Monthly Archives: November 2012

Advances in artificial intelligence: deep learning

If you want to keep up with advances in artificial intelligence, the New York Times has an essential article on a recent step forward called deep learning. There is a rule of thumb for following how AI is progressing: keep track of what Geoffrey Hinton is doing. Much of the current science of artificial neural […]

Where is your mind?

My BBC Future column from a few days ago. The original is here. I’m donating the fee from this article to Wikipedia. Read the column and it should be obvious why. Perhaps you should too:   We like to think our intelligence is self-made; it happens inside our heads, the product of our inner […]

A devil of a headache

A man suffering from headache in the form of devils. A coloured etching by noted Victorian cartoonist George Cruikshank, 1835. An image from the Wellcome Collection catalogue. via @ChirurgeonsAppr

The relative consuming disease

The Global Mail has an amazing story about how the last treks to find cases of kuru – a cannabalism-related brain disease – have been completed. Kuru was passed on by eating the brains of dead relatives – a long finished tradition of the Fore people in Papua New Guinea – and it infected new […]

Sex taboos: a brief and incomplete tour

Cultures around the world have restrictions or prohibitions on when sex is allowed which turn out to be quite amazing in their diversity. This is a fascinating section on the wide world of sex taboos from the Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender: In some societies, sexual activity is prohibited during certain times of day. The […]

The road to ‘war on terror’ torture

An obscure paper called The Spokesman Review has an excellent article charting the role of psychologists in developing America’s ‘war on terror’ enhanced interrogation programme – widely condemned as torture. The piece is fascinating because it outlines the competing tensions between those who championed the controversial physical interrogation techniques – created by reverse engineering the […]

Letter from the mental states of America

Alistair Cooke presented the longest running radio show in history. The BBC’s Letter from America was a weekly report, where Cooke reflected on life and news in the United States. It ran for just shy of 58 years. Despite the massive ‘psychologisation’ of society during the years Cooke was broadcasting, from 1946 to 2004 no […]

The brain in numbers, colours and wow

An amazing picture by Dwayne Godwin and Jorge Cham from PhD Comics. Click for the full size image just published at the Scientific American site. Definitely worth seeing in its hi-res glory.   Link to full size image (via @CeliaHodent)

A vision of Oliver Sacks

New York Magazine has a wonderful in-depth profile of Oliver Sacks illustrated with a simple but sublime photo portrait of the gracefully ageing neurologist. Sacks has become much discussed in recent weeks due to the release of his new book Hallucinations. There has been much coverage, but perhaps some of the best coverage has been […]

Work for free!

South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust are taking the piss. They’re advertising for a full-time, one year assistant psychologist post that is completely unpaid. These jobs usually pay about £20,000-24,000 in London but despite this offer being completely exploitative they could easily fill the post for free. The reason is because […]

BBC Future Column: Why is it so hard to give good directions?

My BBC Future column from last week. Original here. Psychologically speaking it is a tricky task, because our minds find it difficult to appreciate how the world looks to someone who doesn’t know it yet. We’ve all been there – the directions sounded so clear when we were told them. Every step of the journey […]

Technophobia: a talk at the Royal Institution

I’m going to be talking about technophobia, media panics and how technology really affects the mind and brain, next Tuesday at the Royal Institution in London. The talk will be a trip through the history of technology scares – from Ancient Greece to Facebook, a look at how the modern media deals with concerns about […]

Brain’s nothingness centre found

Collectively Unconscious has a satirical post entitled “Brain region found that does absolutely nothing”. Neuroscientists at the University of Ingberg have found a brain region that does absolutely nothing. Their research, presented at the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting, showed that a small region of the cortex located near the posterior section of the cingulate […]

The psychology of everything in 48 minutes

Psychologist Paul Bloom has made a fantastic video for Big Think that introduces pretty much the whole of psychology in 48 minutes.     It’s a brilliant and engaging introduction to the science of mind. Highly recommended.   Link to ‘Paul Bloom: The Psychology of Everything’ on YouTube.

A cultural understanding of autism

Nature has a fascinating article on the diagnosis of autism and how it clashes with cultures that have different forms of everyday social interaction and different standards for how children should behave. In rural South Africa, young children may look at adults’ faces while having a conversation, but they don’t usually make direct eye contact […]


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