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The fellows had a "data blitz" tonight.  Twenty-two of us (presumably those with more dubious judgment than the other 130) gave Powerpoint presentations on the research we did before the fellowship--in 90 seconds each, with cowbells and audience mocking if we went over time.  This is a sufficiently limiting format all by itself, but...

S and I had an argument a few weeks ago about whether rhyme or alliteration was a better mnemonic technique.  S opined that either was preferable to the usual presentation format at scientific conferences...

So, Experiment 1 from my masters thesis:

Some say that memory is pure and clear:
If photographic, photoshop’s to blame;
Beliefs and distant outcomes we hold dear
Can quickly shift a face, a fact, a name.

Two psychics split predictions, ill and good:
One knows the future eight times out of ten;
One errs more oft than guessing ever could;
We ask the readers who said what and then

Using ANOVAs we compare recall
Of trusted sources saying things desired
And saying what we hate to think at all
And thus we see the way the mind is wired:

What’s wished for trumps the truth, often with ease;
The mind holds back much trouble the eye sees.

And yes, it went over well.  In a room full of biologists and chemists.  One of whom invited me to a Shakespeare reading party.  Have I mentioned that I love my colleagues?

I'm never going to look at Enrique Borgos's seduction attempts in A Civil Campaign quite the same way again.

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"Give us a dozen healthy memories, well-formed, and... we'll guarantee to take any one at random and train it to become any type of memory we might select--hammer, screwdriver, wrench, stop sign, yield sign, Indian chief--regardless of its origin or the brain that holds it." - Elizabeth Loftus and Hunter Hoffman, 1989
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H.M. is one of the most famous patient's in the history of neuropsychology. In an ill-planned attempt to cure his epilepsy, fifty years ago, surgeons cut out most of his hippocampus. Following surgery he had (almost) complete anterograde amnesia, language difficulties, and some very strange retrograde memory deficits. Any modern theory of the neurology of memory has to explain H.M.'s peculiar constellation of deficits. He died two years ago, and analysis of his behavioral data is expected to continue for many years to come.

On Tuesday, neuroscientists are going to begin the process of dissecting H.M.'s brain and creating a digital atlas of it. This will be incredibly useful, among other things settling the question of what lesions he had aside from the surgical one. (Decades worth of epilepsy, and epilepsy drugs, tend to make holes.) Everyone is perhaps a little more excited about cutting up a dead guy's brain than is entirely proper and, possibly because of this, they will be putting out live streaming video of the procedure. I will probably tune in myself. I've been running an independent study this semester, during which the student and I spent an inordinate amount of time banging our heads against the latest HM studies. We both feel much less confident in our understanding of the hippocampus than we did at the beginning of the semester. I am very much hoping that the dissection clears up some of that confusion.

The website's cheerful minute-by-minute sidebar countdown is still so wrong.
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Over on Making Light, Abi Sutherland responds to a particularly stupid critique of Obama's Nobel by linking to the Prize's nominating procedures.  The nomination process is not open to everyone, but reasonably broad.  The following types of people can nominate:

  1. Members of national assemblies and governments of states;
  2. Members of international courts;
  3. University rectors; professors of social sciences, history, philosophy, law and theology; directors of peace research institutes and foreign policy institutes;
  4. Persons who have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize;
  5. Board members of organizations who have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize;
  6. Active and former members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee; (proposals by members of the Committee to be submitted no later than at the first meeting of the Committee after February 1) and
  7. Former advisers appointed by the Norwegian Nobel Institute.
The implication here is obvious.  I can nominate people for the Nobel Peace Prize. 

Anyone I like.  Every year.

Any suggestions?


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January 2019

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