‘Mind reading machine’ for sale on eBay

eBay_mindread.JPGMore futuristic eBay tomfoolery: “hello, i am selling what i believe to be a mind reading machine built by Dr. J. S. Strauss in the year 2282″.

It is difficult to write anything about the auction page that even partially captures its kooky brilliance.

Although you may be interested to know that apart from getting a mind reading machine from the future, you also get a “picture of a young lady in a waterfall” thrown in.

Something tells me that despite solving some fundamental problems in cognitive science by the year 2282, neuroscientists may still be spending a little too much time in the lab.

Link to eBay page MIND READING MACHINE ?for minds? like time machine: i found it in my attic wrapped in a bed sheet (via anomalist)

2005-04-29 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news:


Brain scan sees hidden thoughts says sensational BBC headline. Interesting research mostly spun as a ‘mind reading’ discovery. Also here.

Steven Johnson discusses the possible cognitive
benefits of modern media
– although this Scientific American article (PDF) has another take on the issue.

Drug advertising has a profound effect on prescribing researchers report (for doctors, a classic study showed that 61% of doctors believed promotions do not influence their own prescribing, but only 16% believed other physicians were similarly unaffected. No Free Lunch for me please).

An article from Time Magazine, discusses the links between madness, chess and Bobby Fischer.

Mystery mental illness baffles experts in Sweden, and a case of suspected mass hysteria arises in a ‘gassing’ scare in Melbourne.

Brief but competent summary of cognitive theories of empathy and understanding others’ motivations.

Pressure from conservative groups cuts funding for sex research in the USA.

Seeing alcohol related words can influence men’s attractiveness ratings of women in a similar way to actually drinking alcohol (via PsyBlog).

Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time

This week, the BBC Radio 4 programme In Our Time (“Melvyn Bragg and three guests explore the history of ideas”) is on ‘Perception and the Senses’ (it must be neuroscience week at the BBC!).

Listening to it now, it’s a fantastic romp through the low-level neuroanatomy, visual perception, how senses are integrated and so on, and higher-level topics like illusions, what does the brain do (make and test hypotheses, says one guest). Great fun, and really good to hear super-smart guests talk about concrete examples (the McGurk effect, say), then the nitty gritty, and next bump up a few abstraction layers to talk about their personal models of the brain. I’m learning a lot. Near the end they discuss one of my favourite topics: intuitive physics.

The whole show is available as an MP3 download, and this episode will be up till next Wednesday (4 May), so grab it while you can.

See the In Our Time ‘Perception and the Senses’ archive page (where you can listen to the show in Real format even when the MP3 has gone), and download the MP3 here.

BBC Frontiers on the psychology of risk

climber_face.jpgBBC Radio 4’s science show Frontiers goes for a cognitive science two-in-a-row as it follows-up last week’s programme on neuroprosethics with an analysis of the psychology of risk-taking, sensation seeking and risk-based reasoning.

Psychologist Marvin Zuckerman tackles evolutionary explanations for individual differences in risk-taking, and discusses the personality attributes and biological influences of sensation seeking people.

The programme also interviews people who are typically defined as high sensation seekers about their motivations and experiences, such as author and adventure climber Mick Fowler.

Link to Frontiers web page on ‘Risk and Risk Taking’.
Link to realaudio archive of programme.

Scientific American on neuromorphics, laterality, apophenia

Sciam_May2005.gifThe May edition of Scientific American has just hit the shelves, containing articles on neuromorphics – the science of building electronics inspired by brain cells, gender differences in brain function and sex-specific psychiatric treatments, and how the brain makes unlikely connections between events.

The cover article discusses ‘neuromorphics’, a new term describing the application of knowledge from neuroscience to designing and implementing microchips. Sadly, the article is not freely accessible, but two articles of interest are.

The article on sex differences and the brain is available online and covers the latest research on how male and female brains differ, from the cellular level – to differences in overall structure and psychological style.

Consequently, scientists are beginning to disregard the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to medical treatment, and have begun to take advantage of brain diversity when developing treatments for psychiatric and neurological illness.

Another article, also available online, takes a skeptical neuroscientific approach to the formation of unlikely theories and detection of meaningful information in noise.

This is sometimes called apophenia and has been linked to electronic voice phenomena, where people claim to hear the voice of spirits amid the static of tape recordings.

Link to article His Brain, Her Brain.
Link to article Skeptic: Turn Me On, Dead Man.

Ockham’s Razor on qualia

think.jpgABC Radio National’s 15-minute science programme Ockham’s Razor discusses the philosophy and neuroscience of qualia – the conscious experience of sensation.

The importance of qualia is hotly debated within cognitive science. Some argue that it is the essential thing to explain in consciousness, with others arguing that either it is a red-herring and no more worthy of scientific explanation than phlogiston, or simply that it is too complex to explain.

Nevertheless, neuroscientist Colin Hales does an admirable job of discussing the current thinking on the topic, and outlining the potential links between qualia and brain states.

Realaudio or transcript of Ockam’s Razor on qualia.

Girl swirl neuro shirt

whoiam_shirt.jpgDesign-by-anarchy t-shirt shop Threadless have a fantastic new shirt available by designer Guilherme Marconi, combining a beautiful girl, decorative swirls and the underlying structure of the brain.

The picture of the brain seems to have dots in the orbitofrontal cortex, genu of the corpus callosum and the medial surface of the postcentral gyrus, plus a flower in the cerebellum.

What more could you ask for ?

Link to shirt from Threadless.com