impulse through the front of a person's head can boost verbal skills by as much as 20 percent, according to a new study by the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke." Side effects? A little itching or "fizzing" around the electrodes... Wired 11/07/04

Thursday, November 4, 2004

The New CD? (Recyclable) Pioneer has announced a new generation of music disc - made of corn and eco-friendly. "The Japanese electronics maker said the Blu-ray optical disc, which can be written once and stores 25 gigabytes of data, is 87 percent natural polymer derived from corn and biodegrades." Discovery 11/04/04

Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Why Our Brains Differ From Apes "A group of researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles and Emory in Atlanta has compiled the first extensive analysis of human and primate genomic data. The result is a big-picture look at why human brains are so evolved. The answer lies not in which or how many genes we have, but in how and when those genes turn on and off." Wired 11/03/04

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