The Illusion of Separation
“A human being is a part of the whole called by us ‘the universe,’ a part limited in time and space,” wrote Einstein in 1950. “He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest—a kind of optical illusion of consciousness.” It’s a brilliant and fascinating perspective, and science tells us that it’s true. Our eyes inform us that there is a definite boundary between us and the world around us, and so we perceive ourselves as entities separate to the wider universe—as individuals just making our home in this vast place. But when we take a step back, we can see that we’re molecular machines built from a specific arrangements of atoms—atoms that existed before we were born and will continue to exist after we die. They were recycled from the dust of dead stars, and we’re only their temporary custodians. Fundamentally, each of us is just a tiny individual expression of an enormous singular entity—so we are the universe perceiving and studying itself. The idea that the individual and the universe are inseparable is a humbling, counter-intuitive and ultimately awe-inspiring idea—there’s a mad kind of beauty in knowing that we do not live in the universe, but rather we are the universe. As Feynman wrote: “I…a universe of atoms…an atom in the universe.”
Correlation doesn’t imply causation, but it does waggle its eyebrows suggestively and gesture furtively while mouthing ‘look over there’.
Philips just released a new iPad 2 app called Vital Signs Camera that uses the camera to measure your heart and breathing rate. It detects subtle beat-to-beat changes in the color of your face to measure your heart rate.
We’re slowly living in the future.
13 Rules For Realizing Your Creative Vision
- There are three states of being. Not knowing, action and completion.
- Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.
- There is no editing stage.
- Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it.
- Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.
- The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.
- Once you’re done you can throw it away.
- Laugh at perfection. It’s boring and keeps you from being done.
- People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.
- Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.
- Destruction is a variant of done.
- If you have an idea and publish it on the internet, that counts as a ghost of done.
- Done is the engine of more.
From the guys who made reCAPTCHA.
PopTech 2009 speaker Luis von Ahn invented ReCaptcha, a program that uses squiggly characters that humans easily decipher but blocks spambots – and helps digitize millions of old texts. The CMU professor also makes games like Duolingo, that let you learn a language for free, while simultaneously translating the Web.
Leonardo da Vinci, Town Plan of Imola, c. 1502. Pencil, chalk, pen and wash on paper. (via proustitute)
We present a visualization of all the nouns in the English language arranged by semantic meaning. Each of the tiles in the mosaic is an arithmetic average of images relating to one of 53,464 nouns. The images for each word were obtained using Google’s Image Search and other engines. A total of 7,527,697 images were used, each tile being the average of 140 images. The average reveals the dominant visual characteristics of each word. For some, the average turns out to be a recognizable image; for others the average is a colored blob […].
When you visualize the images for each word, you can click on top of each image and select if they are correct examples of the associated word (a green frame will appear around the image) or if they are incorrect (a red cross will appear). If you are unsure, just click until the frame around the image is black. Each time you click on top of an image, the selection goes from (correct, incorrect, I do not know) and starts again. You can submit your selection even if there are many images for which you are not sure what the right decision is. Your selections will be combined with selections by other users in order to get a more confident labeling. Once you are satisfied with your selection press the submit button. We will use your selections to train a computer vision algorithm to recognize images and to re-rank the images for each word. Therefore, as more annotations are provided the results will improve.
More than a century ago, a Spanish pathologist named Santiago Ramon y Cajal produced a series of highly detailed drawings of the microscopic structures of the human brain. It marked the beginning of modern neuroanatomy and ultimately helped earn Cajal a share of the 1906 Nobel Prize for medicine (with Italian anatomist Camillo Golgi.
Cajal’s drawings remain a marvel and are still widely used, but advances in neuroscience demand new ways to look at – and understand – how the human brain is structured and how it functions.
A recent PhD graduate and a post-doc at the University of California San Diego – Soren Solari in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Rich Stoner in the Department of Neurosciences - have created a modern take on Cajal’s pioneering work.
Publishing in the journal Frontiers in Neuroanatomy, Solari and Stoner have created a detailed review of cortical circuitry, along with a first-of-a-kind interactive website and an iPhone/iPad application that allows scientists to navigate aspects of the human brain.
“We wanted to create an interactive Figure 1,” said Stoner, who currently conducts research at the UC San Diego Autism Center of Excellence. “Readers of the review are able to click on a circuit and quickly find an accompanying reference.”
To build the tool, Solari and Stoner synthesized seven hypothetical circuits of the brain from scores of published neuroanatomy papers into a single interactive map that depicts consolidated long-term declarative memory, short-term declarative memory, working memory/information processing, behavioral memory selection, behavioral memory output, cognitive control and cortical information flow regulation. The map is built on data derived from multiple mammalian models.
“It’s the first coherent view of cortical circuits across different scales from different sources,” said Stoner. “We use the term ‘cognitive consilience’ because it’s about bringing together a lot of different information to form a coherent picture. It’s the unity of knowledge.”
By clicking on different links within each depicted circuit, users can read brief descriptions of the visualized cells and structures. The information is not definitive, of course. Solari and Stoner say they have erected this first iteration as a model for future researchers to add new information. “We’d like to see this become a viable tool for scientists to describe their work,” said Stoner.