Archive for the ‘Analysis’ category
Well it’s done! Daryn worked and worked since the weekend on his science project which is due tomorrow. We built, burned, tested, recorded, charted, and concluded LoL! The Science Fair will be on the 7th.
Last year he didn’t enter a project and I felt bad for not encouraging him to participate. At his age he is not required to do so, but it’s always good to foster a love of things right? I love science, so I hope he will as well.
D did enjoy conducting the experiment itself, but the written part was a bit of a challenge. We went through the 8 steps of the scientific method. It was an interesting journey for lil man and I.
At 7, he is the youngest kid in his class for the rest of the year (most are already 8). I am proud of him. Now let’s see if he can stand a whole day of questions from students, teachers, and judges. Who doesn’t need to know how long a flame lasts with no oxygen?
Last night when I got home from work, I was inundated with Beyoncé news just like the rest of the world. At first, I thought about how the media turns anything into news and makes something small into a national scandal. What a waste of time, money, and air waves! I will say that I am a Beyoncé fan, still I was a bit disappointed in her decision.
After my initial thoughts about the music and pop culture anthem fiasco, I was left feeling rather sad for B. Frankly I could care less if the woman moves her lips to the music. The real story here is not that she faked the performance, but rather why she faked it. By now we all know the story is most likely true because a gazillion people have combed through her footage and photos looking for clues. Again an utter waste! If we look deeper than well trained lips, why did she really do it?
Humans are in a constant fight in the illusive quest for perfection. There is so much pressure not only for the rich and famous to be perfect, but even for us normal folks. Since “perfect” is basically an impossible goal, we are doomed to failure. Honestly I didn’t even care to research the excuses B would likely give for the facade. If her voice cracked, if her tongue had frost bite— it would have all been news right? So who really cares? Her performance would have been just as beautiful with any of the glitches.
It drives me nuts that we are slowly being consumed by plastic. Why do we need to have perfect voices, perfect bodies, perfect hair, perfect partners, perfect friends, perfect jobs, and perfect lives? Is there no one out there who still believes that flaws, scars, tears, and mistakes can be beautiful? Imperfection should not be a crutch. It is just a confirmation of the human condition. Until we can accept that we will never be perfect no matter how hard we try, we will never find true happiness.
I do feel rather sad for Beyoncé. Who cares what people think? No one will stop buying her music. No one will stop thinking she is beautiful on the outside. I wonder if the perfectionist is really happy though? Does she have inner beauty? She is such a lovely woman. If only she could see that. In the end, her quest for perfectionism could crucify her happiness. B will risk becoming yet another needless casualty in a world of plastic.
I am flawed. Deeply flawed.
I think we all have our flaws.
(2013 Interview with Oprah)
Tonight I watched Oprah’s special interview with a fallen hero. Lance Armstrong didn’t flinch while answering tough questions. Part of me felt sorry for him. Seeing a man who was once seemingly unstoppable simply crumble was rather heartbreaking. He used the word flaw in several forms. He used the word several times exposing his humanness. At one point Oprah asked him “what was the flaw or flaws that made you decide to risk it all?”
His interview reminded me of some comments recently posted on my web site. The comments were made on “Lace: My New Theme.” I made my own quote to accompany my theme which reads “lace is intricate like a beating heart. There are always hidden flaws in flawless designs.” After publishing that post, I had a very thoughtful comment by Fay Moore. I appreciate those people who do not look at everything superficially. I wanted to share her comment and my comment back as I feel they shed light on the human condition.
Fay Moore Says:
January 18, 2013
Lovely, haunting visual. The black and white palette suggests examination of two sides of an issue: truth versus falsehood, dark versus light, fluff versus heft. Just an observation: it feels a bit sad at first glance. That may or may not be purposeful.
January 18, 2013
Hello Fay— I absolutely loved your thoughtful observations and comment. The symbolism in this theme is there for people to interpret as they see fit.
The black and white, two sides, dark vs light, is an awesome interpretation. It was not intended to seem sad visually, however I can see how you came to that conclusion given the fact the I used a web site screen shot which features a previous post. My poem “Sea of Tears” had an eye releasing tears, but not out of sadness. The tears were to create an ocean at the request of a loved one.
The quote that I authored can also be interpreted as a bit sad, but really I wanted to convey lace as a symbol of our humanness. We are perfect beings, yet we are flawed (just like lace). We are also intricate creatures.
Thanks for a closer look at my seemingly superficial theme. With a closer look, we can learn so much more if we are awake!
Have a good weekend my friend!
I really liked this article. Of course it was published online by my favorite~ Psychology Today. Dr. Brogaard and the researchers at MIT and Boston University are exploring the intersection of the mind and consciousness.
I love this!
Brain Waves as Neural Correlates of Consciousness
by Berit Brogaard, D.M.Sci., Ph.D
November 23, 2012
When we are thinking, thoughts flicker in and out of our minds. What does that mean on the level of the brain? Recent research, conducted by researchers at MIT and Boston University, suggests that when thoughts are in our minds, corresponding groups of neurons are oscillating in synchrony in a high frequency range, around 30 or higher, whereas thoughts that are no longer in our minds oscillate at lower frequencies. When several, distinct thoughts are held in mind simultaneously, several oscillating bundles are out of sync with each other.
The normal waken brain has brain activity that fluctuates between 8 and 100 Hz. An alert and active brain will tend to have neural oscillations, roughly, in the 40 Hz range in at least some parts of the brain. These brain waves are also known as gamma waves. Alpha waves—oscillations in the 8 to 12 Hz frequency range—and beta waves—oscillations in the 12 to 30 Hz range—become more prominent when you are inactive, for example, when you are passively watching television. Brain dead people and coma patients can have oscillations that approach zero. And in seizure patients the brain oscillates even faster and more regions of the brain vacillate in the same frequency range. In a grand mal seizure large areas of the brain flicker in synchrony at extremely high frequencies.
To find out how neurons oscillate when we think or perform tasks, the research team, led by Earl Miller, the Picower Professor of Neuroscience at MIT, first identified two groups of neurons in monkeys that encode specific behavioral rules by oscillating in synchrony with each other. The research animals were trained to respond to objects based on either their color or orientation. When the animals switched between the tasks encoded by the rues, the researcher measured brain activity in the prefrontal cortex, where working memory is located. The researchers found that the neurons associated with orientation oscillated in synchrony at higher frequencies when the monkeys were completing the orientation task, whereas the neurons associated with the color took over when the animals switched from thinking about orientation to thinking about color.
The team also found that the brain uses lower-frequency brain waves to inhibit neurons when they are not needed. For example, when the monkeys engaged in the color task, the neuron group corresponding to the orientation task would oscillate at a lower frequency, in the lower alpha range. This would inhibit these neurons sufficiently to enable the moneys to engage consciously in the color task.
It appears, then, that consciousness associated with working memory, the ability to keep a few pieces of information in mind at a time, correlates with groups of neurons oscillating at a high frequency but out of sync with each other. Its the brain’s ability to keep bundles of neurons simultaneously oscillating at 40 Hz that determines how much information you can hold in mind at any given time.
The findings, published in the November 2012 issue of Neuron, are consistent with the so-called 40 Hz theory of consciousness. British molecular biologist and neuroscientist Francis Crick, better known for his co-discovery of the structure of DNA, argued that consciousness arises when certain brain regions fire in synchrony in the 40 Hz frequency range. The researchers didn’t locate gamma-range activity in the moneys during task completion, but this could be because different frequencies are required for consciousness in humans and monkeys.
This 40 Hz theory of consciousness explains some of our findings in the St. Louis Syn Lab. In our lab we have worked with several people who developed special abilities as well as obsession as a result of traumatic brain injury (TBI). TBI occurs when the brain is injured by an external force. TBI can occur either as a result of blunt force trauma or shock waves from a blast. In both situations, the inside of the accelerated skull comes into contact with one side of the brain, generating a secondary shock wave throughout the soft tissue. If the force is strong enough, it can cause the brain to “bounce” off the other side of the skull, resulting in another shock wave. The waves emanating through the brain twist and pull on the connections between neurons, tearing them apart, causing damage to different areas. Depending on the severity of the shock wave, TBI can be very extensive, and multiple TBI incidents can have compounding effects. It is a particularly devastating problem for soldiers who repeatedly sustain mortar shell attacks at close to mid range. Many of them report memory coordination problems years later.
Physical force to the head triggers a centralization of brain activity in local areas, causing a concussion. During a concussion the nerve function of several distinct brain regions become paralyzed as a result of the brain bumping into the skull as it shakes inside the head. When this happens, positively charged potassium ions inside the nerve cells rush outside the nerve cells and calcium ions replace them inside the cells. This shuts down the neuron’s internal engine preventing the nerve cells from burning energy sources (primarily glucose) and giving rise to huge uncontrolled release of neurotransmitters, which bombard or “frag” neighboring neurons. This neuronal fragging causes the affected neurons to die off, leading to scar tissue, whereas other affected neurons gradually regain normal function.
Though we don’t yet fully know the long-term effects of traumatic brain injury, it is possible that the uncontrolled release of neurotransmitters from dying neurons massively enhances brain activity in neighboring brain regions, giving rise to syncronized brain oscillations in the gamma frequency range, and that the brain activity in these regions remains abnormally high on a more permanent basis.
Visual imagery is far the most common way for the brain to represent the world. So it is unsurprising if brain waves in the high frequency range were to yield visual images corresponding to the hyperactivity. After being beaten up Jason Padgett experienced visual images are complex mathematical patterns, and Derek Amato experienced visual images of black and white musical notes after the impact with the pool floor. The visual images appear to make it possible for the two unschooled geniuses to act on excessive brain activity in ways that would not otherwise be possible.
I absolutely love Psychology Today— definitely one of my favorites. This is such a great article by Dr. Beilock, which features a very interesting study.
Want To Be Creative? Let Your Mind Wander
by Sian Beilock, Ph.D.
There is no denying it, whether at work, school, or in everyday life, we often encounter situations where thinking outside-the-box is necessary. It’s also true that sparks of insight can be somewhat hard to pin down. You just never know when creative thought will arise.
Fortunately, new research published in the journal Psychological Science changes this. Psychologists at the University of California, Santa Barbara have uncovered the very conditions that give rise to creative thought. As the researchers point out, there are countless anecdotal accounts of creativity happening when people take a break from whatever they are working on. The question, however, is whether any sort of break sparks creative thought or whether there is a certain type of activity that is best to perform during the break period. The answer, it turns out, is the latter. When stuck on a problem that needs a creative solution, turning your attention to another task that requires just a little bit of focus (but not too much) is the best way to jump start the creative process.
The UC Santa Barbara researchers began by having university undergraduate volunteers solve the Unusual Uses Task (UUT). The goal of the UUT is to generate as many unusual uses for a common object, say a brick, in a few minutes time. People are graded on the number of unique uses they generate and the originality of response – an index of creativity thinking.
Next, volunteers were randomly assigned to one of three incubation conditions where, during a 12 minute break period, they did something unrelated to the UUT. People either (1) performed a demanding memory task requiring them to juggle multiple items in their head at once – demanding group; (2) did an undemanding task where they were simply asked to respond to a signal that popped up on the computer screen every so often – undemanding group; or (3) sat and rested – rest group. Then everyone tried their hand at the UUT again. A fourth group (no break group) went straight into the second round of the Unusual Uses Task.
So what did the researchers find? Volunteers in the undemanding group showed a significant improvement in their ability to generate new uses for the objects from their first to second UUT attempt – improving in their generation by about 40%. In contrast, people the demanding group, the rest and no rest groups showed no improvement in their creative thinking.
But, here’s where the results get really interesting. Everyone filled out a self-report measure of mind wandering during the incubation period. The researchers wanted to know how often volunteers engaged in thoughts unrelated to the creativity task, like personal worries or future and past events. And, what they found was that people’s thoughts were much more likely to wonder off-task when they were doing something that required just a little bit of focus (this means that the minds of folks in the undemanding group wandered the most). Moreover, the more people had a propensity to mind wander in general, the more creative they were.
The legendary Greek philosopher, Archimedes, may have been the first to demonstrate the power of taking a break. Asked to determine whether or not a new crown made for the King was solid gold, Archimedes was stumped. He couldn’t melt down the crown or break it open to determine its contents because that would destroy it. And because the crown was in the irregular shape of a laurel wreath, there was no object of a similar shape to which to compare it. Interestingly, as legend goes, Archimedes didn’t come up with the answer until he stepped back from his task and stopped thinking about it altogether. As Archimedes was getting into the bath one day, he noticed that the level of water rose as he got in. He figured out that he could use the amount of water displaced by an object (either himself or the crown) to determine its volume and, with a little math, it’s density (whether the crown had dense gold or a less-dense silver inside). According to tradition, Archimedes was so excited by his “ah-hah” moment that he forgot to get dressed after he got out of the bath and ran through the streets naked yelling, “Eureka!”
Now we know that it’s not just any break that gets our creative juices flowing. Rather, when we are stuck on a problem and need an outside-the-box solution, turning to an activity that engages our attention just slightly so that mind wandering is maximized is the answer. Maybe it’s a walk in the woods (as I have blogged about before), surfing the sports scores, or even a bath that does it. Regardless, uncovering the conditions under which our most creative ideas will arise can help us function at our best.
Baird et al. (2012). Inspired by Distraction: Mind Wandering Facilitates Creative Incubation. Psychological Science.
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“As any action or posture long continued will
distort and disfigure the limbs; so the mind likewise
is crippled and contracted by perpetual
application to the same set of ideas.”
Today at work I helped a man, his wife, and their young son. They were looking for help locating an accident report from the 60s. The man had been injured while serving in the New Mexico National Guard. He walked in with a bullet in his forehead, pieces of shrapnel scattered in his head, and a broken spirit. His nails were long, as was his silver hair. For a brief moment, I was frightened. I am not sure of what? Maybe it was my fear of the unknown, or maybe it was coming face to face with tragedy? For a few moments, we exchanged direct eye contact while he began spilling his heartbreak out for my analysis. Though one side of his face was severely disfigured, there was gentleness in his eyes. In that moment I realized that there was nothing to be afraid of. He was harmless. He and his family needed my help. The old me would have stayed scared. I am so proud of the woman I have become. If I judge, it is only momentarily. All of my fear now falls away when I can see deeper into someone. I focused back in on his story when the fear subsided. While in a small New Mexico town, the man was seriously injured while preparing to leave for Vietnam to fight in the war. While his company was preparing their weapons to make the journey, he was shot through the head when a bullet accidentally ricocheted. With every word slipping from his shaky, ashy lips I couldn’t help but wonder how painful it was for him to rehash this story for me. It takes the guts of a real man or woman to speak of pain. The man I helped today, never made it to Vietnam. Instead he began the battle of his life. It was his battle with the emotional and physical pain of disfigurement. Unfortunately, his war will not end until he and his family members are all gone. I took the time to thank him for his service to our country. I also told him that my father-in-law was stationed in Cam Ranh Bay during the Vietnam War. He seemed to find some comfort in that. We are all disfigured in one way or another. Samuel Johnson had it right when he said that our thoughts can disfigure us just like physical injuries can. I believe Johnson was referring to negative, egotistic, and empty acts. It is important to see beyond what is on the surface physically and mentally. By the time the man had finished telling me his sorrowful tale, I could only see the uninjured side of his face. Slowly he had turned away from me. I could tell he felt more comfortable when I couldn’t see that which he wanted to hide. I wanted to tell him it was alright. I understood his pain. I didn’t mind his flaws. Our scars, our pain, they make us beautiful. These things confirm that we are human and that we are not invincible. When our mind or our body is disfigured, we must remain optimistic. The imperfections of that man reminded me that it is so important to use my psyche and my spirit to extend a hand to those in need.