Thread Catalog 2013-05-24

idiagram-artofcomplexproblemsolving
Thread Catalog is a new weekly feature rounding up links pertaining to the issues most relevant to Thoughts Involuntary: science, music, art, creativity, technology, etc.

Thread Catalog for the week ending May 24th, 2013.

Idiagram – The Art of Systems Thinking [systems science, complex systems, art, information science, processes] – Very interesting site that attempts to diagram the structure of various processes. Most interesting is the interactive diagram for The Art of Complex Problem Solving (pictured above).

Atheist State Lawmaker Quotes Carl Sagan Instead of Doing Prayer Before House Session [atheism, secular humanism, religion, politics] – An exciting and pretty revolutionary story about secular humanist/atheist representative Juan Mendez taking a calm and well-spoken stand to promote his beliefs. Hearing his words almost seems like the future, or a scene from a science fiction film where people no longer believe in religion, and are simply at one with the Universe and our existence in it. There needs to be so much more of this these days, rather than the infantile, religious zealots at one end, and the alienating, barking, proselytizing Atheists-with-a-capital-A at the other.

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Asks Atheist Oklahoma Tornado Survivor If She ‘Thanked The Lord’ [atheism, religion, news] – Oh, well, there we go. Another civil, quiet, good-natured atheist making her stance known with no apology for herself and no derision for others.

Pope Francis Says Atheists Who Do Good Are Redeemed, Not Just Catholics [religion, atheism] – Whoa. What is this, Atheism Awareness Week? Or did Catholics finally realize Jesus would have been more like the Buddha and less like a self-righteous douche?

24-Year-Old Receives Sage Counsel From Venerable 27-Year-Old [humor, The Onion] Fun fact: the guy on the left in the photo is Gabe Klinger, the director of the James Benning/Richard Linklater documentary I featured in last week’s Thread Catalog. A funny piece from The Onion, though I do in some sense take issue with it. Being young and thinking you’re in some sense perfect is certainly silly, but people who are comparatively young can often be wiser not just than people who are are younger than they are, but even those much older. Living through difficult circumstances or having a mind that can learn relatively quickly from mistakes can teach people at a young age how to deal with things more productively and maturely than people much older. The next link is a case in point.

Documentary on Zach Sobiech [human interest, miscellaneous, music] – An inspirational story of an 18-year-old who died from a rare form of cancer, but used music to touch others and show them what it means to be human. While many people might only see his fate as unlucky, I would disagree. He was actually quite lucky in the sense that he acquired much wisdom in his short life, and was able to come to peace with his situation and remain happy while also understanding his mortality. This is something many people decades older than him (and most people in general) are never able to do.

The Daily Routines of Famous Writers [writing, creativity, productivity] – “Kurt Vonnegut’s recently published daily routine made we wonder how other beloved writers organized their days. So I pored through various old diaries and interviews — many from the fantastic Paris Review archives — and culled a handful of writing routines from some of my favorite authors. Enjoy.”

Lost Lands Found by Scientists [science, exploration] – “A lost continent off the coast of Brazil may have been found, scientists announced last week.”

Still Charting Memory’s Depths A Conversation with Neuropsychologist Brenda Milner [science, neuroscience, psychology, neuropsychology, interview] – “In many ways, the Obama administration’s new plan to map the human brain has its origins in the work of Brenda Milner, the neuropsychologist whose detailed observations of an amnesia patient in the 1950s showed how memory is rooted in specific regions of the brain.”

‘Dynamic Range’ & The Loudness War [music, technology] – “We all know music is getting louder. But is it less dynamic? Our ground-breaking research proves beyond any doubt that the answer is no — and that popular beliefs about the ‘loudness war’ need a radical rethink.”

What do we mean when we call music pretentious? [music, criticism, art] – “‘Pretentious’ gets thrown around a lot when discussing music. It’s a word that comes with connotations of stuffiness, condescension, willful obscurity, and needless intellectual complexity.”

I Want to Believe [conspiracy theories, history, sociology, politics, skepticism] – An interesting analysis of the Illuminati and the function of conspiracy theories in our society. “The appeal of conspiracy theories is simple. Whether its Lizard People, Ancient Aliens, Freemasons, Occupy’s “1%,” or the poor maligned Rothschilds, the conspiratorial mind clings to the comforting notion of a world controlled by a rational agent capable of exerting its will to guide human events. Somebody is driving this thing … anybody. To the conspiratorial mind we are not alone with ourselves, left to our own devices, which can be the most terrifying prospect of all.”

Wilmette twins break Guinness record with 24 sets in 5th grade class [human interest, sociology, miscellaneous] – “Twenty-four sets of twins at Highcrest Middle School in Wilmette are thrilled they have broken the Guinness world record for having the most sets of twins in one grade.”

Thread Catalog 2013-05-17

fly

I didn’t get around to do a proper post this week, but here’s this week’s edition of Thread Catalog. Lots of good stuff in here. The ole alma mater always delivers interesting content, so the first three links are courtesy of NU.

Bug’s Eye Inspires Hemispherical Digital Camera [technology] – “Humans capture pictures using the two lenses of our relatively flat eyes, while a top-of-the-line SLR camera has just one flat lens. The new camera — a rounded half bubble, similar to a bulging fly eye — has 180 microlenses mounted on it, allowing it to take pictures across nearly 180 degrees. Only a camera shaped like a bug’s eye can do this.”

Northwestern University Will Research Women’s Reproductive-Related Depression [psychology, medicine, science] – This is really great news – a boon for the field and society in general. “Northwestern’s newly opened Asher Center for the Study and Treatment of Depressive Disorders will be focused on treating and studying women with depression.

What Is the Cost of Over-Parenting? [psychology, sociology] “The more money parents spend on their child’s college education, the worse grades the child earns. … The more parents are involved in schoolwork and selection of college majors — that is, the more helicopter parenting they do — the less satisfied college students feel with their lives.”

Computer Grading Feedback [humor, artificial intelligence, technology] – Hysterical results from EdX’s new grading software, profiled last month in the New York Times. It’s certainly amusing to look at artificial intelligence’s failures, but it’s perhaps equally amusing to watch as people reject it on the grounds that computers don’t know how to comprehend writing and presume they never will. Humans are of course just complex machines, running complex algorithms that nature wrote over the course of many millions of years, but at some point in the future, probably sooner than we can predict, machines will easily be able to execute these same algorithms with ease. Then again, at that point, the “analytical essay” will be pretty pointless, as those can be auto-generated in seconds too. It’s like a spam and anti-spam generator, always locked in a battle of wits and superiority. “How well and uniquely can your biomachine deconstruct and write about this pre-existing text?” “Very well, thanks. Here’s my 10-page essay, it took me .39 seconds to seconds to write.” “A-. Your English essay-writing algorithm could use an update to the latest version.”

James Benning & Richard Linklater Documentary Kickstarter [film] – Apparently experimental filmmaker James Benning and indie-turned-mainstream director Richard Linklater are good friends. This documentary, directed by a friend of a friend, is about their long-standing relationship, and their love of film and baseball.

Is Eye Tracking a Privacy-Invading Technology? [technology] – Using eye-tracking technology, we will begin to be shown ads and content based on what we’ve taken second looks at. Things that interest us involuntarily and cause this physical action will become usable data for ad companies, and allow them to learn very personal things about our genetic and behavioral makeup.

Two-Inch Feather Emerges From Baby’s Neck [miscellaneous] – Self-explanatory medical bizarreness.

Warning: slightly graphicDead Bodies on Mount Everest [miscellaneous] – About 200 people have died while climbing Mount Everest, and a good number of their bodies still remain there.

Thread Catalog 2013-05-10

complex-network

Thread Catalog is a new (roughly) weekly feature rounding up links pertaining to the issues most relevant to Thoughts Involuntary: science, music, art, creativity, technology, etc.

• Excellent news – the New York Times reports that the D.S.M. (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) is being revised in an attempt to reposition psychiatry’s focus from categorized symptoms to the actual biological causes based on hard neuroscience. “The National Institute of Mental Health would be ‘reorienting its research away from D.S.M. categories’ because ‘patients with mental disorders deserve better.'” Clearly this will take a lot of time, but the general trend across fields of knowledge toward precisely deconstructing the brain’s structures, processes, and dysfunctions is among the most important human endeavors.

The Scientific 7-Minute Workout“In 12 exercises deploying only body weight, a chair and a wall, [this workout] fulfills the latest mandates for high-intensity effort, which essentially combines a long run and a visit to the weight room into about seven minutes of steady discomfort — all of it based on science.”

10 Celebrities You Didn’t Know Were Atheists – Keira Knightly was a surprise. Also, Daniel Radcliffe sounds just as cool as his Extras appearance suggested.

Emotional Piano, a Max/MSP patch for generating unique textures while playing piano. The video made me want to listen to Harold Budd asap.

On 12/21/12, the World Will Continue to NOT End

A vision of the end of the World?

The world will not end in 2012. Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than 4 billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012.
– NASA, in an FAQ about 12/21/12

I love apocalyptic scenarios as much as the next person. Actually, probably more so. I’m an ardent fan of disaster-oriented sci-fi, as well as Lovecraftian cosmic horror. In my own conceptual poetry I’ve certainly alluded to versions of the end times before, and even made a video installation that dealt with it.

There must be something alluring to us about the idea of being overpowered by some vast, infinite, unknown natural or supernatural force. I certainly intend to research it more deeply, from the perspective of evolutionary psychology.

But let’s be real. There’s one week left until 12/21/12, and it’s clearer than ever that when it arrives, the world will continue to not come to an end.

Even more or less sensible people (i.e. the majority of the Earth’s human population) not drawn in by the apocalyptic nonsense are still often confused about the facts. I was recently invited to a New Year’s Eve party with the subtitle “Everyone Laugh At the Mayans.” Presumably this comes from the misguided notion that the Mayans actually believed that the world would come to an end on 12/21/12. This is not the case. That’s just the Gregorian date for the end of one cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar. Their calendar then resets, just as our does every 365 days, and the next Long Count cycle ends in about 400 years on March 26, 2407. Each such cycle, called a baktun, lasts 144,000 days.

So, in other words, not even the Mayans thought the world would end next week. In fact earlier this year, a Boston University professor uncovered the oldest Mayan calendar ever, which further confirms this.

Aside from clearing up some misconceptions about this Mayan myth, I thought it would be a good idea to post a link to a NASA round-up of answers from scientists explaining exactly why the world will NOT end on December 21, 2012. Their answers sum up very clearly and concisely why there’s no reason to be worried about any looming natural or supernatural apocalypse.

As for the unfortunate but inevitable natural disasters that have befallen human civilizations for many thousands of years, completely irrespective of any arbitrary man-made calendars, who knows what city will be next?

Earth-600

Hello, mind

phrenology and thoughts

If you pay strict attention to your mind you may begin to realize that your thoughts are not chosen by you. The thought process is so effortless and seamless that you’re rarely aware of the kind of turbulent ride your mind takes you on, perhaps other than an occasional sense of its unpredictable oscillation between various emotions: for instance, moments, however long or pronounced, of happiness or dissatisfaction with life.

We may feel as we are in control of our life and the life of our minds, but this website is predicated on the notion that you are not. And neither am I. Free will is an illusion. Thoughts are not chosen by us, they arise from physical, chemical processes that occur in the mind, over which we have no control.

My name’s Arturo and I’m a musician and artist based in Chicago. Thoughts Involuntary collects writings I’ve been amassing on art, music, film, writing, creativity, productivity, free will, neuroscience, meditation, technology, artificial intelligence, evolution, psychology, politics, education, atheism, religion, linguistics, astronomy, physics, humor, dreams, and puzzles.

I have no deep authorship of these writings, as they have passed through the powerful processing computer nature has bestowed upon me (my mind) and been connected in ways I’ll likely never understand. The thoughts that comprise these writings have simply arisen, and I’ve allowed them to organize themselves as clearly as possible.

I make no claims to being an expert on any of these topics. All I can say is that I have a curious mind, and as a musician and artist who thought he would end up becoming a physicist, I have a sustained interest in the realms of science and reason.

The end goal of this blog is to develop and collect enough material to publish a book. It’s tentatively titled Threads: Essays on Thoughts That Have Arisen in the Mind of an Artist and Musician, Which He Has No Time to Fully Explore. The book will cover topics as diverse as the blog. In this context the word “threads” has multiple meanings, but the simplest refers to the different threads of thought I’m pursuing. I’ll explain the other meanings in upcoming posts. The subtitle refers to the fact that I’m first and foremost a musician and artist; most of my time is spent producing and performing music, and creating visual art. As such, I don’t have the kind of time to delve so deeply into the topics as to give professional-level research and provide the appropriate extended annotations and footnoting required of scholarly work. This is more a place to assemble my varied and scattered thoughts on subjects I find fascinating.

Some prominent thinkers and creators I’m sure to reference with some frequency are The Buddha, Lao Tzu, Seneca, Thich Nhat Hanh, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Ray Kurzweil, Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, Hollis Frampton, John Smith, Ken Jacobs, Owen Land, Michael Snow, Peter Greenaway, Ernie Gehr, David Lynch, David Cronenberg, John Allen Paulos, H.P. Lovecraft, J.G. Ballard, M.R. James, Donald Barthelme, and Brian Eno. I’ve recently become interested in Terence McKenna and Timothy Leary, as well as various writers working in the realms of neuroscience, psychology, philosophy, and behavioral economics and sociology.

The point of the blog is not necessarily meant to persuade anyone to adopt my beliefs, and it’s certainly not meant to offend or irritate. It’s not written with a shred of anger towards anyone who believes different things than me. It’s honestly more of a way to collect thoughts for myself, and to present them to others as food for thought.

This site will give me a place to address my logorrheic tendencies and apply them where they’re most appropriate. Music and art tend to thrive on concision, but writing, provided it is skillfully composed, can really give one the space to develop ideas. Writing allows the mind to construct and navigate its way through vast seas of thought.

With this post, I’ve set sail.