The Science of Eternal Sunshine

I just started reading “Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life” (Steven Johnson) today, and then find a link to his blog tonight. Synchronicity! After reading through most of the stuff there, and subscribing to his RSS feed so I don’t miss anything, I finally found a link to a review he wrote of the Jim Carrey movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I’ve just read, in creating the links that it was a Kaufman film (ie. Being John Malkovitch / Adaptation). I may have to rent it and have a watch. So, here’s SBJ’s article: The Science of Eternal Sunshine - You can’t erase your boyfriend from your brain, but the movie gets the rest of it right. By Steven Johnson: iTunes: Your Disco Needs You from the album “Light Years” by Kylie Minogue

On Horse Racing

I’ve never understood the fascination Australians have with horse racing in general, and the Melbourne Cup specifically. Mind you, I’m not a real big fan of motor racing for that matter either. Anyway, back to “the sport of kings.” My sister is a Vet, and races Pacers (which, I just learned a week or so ago, are different to Trotters), and obviously she and her husband are kind-of into horse racing. Whenever I’ve been out drinking and horse racing has been happening, (like at Dan’s bucks night, and Sam’s bucks night, and so on) I’ll ring Tish and ask her for a tip. Either she doesn’t have good tips for normal horse racing, or just likes feeding me duds, as none of them have ever come in. Back when I was teaching swimming lessons we used to have lunch at the pub every day, and have a bet or two on the horsies, but I was never really that into it. When we go to the easter races at Oakbank I’ll follow Marion’s tips, but that’s only because they tend to win. I think that’s what it comes down to. I don’t mind doing it when I win, but I think I’m realistic enough to understand that I’m not going to win in the long run, and don’t even consider putting a large bet on, even if there’s a chance to make a lot of money. I just don’t have enough of a gambler’s streak for that to be an appealing option. I’m not really into gambling at all, come to think of it. Pokies seem like a waste of time - I’d rather put my money into a video game machine where you get to shoot stuff, rather then just push buttons and rely on dumb luck. Maybe it helps that I’ve never really won any money in gambling. Perhaps if I’d won a bit on my first time, I might have become a gambler. Maybe not. Even when we went to the pub in Sydney a year or so ago, Andy and Dan played the pokies - I played ‘Big Deer Hunter’. One of the other guys won some serious money. I wasn’t jealous at all - I knew I probably wouldn’t have. Moving onto a related topic, I was watching Episode 5 of Lost Season 2 last night - the episode where Hurley remembers winning the lotto, and how his friend basically became jealous of him, and just walked away. I don’t know that I’d be jealous of someone else winning millions of dollars in the lotto. I guess because I’d never enter it myself, I like to think I’d feel happy for them. Back onto horse (and motor) racing. I fail to identify these as sports. Sport is about major physical activity. Fitness and the like. Which these, IMHO aren’t. Reminds me: I’m making my Men’s Open Touch comeback tonight. I wish I was fit.

Freud or Fraud

I can’t remember when I first heard of Freud. I think I didn’t really know enough about him while at school to make any decisions, other than the term Freudian Slip. It wasn’t until I was at Uni, and studying some Psychology that I came across him in any context. I read a couple of fairly biting criticisms of his work by people like Stephen Jay Gould, and haven’t really had any respect for him since then. There’s one quote I really enjoy, particularly since it nicely complements the Freud/Fraud similarity:

Everything Freud did that was new was not true, and everything Freud did that was true was not new.

I can’t remember exactly where I heard it, and my books are all in storage from when I moved house over 12 months ago, but I just love it. Google tells me Schamcher said it was “a Norwegian doctor,” but I’m unable to find anything concrete. So why the sudden resurgance in Freud? Apparently, there’s some 140 year anniversary - can’t remember if it’s birth, death or something else, but in the past week, there have been two programmes on Radio National that have mentioned him. I haven’t listened to the All in the Mind programme, but the Science Show mention was pretty scathing:

Freud decided that these accounts by Emma Eckstein, and other women like her, of having been seduced by a man in their childhood were simply fantasies, they were the product of hysterical, unconscious lying, self-deception.

What’s quite interesting is that this quote, and the whole interview in this episode is from twenty years ago. Freud has consistently been outed as a fraud, and has in many cases set back Psychology and Psychiatry back decades. Still we have not learned, and people continue to believe that because Freud said something, it must be so. Even a quick search for some articles criticising Freud on Google resulted in more that sounded like an attack on his critics, rather than actual well balanced criticism. Little mention is made of the extremely limited sample size of his studies. I recall some mention that his theories were based on evidence presented using four patients. Possibly, these could have been representative, but that is a fairly small sample by any account. Similarly, Freud pushed for his theories to be scientific, but they are anything but. They aim to explain everything, similar to creationism, and are not falsifiable. That is, like creationism, two opposing outcomes, which must be mutually exclusive, can both be explained by the one theory. It is not possible to make proper predictions using theories like this. And that’s using the vernacular theory, rather than the more scientific meaning of the term. Freud’s beliefs and teachings were misogynistic, and hark back to a darker time. They discount the evidence provided, and the article linked to above seems to indicate that Freud was aware his theories were based on flawed information. This is worse than a deluded creationist who truly believes that God created everything, as it shows a willingness to tell nasty little lies to further one’s own work, or protect one’s friends. This is deplorable, especially as it was at the expense of others. Similar in scope to Aristotle, Freud has caused severe problems to the rate of development of a branch of science. Perhaps we have caught on to the flaws and falsehoods in a shorter time frame, or Freud’s influence is less because of the already large body of knowledge in other fields, but Aristotle’s ideas led to the dark ages. I’m glad this was averted post-Freud. • I think I got a little carried away towards the end of this, but I enjoyed writing it, so I’m going to leave it all there.

Religion as Delusion?

I’m partway through the 24/9/2005 edition of ABC Radio National’s Podcast of their program All In The Mind. The program description is:

SUMMARY: Cotard’s syndrome is the belief that you have died, and for sufferers it is a terrifying state. Delusions can take many forms, from widespread paranoia to a specific and singular delusion - you might think an impostor has replaced your spouse. These misbeliefs are commonly associated with schizophrenia, but they can also occur in people with brain injuries, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s disease and dementia. The Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science is seeking to explain delusions by developing a model of how we all come to accept or reject beliefs. We see how this research is progressing.

I don’t know that much about Schizophrenia, but early in the program they are talking about how people with this condition cannot (bear to?) look at faces of people who are angry or fearful. A little later on, the following phrase is used:

[Delusion is] a strongly held belief for which there isn’t any evidence.

I’m not going to make a further statement as to the similarity between this and religion. I’ll let you decide. Flames cheerfully accepted.

A Church's Lethal Contract

A Church’s Lethal Contract This is a must read for anyone who wants to know anything about the evil, underhanded way the Church of Scientology handles itself. Kate Ceberano, I want you to read this.

What is

Apparently, even some of the WoW boys who are on ADSL had some delays waiting for the update to download, and someone from my guild, who communicate regularly outside of WoW (we do all know one another in Real Life) posted a link to a website: This site begins with three puzzles requiring a little bit of knowledge to solve: the first one took me a matter of minutes, although I had to use Google to find who actually said the quote. Reorganising the puzzle pieces was pretty simple, and my first guess (of Einstein, who died in 1955) was incorrect. The second puzzle took a little longer, but only because I didn’t have access to a 1 dollar bill. Again, Google helped out in finding out the latin phrases on the back. I didn’t bother with the date, as there were only a couple of characters used in this simple substitution cipher that were from this section of the key. Then, as there were a finite number of possible answers to the puzzle, I just tried several of them before I lucked on the right answer. I can’t even remember what answer I put in… The third one took some thinking. Originally, I had tried one method, and for some reason got fixated on this. It wasn’t until I thought a little more about it, and expanded my ideas a little that I solved it. I had at this stage obtained a small audience of students, and they were very impressed with my solving of the puzzle. I can guarantee that in total, the three puzzles took me around 20 minutes to solve. And that was with some breaks as students needed assistance. If I’d been at a machine with a python interpreter installed, I probably would have done it in about 5. Finally, I was into the website proper. I read a little about what was from the about link, but then happened on the link just above it. This opened up a new page, with three symbols that can be drag-n-dropped into two spaces, which then activates a button. Depending on the combination of the symbols, a different page is loaded. Since there are three symbols, and there needs to be at least one symbol in a space to activate the button, there are twelve possible pages that can be loaded: - 1 1 - - 2 2 - - 3 3 - 1 2 2 1 1 3 3 1 2 3 3 2 Where - is no symbol, and 1,2,3 are the three different symbols. This however, just creates more confusion. Several of the pages have email messages, with the addresses suppressed, and rather cryptic content. One contains a list of images, of people (I assume previous members of cforce) with their faces blacked out. Another has a movie, which I didn’t watch, and yet another has a page filled with 1s and 0s. I may get around to decoding this, if I feel like it. There is also a page with a list of articles about games like iLoveBees, which was created by a company to help promote Halo 2 before it launched. Online games, which cross over into real life. Think of The Game with Michael Douglas, and take out the life threatening aspect of it, and that seems to sum it all up. These articles are referenced in one of the email messages I mentioned above. The other pages contained various images and text - one had a fancy JavaScript setup where hovering over a portion of the invisible image made another part visible. I’ll get into this with Firefox and make all of it visible if WoW doesn’t finish downloading soon. Yet another had a group of white and black boxes arranged into a grid. So, what’s it all about then? It seems to be a site run by a student club/association at a University somewhere, that pride themselves on being somewhat smarter than the general population. As usual, Uni students always think they are smarter than they actually are. I know, I used to be one…

Psychobabble Bullshit

I listen to a variety of Podcasts, including All In The Mind, “Radio National’s weekly foray into all things mental,” and generally like it. As I’m known to do, I take exception (or get annoyed) with particular segments. The two podcasts I listened to today irked me especially. The first was a discussion of Placenta Brain, and the general consensus was that it doesn’t exist. I know of this phenomenon by it’s alternative name, Mummy Mind, and I have seen it in all of the women I am close to who have borne children. The general theories go like this: somehow (possibly due to hormones) women become different during pregnancy, often exhibiting behaviours they wouldn’t normally, like leaving their car running when running an errand, and being surprised to see if running when they return. I would go somewhat further than this. Bearing children permanently damages their minds. My sister, who was a perfectly normal, intelligent person, suddenly started making inane comments about all sorts of things. Something which she had not done before giving birth to my favourite nephew. I had grown up with my mother making crazy statements (often obvious ones) and had just put this down to it being her. After my sister had her baby, if occurred to me that Mum had been smart in her youth (her school reports, and discussion with friends and family from that era confirm this) and had simply lost her marbles (not totally) after giving birth. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my mother and sister very much. I don’t profess that they are totally bonkers, just not as “sharp” as they used to be. And giving birth seems to be, for both of them, the turning point in their lives as intelligent individuals. More than just the impairment during pregnancy, I think it seems to linger… • The second podcast was an interview with a Jewish Psychiatrist practicing in Israel, and treating both Israelis and Palestinians. This seemed to set him off on a good path, but he started to throw in some pretty inane language himself, particularly some of the Jungian Jargon (Always Alliterate!!!) and I quickly lost respect for him. It’s the first Podcast for a long time I have skipped the end of. His discussion of recurring dreams was a particular annoyance of mine: I can’t find the exact quote in the transcript, but it was something like:

The thing about recurring dreams is that they are telling the mind something. And the fact they repeat is because the mind “just doesn’t get it.”

I’m still of the impression that dreams have very little relation to reality. If we can see something in our dreams, it is only because we want to. Dreams are like “random events”, or spring cleaning of the brain’s circuitry. Any relationship to real life is only because there are all these events, images, sounds, memories, and our mind just attempts to fit them into what it perceives as reality. Forcing the facts to fit a theory, as it were. Anyway, he started to go on with a bit of rubbish after that - I’d arrived home (hardest ride I’d had for a while, pretty much head-wind all of the way home, with a bit of a rise for the last kilometre or so), and often while I continue to the end, I skipped it. • Now, before I get too many nasty comments about the first part - please note that I’ve deliberately played it up a little. My family are not loopy (perhaps just a little, but that’s a whole other story). I’m merely stating the anecdotal evidence I have seen about cognitive deterioration during, and indeed after, pregnancy. And, I have some other cases, but I’m saving them for my paper on the topic… after all, Fraud, ahem, Freud, Jung’s mentor, based all of his theories on a handful of cases.

The Emotional Brain

ABC Radio National’s All in the Mind recently broadcast a series of four programs entitled “The Emotional Brain.” Unfortunately, I missed the first two episodes, and they’ve since disappeared from the website, or rather, the MP3s have.

I wouldn’t mind getting hold of the missing two episodes, if anyone has them floating around on their hard disk still… I’ll repeat my mantra that the ABC should keep all of it’s programs available online, for eternity. Storage is cheap.