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Thursday, August 18, 2005
epigenetics

"As scientists discover more about the 'epigenome', a layer of biochemical reactions that turns genes on and off, they're finding that it plays a big part in health and heredity...

"The epigenome can change according to an individual's environment, and is passed from generation to generation. It's part of the reason why 'identical' twins can be so different, and it's also why not only the children but the grandchildren of women who suffered malnutrition during pregnancy are likely to weigh less at birth."

false-familiarity

"When memory fails, we are frustrated, but when memory appears to make up things, we may become even more concerned. A number of recent demonstrations have shown how easy it is to implant 'memories' of things that never occurred. These false memories can range from the mundane, such as recalling a nonexistent word from a list, to complex experiences, such as getting lost in a mall as a child. Our memories also appear to be fabricating experiences during déjà vu, where our feelings of familiarity simply should not exist. Viewed from another perspective, déjà vu results from a sudden collision between our objective and subjective evaluations of familiarity: We are convinced that the present event is new, but are gripped by the overwhelming sense that we have lived it before...

"What we attend to gets stored in the brain, but much of what we don't attend to also resides somewhere in memory. Some of the many sights and sounds that we encounter each day may connect to these hidden memory fragments of experiences from months or years ago, and this conjunction can trigger a rush of familiarity, positive affect, or even anxiety, that we label as déjà vu. For example, the phrase that a friend just uttered duplicates the prose from a novel read last year; the lamp in the corner of a restaurant lounge is identical to one in your sister's living room; the mannerisms of a person you just met duplicate those of your elementary school principal. Your implicit memory correctly signals 'oldness', but you are unable to connect this with a specific memory. In the absence of an obvious connection, you are thrown into a state of familiarity without reference, and generalize the sensation to the entire setting."

[:: comment! :]

Tuesday, August 16, 2005
start thinking symbolically

Their failure to use what they knew about the model to draw an inference about the room indicated that they did not appreciate the relation between the model and room. I soon realized that my memory study was instead a study of symbolic understanding and that the younger children's failure might be telling us something interesting about how and when youngsters acquire the ability to understand that one object can stand for another.

every last molecule

But, like some other scientists, he has some reservations about its usefulness. "Even if we could make a simulation of everything inside E. coli today, that does not mean we would understand it," Dr. Ellison said. "The trick is to build the thing in steps and check that you understand the phenomena one at a time. Then you can really do genetic engineering," he said. "I mean where you can actually design an organism or change it in massive ways. When people talk about genetic engineering today, it's really kind of a joke because they mean, 'I moved a gene from one organism into another organism, and I'm going to pray that it works.' "

[:: comment! :]

Monday, August 15, 2005
indifferent god (via the mumpsimus)

What happened to the Grimm Tales in the course of fifty years of "revision" was that they were transformed from tales told by speakers who were deeply convinced that they were true (whatever meaning one assigns to the term) into tales told by writers (Wilhelm Grimm, in effect) who did not believe in them and therefore added scene-setting, morality and psychology to make them both attractive and meaningful. It also gives us a hint as to why a novelist like Dickens had (and still has) the effect he had on his readers: he was one who knew "how to be a child". However, it was perhaps Kleist alone among the writers of the century who really grasped what was at issue here. His great novella, Michael Kohlhaas, takes many of the elements that go to make up the Grimm Tales and stands them on their head, bidding an anguished farewell as it does so both to community values and to the power of wishful thinking. But Kleist had no successors, and, by and large, nineteenth-century novelists and storytellers took the path of Midrash and romance, still the staple diet of readers of twentieth-century fiction, with neither writers nor readers quite believing what they are doing, but under a strange compulsion to pretend that they do.
no wonder (via political theory)
If indeed reality is increasingly "mediated" so that we perceive it as staged in ironic mode, doesn't it have another side as well? As a member of a web site known as the Edge, which sometimes blurs the distinction between what can be called science, philosophy and fiction, as its scientists speculate on the nature of existence, I have been challenged in the last few years by the notion of consciousness. All consciousness may be a form of fiction, of invention, and self-deception may be a necessity of consciousness. It is not clear, if we live in a reality that we, and our predecessors, biologically, have in large part created. Acting then is not an ironic mode of existence in which we do not live naturally, only playing at existence, but the way in which we try out possible ways to exist, which then become natural. This may extend to many creatures that exist alongside of us and may be part of the process of their evolution and ours.

[:: comment! :]

Friday, August 12, 2005
word of the day
somniferous: causing or inducing sleep.

quotes of the day
"I have long been of the opinion that if work were such a splendid thing the rich would have kept more of it for themselves." - bruce grocott

"My life has no purpose, no direction, no aim, no meaning, and yet I'm happy. I can't figure it out. What am I doing right?" - charles m. schulz

"Now and then an innocent man is sent to the legislature." - kin hubbard

[:: comment! :]

Thursday, August 11, 2005
negative knowledge

One might still like to ask: "How does it work? What is the machinery behind the law?" No one has found any machinery behind the law. No one can "explain" any more than we have just "explained". No one will give you any deeper representation of the situation. We have no ideas about a more basic mechanism from which these results can be deduced...

exotic probabilities

These are forms of probability theory that share many of the usual axioms of probability theory but in which the probabilities themselves lie in a set other than the non-negative reals eg. the complex numbers, the quaternions, or even the p-adics. The primary motivation is that classical mechanics plus complex probabilities looks a lot like quantum mechanics, and so if you believe in complex probabilities you no longer have to worry about things like wavefunction collapse. Unfortunately it's all a bit confusing if you're a frequentist.

[:: comment! :]

Tuesday, August 9, 2005
an epidemiology of representations

a lattice-theoretical epistemic community

[:: comment! :]

Monday, August 8, 2005
true to character

     "Don't you like the cinema, Fermín?"
     "Between you and me, this business of the seventh art leaves me cold. As far as I can see, it's only a way of feeding the mindless and making them even more stupid. Worse than football or bullfights. The cinema began as an invention for entertaining the illiterate masses. Fifty years on, it's much the same."
     Fermín's attitude changed radically the day he discovered Carole Lombard.
     "What breasts, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, what breasts!" he exclaimed in the middle of the film, beside himself.
city of shadows
"Television, my dear Daniel, is the Antichrist, and I can assure you that after only three or four generations, people will no longer even know how to fart on their own and humans will return to living in caves, to medieval savagery, and to the general state of imbecility that slugs overcame back in the Pleistocene era. Our world will not die as a result of the bomb, as the papers say, it will die of laughter, of banality, of making a joke of everything, and a lousy joke at that." - fermín romero de torres, c. 1954 :D

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