Looking forward to reading Imagine

Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer – review
[Via Science news, comment and analysis | guardian.co.uk]

Alexander Linklater applauds an impressively lucid description of the creative mind at work

How can brain science explain a state of mind? That depends how you define the state of mind. There is a large difference between explaining, for example, that mirror neurons underpin imitative reflexes and speculating, from there, that mirror neurons are the brain-basis for empathy. What is empathy? You may feel it when Oliver Twist asks for more gruel, though you may not when a banker demands a bonus. There is desire in each case, yet empathy occurs not merely by mirroring the desire. It involves character assessment and social judgment too. Perhaps the banker has risked everything to reduce debt in a third-world country. Perhaps you find the characterisation of Oliver laughably sentimental. To describe the neural correlates of empathy, it is necessary to describe the neural correlates of multiple cognitive and emotional processes, not one.


My mother sent me this book and has been sending me various tidbits as she reads it. I am very excited about reading it as it seems to parallel much of what I’ve thought.

Harnessing creativity is an important goal of 21st century organizations. Only by doing this well will we solve the complex problems facing us.

Gulf oil spill still affecting coral populations

Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill’s Effects on Deep-Water Corals
[Via NSF News]

Scientists are reporting new evidence that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has affected marine life in the Gulf of Mexico, this time species that live in dark ocean depths–deepwater corals.

The research used a range of underwater vehicles, including the submarine Alvin, to investigate the corals. The findings are published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The scientists used a method known as comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography to determine the source of the petroleum hydrocarbons found.


Fingerprinting the hydrocarbons helps pinpoint where the oil came from – the Deepwater Horizon spill. And these corals at 4300 feet are suffering tremendously.

Now they can see how well the populations rebound.

How social science results can be biased through no one’s fault

Perception and Publication Bias
[Via NeuroLogica Blog]

The psychological literature is full of studies that demonstrate that our biases affect our perception of the world. In fact psychologists have defined many specific biases that affect not only how we see but how we think about the world. Confirmation bias, for example, is the tendency to notice, accept, and remember data that confirms what we already believe, and to ignore, forget, or explain away data that is contradictory to our beliefs.

Balcetis and Dunning have published a series of five studies that add to this literature by showing what they call “wishful seeing.” In their studies they found that people perceive desirable items as being physically closer to them than less desirable items. This finding is plausible and easy to believe for a skeptic steeped in knowledge of cognitive flaws and biases. But is this finding itself reliable? Psychologists familiar with the history of this question might note that similar ideas were researched in the 1950s and ultimately rejected. But that aside, can we analyze the data from Balcetis and Dunning and make conclusions about how reliable it is?

Recently Gregory Francis did just that, revealing an interesting aspect of the “wishful seeing” data that calls it into question.  Ironically the fact that Balcetis and Dunning published the results of five studies may have weakened their data rather than strengthen it. The reason is publication bias.


Read the whole article because it does a nice job demonstrating one of the reasons to be skeptical of small studies. And it helps explain things lke why successful Phase 2 clinical trials – small trials looking for efficacy – fail in Phase 3 – large scale trials.

Small studies should have greater variation in them. So if you repeated the same small study multiple times, you should get them varying on both sides of the ‘real’ value.

As you increase the size, the variation decreases and you get closer to the real value.

Think of flipping a coin. Let’s do it 6 times. You might get 2H-4T. Do it again. 3H-3T. Again, 1H-5T.

Even though we know the real answer should be 3H-3T we have a wide variety of results around this value.

Now imagine that if you had a 1H-5T result you could get it published while a 5H-1T would not be. That is publication bias.

Only further research would reveal that the 5H-1T result was not correct.

This is why most scientists hold little belief in a single small study. We have seen too many of them that eventually revert to the ‘real’ value which is often uninteresting.

It has to be the totality of several investigations into a complex area to get their attention.

The problem is that the media simply responds to publication. They never withhold judgement.

Just a reminder that even doing something legal – filming cops– can get you arrested for a felony

NewImageby Mark Coggins

Yet Another Story Of A Guy Arrested For Filming Police
[Via Techdirt]

We’ve had a bunch of stories lately concerning people being arrested for filming or photographing the police while they’re doing their job in public. This is pretty ridiculous, and thankfully courts have started to make it clear that this is a First Amendment violation. Of course, we also just had the story of the city of Boston having to pay $170,000 to one of the people it arrested for filming them. And yet, the message still hasn’t reached the police, who seem to keep on arresting people for pointing a camera in their general direction.

JJ sent over a ridiculous story from Philadelphia where a Temple student was arrested for photographing the police, which he actually did as part of his photojournalism class, where he had a “night-photography” assignment. When he saw the police pull someone over near where he lived, he went over with his camera and started taking pictures. What happened next seems positively ridiculous:


What happened next surely seems like a abrogation of Constitutional rights and the photographer may win in the end. But, to do that he has to spend large amounts of time and money to defend himself from a felony charge.

The cops don’t care if they violate the Constitution because it will only be the city that pays eventually, years later. In the meantime, they can continue to bully citizens.

Because seldom is anything ever done to punish the police for violating Constitutional rights.

Nice description of how traveling in America now mimics our worst stereotypes of authoritarian regimes

How The TSA’s Security Theater Harms Us All
[Via Techdirt]

Security expert Bruce Schneier has been debating the former TSA boss, Kip Hawley, over at The Economist, concerning aviation security. The argument has gone on pretty much as expected, but Schneier’s closing argument, in which he details the very real cost of the TSA’s security theater, is fantastic. First, he does a brilliant job dismantling Hawley’s “you just have to trust us that we know what we’re doing” line:

Kip Hawley doesn’t argue with the specifics of my criticisms, but instead provides anecdotes and asks us to trust that airport security—and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in particular—knows what it’s doing.

He wants us to trust that a 400-ml bottle of liquid is dangerous, but transferring it to four 100-ml bottles magically makes it safe. He wants us to trust that the butter knives given to first-class passengers are nevertheless too dangerous to be taken through a security checkpoint. He wants us to trust the no-fly list: 21,000 people so dangerous they’re not allowed to fly, yet so innocent they can’t be arrested. He wants us to trust that the deployment of expensive full-body scanners has nothing to do with the fact that the former secretary of homeland security, Michael Chertoff, lobbies for one of the companies that makes them. He wants us to trust that there’s a reason to confiscate a cupcake (Las Vegas), a 3-inch plastic toy gun (London Gatwick), a purse with an embroidered gun on it (Norfolk, VA), a T-shirt with a picture of a gun on it (London Heathrow) and a plastic lightsaber that’s really a flashlight with a long cone on top (Dallas/Fort Worth).

At this point, we don’t trust America’s TSA, Britain’s Department for Transport, or airport security in general. We don’t believe they’re acting in the best interests of passengers. We suspect their actions are the result of politicians and government appointees making decisions based on their concerns about the security of their own careers if they don’t act tough on terror, and capitulating to public demands that “something must be done”.


The costs are measured in lost time – more than $10 billion a year – and in lost lives – over 500 deaths a year from people driving rather than flying.

But it is the degradation of our liberties that is particularly destructive. As Schneier states:

The current TSA measures create an even greater harm: loss of liberty. Airports are effectively rights-free zones. Security officers have enormous power over you as a passenger. You have limited rights to refuse a search. Your possessions can be confiscated. You cannot make jokes, or wear clothing, that airport security does not approve of. You cannot travel anonymously. (Remember when we would mock Soviet-style “show me your papers” societies? That we’ve become inured to the very practice is a harm.) And if you’re on a certain secret list, you cannot fly, and you enter a Kafkaesque world where you cannot face your accuser, protest your innocence, clear your name, or even get confirmation from the government that someone, somewhere, has judged you guilty. These police powers would be illegal anywhere but in an airport, and we are all harmed—individually and collectively—by their existence.

Traveling in America by plane requires acquiescing to a police state more invasive than things seen in repressive governments. We have given up rights for little real safety or benefit.

And these rights have been given up to an Executive  branch that has been increasing its central power for most of the last 30 years. CHanging parties in the White House will have little effect on changing this path.

Only by getting Congress – including both parties – to actually do its job properly and push back against the Executive will our course be corrected,

Multitouch win for Apple could be deadly for Android

Legendary Judge Posner upholds largest part of Apple’s touchscreen heuristics (’949) patent in Motorola case
[Via MacDailyNews]

“In its litigations against Android, Apple is still on a quest for the Holy Grail in terms of a few patents that are broad enough to be powerful (to the extent that Android device makers would have to settle) but nevertheless able to withstand challenges to their validity,” Florian Mueller reports for FOSS Patents. “So far, those Apple patents on which any court rulings have come down are either broad but (likely) invalid or valid but too narrow to bring about settlements that would meet Apple’s strategic needs.”


Apple’s touchscreen heuristics are really what make their devices. If others are infringing on those, then they will have a hard time coming up with something similar, unless they really innovate.

Which they really have not shown a tremendous ability to do.

Best police car backseat video of the year so far

This is why we need cameras in every police car and why they need to be released.

The guy really demonstrated he was not intoxicated by singing this particular song so well – the entire song! The patience of the police officers is pretty amazing, although they are RCMP.

“Do you have to cuff me? Physical violence is the least of my priorities!” What a way to end a classic!

I can see a Youtube meme of people singing songs in the back seats of police cars. Perhaps their charges could be reduced if American Idol likes them.

Jurisprudence by Executive Summary – the neo-Lochner era

scaliaby DonkeyHotey

Close Read: Twenty-Seven Hundred Pages for Antonin Scalia
[Via The New Yorker]

Here’s where a person could lose just a little bit of patience with the Supreme Court: in the midst of an exchange with Deputy Solicitor Edwin Kneedler, Justice Antonin Scalia saw an obstacle he didn’t like:

JUSTICE SCALIA: You really want us to go through these 2,700 pages? (Laughter.)

JUSTICE SCALIA: And do you really expect the Court to do that? Or do you expect us to give this function to our law clerks?


JUSTICE SCALIA: Is this not totally unrealistic? That we’re going to go through this enormous bill item by item and decide each one?


Not everyone is going to agree with every instance where the Supreme Court decides constitutional issues. It is not often easy and they usually do not get the easiest of cases.

But I would certainly hope that the judges and/or their staff would actually read the laws they were deciding on.

How do they determine what is constitutional if they do not know what the law states?

The judges have talked about things not even in the law, or about things from various digests of the law.

But Scalia’s own words demonstrate he has not actually read the law.

It appears that the Supreme Court is now no longer judging whether a law meets constitutional muster but are judging whether the Executive Summary they like most meets constitutional muster.

Is this really how we want our laws decided?

The last major period in the Supreme Court where decisions were made by political viewpoints rather than actual jurisprudence was the Lochner Era. Virtually all of their major decisions have been repudiated by the American people.

They gave us separate but equal (Plessy v. Ferguson), threw out child labor laws (Hammer v. Dagenhart), threw out 40 hour workweeks (Lochner v. New York), threw out minimum wage laws (Adkins v. Children’s Hospital), and pretty much did everything they could to disallow anything that dealt with interstate commerce, such as coal mine safety, the selling of sick chickens and farm subsidies.

Yes, the Lochner era court felt that a segregated population where labor, including children, took whatever conditions management offered – even if it was 60 hours a week and poverty wages – while working in unsafe conditions and eating unsafe food, was what America should be.

Few of us today would like to live in that America. Most of us would be repelled by the decisions made by the Lochner Era court.

But I bet they all read all of the laws they were deciding on.

What a shadow of greatness the current Supreme Court has become.

Hold the presses: Conservatives now think like moderates with respect to science

NewImageby Patrick Hoesly

Study tracks how conservatives lost their faith in science
[Via Cosmic Log - Cosmic Log's Column - Articles and Seeds]

How do liberals and conservatives differ in their attitudes toward science? Statistics indicate that conservatives’ confidence in science as an institution has declined dramatically since 1974.

By Alan Boyle

An analysis of 36 years’ worth of polling data indicates that confidence in science as an institution has steadily declined among Americans who consider themselves conservatives, while confidence levels have been at steadier levels for other ideological groups.

The study, published in the April issue of the American Sociological Review, provides fresh ammunition for those who complain that conservative views on issues such as climate change are at odds with the scientific consensus.


There are all sorts of things being written about this but most of them seem to be based more on the press release than the paper. I’m not sure just what it really shows other than to be careful with popular accounts of sociology papers.

First from the paper itself:

Effects for political party are less straightforward. The effect for Republican is positive but not statistically significant, and the effect for independent is negative and significant. This suggests that Democrats and Republicans do not differ in their trust in science.

Thus while conservatives have had declining trust, Republicans have not. And independents have shown negative trends while moderates have stayed the same.

So everything in the post connecting conservatives and Republicans in the post is actually not supported by the paper. Conservatives have lost trust but Republicans still trust science.

Here is the main graph that everyone bases their reports on:


Yes. This does show  a decline in the trust of conservatives in science over time . But it also shows that conservatives simply trust science as much today as moderates do. The reports do nothing to indicate why moderates have less trust in science. Or even why it is significant that conservatives and moderates now think alike.

So, looking just at the graph, conservatives have just become more similar to moderates. This certainly does not seem like something really worldshaking.

Unless one can explain why moderates have steadily had such a low trust in science to begin with and then perhaps why conservatives have become more like moderates, this seems to be to simply be a correlation without a cause.

And, truthfully, even with a cause, how is it somehow noteworthy that conservatives are now much more like moderates than like liberals?

There are a lot of things about this study that do not seem to really match up. I’d love to see something much stronger than this, possibly with more of an explanation for why conservatives now think like moderates but did not 30 years ago.

Using Keynote to prototype apps

Keynotopia UI Design Libraries
[Via Daring Fireball]

Speaking of using Keynote as a UI design tool.


There are some really nice videos here to show how Keynote can be used – not for a presentation program – but as a tool to rapidly prototype apps without getting bogged down in miscellania.

The videos are pretty cool and show the adaptability of a tool. It presents the possibility of rapidly prototyping and linking windows to allow customers to get a much better idea of how well things will – or will not – work and look.

Cool story about a guy who beat the casinos because they treat the 1% differently

cards blackjackby Images_of_Money

The Man Who Broke Atlantic City
[Via Daring Fireball]

Mark Bowden on Don Johnson, the man who beat Atlantic City casinos for around $15 million — without counting cards.

Bowden is a bit misleading about card counting, implying that it’s a form of quasi-cheating (he says Johnson won “fair and square”). But card counting is totally fair — card counters are only making use of information that can be gleaned by observing the exposed cards. The difference between card counting and what Johnson did is more subtle and more interesting. Successful card counters must operate in secret, disguising what they’re actually doing, because the casinos don’t want to allow it. Johnson played openly. The casinos knew exactly what he was trying to do and they not only let him, but encouraged him.


A nice example of how the casinos, in their efforts to seduce really big spenders, can make deals that end up screwing them.

Here, the casinos allowed this rich spender to play under blackjack rules that the rest of us would have a hard time getting. He negotiated odds so much in his favor because they were desperate to get any sort of revenue.

Turns out he was a much better player than they thought. He played his lucky streaks and made almost $15 at three casinos.

Not something most of us could get involved with since he needed $1 million to start. But an intersting insight into how casinos change the rules depending on who is playing.

Posted in Economy. 1 Comment »

Google makes more money from iOS than from Android?

Google Would Be Better Off Abandoning Android Than Losing Its iOS Deals
[Via Cult of Mac]

Google can’t really afford not to be on iOS.

Quick, what makes more money for Google: iOS or its own Android operating system? If you didn’t know anything about what a farce Android has become, you’d assume that Google was making more advertising revenue out of its own platform and ecosystem, but you’d be wrong: the search giant makes up to four times more off of iOS. Ouch.


If the numbers hold up – and they are kind of indirect – Google makes about $500 million from Android and about $2 billion from Apple iOS.

Not the  best position to be in. Apple is working on using something other than Google maps and search can always be changed.

I’ll be watching the TV with my iPad by my side

HBO GO Interactive Features Will Hit iPad In Time For Game Of Thrones
[Via American Times]

HBO has done just about everything right when it comes to its adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. The first season of A Game of Thrones was a beautiful retelling of the fantasy epic. Judging by the trailers, season 2 is going to be even better.

Speaking of season 2, it launches this Sunday on April Fool’s Day. With HBO GO having just launched on Xbox 360, Gabe Gagliano thinks that we should expect a roll-out of the interactive features currently available at the website on the iPad within in the next few days.

“The app was last updated on March 22nd. Given the web page HBO has put up (screen shots below) and tweeted about, I expect we’ll see the interactive features in time for the Game of Thrones premiere,” he writes.

The interactive features are pretty helpful, too, and seem perfectly designed for touch screens.

“For Game of Thrones, HBO built a number of interactive features that would pop up during episodes,” Gabe writes. “Given the complexity of the story, the interactive features provided additional information on family trees, the houses and a map of the Seven Kingdoms. A web version of the interactive features can be found here. HBO has stated that the interactive features resulted in viewers watching episodes multiple times.”

I’m very pleased with the HBO GO experience on the Xbox 360, though I’ve only just begun dabbling with it. And I’m bloody excited about Sunday evening. Expect lots of Game of Thrones blogging in the near future. I’ll try to post at least once a week following the show. Hopefully all you Game of Thrones dorks will stop by for the conversation.

This just in:

It’s official, HBO just announced interactive HBO GO features on the iPad! The functionality will be enabled with the season two premiere of Game of Thrones on April 1st at 9 PM. According to the release, there will be interactive elements that are unique to the iPad. If you have the latest version of the HBO GO app, it doesn’t appear you need an update; sounds like HBO will just “flip the switch” on Sunday.


One of the nice ways an iPad can enhance a TV experience is to add depth of info at a finger tip. Adding interactivity that becomes useful during a show’s performance is a lot of fun.

Adding it to something as complex and interesting as Game of Thrones can make a big difference.

My DVR will be getting a workout this weekend,

Feeling better

Well, for the first time in almost 3 weeks I feel better.

My ankle had been ding better then on Tuesday started swelling up again, It was on the other side of the ankle and hurt almost as much as the initial injury.

So went to the doctor yesterday and he thought, given my history, it was some sort of arthritic flare due to all the wacky stuff going on in the leg.

He gave me a week’s course of my favorite drug – prednisone. This steroid – which is a really heavy duty anti-inflammatory – knocks the pain down in an hour or so.

The swelling is still there this morning but the pain is virtually gone.

And for the first time in a while, I don’t have the fog that taking percoset produces. Here’s hoping this all works out.

Posted in Health. 3 Comments »

MS now doing more content than gaming on Xbox

Microsoft: Entertainment Overtakes Multiplayer Gaming on Xbox
[Via Daring Fireball]

Even just a year ago I’d have disagreed with this, but it now seems clear that Xbox and Apple TV are competitive. They’re post-PC devices hooked up to TV sets to access an ecosystem of media content.


I wrote last year about MS and Xbox. MS may find itself a bigger success with Xbox Kinect, and content.

At the moment, only Apple and MS seem to have any real forward path with post-PC devices.

Now if they could only let go of Windows ;-)


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