Friday Science Constabulary, June 14, 2013

Hey there science fans, and welcome to another edition of Friday Science Whatever.

I must warn you, I am going to cheat a little and include a Ted talk in with the usual science articles.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a Ted talk about science, but still, not quite the usual thang.

We start out, as usual, with the brain. And stressed out sperm.

An animal study has recently shed led on the possibility that a father’s lifetime stress levels are reflected in his sperm and passed on to his progeny in the form of a blunted stress response.

This result comes from the new and mysterious field of epigenetics, and as with all animal studies, the results may not be applicable to human beings.

But the idea of such detailed information as how much stress to expect (and how to adjust according) being transmitted from parent to offspring is a bold and intriguing one.

At least, that’s how I interpret the result. There must be an evolutionarily valid reason for this information to be passed down, and the only reasonable explanation I can think of is that by insuring that your offspring are less stress reactive than you, you can better prepare them for life where you are.

Staying in the brain (where it’s nice and warm), we have the latest in bionic eye technology.

It is not, technically, the first artificial eye of its kind, but it is light years ahead of the crude 8×8 pixel models that came before it.

And if it can do as it says and let people see outlines, that should be just about enough for a formerly blind person to be able to get around almost as well as a fully sighted person. It will still have seriously limitations (like, for instant, no color) but it will suffice.

But what really intrigues me is that this thing works via a chip implanted directly into the visual cortex. That means we can interface hardware with wetware now, and once we can do that, we could create VR that bypasses the whole goggles business and projects vision directly into your brain.

Amongst other things, obviously.

One more brain story, and one near and dear to my corpus callosum : the brains of gamers.

Turns out, playing video games does not just develop hand-eye coordination and a full and rich lexicon of racist slurs shouted in your ear by 12-year-old troglodytes, according to a recent study, it also changes the way you process visual information.

Dedicated gamers process information both more quickly and in more detail than non-gamers. They get a broader, richer stream of information from what they see than non-gamers.

This makes sense to me. In any realtime video game, you have to pick the important things out of the virtual environment and make split-second decisions based on that information. Missing something could mean the difference between victory and defeat.

So you learn to take in everything at a glance and boil it down to its essence in realtime.

Tell that next time someone says you are wasting time playing video games.

Now for some big medical news : researchers may have found a way to stop Multiple Sclerosis in its tracks.

MS causes your immune system to attack the myelin sheaths that act as insulators around your nerves, causes random short-circuits all through your central nervous system.

The new treatment from a team at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine “resets” the patient’s immune system and thus stops it from attacking the body’s own nerve cells.

This ability to halt the destructive cycle of an autoimmune disease could be a godsend for MS sufferers, and might even shed insight into how to tackle all the other autoimmune disorders out there.

And that list grows longer every day as we begin to understand all the ways in which our bodies can be their own worst enemy.

Finally, let’s talk that Ted talk. It’s by a lady with the adorable name Amy Cuddy (I mean, that’s almost Amy Cuddy) and it is all about body language.

And yet, it’s also about a whole lot more.

First off, wow, what an amazing story. To wake up from an accident and find out you had lost a big chunk of your IQ would be absolutely devastating. I don’t know how I would cope.

I mean, without my giant sized IQ, all I would have left is charm.

So bravo for her for persisting in her dream of going into research despite how difficult it must have been and how much courage and strength it must have taken.

But enough about her biography, let’s talk about her results.

The first thing that would keep people from embracing her recommendation to “fake it till you make it” in terms of dominant body language is that, well, it’s fake. You’re tricking yourself. It’s cheating.

And let me say, if it takes cheating to get happy, I am perfectly fine with that. If the rule get in the way of your happiness, then fuck the rules.

That said, she almost gets there with her “fake it till you become it” message. What she is getting at is that once you get the ball rolling with your body language training, you will start getting the kind of positive reinforcement that dominant, confident people get, and thus you will become genuinely more confident and dominant.

So it is “fake it until it becomes true”, which is fine by me. I am going to try to pay attention to my body language and correct it when I start acting like I am submissive.

I’m not submissive. I’m not dominant either. I am just me, and I want to be me in the most confident, focused, powerful, and effect way possible.

And what the hell, it’s only two minutes a day of standing like Superman.

Sure, I might feel a little silly at first, but I can close the door on my room and do whatever the heck I like in private.

Who’s to know?

That’s all for this week, folks. Seeya next time!

One thought on “Friday Science Constabulary, June 14, 2013

  1. Bizarrely enough, I was just thinking a few days ago about whether a person can fake leadership, alphaness, dominance, or whatever you want to call it, and thereby get useful subconscious feedback from it.

    I can’t remember what made me start thinking about it, but it might have been that I was remembering a depressing SF story with a non-main character who was a POW; after his captors broke him, they tried to groom him to be the leader of the other prisoners, but he had no charisma, and the other prisoners simply would not follow him.

    I felt sorry for that character because prior to his capture he had been a good soldier, which is something hard enough that most people couldn’t do it, and he was broken only after torture, which he withstood much longer than most people could, and yet the book portrayed him as a pathetic loser because the other prisoners had no respect for him. So I might have been thinking about what that guy could have done differently.

    In addition, I’ve always found that when I’m in a group that’s facing a problem, I frequently have the right answer, but no-one listens. Only when someone else repeats it do they actually want to try it. However, when I abandon the group and do things on my own, other people start to copy me. So I have some sort of leadership ability that only works unintentionally.

    “It’s by a lady with the adorable name Amy Cuddy (I mean, that’s almost Amy Cuddy)”

    Not only is it almost Amy Cuddy, it is Amy Cuddy!

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