The observable examined

Archive for November 2011

Neuroscience and the law

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Michael Gazzaniga, a Professor of Neuroscience at UC Santa Barbara, is considered the father of Cognitive Neuroscience. This was a nascent discipline when I entered graduate school, in the early 90s. Since then it has blossomed into a vibrant area of scientific inquiry and has revealed much about the functional/systems neuroscience of the brain. Specifically, functional MRI as a research tool, has been instrumental in helping neuroscientists peer into the inner workings of the brain. This has spawned many sub disciplines including neurotheology, but the most insidious offshoot is neuromarketing: the pursuit of research specifically targeted at influencing buying behavior. Out of curiosity, I participated in one such study in Berkeley, and got paid $100 for it!!

Nevertheless, all of this exciting new information about the brain has also caught the attention of the judicial system. Gazzaniga has been involved in helping people in the legal profession understand the ramifications, of the state of the art brain research, for defendants: juvenile delinquents to psychopaths. The crux of the problem is this: neuroscience tells us that there is really no such thing as free will, so if the “hardware” drives certain people to commit heinous crimes, who is responsible for these actions? In fact, his new book on the topic is entitled – Who’s in charge? . You can also watch his very interesting lecture on the same topic at the Edge.org:Neuroscience and Justice .  In a sense, the upshot is, as Hobbes noted,  as a society, without some commonly agreed upon rules, left to our own devices, we would be at each other’s throats. Given the new insights into the nature of free will, how should the existing social contracts be upgraded? This is a topic of discussion for society at large.

Written by asterix98

November 24, 2011 at 5:51 pm

Posted in neuroscience

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Unintended consequences

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In the 1990’s, Chaos theory was made popular by James Gleick’s book – Chaos.  The most common metaphor, that found its way into popular culture, was that of the fluttering of a butterfly’s wings in one part of the world causing weather changes at a remote location far removed from the original action. Not so much Chaos theory as unintended consequences, Matt Ridley’s article : First, the Bad News : We Can Cause Earthquakes , explores the idea that human actions, be it dam building, or  gas drilling, or geothermal projects,  can potentially trigger earthquakes!  Simply, the idea is, building a dam near a fault zone potentially accelerates it failure because of the enormous weight of the stagnant water behind the dam.

My thinking is systems oriented, so this article made for interesting reading. Talking of unintended consequences, here is another one. Apple prides itself on it slick designs. One such example is the MacBook Pro which has an aluminum body. Now that it is getting to Winter and colder days, this morning when I opened it to write this blog, the  palm rests were very cold to the touch  causing a few moments of discomfort (in much colder places this may last longer). If you are talking about user centric design, anticipating these unintended consequences constitute the last 1 or 0.5% of the user experience. Is it?

Written by asterix98

November 19, 2011 at 6:10 pm

Posted in chaos theory, science

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Pain is inevitable, suffering is an option

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In an earlier post, I had discussed an essay titled It’s a Beautiful Life. The author’s main point serves as the title of this blog. In some sense, she was pointing out that you do have control over the “experience of pain”. Today, I read an article entitled “Rewiring the Brain to Ease pain” . It opens with “how you think about pain can have a major impact on how it feels”. Much of this is borne out by a bunch of recent neuroscientific studies as well as “mind-body” therapies. Other techniques include meditation and distraction.

Behold the power of the “mind”.

Written by asterix98

November 16, 2011 at 6:54 am

Keyboard and mice on the way out?

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I serendipitously discovered this very cool video –  Death to Keyboard and Monitors

I totally love the concept! It is absolutely time for for an overhaul of  the desktop, keyboard, mouse and monitor paradigm!






Written by asterix98

November 4, 2011 at 7:16 am

Inspiring Trust

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I came across this very interesting article entitled – Trust Me

These were noteworthy (applies both in the personal and business realms, I think):

Ethical (moral, honest,fair) does not equate to trust!!

“Because trust is largely about relationships, communication is critical. Communication is also the vehicle through which the other four elements of trustworthiness are delivered. The ability to align interests, demonstrate benevolence, accurately communicate one’s capabilities and practice what you preach all require effective communication skills.

Spirals of distrust often begin with miscommunication, leading to perceived betrayal, causing further impoverishment of communication, and ending in a state of chronic distrust. Clear and transparent communication encourages the same from others and leads to confidence in a relationship.”

I can personally attest to the importance of communicating often and openly. My involvement in a venture with a bunch of others did not come to fruition because some in the group did not deem it important to translate their assumptions into an open dialogue, leading to perceptions of lack of transparency. Open communication is a very effective tool in aligning interests. Make good use of it.

Written by asterix98

November 1, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Posted in General

To pop or not to pop – vitamins

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If you think medicine is an exact science, well, think again. Recent studies have shown that, for the most part, dietary vitamin supplements are useless!! Read on –  Is This the End of Popping Vitamins? 

Written by asterix98

November 1, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Posted in vitamins

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Some observations

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The past couple of weeks have been busy and the pace is likely to pick up moving forward. However, yesterday, on the way to work, the commute was slow because of heavy traffic. In such circumstances, my thoughts usually turn to Lechi. I was feeling a bit guilty for not having her in my thoughts often because I was getting too caught up in work. But does it really matter? The answer is a resounding yes because both Mahati and I continue to miss her a lot.

Unless you are part of the nucleus, the intensity of the loss fades fairly quickly. Outside of the core circle, the gravity of the situation is much diminished. This is fairly apparent as the rest have mostly moved on, busy with their lives, planning their futures, rightly so. But where it becomes really hard is when people outside the nucleus show utter lack of sensitivity to your own needs (whether it is one of privacy, peace and quiet, or access to your own sanctuary) assuming you are also moving on at the same pace.  It is a complex family dynamic.

While Mahati has made progress, leaps and bounds, in dealing with the loss, I see many subtle signs of how she is struggling to make sense of it all. One of her mini obsessions is health. She is worried about every insect bite, she asks me about my age and about others. She volunteered to continue seeing the school pyschologist. She has offered to counsel another child in her situation. On several nights, over the past couple of weeks, at night, she has confessed to being sad. But when I press her for the reason, she attributes it  to something trivial. Also, I have observed her behavior when I am playing and cuddling her baby cousin. She appears to yearn for the same hugging, kissing, and comforting (even though I do hug and kiss her).

My own responses to her needs is definitely a work in progress. Sometimes when she needs me, I notice I am tired or otherwise preoccupied (which I should not be) and may postpone servicing that need. But as they say, knowing what the problem is, makes for half of the solution. So I am working on it.

Written by asterix98

November 1, 2011 at 11:52 am

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