December 26, 2005

Interspecies Communication?!

Boomer has adopted a new vocalization to tell me he wants to be picked up, placed on the bathroom counter, and have the water turned on for him. This has prompted me to search for cat vocalization articles for my e-friend Eliot.

Found something different, but possibly equally interesting:

A Comparative Study of the Use of Visual Communicative Signals in Interactions Between Dogs (Canis familiaris) and Humans and Cats (Felis catus) and Humans. Miklósi, Áam; Pongrácz, Péter; Lakatos, Gabriella; Journal of Comparative Psychology, Vol 119(2), May 2005. pp. 179-186.

Dogs' (Canis familiaris) and cats' (Felis catus) interspecific communicative behavior toward humans was investigated. In Experiment 1, the ability of dogs and cats to use human pointing gestures in an object-choice task was compared using 4 types of pointing cues differing in distance between the signaled object and the end of the fingertip and in visibility duration of the given signal. Using these gestures, both dogs and cats were able to find the hidden food; there was no significant difference in their performance. In Experiment 2, the hidden food was made inaccessible to the subjects to determine whether they could indicate the place of the hidden food to a naive owner. Cats lacked some components of attention-getting behavior compared with dogs. The results suggest that individual familiarization with pointing gestures ensures high-level performance in the presence of such gestures; however, species-specific differences could cause differences in signaling toward the human.

Full-text available in any flavor of PsycArticles, probably at your local college or university library.

Emotions are All in the Mind

ABC Radio National’s All in the Mind just ran a 4 part series on emotion. They covered Sexual Desire (arguably not an emotion), Anger, Jealousy, and Joy.

They feature comments from real people who experience the emotion in question, interspersed with interviews with scientists in the field. Tidbits that I liked:

From Jealousy:
David DeSteno (Associate Professor, Psychology Department, Northeastern University):
“Engaging in satisfying relationships is associated with all kinds of wonderful things: lower cardiovascular threat, greater immune system response, greater wellbeing. And so what jealousy does is it alerts you and impels you to the threat that your relationship is going to be lost.”
DeSteno categorizes jealousy as a “social emotion” rather than a more basic emotion like anger and fear, adding that social emotions “help us navigate our social landscape, much as more basic emotions help us navigate the physical one.”

From Joy:
Lea Williams (Associate Professor, Brain Dynamics Centre, Westmead Hospital and University of Sydney) and Susan Turk Charles (Assistant Professor, School of Social Ecology, University of Southern California) suggest that as we age we get happier. Well, they can’t prove it in so many words, but Williams has found “the part of that that regulates negative emotion actually becomes better able to do that with older age, and, in a sense, takes the brakes off the positive emotions.”

Charmin Härtel (Professor of Organisational Behaviour, Department of Management, Monash University):
“There’s an old saying that if you took three people and you put them in a room and two of them were positive and one of them was negative that they’d all come out depressed. And there’s a little bit of truth in that, it’s a lot easier for the emotional tone of a place to go negative than it is for it to go in a positive way or create a positive environment.”

Transcripts, citations to articles for more information, as well as podcasts & RealAudio of the show are available for all stories.

Does Usability Change with Events?

The New York Times reports today that during last week’s transit strike, the New York City news site displayed a “stark black-and-white page with basic blue headline links” rather than its usual flashy graphics. Folks at NY1 say they streamlined their site to help site visitors get information quickly (hits increased from an average 30,000 to 100,000 during the strike). The Times suggests that NY1 stripped it down to prevent potential load problems — odd, they argue, since the site is owned by cable Internet provider Time Warner which should have the bandwidth to handle anything.

Either way, it’s an interesting approach to a crisis: make an important web site more usable. Then again, why not make the site more usable ALL THE TIME?! [sigh]

When News Breaks, Flashy Content Loses Out
New York Times, December 26, 2005
Visitors to seeking news about the city's transit
strike found a stripped-down design featuring basic blue
headline links and no photos.

Two Cool Webcasts

MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory celebrated its formal opening on Dec. 1 with a “major scientific symposium” entitled the Future of the Brain. The event focused on the future of neuroscience research, and included several Nobel Laureates, and experts in neuroscience, memory, and consciousness. They have posted a webcast which features the whole 7 hour session broken into two parts.

On November 17, 2005, the New York Public Library sponsored a debate about Google Print, entitled "The Battle Over Books: Authors & Publishers Take on the Google Print Library Project". It featured Larry Lessig, Stanford Law Professor; Chris Anderson (editor-in-chief of Wired magazine); Paul LeClerc, president & CEO of the NYPL; David Drummond, Google’s VP of Corporate Development, and others. Larry Lessig reports on his blog that various electronic versions of the event are available. You can download an mp3, a video torrent,view a QuickTime movie, or listen to the audio via QuickTime.

Isn’t technology great?!

December 12, 2005

Technology + PubMed Searching Tips

The University of Washington Health Sciences Libraries has created a very cool set of training “videos” online for PubMed. They use the Camtasia software to capture both actions taken on the screen as well as accompanying audio to create an online training “video.”

The Libraries have divided the videos into 18 categories, with each lasting 30 seconds to almost 5 minutes. Topics include Clinical Queries, the MeSH database, and Basic Search.

Now that I’m at UConn, I need to learn to be more proficient in PubMed – from this video, I learned how to limit my search to humans (or animals). And this is a great way to explain PubMed (and other databases’) advanced features to undergraduates, public library patrons, and even library school students.

Thanks to Greg Notess’ “On the Net” column in the Nov/Dec. 2005 issue of Online magazine. (Note: the article isn’t freely available online, but most major databases offer this in full-text, including Expanded Academic and Academic Search Premier).

December 11, 2005

Science & Consciousness Review Online

Articles and other information about science and consciousness at the online SCR. They review articles about science and/or consciousness, including abstracts and links to the full-text of the article in its native format (i.e. ScienceDirect or Nature Neuroscience). (wish they had an RSS feed...)

Recent articles cover synesthesia and New Scientist’s Special Report on the Human Brain. Check out the side bar where they list PubMed articles on related topics.

Of interest to librarians, is the HubMed interface — see what they’ve done with this article on Where is the Brain in the Self? — links to the original PubMed abstract, the full-text at ScienceDirect, and a demo SFX pop-up menu. Very cool.

Thanks to MindHacks for the link.

Tech Fun with the Washington Post

ResearchBuzz reports that the Washington Post has a blog. It’s not a traditional blog, but rather the Washington Post Remix is a site where people share what they’re doing with Washington Post online content. Current examples include a link from Post book reviews to Amazon and Rebotcast, which converts Post text content to audio.

Definitely worth following — love watching traditional media catch up with new technology. Kind of like what libraries are doing!

December 09, 2005

Free continuing ed for librarians!

Saw a terrific SirsiDynix Institute “webinar” this week on the Digital Library Federation‘s Electronic Resources Management Initiative. Tim Jewell hosted this event, which was a lecture and accompanying PowerPoint. It was informative and very professional.

Next up: Lee Rainie—Director Pew Internet & American Life Project, talking about “When Everything Connects to Everything: The Impact On People's Relationships to Each Other and to Information“ It’s free! Wednesday, Dec. 14 from 11-noon, EST. register

Archives are available — see the PowerPoint and hear the audio for Jewell’s presentation and many more (including Stephen Abram on Google).

Windows’ LiveMeeting is required; the audio doesn’t work on a Mac. However, you can download the slides as a pdf.

Arf! The dog genome is complete

The New York Times reports that the journal Nature reports that scientists have decoded the dog genome “to a high degree of accuracy.”

Scientists can now compare the dog, human, and mouse genome to see what makes a mammal a mammal. Apparently humans and dogs have more “brain function” genes, possibly because the social nature of our lives requires more computing power.

Tasha, the boxer whose genes researchers sequenced, was chosen because boxers are very inbred “easing the decoding task.”

New York Times, December 8, 2005
Science: Dog's Genome Could Provide Clues to Disorders in Humans
The dog genome gives researchers insight into the evolutionary history of humans.

Nature, December 8, 2005
"Genome sequence, comparative analysis and haplotype structure of the domestic dog"
Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, et al.
"Here we report a high-quality draft genome sequence of the domestic dog (Canis familiaris), together with a dense map of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) across breeds. The dog is of particular interest because it provides important evolutionary information and because existing breeds show great phenotypic diversity for morphological, physiological and behavioural traits."
Full-text available for a fee, or check your local (large) library.

December 07, 2005

Interview with Donald Norman

The Fall, 2005 issue of Technical Communication Quarterly features an interview with product design / usability guru Donald Norman. He talks about his latest book, Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things. The article covers lots o’ things that interest me, such as emotions & design (there are so many designs I hate; I’m looking at you Microsoft Windows; and many that I love – yes, that is an iPod surgically connected to my hip); the intersection of technology and communication; and Norman’s research at Northwestern / University of California, San Diego.

I [heart] Donald Norman

Mark Zachry. "An Interview with Donald A. Norman"
Technical Communication Quarterly.
Autumn 2005. Vol. 14, Iss. 4; p. 469.
Full-text available in ABI/Inform, Communications & Mass Media Complete, and Wilson OmniFile Full-text.

December 06, 2005

New Books at UConn

The Evolution of Intelligence, subtitled “Are Humans the Only Animals with Minds?” by James Fetzer (University of Minnesota, Duluth), published by Open Court, c2005. Amazon says the publisher says “Through a fascinating exploration of the mental abilities of species ranging from bacteria to mountain gorillas, noted science philosopher James Fetzer … offers an important new theory of intelligence - one grounded in evolutionary theory and by which machines can be ‘intelligent’ without possessing minds.”

Looks like a big review article on animal intelligence and philosophy. Fetzer has also written extensively on “assassination science” .

Another big review article is Making Sense of Secondary Science: Research into Children’s Ideas by Rosalind Driver, Ann Squires, et al (published by RoutledgeFalmer c1994). It reviews studies done about what secondary school students think about the natural world. Findings are divided into three main sections: life and living processes; materials and their properties; and physical processes. Looks like a good way for high school science teachers to figure out how their students think about science; would also be good for college professors who teach students to be science teachers …

November 29, 2005

Wireless Philly & the Digital Divide

Philadelphia hopes to become the largest city with wifi available throughout the city. They're in negotiations with Earthlink to provide $10 to $20 per month broadband Internet access to all residents and tourists.

The NewsHour reported last Tuesday that city nonprofit agencies are using similar low cost wireless availability to make the Internet and computers available to low income residents. Terrence Smith mentions the People's Emergency Center, which is helping city residents get computers and wireless, and training them to use both.

The cool part is that the People's Emergency Center is training kids to do maintenance and troubleshooting of the computers – a win-win situation for the kids (who learn useful skills) and the neighborhood (who gets free computer support).

Great story. The text of the transcript is on the NewsHour site, or you can listen to it via RealAudio (or by podcast via iTunes).

November 23, 2005

Powerpoint Much?

Garr Reynolds’ blog Presentation Zen is a must-read for anyone who makes powerpoints. Great sensible ideas for creating good “slideware” with examples – the comparison of Steve Jobs’ and Bill Gates’ presentations are eye-opening (and more positive for Jobs than Gates).

Stuff I already knew and do:
- use the [b] key to “blank” the screen while talking; forces the audience to pay attention to you rather than your slide.

Stuff I will try to incorporate into future presentations:
- less text, more images (even moving images!)
- use slide transitions; Garr says it’s ok to use 2-3 per show. I might use them to differentiate between one segment of class from another (i.e., from “ready reference sources” to “ethics” to “bibliography assignment” in basic reference).

See also Garr’s
- analysis of the Lessig Method (yup, Larry Lessig) and the Kawasaki Method (former Apple guru Guy Kawaski: ten slides, ten ideas), and his
- presentation tips; all three sections are useful.

Can we get lots o’ librarians to read these? Make ppt better for all!

Real Life Librarian Blogs

These two blogs are great for prospective reference librarians – they tell what reference library work is really like, as opposed to sources and formal reference theory which is what I teach at Simmons. Both have graciously allowed me to use their experiences in class, but if you want to know what it’s like for 2 different librarians, check out …

Feel-Good Librarian, who "works at the reference desk of a midwestern library" and
Vampire Librarian "Because those are the hours i keep and that's the job i have"

November 22, 2005

This Is Your Brain Under Hypnosis

Today’s New York Times reports that hypnosis may, in fact, change perception in the brain. Sandra Blakeslee reports on a study which supports this. Dr. Amir Raz demonstrated that the Stroop effect was “obliterated” in the “highly hypnotizable people” he studied.

Read the popular version in the Times article; read the full study in the July 12 issue of the The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:
Hypnotic suggestion reduces conflict in the human brain.” by Amir Raz, Jin Fan, and Michael I. Posner PNAS 2005 102: 9978-9983. (note: this article is free!)

Finally, did you know that in the 19th century, “physicians in India successfully used hypnosis as anesthesia, even for limb amputations.” Yow!

November 21, 2005

Meet "America's Lexicographical Sweetheart"

Erin McKean, dubbed "America's Lexicographical Sweetheart" by National Public Radio, will speak in the Greenwich (Conn.) Library Meeting Room Thursday, December 1 at 7 p.m. Ms. McKean has just finished editing the new Oxford American Dictionary. Among the new wave of top lexicographers, she is one of the younger wordsmiths who have taken over guardianship of the nation's language, disproving Samuel Johnson's definition of a lexicographer as "a harmless drudge." McKean is in fact the youngest editor in chief of the "Big Five" American dictionaries. The rise of young, hip lexicographers reflects changes in the culture at large. The computer revolution has given these editors a huge tech-savvy edge.

For more info.

Interview with Tim O’Reilly

The October 2005 issue of Wired magazine features an interview with O’Reilly publishing founder Tim O’Reilly and offers some nice synergy between computer science & library science (or at least publishing).

My favorite story: Tim O’Reilly gave copies of the Whole Internet User’s Guide and Catalog to every member of Congress, then went to DC to preach the gospel of the Internet (in the early 1990s) to congressional aides. A guy from the House IT department pulls O’Reilly aside and says “We don’t want you to get the aides too excited about the Internet, because we’re not going to give it to them.” Hmmm. Some things never change! Of course, O’Reilly got them fired up anyway.

Apparently “O’Reilly’s radar” is as potent now as it was then. Here are some things on his radar now:

- The Participation Era, as embodied by wikis, open API’s in places like Amazon & Google, and RSS.
- VOIP “disruption”, where Voice Over IP “completely undermines” the telecos.
- DIY – see O’Reilly’s Make magazine.
- Geography-based Mash-ups – merging geographic data like apartment rentals with maps from places like Google Maps.
… and more

If you like O’Reilly’s computer books, or you’re interested in the next phase of the Internet, check out this article.

November 20, 2005

Looking Away -- Personal or Concetration?

Cognitive Daily reviews “a new cognitive psychology article nearly every day”. On Nov. 8, they reviewed an article about gaze & face-to-face conversation. They ask “… do we look away because we’re self-conscious, or because it helps us concentrate?”

CD reports that Gwyneth Doherty-Sneddon and Fiona Phelps have devised a study with 8-year-olds to attempt to answer the question. They asked the kids questions of varying levels of difficulty either in person or by videotape and measured when / if they looked away. Their research shows that we look away both because of self-consciousness at physical proximity and that looking away helps us concentrate.

For more, check out
Doherty-Sneddon, G., & Phelps, F.G. (2005). Gaze aversion: A response to cognitive or social difficulty? Memory & Cognition, 33(4), 727-733.

November 16, 2005

Lecture: "How the Imagined Shapes the Real"

postponed Rescheduled date to be announced.

CBD Program Distinguished Lecture:
"How the Imagined Shapes the Real" by Jerome S. Bruner, at Hampshire College, Franklin Patterson Hall, Main Lecture Hall, Monday, December 5 at 5:30 p.m.

Jerome Bruner received his doctorate in psychology at Harvard. He has taught at Harvard, Oxford, and is presently University Professor at New York University School of Law.

His interests have always centered on how human beings construct their realities -- how they acquire, retain, and transform knowledge about the world in a way that makes it possible for them to get on with their own lives and to get on as well with others in their culture.

Bruner has received many honors, and was the winner of the coveted Balzan Prize in 1987. Professor Bruner played a leading role in the Cognitive Revolution of the 1960s, the movement that brought psychology back to the study of mind.

Find out more about Bruner on the Le Moyne College Narrative Psychology Web site.

Sponsored by the Foundation for Psychocultural Research - Hampshire College Program in Culture, Brain, and Development (CBD).

November 14, 2005

Three New Books

Here are two new cog sci books in the UConn library, which might be of interest to the greater cog sci community:

The Sage Handbook of Cognition, edited by Koen Lamberts & Robert Goldstone (c2005). Sections include Perception, Attention, and Action; Learning & Memory; Language; Reasoning & Decision-Making; and Cognitive Neuropsychology; and Modeling Cognition. Amazon’s got it for $140.

Abducted, by Susan Clancy, published by Harvard (c2005). Booklist, quoted on Amazon, says “In this informal and entertaining report on her research, Clancy shows that the group of abductees she studied in 2002 were more likely to create false memories in the lab and scored high on measures of fantasy--proneness and schizotypy (personality characteristics that include perceptual aberrations and magical thinking). … She speculates that an abduction memory, though horrific, is ultimately a religious experience that incorporates contact with a higher power…”

And if you want to read more about confabulation, try Brain Fiction, a study of false memories & perceptions, by William Hirstein (a former student of Ramachandran), published by MIT (c2005). You can “search inside the book” at Amazon, if you want to peruse before buying / checking out of your library. Sections include What is Confabulation; Philosophy & Neuroscience; Confabulation & Memory; and Liars, Sociopaths, and Confabulators.

November 13, 2005

Future of the Brain?!

MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory will celebrate its formal opening on Dec. 1 with a “major scientific symposium” entitled the Future of the Brain. It’s a day-long event focusing on the future of neuroscience research, and includes several Nobel Laureates, and experts in neuroscience, memory, and consciousness.

ScienceFriday's Ira Flatow will be the moderator; wonder if any of these sessions will be podcast?!

Thanks Elton!

November 12, 2005

More about Al Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language

The New York Times reported on Feb. 1, 2005 about a new sign language developing in the Negev desert of Israel. More recently, New Scientist covered the story as well, in their Oct. 22, 2005 issue.

In A language is born, Michael Erard reports several interesting aspects of the Al Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language (Note: subscription is required, or check your library’s LexisNexis database for the full-text.
). This language developed in isolation and is very different from two nearby sign languages, especially in preferred word order. Rather than being subject-verb-object or verb-subject-object, like Hebrew & Israeli Sign languages or colloquial Arabic (respectively), ASBL is a subject-object-verb.

Some of the linguists from the nearby University of Haifa wonder if this preference suggests an innate linguistic trait. Further, because ASBL is spoken by relatively few people, it isn’t getting the “critical mass” needed to set it to develop more sophisticated patterns. Sadly, the children’s language seem to be influenced by nearby Israeli Sign Language, so ASBL may not tell us how many brains it takes to make a language.

But the possibilities are fascinating. You can read more about it in the The emergence of grammar: Systematic structure in a new language, published in the Feb. 7, 2005 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (should be free to all; it’s an open access journal)

November 10, 2005

Again with the Daily Nightly

Fascinating to watch NBC News embrace blogging (see the Daily Nightly) in which Brian Williams, news correspondents, and producers blog about the news that’s going to be in that night’s telecast (as well as some that isn’t). Now they’re “netcasting” the night’s newscast after 10 pm (after it airs on the West coast). Best news of all, for this new podcast aficionado, is that the newscast is available as a podcast from iTunes.

New media is definitely the wave of the future. Fun to see it happen so well at NBC.

November 05, 2005

Podcast updates

The New York Times is podcasting some of its select content. You know, the kind you have to pay for, but you really want to read, like Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich [coming soon], and Bob Herbert Bob Herbert's columns. I’m a Times News Tracker subscriber, so the podcasts work for me; your mileage may vary. They’re read by a “professional announcers”, not the columnists, so don’t expect to hear Maureen’s or Tom Friedman’s voice. But still, this is pretty cool.

In other podcasting news, both New Scientist and Nature are podcasting. Haven’t listened to either yet, but they look promising. New Scientist is running this as an experiment and will send you the podcast URL when you sign up to be notified. So far, neither is doing much with cognitive science, but I’m sure they will sooner or later.

And besides, life isn’t only cog sci, is it?!

WildFinder -- Geog for Animals

WWF’s WildFinder “is a map-driven, searchable database of more than 26,000 species worldwide, with a powerful search tool.”

Hmmm, this might have answered a reference question I heard about recently: what are the fauna local to Holyoke, Mass? Shows 376 species in “Northeastern coastal forests”. They’re sorted by scientific name by default, but you can sort by common name, class, and threat status. Click on the “Images” link to do a search for that creature in Google Images.

When you do a search by species, you see what ecoregion supports the species, get a description of that region from either National Geographic or the WWF itself. Not a lot of info on the animals, but quite a bit about their habitat.

It’s a slow site, but pretty cool.

From the World Wildlife Fund. Found via the NSDL (National Science Digital Library) which is worth checking out if you haven’t yet.

October 31, 2005

Cog Sci Sites

Mind Hacks has collected a bunch of essential cognitive science sites for students. These include a list from the University of Minnesota of the 100 most influential cog sci publications of the 20th century, MIT’s Courseware on Brain & Behavioral Sciences, and many more.

If you teach, or if you like cog sci, take a look at these sites.

October 28, 2005

Grammatical Synesthesia?

Is the illustrated Strunk & White’s Elements of Style, as reported in the October 19, 2005 issue of the New York Times, a case of grammatical synesthesia? The illustrator, Maira Kalman (also known for her 2001 NewYorkistan New Yorker cover), is quoted as saying “ 'Each sentence was so full of incredible visual reference,' she recently recalled. ‘I said to myself, how could anyone not have illustrated this before?’”

I love Strunk & White as much as the next person, but I don’t think of it visually. Now, of course, I will; it’s at the top of my holiday request list.

October 19, 2005
Arts: 'Style' Gets New Elements
The first illustrated edition of "The Elements of Style" features artwork by Maira Kalman, and an accompanying song cycle by Nico Muhly.

Football metadata

Wired reports in its September 2005 issue that the Baltimore Ravens are using a rather sophisticated database of football plays and statistics. 6 terabytes worth, in fact. They get tape from the NFL on Betamax, and then convert it to digital, catalog it with basic info. such as field position, basic score, and time remaining. The coaches then annotate plays, so they can be searched by situation. When they search, they can find field position, play, formation, etc.

Wouldn’t that be a fun non-print cataloging job?!

October 27, 2005

More Rama!

Listen to V. S. Ramachandran’s lectures on the Emerging Mind from the BBC’s Reith Lecture series in 2003. The topics of his 5 lectures include Phantoms in the Brain; Synapses and the Self; The Artful Brain; Purple Numbers and Sharp Cheese; and Neuroscience - the New Philosophy.

The site also includes a helpful glossary of terms used in the lecture, and a cool interactive brain map

Lectures are available only in RealAudio format, and each is approximately 30 minutes. You can read the full-text of his lectures from the BBC site as well.

October 26, 2005

Boston (Cognitive Science) IDEAS 2005

Two fascinating cognitive scientists spoke at the Boston IDEAS forum on Oct. 6, 2005.

Marc Hauser discussed his work with apes which has unlocked some of the mysteries of language evolution, social cooperation, communication, and morality. Dr. Hauser is Professor of Psychology and Co-Director of Mind, Brain and Behavior Program at Harvard.

Looks like Daniel Dennett spoke as well. He discussed his efforts to shape the debate on the moral issues around evolution, free will, and mind-body connections. Dr. Dennett is Director, Center for Cognitive Studies and Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts.

Both speakers were at Hampshire College in 2004, and both 2005 talks are available as podcasts, too! Watch iTunes for details.

October 25, 2005

30 Years of the NewsHour

Last Thursday, Oct. 20, Jim Lehrer and Robert MacNeil talked about 30 years of the NewsHour. It was a touching conversation between two friends; they talked about changes the News Hour had been through in the past 30 years. Interesting look into a good TV news show. The PBS NewsHour 30th anniversary site has lots of other information about the past 30 years of the NewsHour, which is worth a look.

(Link goes to a transcript of their conversation, but you can also listen to the NewsHour via podcast. Woo hoo).

October 23, 2005

Burning Philosophical Questions Answered ... at Amherst!

AskPhilosophers, sponsored by Amherst College, lets you ask about philosophical questions that are bothering you. Questions are answered by philosophers all over the country. Recent questions in the cognitive science area include When a person says "I would like to get to know you." What exactly do they mean? and Is happiness possible? Hmmm

Thanks to Mind Hacks for the link.

October 21, 2005

Evo Devo Explained

A book review in the Oct. 24, 2005 issue of the New Yorker by H. Allen Orr explains a bit about “evo devo” (evolutionary developmental biology), and finally clarifies for me what “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” means.

Last things first: the growth of a single organism from embryo to adult may be connected to the growth of a species from the beginning of time (my words, not Orr’s). In his words: “Organisms show two kinds of change through time: during the lifetime of a single animal (you don’t look much like the egg you started as) and during the evolutionary history of a biological lineage (you don’t look much like your three-and-a-half-billion-year-old ancestor).”

The review focuses on Sean Carroll’s book “Endless Forms Most Beautiful”, which supports evo devo, and argues that genes might work like switches. For example, “The same gene, for example, that triggers eye development in fruit flies also triggers eye development in mice. Indeed, genetically engineered flies will happily build eyes if supplied only with the mouse gene. (They build fly eyes, not mouse eyes.)” Wow!!

There's also some cool stuff about modularity looking at stickleback fish as well as an understandable present-day analogy.

Orr reviews a few other books, too, and doesn’t suggest that evo devo is the be all and end all. But it might be an important theory. And Orr explains it in a sophisticated way that non-scientists can understand.

(in our house, evo devo is a cat food, referring to Innova Evo)

October 18, 2005

Dialogic Reading

Interesting approach to teaching kids how to read in the July 2005 issue of School Library Journal. The theory makes sense – ask kids questions about the story as you are reading to them. Start with closed questions (what is that?) and move to open-ended questions (what is the kitty doing?). The theory’s creators suggest this can be used with kids 2 and up, but the article’s author suggests it could be used with younger children as well.

School Library Journal
Charming the Next Generation
- 07/01/2005
By Renea Arnold
A strategy for turning toddlers into readers.

Are you Interruptible?

Great story in Sunday’s New York Times about people who are trying to be more productive despite the prevalence of interruptions such as email, IM, and the myriad electronic documents we have open at any one time.

Apparently the best solution is to have a VERY LARGE monitor.

MAGAZINE | October 16, 2005
Meet the Life Hackers
Can anyone find a way to make your constantly beeping and dinging computer leave you alone and let you work? Inside the nascent field of interruption science.

October 10, 2005

UConn Cog Sci Colloquium -- Friday, Oct. 14

Sorry I’m going to miss this one …

Speaker: Herbert Terrace, Columbia University
Title: "Thought without Language"
Time: 4pm, Friday, October 14, 2005
Place: Class of '47 Room, Babbidge Library, University of Connecticut / Storrs

In recent years, the Cartesian view that animals can’t think because they lack language has been attacked on two fronts. One objection is that animals can in fact learn language, e.g., they can produce grammatical sequences in American Sign Language or in artificial languages made up of visual stimuli. Another group of psychologists argue that animals can in fact think without language. I will defend the latter position and provide evidence that rhesus macaques can learn complex sequences of arbitrary items, that a monkey can gauge its knowledge of a particular sequence and use that knowledge metacognitively to determine when to request hints as to the identity of the next item of that sequence, that college students and monkeys use similar spatial representations to represent sequences, and that a naïve monkey can acquire serial knowledge by observing an expert perform a list. Given such serial expertise, why is a non-human primate unable to learn the most rudimentary linguistic skills? The answer takes us back to Descartes’ distinction between human and animal intelligence. I will argue that Descartes was right about the uniqueness of language but for the wrong reason. What animals lack is not the ability to think but a theory of mind. Language is of little value if you cannot infer what another individual is thinking.

October 09, 2005

Politicians Blogging -- Election Effects?

US Senator Barak Obama is podcasting. He reads some prepared remarks – about 10 minutes each – once a week. I’ve heard him present some suggestions for how to handle cleanup and poverty issues in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and voicing thoughtful, reasoned comments on why he voted against John Roberts’ nomination for the Supreme Court.

I like the idea of politicians blogging and wonder what effect (if any) this kind of communication might have on the next election. If I can listen to politicians speaking at my convenience, might I learn more about them than I would via the press? Might I have a better chance of making a well-reasoned decision about them? Or are there not enough people listening to podcasts to make a difference?

I know one thing: I do like listening to Senator Obama.

Blogging & Podcasting News

Just discovered that CBS News is blogging too. I prefer the casual yet newsy tone of NBC’s Daily Nightly, but CBS offers an RSS feed.

And have I mentioned that the News Hour is podcasting? I don’t have time (or patience) to watch TV News, but I like reading blogs and listening to podcasts.

October 05, 2005

"Rama" & art

Australia's ABC Radio National program "All in the Mind" recently interviewed the "Marco Polo of Neuroscience", V.S Ramachandran. He talks a little about neuroscience and a lot about how humans perceive art.

When he was at Hampshire. "Rama" talked more about neuroscience and a little about art, so if you want to hear more of what he says about artistic universals. Hmmm. You can read the transcript or listen to an mp3 or podcast of the show. Despite his quirks, Ramachandran has fascinating things to say, and he explains complex neuroscience in bits that are (relatively) easy to understand.

Natasha Mitchell introduces Ramachandran by saying, "His adventurous book Phantoms in the Brain should be by your bed if you haven’t read it." I totally agree -- it's a great read.

PS, according to the ABC Radio National web site, Natasha is at MIT for a year on a fellowship.

Nature Neuro, etc. offers RSS feeds

Did you know that the journal Nature (plus its myriad imprints) has rss feeds?

You can get them for Nature itself, Nature Neuroscience, and Nature Neuroscience Reviews -- plus a whole bunch more. Check out the Nature page for info. on RSS feeds and the URLs for the various journals.

A subscription is required to see most of the content, but you can probably go to your local university library or request articles through Interlibrary Loan.

See the Open Directory if you want to find a good RSS feed reader (besides the Mac’s Safari browser).

October 03, 2005

Read the Sacred Neuron, free online!

The Sacred Neuron is netLibrary’s free book of the month. Here’s their blurb about it, which might interest some cognitive scientists out there:

"Why do we think that some things are beautiful, and others ugly? Why do we think that some things are good, and others evil? Why do we think that some things are true, and others false? These are questions that have puzzled thinkers for millennia. In the past they have been answered by separating our emotional from our rational responses. But recent scientific research suggests that the questions now deserve very different answers."

The book is free to read online during October; free registration will be required.

NetLibrary eBook of the Month

Thanks to Chris for the link!

October 02, 2005

Philosophers’ Imprint

Edited by philosophers
Published by librarians
Free to readers of the Web

More open access, this time in philosophy. Gotta love their tag line.
Heard about this at a fabulous scholarly communication colloquium at UMass last week.

Their goal? “Although the Imprint is edited by analytically trained philosophers, it is not restricted to any particular field or school of philosophy. Its target audience consists primarily of academic philosophers and philosophy students, but it also aims to attract non-academic readers to philosophy by making excellent philosophical scholarship available without license or subscription.” (from their About page)

I did see a range of philosophical articles, including a few in what I would consider cognitive philosophy.

Go, open access journals!

Gorillas using tools!

CNN and the AP are reporting that chimps can use tools. A team at the Bronx zoo studied some gorillas in the Republic of Congo who used large sticks to measure the depth of water and perform other tasks.

The full article is being published in the PLoS Biology (Public Library of Science; yay! open access) as First Observation of Tool Use in Wild Gorillas.

Both gorillas described in the CNN story were female. Figures.

October 01, 2005

Response to O'Reilly

My favorite dj, Vin Scelsa, has a letter to the editor in the Oct 1, 2005 New York Times in response to Tim O'Reilly's Sept 28 op-ed piece about authors & Google Scholar.

Vin compares his work of playing digital music (which he does for WFUV in New York on Saturday nights, and Sirius Disorder on Sunday nights) to what Google Scholar is trying to do with print books.

Music is to be played, Vin implied, and books are for use, said Ranganathan. Vin puts the two together in a nice letter.

September 26, 2005

Stop and Smell the Coffee?

The Sept. 24, 2005 issue of New Scientist has an article about anosmia, the loss of one's sense of smell. It's a first-person account of losing the sense of smell after a viral infection, as well as a hopeful but untested treatment under cognitive neuroscientist Robert Henkin, at the Washington DC Taste & Smell Clinic. Henkin believes that theophylline might restore the sense of smell, and in a few cases, it has. There have been no large-scale clinical trials, but the author is now happily smelling coffee, perfume, and newly mown grass.

The unbearable absence of smelling, by Mick O'Hare. Available for a fee from New Scientist's web site, or in LexisNexis.

Cognitive Science Focus @ UConn!

Cognitive Science Talks @ UConn, Fall, 2005
All talks take place at 4pm on Fridays.

September 30, 2005. Gordon Logan, Vanderbilt University, "Executive control of thought and action: In search of the elusive homunculus." Al Liberman Room (BOUS 160).

October 14, 2005. Herbert Terrace, Columbia University. "Thought without Language." Class of '47 Room, Babbidge Library

December 2, 2005. J. A. Scott Kelso, Florida Atlantic University. Title TBA. Al Liberman Room (BOUS 160). Jointly sponsored by the Center for the Ecological Study of Perception and Action (CESPA) and the Cognitive Science Focus.

For more info.,

September 19, 2005

Why Radio?

Great quote in the September 2005 Technology Review (from MIT) about radio vs iPod.

Spencer Reiss interviewed music venture capitalist Fred Wilson about his thoughts on the future of music (Music Dial Tone). He explains why he mostly listens to podcasts:

"Because I want someone to program my iPod. When we have music dial tone [access to the entire library of recorded music], we will still want someone to program it for us."


(and let me plug Sirius Satellite Radio, if you're looking for some good, programmed music. Much more interesting than the music on my iPod)

September 18, 2005

Happiness on ScienceFriday

On Sept 9, ScienceFriday talked to two experts on happiness, Daniel Nettle and Gregory Berns. Both have new books about happiness.

Berns posits that happiness is more about the brain’s response to novelty rather than actual pleasure. Nettle argues that women display both more positive emotions and more negative ones. Not much scholarly here, but an interesting listen if you’re goning on a long trip; or you might want to pick up one of these two books:

"Happiness: The Science behind your smile," by Daniel Nettle. Oxford University Press, 2005.
"Satisfaction: The Science of Finding True Fulfillment," by Gregory Berns. Henry Holt, 2005.

You can listen to the show from the link above, or you can get the transcript on LexisNexis, if you’d rather read the show than listen to it.

Avian Theory of Mind?

The Sept 4, 2005 New York Times reports on a study in Animal Cogntion that suggests birds have theory of mind. At least, they can separate "what I know" from "what the other bird knows" -- as indicated by one bird's pretending to eat to eat cheese so the other bird wouldn't steal the cheese later.

There are some other examples in the story, too, and it contains a good, simple explanation of "theory of mind".

The link above may not work after such a long delay, but here's the full citation in case you want to track down the article:

NYT Magazine: Deceit of the Raven // By DAVID BERREBY, September 4, 2005
It turns out that even birds know how to cheat and read minds. Is there any way that humans can preserve their sense of uniqueness?

(but wait: birds eat cheese?!)

September 14, 2005

Traumatized Kids' Brains: Smaller & Larger

Fascinating podcast on Australia's Sept. 10 2005 All in the Mind program on Children, Teenagers and Anxiety. Natasha Mitchell interviewed Duke's Michael De Bellis about some brain imaging he'd done with PTSD & non-PTSD kids.

Turns out PTSD kids' brains are larger than "normal" kids' brains in some areas and smaller in others. For example, the "superior temple" is larger, which is where facial & social perception occurs; the hippocampus is also larger, which is where memory of time & place are stored. The PTSD kids had "smaller brains, smaller cerebral cortex, smaller cerebellums."

Although the interview doesn't indicate how De Bellis measured the brains, this podcast seem show how theoretical cognitive psychology can have some practical applications.

The link above goes to the transcript, but the ABC Radio National's main page includes links to a Real Audio stream, and mp3 file, and the podcast. Check out the other shows, too -- they're generally more applied psychology than cognitive, but they're pretty well done.

September 10, 2005

Good background on Google

The August 2005 issue of Wired has lots of interesting articles about recent technology "that changed the world", including a fascinating article about the founding of Google. Talks about the scholarly reasons for its creation (citation searching) and dabbles a little in the math behind the PageRank linking schema.

September 08, 2005

The Music Genome Project?!

A new favorite podcast is Future Tense from American Public Media. Last month they reported on Pandora, "an Internet music service that streams songs based on 400 distinct musical characteristics."

The people behind Pandora are working on a music genome project, so if you say you like Al Stewart, they'll play music for you which "features major key tonality, demanding instrumental part writing" or "mellow rock instrumentation, folk influenes, mild rythmic syncopation, melodic songwriting, and acoustic rhythm piano." It's $36 per year, but you can listen to 10 hours for free.

The Genome Project, according to the Pandora site "capture[s] all of the little details that give each recording its magical sound - melody, harmony, instrumentation, rhythm, vocals, lyrics ... and more - close to 400 attributes!"

Anyway, check out Pandora and the Future Tense podcast (RA req'd)(other topics include Google stuff, the DMCA & listening to electronic music, and using the Internet to help victims of Hurricane Katrina).

August 31, 2005


So sorry about what’s happening in New Orleans and Mobile and the rest of that Gulf coast.

If you’re a newsie, the two blogs I recently blogged are doing a swell job of reporting the humanity behind the stories. So I’m going to repeat them. It’s not much, but it’s all I can think of to do at the moment.

The Daily Nightly, from NBC News is full of snippets from NBC reporters, writers, and producers who are down South.

And the TV Newser features snippets from various tv news organizations’ coverage of Katrina.

Neither is exploiting the situation, just reporting. Lemme know about other good professional, but not-too-slick, news blogs.

And G-d bless.

Intelligent Design -- Computationally

My former colleague Lee Spector wrote a terrific op-ed piece arguing against Intelligent Design in the August 29 issue of the Boston Globe. (free registration required to read the article).

Lee is into evolutionary computation, and he creates computer programs to simulate evolution. The one I remember involves the evolution of bird-like widget-y things, who “learn”, over several generations, how to maximize their access to food. I’m greatly simplifying some work he did a while ago, but it was fascinating to watch these widget-y things change their behavior over time.

Lee’s piece argues that he can program this software to have widgets and the like evolve - but he can’t program them to evolve directly or in such a sophisticated manner -- often in ways he couldn't even imagine. “…[E]volutionary computation and biological evolution are both fundamentally driven by random variation and selection, and the successes of one hint at the power of the other.”

I’m not saying it as well as he did, but I’m very glad to see another strong scientific opponent to intelligent design. Read his piece for yourself.

August 30, 2005

Taxonomies of Animals

Fabulous taxonomy / English-Latin name translator site for the Animal, Plant, Fungal, and 2 more kingdoms from the US Dept of Agriculture. ITIS, the Integrated Taxonomic Information System, lets you search by common name or scientific name of just about anything living.

Try a search for barnacle goose -- you'll see the taxonomic rank of the goose, its French name (bernache nonnette), its Taxonomic Hierarchy, and a few references. At the bottom of the page, you'll see an option to do a search for "Other Off-Site Resources", which includes BioOne and Google Images. A mini-, free, and workable federated search!

The off-site resource option searches the scientific name (Branta leucopsis), and at Google Images, you'll see just how cute the barnacle goose actually is.

August 28, 2005

TV News

Very interesting development in TV News: blogging by the news presenters. Brian Williams, NBC’s nightly news anchor, has a blog (can’t link directly; click on "The Daily Nightly" to see the most recent entries). An August 25 New York Times story discusses the blog and Williams' approach to it. Maybe better than therapy?

Anyway, interesting to see behind the scenes of television news production. The blog also features entries from other reporters as well as news writers and producers.

And on a related note, TV Newser is a cool blog about, well, tv news.

August 26, 2005

Print is mighty, too

Have you seen the New Dictionary of the History of Ideas yet? Very impressive! The new edition is 6 volumes (compared with 4) and has some very topical and cognitive entries.

There are several having to do with consciousness, the philosophers among you will be pleased to note. There's a several-page entry on consciousness itself, as well as entries on Mind, the Philosophy of Mind, and Dualism.

Another interesting (if long; 13 pages!) entry is called "Visual Order to Organizing Collections". It could have a better name, but it's about using images to organize or provide information about information. Very meta. Several great (BW) photos, as you'd expect on such an entry.

Hampshire's got the new set, as do many libraries. Take a look, and be warned: you could spend LOTS of time with this one. Complete citation: Horowitz, Maryanne Cline, editor in chief. New Dictionary of the History of Ideas. 6 vols. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, (2005). It's online via Gale's Virtual Reference Shelf, but I haven't seen that one yet.

August 21, 2005


This is why it's great to have women covering football. In Sunday's Times , Karen Crouse says of Laveranues Coles:

"He came to the interview room wearing a fetching mint green suit, which is as colorful as he gets in front of reporters."

Fetching, I tell you, fetching.

August 16, 2005

Pssst ... gossip is good for you

Well, something like that. According to an article in today’s New York Times, it serves a serious purpose among social groups -- helps keep people within social norms (read the part about how people who want to leave work early are shunned by their colleagues in a group whose ethic is to work horrid hours).

The study didn't quite say that it was ok to gossip, but since it is so prevalent *and* serves to keep people in line, maybe it's ok after all?

Reminds me of Laura Sizer's question: what purpose do emotions serve (anger, love, etc.)? Why did we evolve to have these emotions? Today's question: Why did we evolve to gossip?

River's amygdala?

Turns out that Firefly’s River has had her amygdala removed, probably by the government. Summer seems to overreact to things and is emotionally unstable. I’m not sure that her characteristics are consistent with someone whose amygdala has been removed, but maybe a philosopher or psychologist among you has an idea?

Maybe we’ll find out more when the movie comes out?!

August 14, 2005

If you liked the book, you'll love the blog!

Mind Hacks, that is. Great fun for a hot afternoon! Sample articles include:

  • Using "trippy neuroscience videos" to test "synaptic neurotransmission - the process by which chemical signals are passed between neurons." Learn about the Multimedia Neuroscience Education Project at Williams College.

  • Read about an article in the Economist about why we laugh. Is it emotions? Is it socializing? Are you scared of being laughed at?

  • Find out about a journal for synaesthetes called Syn. Created by a British graphic design student, the journal includes articles entitled "theresa tastes words", "happiness is blue" and "color of orange". It's a nifty introduction to synaesthesia (people who hear color, see sounds, etc.)

  • Thanks to Rochelle's Tinfoil + Racoon for the tip.

    August 13, 2005

    ERIC to begin updating again

    Finally, some content for the education folks among the Cog Sci audience!

    Gary Price is reporting that ERIC (the education research database) is releasing content to database vendors, which is to say, there will be new articles in ERIC pretty soon. Once the content (going back to early 2004, if my math is right) is updated, ERIC will add new content weekly.

    Hampshire's CBD Program

    Looks like Hampshire's Culture, Brain, & Development program is gearing up for another good year!

    See: interesting lectures around the Five Colleges this fall (including one on emotions and file), and some good lectures in Spring 2006 in philosophy and the psychology of music. I'll post more info. as it becomes available.

    Plus, check the archives for info. about past lectures, including a bibliography on "Matters of Life and Death". I'm still thinking about that one!

    One or Many Consciousnesses?

    Turns out there may be many areas in the brain that handle consciousness, rather than just one. The July 23 2005 issue of New Scientist, which reports on a study conducted by Anna Berti at the University of Turin in Italy. Berti and colleagues studied patients paralyzed on the left side and found that damage to the brain was in "premotor areas – regions that are known to plan and execute movement." New Scientist continues that "... consciousness about what a body part is doing seems to be housed in the same areas of the brain that prepare it to move"; Berti concludes that consciousness may arise from many discrete areas of the brain. My old friend VS Ramachandran agrees that there may be more than one part of the brain that deals with consiousness.

    Definitely a hard problem!

    August 12, 2005

    Cognition in babies

    Newsweek's cover story for Aug 15 is all about "Your Baby's Brain". Reads like a literature review lite on cognition in babies -- fascinating, and simple enough for non-scientists to understand. That's the way I like my cognitive science!

    Turns out babies are very aware of others.
  • Sybil Hart at Texas Tech shows that at 6 months, babies can be jealous. Emotions, anyone?

  • Italian researchers, building on work by NYU's Martin Hoffman, shows that "infants" will cry when they hear tapes of other babies crying, but not when they hear tapes of themselves crying

  • Charles Nelson (Minnesota / Harvard), demonstrates that babies can distinguish chimp faces at 6 months, but they lose that ability at 9 months.

  • Patricia Kuhl at the Univ. of Washington, has been studying babies' ability to learn language; her recent research with 9-month-olds indicates that they'll learn another language from a real person, but not from a tape. Take that, baby Einstein!

  • The article even mentions some practical applications for all this research.

    There's a nice chart showing various aspects of the baby's brain; probably worth looking at the issue in print.

    This post is dedicated to Marie Evans & her new "subject".

    August 06, 2005

    Podcasts Rock

    Well, I am a complete convert to the joys of (listening to) podcasts. Now that they're in iTunes and easy enough for a person's father to use, I am finally using them. (And there will be lots of commuting time in my future during which I can listen to my collection).

    There are some great science podcasts, which will help me keep up with cog sci in my new life. On July 2, 2005, Science Friday spoke with Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel about memory, learning, and the human brain. Less about the human brain, really, and a bit more about slug brains, but Dr. Kandel made it interesting. You can stream the show here, or search iTunes for Science Friday and then look for July 2.

    In non-CS related podcasts, I love Slate Magazine's podcast. Andy Bowers (former correspondent for NPR) reads a story a day from Slate online. Nice to hear his voice again, and very interesting to hear some random Slate articles.

    Oh, and just one more -- haven't listened to this yet, but I will real soon: WordNerds! The most recent 'cast covers collective nouns for ~40 minutes. A linguist's delight!

    Another CogSci Blog

    Cognitive Daily is a scholarly blog about CS. Here's what the Mungers say about their blog:

    "Cognitive Daily reports nearly every day on fascinating peer-reviewed developments in cognition from the most respected scientists in the field.

    "The research isn't dumbed down, but it's explained in language that everyone can understand, with clear illustrations and references to the original research."

    Take a look at their face perception post and see what you think.

    August 04, 2005

    Going to UConn

    Dear faithful readers,

    The CogSci Librarian may be no longer. I've left Hampshire to take a job at the University of Connecticut / Storrs. I'm not going to be affiliated with any aspect of cognitive science, at least not academically. :-(

    I will be working with lots of electronic databases (yay) and some really great librarians. I have been working with some wonderful folks, both in the library and in the School of Cognitive Science at Hampshire, and I'll miss them.

    The question remaining is: should I continue the blog?

    hmmm. Stick around and find out.

    August 03, 2005

    Very tangential to CS, but interesting nonetheless

    The New York Times covers football -- but this year, they have three (3!) *women* covering the NFL. At least preseason. Haven't seen many men over there writing about football. See: Judy Battista, Karen Crause, and Lynn Zinser.

    Great to see that women like football too. Ahem.

    Go Giants.

    The Digital Divide, c'est nous?

    Tom Freidman's August 3, 2005 column in the New York Times is disturbing: he reports that the US is 16th in the world for broadband connectivity (disturbing for a librarian, he doesn't cite his source). He also mentions how primitive it would be to make a 911 call from the New York subways.


    July 27, 2005

    Readng More or Less?

    Fascinating podcast (!) about reading in the age of the Internet. On his "Open Source Radio" show, Christopher Lydon asks his "literary blogger" guests (and the audience) if they are reading more or less since the advent of the Internet ~10 years ago. And: "is the novel on the decline?" Hmmm. My first thought was "I'm reading about the same"; upon reflection I realized that I'm reading the same amount of novels, but I'm reading way more non-fiction, most of it online.

    Listen to Literature 2.0 online.

    You may remember Mr. Lydon as former host of WBUR's the Connection; nice to hear him back on the air again. His "Open Source Radio" show broadcasts out of WGBH in Boston and can be heard on a handful of stations on the radio; it can also be heard online daily at 7 pm, and via podcast.

    July 26, 2005

    Teeth as Organs?

    Hmph. Just read an article in the August 2005 issue of Scientific American which says that teeth are organs Why? Because a living tooth "comprises multiple tissue types, each with an essential function", such as enamel, dentin, pulp (filled with blood vessels and nerves), and ligaments.

    The point of the article is to review efforts to possibly create living replacement teeth, both to help people who have lost teeth, but also to learn more about recreating organs. See Test-Tube Teeth. Sharpe, Paul T. and Young, Conan S. Scientific American; Aug2005, Vol. 293 Issue 2, p34+.

    Fascinating, captain.

    July 23, 2005

    True Multitasking ...

    ... may not be possible. The World of Psychology blog reports on a recent article from the Journal of Neuroscience suggesting "... that the brain can’t simultaneously give full attention to both the visual task of driving and the auditory task of listening." Which is why you shouldn't talk on the phone while driving, even with a hands-free device.

    The study was done by a psychologist at Johns Hopkins University, and you can read more details in their press release.

    July 20, 2005

    How Many Languages?

    Ethnologue says there are 6,912 languages, according to an article in the New York Times, June 19, 2005.

    Fascinating look into how many languages there are and the history of the publication Ethnologue.

    July 16, 2005

    Data Curator, anyone?

    Great article about the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in the June 2005 issue of Technology Review. David Talbot talks about what NARA's mission is (to save every document the government produces) and how that mission is complicated by documents that are "born digital." Said documents include email, anything written on a word processor, GIS documents, and even this blog.

    Problems saving these documents are two-fold: first, they're hard to get; how much email are we supposed to save, anyway? second, their file format is likely to become obsolete in 5-10 years. Not very encouraging for future historians, who may want to read our emails in 100-200-300 years.

    The good news is that there are many job opportunities for " kind of professional, an expert with the historian's eye ... but a computer scientist's understanding of storage technologies and a librarian's fluency with metadata." In the words of MacKenzie Smith, the associate director for technology at MIT Libraries, a "data curator" is what's needed.

    Did God Do It?

    Two recent articles about intelligent design have got me thinking that maybe God did do it... No, not really. But they provide interesting perspectives on the debate between the intelligent design-ists and the evolutionists.

    The July 2, 2005 issue of New Scientist is devoted to the issue of Creationism. It's worth looking at the print copy, because there is a great chart depicting where controversy has erupted in the US. Also because you can't read the articles for free online. But if you want to take a look at the titles & abstracts, see this lead article called "Creationism special: A sceptic's guide to intelligent design."

    And in its May 30 issue, the New Yorker (yes, the New Yorker) ran an article in their Annals of Science department called "MASTER PLANNED / Why intelligent design isn’t," by H. ALLEN ORR.

    July 14, 2005

    13 New Books

    Beginning Math and Physics for Game Programmers; by Wendy Stahler. publisher: New Riders, 2004. for more info.

    Cognitive Neuroscience of Attention; by Michael I. Posner . publisher: Guilford, 2004. for more info.

    Companion to Psychological Anthropology (Blackwell Companions to Social and Cultural Anthropology); by Robert B. Edgerton, Conerly Carole Casey (Editors). publisher: Blackwell, 2005. for more info.

    Consciousness : creeping up on the hard problem; by Jeffrey Gray. publisher: Oxford, 2004. for more info.

    Fab : the coming revolution on your desktop--from personal computers to personal fabrication; by Neil Gershenfeld. publisher: Basic Books, 2005. for more info.

    Historical Thinking and other Unnatural Acts; by Wineburg, Samuel S. . publisher: Temple, 2001. for more info.

    Macromedia Dreamweaver MX for Windows and Macintosh: Visual QuickStart Guide; by J. Tarin Towers. publisher: Peachpit, 2002. for more info.

    Maya 6: The Complete Reference; by Tom Meade, Shinsaku Arima. publisher: McGraw Hill, 2004. for more info.

    On becoming a leader; by Bennis, Warren. publisher: Perseus, 2003. for more info.

    Real-Time Collision Detection; by Christer Ericson. publisher: Morgan Kaufmann, 2004. for more info.

    Teaching cooperative learning : the challenge for teacher education; by edited by Elizabeth G. Cohen, Celeste M. Brody, Mara Sapon-Shevin. publisher: State University of New York Press, 2004. for more info.

    The Learning Brain: Lessons for Education; by Sarah-Jayne Blakemore. publisher: Blackwell, 2005. for more info.

    The Nature of Leadership; by Antonakis, J, Cianciolo, A. T., Sternberg, R. J. . publisher: Sage, 2004. for more info.

    Hot Topic: Cryptography

    The CSA database provides summary info. about cryptography, entitled Quantum Cryptography: Privacy Through Uncertainty. Includes a several page summary, citations, web sites, and a glossary.

    Hot Topic: Origin of Language

    The CSA database provides summary info. about the origin of language, entitled Language Origins:
    Did Language Evolve Like the Vertebrate Eye, or Was It More Like Bird Feathers?
    . Includes a several page summary, citations, web sites, and a glossary.

    In related news, Hampshire just subscribed to LLBA (Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts), which offers citations to linguistics articles from 1973 to present. CSA provides detailed info. about LLBA as well.

    July 10, 2005

    Cool Technology & Maps

    The June issue of Technology Review has a short article on David Rumsey's digital map archive. Rumsey's site is way cool, using the Luna Insight product (also used at Smith), and the article talks about both his software and his map collecting habit.

    Even if you don't read the article, check out to see what he's up to.

    July 07, 2005

    Happenin' Technology

    Interested in new technology and its application? LITA (ALA's Library and Information Technology Association group) blogged its way throug the ALA Annual Meeting. Their blog is at , where you can read what people think about hot technology and its application in libraries.

    Roy Tennant, library guru of technology & user services, posted a nice summary of (some) topics to his Current Cites list. This is what he says:

    LITA's new weblog has blasted off in a big way with extensive coverage of the American Library Association's recent annual conference. ... Here are some sample postings from the 80+ postings that currently available: "Eric Lease Morgan's Top Technology Trends, 2005"; "Giving Them 'Google-Like' Searching"; "Greenstone Digital Libraries: Installation to Production"; "Karen's Uber-Trend"; "Leo Klein's Top Technology Trends"; "LITA President's Program (Take Dos)"; "Marshall Breeding's Top Technology Trends"; "Radio Frequency Identification Technology in Libraries: Meeting with the RFID Experts"; "Tennant's Top Tech Trend Tidbit"; "Thomas Dowling's Non-Trends from the Trailing Edge"; and "Using Usage Data."

    Participatory Journalism Article

    Towards professional participatory storytelling in journalism and advertising
    by Mark Deuze

    The Internet - specifically its graphic interface, the World Wide Web - has had a major impact on all levels of (information) societies throughout the world. For media professionals whose work has primarily been defined as creative storytelling - whether in advertising, journalism, public relations or related fields - this poses fascinating opportunities as well as vexing dilemmas. The central question seems to be to what extent storytelling can be content- or connectivity-based, and what level of participation can or should be included in the narrative experience. Although these two issues have been part of creative decision-making processes in media work before the Web, new technologies of production, distribution and communication are 'supercharging' them as the central dilemmas in the contemporary media ecosystem. This paper discusses the history and contemporary examples of media work combining various elements of storytelling as a hybrid form between content and connectivity, and considers the normative and economical implications for the professional identity of media workers in journalism and advertising.

    June 30, 2005

    World of Science

    If you like science, math, physics, chemistry -- or reading about people involved in same, you'll love ScienceWorld. Check out MathWorld, which features straight math as well as Recreational Math. Also see World of Physics, World of Chemistry, and World of Scientific Biography.

    Thanks to Neil for this world of fun!

    June 24, 2005

    Google Tips

    David Pogue blogs about GoogleGuide on the NYTimes today. It's a nice cheat sheet for all the cool stuff you can do on Google, with useful examples.

    If you Google, you should check this out.

    June 20, 2005

    Note to Self

    Find out when "the World's Biggest Airliner" is going to be on The Learning Channel. Ben Bowie, British documentarian (?) spent two years following the creation of the world's biggest airplane, the Airbus A380. Seats 500-800!

    Great article about same in the June 11, 2005 issue of New Scientist. Get the full-text from LexisNexis or the library's copy.

    "Animals and Us" from New Scientist

    The June 4,issue of New Scientist has a series of 8 short articles on "Animals & Us" -- articles which discuss animal feelings, anthropodenial vs anthropomorphism, and interviews with Jane Goodall and Temple Grandin.

    Note: you can read a few of these articles for free on the New Scientist web site; for the rest, check out New Scientist in LexisNexis or the library!

    June 16, 2005

    Optical Illusions

    From David Pogue's New York Times blog comes this:
    Technology /
    Pogues Posts: A Wacky Persistence of Vision Test
    New York Times, June 10, 2005
    This wild and wacky persistence-of-vision test is a new one on me. There is absolutely, positively no green in this circle of dots--but even I, Mr. Color-blind, saw phantom green spots after only about three seconds.

    [swb note: there are many more optical illusions at this site, including face perception & emotion and a cool "stepping feet" illusion]

    June 15, 2005

    Even More New Books!

    Arranged by subject, then alphabetically by title ...

    Animal Behavior
    The metaphysics of apes : negotiating the animal-human boundary; by Raymond Corbey. publisher: Cambridge, 2005. for more info.

    Nature's music: the science of birdsong; by ed. by Peter Marler and Hans Slabbekoorn. publisher: Elsevier/Academic, 2005. for more info.

    The Singing Life of Birds : The Art and Science of Listening to Birdsong; by Donald Kroodsma. publisher: Houghton Mifflin , 2005. for more info.

    Computer Science
    Game Development Essentials: An Introduction; by Jeannie Novak. publisher: Thomson, 2005. for more info.

    Handbook of Computer Game Studies; by Joost Raessens (Editor), Jeffrey Goldstein (Editor). publisher: MIT, 2005. for more info.

    Mechanical Bodies, Computational Minds : Artificial Intelligence from Automata to Cyborgs; by Stefano Franchi (Editor), Gven Gzeldere (Editor). publisher: MIT, 2005. for more info.

    Office 2004 for Macintosh: The Missing Manual
    O'Reilly ISBN: , 752 pages, $29.95 US
    ; by Mark Holt Walker, Franklin Tessler, Paul Berkowitz. publisher: O’Reilly, 2005. for more info.

    When Computers Were Human; by David Alan Grier. publisher: Princeton, 2005. for more info.

    Learning to write as a hostile act for Latino students; by Raul E. Ybarra. publisher: P. Lang, 2004. for more info.

    The Cambridge Companion to Chomsky; by James McGilvray (Editor). publisher: Cambridge, 2005. for more info.

    The evolution of human language : scenarios, principles, and cultural dynamics; by Wolfgang Wildgen. publisher: John Benjamins Publishing Co., 2004. for more info.

    Functional Features in Language and Space: Insights From Perception, Categorization, and Development (Language and Space); by Laura Carlson, Emile Van Der Zee , eds. publisher: Oxford, 2005. for more info.

    Introducing Phonetic Science (Cambridge Introductions to Language and Linguistics); by Michael Ashby, John Maidment. publisher: Cambridge, 2005. for more info.

    Speak: A Short History of Languages; by Tore Janson . publisher: Oxford, 2002. for more info.

    The vanishing newspaper : saving journalism in the information age; by Philip Meyer. publisher: Columbia, 2004. for more info.

    Metaphor and emotion : language, culture, and body in human feeling; by Zoltan Kovecses. publisher: Cambridge, 2003. for more info.

    The sociology of emotions; by Jonathan H. Turner, Jan E. Stets.. publisher: Cambridge, 2005. for more info.

    Psychology (includes neuro)
    Adapting minds : evolutionary psychology and the persistent quest for human nature; by David J. Buller. publisher: MIT, 2005. for more info.

    Cognition and intelligence : identifying the mechanisms of the mind; by edited by Robert J. Sternberg, Jean E. Pretz. publisher: Cambridge, 2005. for more info.

    Cognitive Methods And Their Applications To Clinical Research; by Amy Wenzel, David C. Rubin, eds. publisher: APA, 2005. for more info.

    The future of the brain; by Rose, Steven. publisher: Oxford, 2005. for more info.

    Gender differences in mathematics : an integrative psychological approach; by edited by Ann M. Gallagher, James C. Kaufman. publisher: Cambridge, 2004. for more info.

    How children learn language; by William O'Grady. publisher: Cambridge, 2005. for more info.

    Memory: The Key to Consciousness; by Richard F. Thompson. publisher: National Academies Press, 2005. for more info.


    BzzzPeek -- international onomatopoeia using sound recordings from native speakers imitating the sounds of animals [flash & sound required]

    June 02, 2005

    Scientific American -- Mind

    Browse the web site of Scientific American's quarterly publication called Sci Am Mind. This edition features articles about lying, an interview with Christof Koch, the consciousness/neuroscientist researcher, and more fun. We don't have this in the library, so check out the abstracts online & look for the issue in your favorite bookstore.

    Even More New Books!

    tis the season ...

    A glossary of netspeak and textspeak; by David Crystal. publisher: Edinburgh University Press, 2004. for more info.

    A Neurolinguistic Theory of Bilingualism (Studies in Bilingualism, 18); by Michel Paradis. publisher: John Benjamins Publishing Co., 2004. for more info.

    Doing research with children and young people; by edited by Sandy Fraser. publisher: Sage, 2004. for more info.

    Experimental cognitive psychology and its applications; by Alice F. Healy, ed. publisher: APA, 2005. for more info.

    Recent developments in biologically inspired computing; by Leandro Nunes de Castro, Fernando J. Von Zuben [editors].. publisher: Idea Group, 2005. for more info.

    May 26, 2005

    May 20, 2005

    Still more new books!

    Just arrived at Hampshire:

    Blackwell Handbook Of Judgment And Decision Making ; by DEREK J. KOEHLER, et al. publisher: Blackwell, 2005. for more info.

    Ecological Psychoacoustics; by John G. Neuhoff . publisher: Elsevier, 2004. for more info.

    Evolution and ethics : human morality in biological and religious perspective; by edited by Philip Clayton and Jeffrey Schloss. publisher: Eerdmans, 2004. for more info.

    Gaming Hacks; by Simon Carless. publisher: O’Reilly, 2004. for more info.

    Global Media Go to War: Role of News and Entertainment Media During the 2003 Iraq War; by RALPH D. BERENGER (Editor). publisher: Marquette, 2004. for more info.

    Handbook of emotions; by edited by Michael Lewis, Jeannette M. Haviland-Jones. publisher: Guilford, 2000. for more info.

    Happiness: Lessons from a New Science; by Richard Layard. publisher: Penguin, 2005. for more info.

    Knowledge and lotteries; by John Hawthorne. publisher: Oxford, 2004. for more info.

    Mind : introduction to cognitive science; by Paul Thagard. publisher: MIT, 2005. for more info.

    News Incorporated: Corporate Media Ownership And Its Threat To Democracy; by Elliot D. Cohen. publisher: Prometheus, 2005. for more info.

    Sweet dreams : philosophical obstacles to a science of consciousness; by Daniel C. Dennett. publisher: MIT, 2005. for more info.

    The dynamic dance : nonvocal communication in African great apes; by Barbara J. King. publisher: Harvard, 2004. for more info.

    The ethical brain; by Michael S. Gazzaniga. publisher: Dana, 2005. for more info.