13 January 2014

Monday miscellany

Find more error messages for novelists here

We all like the energy and inspiration of TED talks - but are ideas enough? This article asks whether the research being presented is being swamped by having to make the audience feel good about it. Maybe talking about world-changing ideas isn't enough to change the world? The author, Benjamin Bratton, is going to ruffle a few feathers - for instance, he says "TED of course stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design ... I think TED actually stands for: middlebrow megachurch infotainment."

The article is the text of a talk given at TEDx San Diego; republished in the Guardian, it's getting hundreds of comments. He doesn't have one simple take-away message, but I think this is the core: "Instead of dumbing-down the future, we need to raise the level of general understanding to the level of complexity of the systems in which we are embedded and which are embedded in us. This is not about "personal stories of inspiration", it's about the difficult and uncertain work of demystification and reconceptualisation: the hard stuff that really changes how we think."

Mystery pic - found in a book, then buried in my photo files -
It could be somewhere in Yorkshire... I'm drawn to the layering of fields up the distant hillside, and the march of trees diagonally up the nearer hill, and to the snow - you can almost hear how it makes the scene quieter.


Science jokes (yes there are such things - read more here)
■ A statistician gave birth to twins, but only had one of them baptised. She kept the other as a control.
■ Psychiatrist to patient: "Don't worry. You're not deluded. You only think you are."
■ A statistician is someone who tells you, when you've got your head in the fridge and your feet in the oven, that you're – on average - very comfortable.

Would you pay by the minute to go to a coffee shop? An interesting concept - it works out at £1.80 an hour, and the coffee is free. But ... is the coffee worth drinking?

Are you sleeping comfortably? Would you rather be awake and productive? Sleeping isn't a waste of time - the brain never shuts down, and parts of it work only when you're asleep. Find out more here ... but scientists still don't know all that much about it! The three main uses of sleep are hypothesised to be restoration, energy conservation, and brain processing and memory consolidation. "Our ability to come up with creative solutions to complex problems is hugely enhanced by a night of sleep." Huge sectors of society are sleep deprived - we're sleeping 1.5-2 hours less a night than we were in the 1950s. Teenagers need - need - 9 hours a night. Shiftwork is a real problem; the body clock makes the quality of non-night sleep poor. In the US, 100,000 traffic accidents a year are attributed to tiredness. Sleep loss, via hormones, makes the brain think "I need carbohydrates" - so being sleep-deprived is associated with obesity. And with immunosuppression, leading to higher rates of diseases. What to do - make your bedroom as dark as you can; reduce your light levels half an hour before bedtime; avoid caffeine after lunch; seek out morning light.

1 comment:

Olga Norris said...

I love your mystery photo - it reminds me of the drawings of Percy Kelly which I saw up in Cumbria a couple of years ago. The snow simplifies the view and makes it more beautiful. Lovely.