Thursday, March 26, 2009

Why It Is

Take that, sgwordy (and Jon Stewart)!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It's Science!

I thought this article was pretty cool (text pasted below). I didn't do any kind of verification (I have to do that enough at work) so I can't vouch for the accuracy but it seemed pretty reasonable at first glance.

Teen Brains Clear Out Childhood Thoughts

By Clara Moskowitz, LiveScience Staff Writer

The mysterious goings-on inside teen brains have befuddled countless parents over the years. Now some insights are being provided by recent neuroscience research.

Between ages 11 and 17, children's brain waves reduce significantly while they sleep, a new study found. Scientists think this change reflects a trimming-down process going on inside teenagers' brains during these years, where extraneous mental connections made during childhood are lost.

"When a child is born, their brain is not fully-formed, and over the first few years there's a great proliferation of connections between cells," said physiologist Ian Campbell of the University of California, Davis. "Over adolescence there is a pruning back of these connections. The brain decides which connections are important to keep, and which can be let go."

Scientists call this process synaptic pruning, and speculate that the brain decides which neural links to keep based on how frequently they are used. Connections that are rarely called upon are deemed superfluous and eliminated. Sometimes in adolescence, that pruning process goes awry and important connections are lost, which could lead to psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, the researchers think.

Brain pruning

Synaptic pruning is thought to help the brain transition from childhood, when it is able to learn and make new connections easily, to adulthood, when it is a bit more settled in its structure, but can focus on a single problem for longer and carry out more complex thought processes.

For example, if a child receives a brain injury before age 10, another area of the brain can often take over the functions of the damaged region. If the same injury occurs at age 20, however, the person may lose a vital ability, because the brain has lost the flexibility to transfer that function to another area.

"The fact that there are more connections [in a child's brain] allows things to be moved around," Campbell told LiveScience. "After adolescence, that alternate route is no longer available. You lose the ability to recover from a brain injury, or the ability to learn a language without an accent. But you gain adult cognitive powers."

Campbell and UC-Davis psychiatrist Irwin Feinberg recorded the sleep brain waves (called EEG) two times a year over five years in 59 children, beginning at either age 9 or age 12. They found that brain waves in the frequency range 1–4 Hz remained unchanged between ages 9 and 11 and then fell sharply, by about 66 percent, between ages 11 and 16.5. In the 4–8 Hz frequency range, which corresponds to a different part of the brain, brain waves started to decline earlier and fell by about 60 percent between ages 11 and 16.5 years.

Overall, these changes are consistent with synaptic pruning, because as neural connections are lost in those areas of the brain, brain waves in the corresponding frequencies decrease. Campbell and Feinberg report their findings in the March 23 issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Tumultuous years

Synaptic pruning is just one of many changes thought to be going on inside teenagers' brains. For example, a 2005 study found that teenagers can't multi-task as well as adults because their brains are still learning how to process multiple pieces of information at once they way adults can.

In addition to changes that affect how they think, teenagers' brains also undergo developments that affect how they feel. For example, during adolescence people begin to empathize more with others, and take into account how their actions will affect not just themselves, but people around them.

A 2006 study found that the teenage medial prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain associated with higher-level thinking, empathy, and guilt, is underused compared to adults. But as adolescents mature, they begin to use this region more when making decisions, indicating that they increasingly consider others when making choices.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

boeken festijn

A traveling book festival visits a different town in the Netherlands or Belgium each month. It's filled with bookstore returns. Publishers guarantee their books so bookstores can send back anything that doesn't sell at the publishers cost. (Often the covers are ripped off to show that the book is to be returned, that's why there's that message about buying books without covers. Ripping off covers?!?!?! Horrors!)

The traveling book festival sells bookstore returns at greatly reduced prices (don't worry, they still have covers) and I got over 10 books today for less than 24euro. It was awesome! If this type of thing goes on in the States please send me a link or something because it's a great idea (remember, it's saving books from cover-rippage) and I would always go!

Ken Doll was indignantly silent as I displayed all my new books.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

My Digital Self

I have been so busy lately that my WWW Persona has suffered a lack of updates and activity. However I call on the TOT to give an official response to our President's pick!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Next Generation Ken Doll, or Further Advances in Technology

Tip o' the hat to Mr Musacha for the following:

Next Generation Ken Doll

Sign me up!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

My Ken Doll

I've recently acquired an Amazon Kindle (version 1) from a friend. She was nice enough to give me all the gory details - pros, cons, or otherwise - of being a Kindle owner and user (hat tip: Cindy). She gave it rave reviews and also gave me a great deal. I have been curious to try out this eReader business and this was a great opportunity.

From the first I suspected it could be quite dangerous for me. I don't normally purchase a lot of books, I prefer to screen them via my local library and then only buy what I love and will re-read. This keeps my book costs down and my access to varied titles high. But with one-click purchasing over at Amazon I could bankrupt myself. As an iTunes user I know the allure of one-click buying (it almost doesn't feel real!) but music and movies don't hold the same power over me that books do. This suspected danger has borne itself out in less than a week of owning the Kindle.

I've one-clicked my way to way more titles than I really need at one time and have had to tell myself, with firmness, no more buying til all current titles are read. In fact, I probably shouldn't even visit Amazon until all current titles are read.

Well, wish me luck! I'm going to need it!

Note: My Kindle had a nickname before it even arrived. Perhaps the phonetic association is obvious but I don't think I would have dubbed it Ken Doll without Mr Musacha helpfully pointing out my "accent."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Monday, March 9, 2009

sweet vid

A short video made (I think) by the AARP.

How nice!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

"Or why it is"

A little note (and link) from the TOT:

"The lexicon of social media is probably my favorite thing about it - I
literally sat in a room for a few hours today, where we learned/talked
about twitter, blogs, facebook, etc....and the social media
communications guy (yes, he makes a living doing this) literally used
words like twitterati, tweet-ups, twestival, tweeple, and twits."

I can't decide if I liked tweet-ups or tweeple best but I do know I could not have sat through such a class without laughing my ass off. And I definitely would have been using an aforementioned SMC Guy. Pardon the offense but twitter is dumb.

Jon Stewart does a better job than me at describing why.