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 na├»ve 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.