post

Sleep Makes You Creative

One of the things I love is the acceleration in what brain scientists are learning about what makes us tick. With fMRI and other methods neuroscientists are really pushing the knowledge envelope and uncovering all sorts of cool stuff about how that mass in our skulls works and allows our minds to function (or not function, if one has a mental illness). One of the findings presented in this video is that yes, sleep enables your brain to be more creative when you’re awake but sleep does a lot more for us. 

This GoogleTechTalk is with Matthew P. Walker, PhD, who is an associate professor in UC Berkeley’s Psychology Department Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory. He covers topics such as the impact of sleep on human brain function, especially in learning and memory; brain plasticity; emotional regulation; affective and clinical mood disorders and aging. 

This video is a bit long but worthwhile if you have an interest in this topic like I do. NOTE: Usually I watch these using my $99 AppleTV box and its YouTube app. Since I’ve subscribed to this GoogleTechTalk “channel” on YouTube I can simply select it and away I go. Much better than sitting at my computer for over an hour!

post

Don’t Believe in Climate Change?

This graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased since the Industrial Revolution. (Source: NOAA)

This graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased since the Industrial Revolution. (Source: NOAA)

Must admit I’m still stunned when I talk to an actual human being (one who seems intelligent) and they tell me that they do not believe in climate change. Anyone with an 8th grade education who can read should be able to figure out that the evidence is overwhelming.

NASA has this Global Climate Change website and the graphic above comes straight from their page entitled “Evidence.” With all of that extra CO2 in the air — a gas that traps heat in the atmosphere and is a concept even an 8th grader who has been in a hot car could understand — the evidence goes beyond what we can see and experience ourselves. Seeing, analyzing and cataloguing the data from space and satellites is an amazing set of tools to collect it all and prove climate change is real. 

From NASA’s Evidence page:

  • normPage-3Sea level rise: Global sea level rose about 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) in the last century. The rate in the last decade, however, is nearly double that of the last century.
  • Global temperature rise: All three major global surface temperature reconstructions show that Earth has warmed since 1880. Most of this warming has occurred since the 1970s, with the 20 warmest years having occurred since 1981 and with all 10 of the warmest years occurring in the past 12 years.6 Even though the 2000s witnessed a solar output decline resulting in an unusually deep solar minimum in 2007-2009, surface temperatures continue to increase.
  • Warming oceans: The oceans have absorbed much of this increased heat, with the top 700 meters (about 2,300 feet) of ocean showing warming of 0.302 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969.
  • Shrinking ice sheets: The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass. Data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment show Greenland lost 150 to 250 cubic kilometers (36 to 60 cubic miles) of ice per year between 2002 and 2006, while Antarctica lost about 152 cubic kilometers (36 cubic miles) of ice between 2002 and 2005.
  • Declining Arctic sea ice: Both the extent and thickness of Arctic sea ice has declined rapidly over the last several decades.
  • Glacial retreat: Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world — including in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa.
  • Extreme events: The number of record high temperature events in the United States has been increasing, while the number of record low temperature events has been decreasing, since 1950. The U.S. has also witnessed increasing numbers of intense rainfall events.
  • Ocean acidification: Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the acidity of surface ocean waters has increased by about 30 percent.12,13 This increase is the result of humans emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and hence more being absorbed into the oceans. The amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the upper layer of the oceans is increasing by about 2 billion tons per year.

It might be too late to stop the acceleration in global CO2 levels. When it comes to climate deniers, maybe they will wake up when their crops whither and die due to abnormal heat and little rain, or when the oceans rise and either they’re inundated with water or millions of refugees flood their towns and neighborhoods. 

post

What is Light?

As someone with a high degree of interest in quantum physics—as a lay person and certainly not as a scientist—I’ve always been fascinated by the double slit experiment (video) and how matter and energy can display characteristics of both waves and particles in what is known as the wave–particle duality.

Is light a bunch of particles like we’ve come to believe (think “photons”)? Or is light a frequency wave (think the “electromagnetic spectrum“)? 

I came across the video below that demonstrates the properties of light, using the double slit experiment, with “real” people on the street. Usually these videos belittle people and their lack of science knowledge, but this one was done in the spirit of fun, being informative, and truly showing how light behaves. (via HighT3ch)

post

Imaging at a Trillion Frames per Second

In this TED video, Ramesh Raskar, Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab, presents femto-photography, a new type of imaging so fast it visualizes the world one trillion frames per second, so detailed it shows light itself in motion. This technology may someday be used to build cameras that can look “around” corners or see inside the body without X-rays.

post

Fail. Fail. Fail. Learn.

Can the lessons learned from video games point the way to a new fail, fail, fail and learn model for K-12 education?

Whether you are a Republican or Democrat, parent or teacher, employer or employee, trainer or trainee, one thing is clear: traditional models of learning are being attacked from all corners as broken, virtually unchanged since the 1890s, and desperately in need of fundamental reform.

You’ve seen or heard the statistics about India’s top 10% of K-12 students being more in number than all the students in the U.S., and that the Asia Pacific region graduates more PhDs in one year than the U.S. does in 10. 

Questions abound about how to fix it:

  • With the world’s information increasingly at our fingertips with an internet we’re connected to with computers, smartphones and tablets — at home and mobile — how much information do we need to pack in to our brains like traditional K-12 models emphasize?
  • Now that cognitive scientists, psychologists and education-oriented startups are gaining new insights in to ways in which students can learn and do so quickly, what are the right models?
  • With gaming and game theory being viewed by many experts as the best way to move in to a model of fail, fail, fail and learn…what works? Will all our kids be taught with Halo3 or other off-the-shelf games?

What’s the fix? This is a complex question and I’ve watched several talks, by experts in the field, and a new Minnesota startup (CogCubed) has compiled several videos on one page here that you should watch if interested. What’s pretty clear after watching them all (which I’ve done over the last few years) is that there are some great ideas out there but few ‘platforms’ upon which people can build fail, fail, fail, learn applications.

Let’s face it: without platforms (e.g., computers, the internet, desktop & now ebook publishing) and higher level tools and approaches, new innovations and industries struggle to emerge, even with great ideas and directions!

What was a big surprise this morning was discovering just such a platform company for new ways of enabling students to engage in learning that encourages play, manipulation, failing and ultimately learning. Sifteo is a “…venture-backed startup based in San Francisco, California. We make Sifteo cubes, an interactive game system designed for hands-on fun and Intelligent Play. We also make a growing number of unique and exclusive games for Sifteo cubes.

Rather than me telling you more, go view those compiled videos above and then watch this very short introduction by David Merrill about Sifteo. If you don’t come away with interest, intrigue and the ability to visualize new emergent models of learning, I’ll be even more surprised:

To learn more, here is David Merrill’s talk at a recent TED conference or just go to their website.

post

Is Walgreens anti-health?

 
UPDATE on April 3, 2014: No-Shit-Sherlock: Yes, Walgreens is anti-health and clearly prefers short-term revenue over the health of their customers. 

See CVS Quits for Good and then skim this article at Motley Fool about how, “Walgreen said it’s going to ignore the pressure for the time being and continue selling cigarettes to its customers”Walgreen Ready to Smoke CVS With Tobacco Sales.

Check out this Twitter direct message stream from Walgreens social media that just came in at 10:45am on 4/3/14

Check out this Twitter direct message stream from Walgreens social media that just came in at 10:45am on 4/3/14. CLICK FOR A LARGER VERSION


 

17 years ago my Mom died of lung cancer at 62 years of age after a lifetime of smoking. My Dad, 85 years old, has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which has slowly robbed him of his breath. So to say that I’m biased against smoking, I’d have to agree but also point out that I side with virtually every health professional and medical organization in the world who looks at the science of smoking-related illness and sees it as the #1 most detrimental-to-health addiction known.

To say smoking is anti-health is an understatement. To consider a retailer with health at its core making that #1 anti-health product widely available in their stores, is unconscionable. 

A few weeks after my Mom died I happened to be in a Walgreens where I was acquainted with the manager. “Why do you sell health as an organization and yet sell cigarettes?” He had no answer other than to lean forward and whisper, “Because we make A LOT of money off of them.

A cool smartphone user smoking. She’ll look like 10-miles-of-bad-road in just a few years (like most smokers do)

Stopping off this past week at a Walgreens near my Dad’s house to pick up a few things for him, I saw a young man in front of me buy two packs of Kool menthol cigarettes. When it was my turn I asked the older woman cashier, “Why does Walgreens promote health and yet sell cigarettes?” Sheepishly she averted her gaze and in a low voice said, “I know its wrong…but I just work here and we sell alot of them.

To Walgreens leadership I say: Be a leader in health and get rid of the cigarettes or don’t bullshit us with stuff like this on your website in your “health encyclopedia” about the hazards of smoking and how to quit which, ironically, contains solid information about smoking’s detrimental impact on health which you published.

It’s been 17 years since my Mom died and I haven’t become an anti-smoking crusader by any means, but I like and shop at Walgreens so want to see you take a position for health!

I’m sure you make money on supplying tobacco, a clearly addictive, health destructive product. Walgreens also has a Respiratory Services group for which, I’m fairly certain, helps people who’ve damaged their lungs through smoking. But if all you want to do is make money, why not sell porn? Malt liquor? Some constantly morphing designer drug brand just one-step ahead of the Drug Enforcement Agency?

There is absolutely zero argument that a leader of a 7,500 store “health” chain could make to justify carrying a highly addictive, irrefutable cancer-causing product like tobacco. Unless Walgreens thinks that selling cigarettes might ensure long term growth in Respiratory Services and other products? Even a sometimes cynical guy like me would have a hard time believing that so to Gregory Wasson, CEO of Walgreens, I say, “Show some leadership and get cigarettes and other tobacco products OUT of your stores…now.
 
post

It’s Fun To No Longer Trust Your Eyes…Isn’t it?

I used to be a bit disturbed over how simple it was to manipulate photographs. Now the video/film manipulation has far outpaced that and can make whatever vision the director has possible. I’ve now watched this video ten times and I still find it delightful to see what can be done with strategically placed green screens and matching footage. My favorite parts are the walk through Red Square in Moscow, the ship on fire and the snow scene probably shot in July in L.A.

Watching this also is heightened if you have an appreciation for the challenges in matching the lighting in the scene and other environmental conditions.

What happens when fun, photorealistic 3D characters are matched with this kind of realism? Though many say we’re a long ways off from being able to faithfully recreate a human digitally, I’m not so sure that we’re closer than people think. The fun aspect still exists with many 3d photorealistic characterizations — and it’s easier to pull off believability when it’s basically a major stepup from a cartoon (e.g., Toy Story, Up, Shrek) but what happens as the creation and rendering technology gets so good that it is indistinguishable from reality?

Heavy Rain is an upcoming game that has gamers all abuzz about its photorealism and you should watch this HD trailer (you have to watch a lo-res advertisement first so hang in there) to see why there is so much excitement. Yeah, it’s awesome. OK…it’s still easy to tell it’s a game.

But for how much longer?

post

Steve Wozniak on Color Computing

When Apple released the Apple II at the West Coast Computer Faire in 1977, it was a big deal with its color display. Since I love poking around FORA.tv and watching the thought leader videos curated there, I was pleased to see this snippet of a Steve Wozniak (Woz) interview (you can watch the entire hour+ program here) about the spark of genius. The cool thing? As you listen and watch Woz describe how he came up with the idea to deliver color computing for a radically reduced price, it is the quintessential description of problem solving and creative solutions to problems.

This was recorded at the Bay Area Discovery Museum on February 1, 2010 and they describe it this way:

Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder and philanthropist in conversation at the Discovery Forum 2010 with Emmy-award winning journalist Dana King from CBS 5 Eyewitness News.

Renowned technology pioneer Steve Wozniak speaks to the importance of hands-on learning and encouraging creativity, and how the Bay Area Discovery Museum is a critical resource for preparing children for the challenges of the 21st century.

The Discovery Forum serves to increase awareness about the importance of childhood creativity, and raises support for the Museum’s educational exhibitions and programs.

Watch this couple of minute segment (yes, there are ads first) and you’ll see what I mean about creative problem solving:

post

Why are you naked at the airport?

Right after the horrific events of 9/11/01, I was stunned to watch my fellow citizens simply bend over and acquiesce to security measures that I thought were uncalled for and overreaching and so did security expert Bruce Schneier. I submit that making millions of people remove their shoes after one so-called “shoe bomber” hid explosives in his shoes is ludicrous, but few of us push back or protest.

Why aren’t more of us saying “no” to accelerated invasiveness of our persons and privacy? Are people simply lambs stumbling along blindly as they head off for slaughter?  Is it OK for you to be full body scanned and essentially viewed naked at the airport? [Read more...]

post

Sir, Yes Sir! Thank You for Thinking *For* Me Sir!

drillsergeant

One of the dangers in being a “thought leader” or “influencer” in blogs or social media is this: others might actually believe you’re an expert and take what you say on faith, as gospel, or as their duty. On the flip side, those of us who follow so-called thought leaders make some assumptions that they’re experts or at least more plugged in than we are so they must know something we don’t (and too many people are influenced by them automatically). I’ve been seeing this happen too often in the group-think that occurs in the blogosphere and this sort of mass persuasion (or “mass meme’ing” as my friend Bill calls it) is now moving even faster with the real-time internet (e.g., Twitter).

In my several decades on this earth I’ve learned the power of propaganda, seen the unfortunate downsides to “spin” and group-think, and have been made well aware of the persuasion, motivation and psychological manipulation techniques most people with an agenda employ.

Having an agenda and trying to persuade or motivate is not inherently evil or good, it just is-what-it-is. Humans are driven by all sorts of intrinsic motivations that go well beyond Maslow’s baseline on his hierarchy of needs. In my view, Maslow was stating a pyramid of needs that was far too happy-assed and missed many human motivators like a hunger for celebrity, power or control by an individual or organization, the continual nation-based struggle for resources, or a need to be dominant.

Think about all of this the next time you read something (especially a blog post or tweet), listen to a political speech, are asked to do something by your boss, or watch a TV show or movie about a big topic. What are the writer/tweeter/producers motivations? Who is funding it and/or what is their agenda? What are the creators of it trying to get you to do, to think and what action do they want you to take?