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Author: Psycasm | Views: 4137 | Comments: 4
Last by Kate on Aug 16, 2011, 7:11pm
Does anyone else get this? They find themselves in a habit, where for a few days running, they wake up at roughly the same time each night and need to go to the toilet?

Maybe it's not even needing to go to the toilet, but simply looking at the time and realizing that you woke up at this time last night, and the night before, and the night before again. Then, having noticed this, it's quite difficult to get back to sleep...

Sure, it may be partly confirmation bias where we only happen to notice and remember the act when there's a perceived pattern. But my question, and my story, go a touch further...

For three nights in a row I got up thinking it must be quite close to morning (around 4am-ish...) only to find it's actually ~1:30am. That is, I woke up thinking I'd been asleep for 5 or 6 hours, when I'd only actually been asleep for 90 minutes. On the fourth night - having noticed this pattern - I got up expecting this strange sensation, only to be completely baffled by the concept of time. It's kind of hard to explain, but I could equally believe that it was some time in the mid-afternoon, as I could that it was 2am. I was genuinely confused. Naturally, I just went back to sleep.

Problem. Solved.

This got me thinking. How do we measure . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 3927 | Comments: 4
Last by Brian Krueger, PhD on Jan 26, 2011, 2:46pm


I bought my girlfriend a Wii some time ago and before playing any game we spent 2 hours making Mii's of ourselves and all the people we know. A Mii - for those not in the a know - is your Wii avatar. It is associated with your personal stats on games such as WiiFit and WiiSport. Now Mii's are downright cartoony, but we tried to make them as lifelike as possible. After you're done it asks for your weight and height (for WiiFit) and calculates your BMI. Now I had made my Mii a fairly fit looking character, but given I carry a bit of muscle, my BMI came out as 'overweight' and it updated my Mii accordingly, and blew the little guy out. I felt outraged! That is not me, what I created was me! And it wouldn't change me back without a judgmental message (yeah, WiiFit totally judges you).

I also created a second Mii. It was my stoner alter-ego. I used him exclusively when I was playing on the Wii after drinking. I created a dummy account because I didn't want to skew my 'real' stats.

I've also created some kind of weird cat-class avatar (who might have also been female, I can't remember) when I played Morrowind: Elder Scrolls (a game which I probably invested 150+ ho . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 3598 | Comments: 2
Last by Kate on Jun 13, 2011, 5:53pm
Psycasm: And so, in response to Psycasm's post on Freewill, Kate has entered the fray. Click here to find out what's going on.

Next week: Denise and a line of pure philosophy

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Thanks to Psycasm for hosting this conversation, and giving me a chance to talk about my very favourite subject, the mind.

Psycasm hits the nail on the head when he says that free will must, at some point, have evolved. This unarguable fact (let’s assume we’re all materialists for now), tells us a great deal about what sort of thing free will is. It is not a mysterious spirit. It is not something one categorically has or doesn’t have. Like the capacity to feel pain, or be aware of your thoughts, it is something which exists in varying degrees, evolved over time, and develops anew in each new child.

The answer to “do we have free will?” is – yes! Of course! We all know this, and the fact that so many people to find it plausible that we don’t just shows how odd a philosophical tangle we have got ourselves into. Let me try to convince you.

The basic theme in the path from swamp mud to human beings is the development of self-replicat . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 3635 | Comments: 0
[Scroll directly to the bottom for the check-list]

[See also the Skeptical Checklist v1.1]

I’ve had a couple of conversations over the last few days which have reminded how hard it is to be a skeptic. Perhaps this is misleading, it is not necessarily hard to be a skeptic, but rather it’s hard to become a skeptic.

Scientists, by training, are skeptics. In my mind they have a few clear advantages:



1. They clearly understand, both intuitively and explicitly, what evidence is;

2. They have a process for determining the quality of evidence / information;

3. They have practise in generating alternate explanations;

4. They understand parsimony;

5. Scientists are comfortable with not knowing, and accept that not knowing is normal and healthy;

6. They’re opinions / beliefs are frequently subjected to scrutiny; and

7. They are often surrounded by people who also share these characteristics.



Though it would be narcissistic of me to call myself a ‘scientist’, I do believe that I conform to these characteristics even though I am still earning my education. Additionally, I try to actively engage . . . More
Author: Dangerous Experiments | Views: 3473 | Comments: 2
Last by Brian on May 03, 2011, 6:16pm
EcoPhysioMichelle is a graduate student in organismal biology. Her thesis research is on the ecophysiology of epidermal lipids and water homeostasis in house sparrows, and she is a graduate teaching associate for an introductory human physiology class for non-majors. She blogs about human physiology, weird animal biology, and the interface of science and culture on her blog C6-H12-O6. You can follow her on Twitter (@physilology).

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Hypoadiponectinemia is a long word that simply describes the state of having too little of a certain endocrine called adiponectin. Adiponectin is a major metabolic endocrine, and is responsible for regulating things like glucose uptake and lipolysis (the breakdown of fat stores). Having hypoadiponectinemia, or too little adiponectin, is a risk factor for both Type II Diabetes and metabolic syndrome (a syndrome principally characterized by central obesity, or an overly large waist circumference, among other things).

Plasma adiponectin concentration (or how much of the endocrine is present in your blood) is inversely correlated with the am . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 3578 | Comments: 14
Last by yannisguerra on Mar 29, 2011, 10:24pm
ResearchBlogging.org

The following is a clip from a morning show called Weekend Sunrise. It’s the weekend incarnation of the ‘more serious’ weekday show (simply called ‘Sunrise’). Sunrise (the ‘more serious’ one) is a pithy variety show with a couple of conceited hosts who are fuelled by conservative opinion and an overstated evaluation of their own journalistic and critical merit.

The weekend version is a bit lighter and takes itself a little less seriously. As a result it also is a little less critical.

Presented here is scientific evidence proof of the afterlife.

[If you can’t spare 7 minutes of your life I do provide a brief summary]

The first thing that struck me was the high production value of the info-clip, entirely populated with Christian imagery and popular Christian metaphor. I thought it was a little cheesy, but tolerable (this was, after all, a segment on Science). Tolerable… until the very last fraction of a second:



. . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 3336 | Comments: 2
Last by Psycasm on Sep 29, 2011, 8:33pm
So I've been thinking about religion and beliefs again. More specifically, souls...

I'll get to writing a full-length post, and explaining my recent interest, early next week.

In the mean time here's an episode of Radiolab with a reading of the story 'Metamorphosis'. It's written by a neuroscientist by the name of David Eagleman. If there's ever a version of the afterlife I could get on board with, it's this.



[Skip to 6:30; The reading lasts only 4 minutes]



//

If you're feeling a little bummed out by the last story, try this next one. It's written by the same guy, and is a little more light-hearted and whimsical...



//

. . . More
Author: Whitney Krueger | Views: 3215 | Comments: 7
Last by Erika Villanueba on Nov 29, 2011, 11:24pm
If I had to pick any one pathogen to call my "favorite", it would be the influenza virus. In truth, it picked me. It's a passion of my boss/mentor, so naturally much of my work and study has revolved around various influenza viruses. Zoonotic influenza research is the primary focus of his applied laboratory in which I work. Our "niche" is occupational animal exposures as risk factors for zoonotic influenza infections. From the countless grant proposals, manuscripts, and undergrad lecturing, to a key component of my dissertation, I've developed quite an interest in this virus and even consider it as a career focus after graduating.

This first post of the blog series will cover the basics of influenza A viruses and their pandemic potential. Later I'll go into the epidemiology of influenza viruses, but this first post serves as a starting point. A word of caution: I'm not a virologist, so I've kept things simple. Now let's jump right in...

Influenza virus basics. There are three species, or types, of influenza viruses (A, B, and C). Humans can be infected with all types, but influenza A is the most virulent. Wild aquatic birds are the natural reservoirs for most influenza A viruses, but through various modes of transmission . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 3248 | Comments: 7
Last by Rasmus on Dec 08, 2011, 1:49pm




In 1994 Monk and friends investigated why people on mobile phones are annoying. You know what I'm talking about. When you're sitting on a train just minding your own business and you heard the dingle-dingle of someone's phone and you just know you're going to hear all about someone's baby / Saturday night / shopping list / job. FSM, that's annoying. Seriously, when my phone rings I keep it as quick and as quiet as possible, often returning the call as soon as I'm in a more appropriate setting. On a side note: I'm so glad we no longer have novelty ring tones. Did you ever hear the female orgasm one go off in a public space? Yeah, good one buddy. You and your mate might think that's cute on the work site, but on a bus it's another story...

Anyway, Monk and friends (1994) investigated why this was so damn annoying. Was it due to the volume of the speaker? Are mobile phones just more salient (attention capturing) than normal conversations? Do people have biases against people who publicly use mobile phones? Or was it something else?

By cleverly staging a conversation on a train (or at a bus stop), either with one person on a mobile phone, or with two people . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 3173 | Comments: 6
Last by yannisguerra on May 22, 2011, 10:38pm


How many times have you been presented with a decision and you've opted to sleep on it, sit on it, think it through, mull it over or any other [verb + preposition] combination?

I know I have. But the funny thing is I don't actually think about it. I don't know about other people but I find it really hard to sit down and weigh up the pros and cons in a situation like that. Often when I've chosen to wait it's because I need to go talk to someone about it, or to line up alternatives and contingencies. Here it makes perfec sense to wait - waiting, and the actions you subsequently engage in, allow you to make a more informed decision.

There are times, however, when we choose to wait knowing that waiting won't necessarily afford us new information. Experience tells us that its times like this we choose the fuzzy option of 'sleeping on it' in the hopes that it makes the decision making process easier.

I recently came across a paper entitled 'Reasonable Reasons for Waiting' by Tykocinski and Ruffle. Published in 2003 it's hardly new, but I found it fascinating all the same.

Their first study was a replication of work done by Bastardi and Shafi . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 3189 | Comments: 2
Last by JaySeeDub on Jan 09, 2012, 10:51am
I've been thinking about the phenomenon of Earworms lately... If you're not familiar with the term it does not refer to an exotic and horrifying parasite. It's actually a word used to describe the (personally annoying) situation where a song gets stuck in your head.

The most recent example of this, for me, was after listening to a Radiolab episode and hearing a skipping-tune about a stunt pilot who died.



// The tune itself comes on after about one minute of intro... it lasts only 10 seconds and consists of the following:



Lincoln Beachey thought it was a dream

To go up to heaven in a flying machine

The machine broke down

And down he fell

He thought he'd go to heaven, but he went to...

Repeat. Ad Nauseum.



It's short, simple and designed to be repeated. My person experience with Earworms is that the often conform to these characteristics... and in the instances when they do not I tend to extract a simple element from a more complex piece and end up repeating it. For instance I was at the theatre last night (oh yes, how cultured I am) watching Mary Poppins and . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 2806 | Comments: 1
Last by Matej Jasso on Jan 10, 2013, 7:15am
I was first exposed to this paper via Radiolab with their episode on 'Cities'. I wasn't quite sure how accurately Radiolab was portraying the finding (this was the very first episode I had listened to), but it certainly captured my attention.

A few months later the same paper was brought up again (in class, I think), and re-ignited my interest.

More recently still, a film-student friend of mine was searching for a documentary topic, and this paper jumped to the fore of conversation.

When I finally sat down to find the primary source I was surprised to find that one of the authors, Ara Norenzayan, was someone who's research I had profiled in a previous blog post.

The paper looks at the idea of profiling cities. Not in a GDP kind of way, not in a population density kind of way, not even on size or any other measures you're probably used to. It's a strange kind of behaviour-level analysis. It measures the Pace of Life* that each of its inhabitants are subject to. If those that live in a city can b . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 2844 | Comments: 3
Last by Psycasm on Aug 11, 2011, 11:32pm
The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe does a show at the end of every year in which they make predictions for the following year. They do this to demonstrate that anyone can be a psychic, and amazingly, two of the crew have 'accurately' predicted the death of two famous people. Both Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse were picked to die, and lo, they died.

Psychics generally rely on two factors when making predictions:

1. Make a crapload of predictions. People forget the misses, and celebrate the hits.

2. Make educated guesses. Pick old people, sick people, unhinged people and your odds (arguably) improve considerably.

The first point is simple. If you make enough predictions then time and chance will prove you though - particularly if you're vague to begin with. Sure, we might consider Charlie Sheen is high chance for death but predicting that a 'famous out-of-work TV actor will die' sets the bar pretty low and almost guarantees a hit during whatever period one specifies.

The second point seems intuitive, but I'm not sure it is. Charlie Sheen may die, but is he any more likely to die than anyone else in a big enough sample? There's a lot of things going . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 2569 | Comments: 8
Last by Isabel on Mar 13, 2011, 4:59am
I'm no expert. I'm a student - an Undergrad, at that. I'm no block-busting blogger, either. I consider that I have had a bit of modest success doing what I'm doing, but still view myself on the outskirts of the scienceblogging community.

However, being both a student and one who attempts to communicate psychology has given me the opportunity to observe what people don't know about psychology, and to observe what people think they know about psychology, but are wrong.

No doubt all fields have this. The layperson likely asks chemists if they can make bombs and drugs, may ask astronomers if we can visit other planets, or ask biologists if they can create life. Sure, it's a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it reveals ignorance. The Chemists' work may involve synthesizing organic molecules; the Astronomer spends their day examining reams of data regarding the wobbles of far off planets, and the biologist, well... Labspaces is populated with biologist - if you want the full idea.

Psychologists get asked if they can read people's minds. Yes, they're making a joke - but if their goal is to get a 30 second rundown of what psychology is, it doesn't really leave the door open.

...and the answer is yes; for a given . . . More
Author: Dangerous Experiments | Views: 4068 | Comments: 14
Last by Tim Skellett (Gurdur) on May 01, 2011, 4:14pm
This week's guest blogger is Tim Skellett. He is an Australian, but these days lives semi-permanently in northwestern Germany. His interests range from nature to ecology, gardening, reading, metal- and hot-glass-work, and travelling. He is a frequent contributor to the Guardian. He can be found on his Twitter account, at @Gurdur or on his blog.



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I once heard a woman talk, and I've never forgotten her, although I only heard about ten minutes of her speech, decades ago. I had a job in healthcare at the time, and part of my job was accompanying patients to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings; the woman was one of a quite a few speakers at that meeting. She had been diagosed with Huntington's disease, which was a death sentence, and today still is; it was well-advanced, and meant she would die not all that long afterwards, and quite possibly in dementia. Huntingon's disease, also called Huntington's Chorea, is an autosomal dominant genetic, neurodegenerative disorder. So this woman had been handed one of life's truly nastily bad cards; one of her parents had had at least one particularly bad form of a specific gene, Huntingtin. That malformation of one gene has a great many different possible outworkings because the gene is widely spread throughout the body, although concentrated in the brain. The different outworkings can lead to different symptoms being presented clinically, which creates problems for nosology - the science or philosophy of how we define diseases. Sufferers of Huntington's often enough commit suicide, and it can be very difficult to determine if such a sufferer is suicidal owing to one possible rational response to the thought of dying in such a manner as Huntington's, or because the Huntington's itself has caused suicidal ideation through pathological brain changes, which is known to happen in some sufferers. Huntington's, like other neurodegenerative diseases, affects intentionality, our power of choice of action, through affecting the brain.

. . . More
Author: JaySeeDub | Views: 2775 | Comments: 10
Last by Gynecomastia on Oct 19, 2011, 4:38am
I was 3 years old. I didn't know what it meant, but I was 3. The next year, I'd be 4, and I would want an Atari 2600 for my birthday. But at that point in time, I was 3 and the world was going to change. I would later hear about how everything changed and the ensuing hard, uphill struggle to inform. To survive. But instead I was 3. Being filmed in the garage at my grandmother's house on my Uncle's old Betamax camcorder. Running around the small backyard in the Outer Sunset District.

. . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 2646 | Comments: 8
Last by Shelli on Jul 07, 2011, 1:23am
If you're new to this series, or new to Psycasm generally, Click Here for an explanation.

---

Do we have free will?

I know I chose to pose that question and write those words, but I’m equally comfortable attributing that sensation of certainty to illusion.

Though I’m not widely read in philosophy that which I have exposed myself to lead me to the conclusion that free will is probably an illusion. I don’t remember who I read, what arguments they used or why it seemed a reasonable conclusion to me, but it is the assumption I have been operating under for a fair period of time.

However, in considering this topic in light of a few more years of experience, and in light of a few years of scientific training… I’m no longer sure what I think.

I know enough to say that I don’t know enough about physics to take that into consideration; not in any meaningful way, at any rate. I could drop a ‘quantum’ here, or list the flavours of subatomic particles (my favourite being ‘Strange’), but it wouldn’t help me understand the problem at hand.

I can, however, parse the problem in terms I am familiar with. If freewill exists – illu . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 2596 | Comments: 8
Last by becca on Mar 08, 2011, 12:09am


Silly analogies, I know. But it kind of gets the point across. A paper by Griskevicius et al (2006) suggests that, when individuals in a same-sex group are presented with the option of conforming or non-conforming when a sexy other is around, men and women behave differently.

Let me explain, and more importantly, let me pose a question.

Griskevicius et al (2006) conducted two studies. The first asked participants (N = 237) to rate a number of images (to determine their aesthetic preference) then placed them in a same-sex group (online; 3 members) to discuss some of the images. They participant was always last to engage in the discussion, and was basically given the option to conform to a unanimous group opinion, or non-conform (i.e. Like vs Dislike). The trick, however, is that prior to the group discussion participants were given a written scenario to imagine themselves in; the first was a 'self protective' scenario:


In the self-protective scenario, participants imagined being in a house
alone late at night. As the scenario progressed, they overheard scary noises
outside and believed that someone had entered the house. After calling out
and receiving no reply, the story ende . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 2509 | Comments: 20
Last by Lesley Fellows on Apr 29, 2011, 4:29am


If you're new to Psycasm, feel free to skip the following preamble. It's mostly just background. I'd like to think it does have some interesting links to past works, however (both mine, and of others).

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The following post is in response to a comment made by Michael Blume (who has previously graced LabSpaces with a Dangerous Experiments post), who, in repsonse to my post regarding the Cognitive Differences Between Christians and Atheists suggested I might be interested in work done by Ara Norenzayan (at the University of British Columbia).

Though it may seem I tend to fixate on religion, I assure you this is not the case. Prior to this post I have made approximately 2 1/2 posts on religion (the 1/2 was on . . . More
Author: Cynthia McKelvey | Views: 2455 | Comments: 0
This article is being published here with permission from The Synapse. It originally appeared in the Spring 2013 edition of The Synapse at Oberlin College.



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