Trying to pick up speed….

Workout notes: 5 mile run, 3 mile walk.
Run: 20:45 2 mile run on the ‘mill: mile 1 I did 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 and then 5 in elevation, then dropped to 0.5 and picked up the speed.

Then to the track for 8 x 200 in lane 2 of the University track: 56, 55, 54, 54, 53, 53, 54, 53 (20:09 via 20:08/20:01) Then a walking lap, then 9:02 for a mile in lane 2.
Then a 3 mile walk outside to get used to the heat (Bradley Park).

My legs were still a bit heavy from this weekend’s festivities. And yes, there IS a difference in using lane 2 vs. lane 1; it is, surprisingly, about a 1.8 second per lap difference.

This weekend: I want to get it into my head the mantra of “doing the best that I can on THAT day instead of “X or bust”.”

This is useful to remember: “red” states are not ALL red. Then again, “blue states” are FAR from all blue. I should know. For example, Austin, Texas, is far “bluer” than where I live, even though I live in Illinois and Austin is in red Texas.


Yeah, I know, another GOVERNMENT INTRUSION ON THE FREE MARKET, blah, blah, blah.
Seriously: though we have a basically capitalist system, there is really no such thing as completely free capitalism and, IMHO, nor should there be. The battle will be over HOW MUCH government regulation and intrusion there should be. We fought such battles during President Theodore Roosevelt’s day. And yes, good people can disagree.

I am with the President on this one, though on this issue, I can understand the counter argument. This is one of those issues where I have just a bit of ambivalence.

The brain

Our brains learn to interpret signals.

optical illusion

optical illusion

June 24, 2014 Posted by | Barack Obama, mind, political/social, politics, running, social/political | Leave a comment

This is one reason you should CHECK instead of relying on memory

I ran a 5K (3.25 mile actually; the course is “long”) run this morning; I ran the same race on the same course last year.

The difference: I REMEMBERED that last year was not as cold but windier. I was wrong on BOTH counts when I checked via Weather Underground:

This year (via Weather Underground)

Last year (via Weather Underground)


I think this is what happened this year: this time, I went in knowing the course and expecting that long, difficult stretch toward the end (.8 miles against the wind). And as far as the wind: the winter has sucked almost the entire time, so we are more used to it.

March 1, 2014 Posted by | mind, science | | Leave a comment

What do you see in these pictures?



What do you see first?

January 6, 2014 Posted by | mind, science | | 1 Comment

How someone with Asperger’s syndrome sees things…

From here.

Imagine the following: Mary goes to a fast food place and is very thirsty. She says: please give me the largest cola you have. The worker replies: “Today, there is a special. Our largest size soda is served in a special commemorative cup.”
She replies: “I don’t care about the cup; just give me the largest cola you have.” So she gets her large soda with the special cup.”

Now answer the question: did she intentionally get the commemorative cup?

Now consider the following situation: Mary goes to a fast food place and is very thirsty. She says: please give me the largest cola you have. The worker replies: “We’ve raised the price on the largest size by 1 dollar more than it was yesterday.
She replies: “I don’t care about the extra dollar; just give me the largest cola you have.” So she gets her large soda with the special cup.”

Now answer the question: did she intentionally pay a dollar more?

Most people answer the questions: question 1: “no”, question 2: “yes”.

Why? My thought: “in the first situation, the cup was just an extra; she had to put forth no more effort/expense to get it. In the second case, she knew that the drink would cost more but decided that it was worth it.”

But someone with Asperger’s syndrome is likely to answer differently. My guess: to them, both questions are “I want my large drink; both have extra conditions which are irrelevant to wanting the large drink; the type of condition (whether there is a cost or not) is irrelevant. The INTENTION was the size of the drink, period.

Update I thought about this some more. Now let’s change this: this time Mary goes to the store after haven been, say, bitten by a rattlesnake and the store sells anti-venom and it is the ONLY nearby place to get it. The worker says: “we’ll, our anti-venom price just rose by 100 dollars” and Mary says “I don’t care, I need the anti-venom” and pays it.

Did she intentionally pay an extra 100 dollars?

I’d say “no” because I see this sort of “want” as an essential need whereas I see the “largest drink” as a “inessential want”.

September 16, 2013 Posted by | mind, science | | Leave a comment

Budgets, Weather, One’s choices…

Yes, people’s moods ARE affected by the seasons: (via the New York Times)

A new study using the patterns of Google search queries suggests that mental illnesses flourish in winter and decline in summer.

In both the United States and Australia, researchers found distinct seasonal patterns, high in winter and low in summer, in searches pertaining to anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, depression, suicide, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and schizophrenia. The study appears in the May issue of The American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Searches related to eating disorders varied the most — 37 percent higher in winter than summer in the United States and 42 percent higher in Australia. The smallest variations were in searches related to anxiety: 7 percent and 15 percent more common in winter than summer in the United States and Australia, respectively. The variations persisted after he researchers controlled for seasonal differences in Internet use, mentions of the diseases in news articles and other factors.

Why this happens, and whether it is connected to increased incidence, is unclear, but it is known that varying hours of daylight, variations in physical activity and seasonal changes in blood levels of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids can affect mood. […]

The drought in the southwest: probably not CAUSED by global warming:

Extreme natural events, not man-made climate change, led to last summer’s historic drought in the Great Plains, a new federal study said Friday.
Drought occurred in six Plains states between last May and August because moist Gulf of Mexico air “failed to stream northward in late spring,” and summer storms were few and stingy with rainfall, said a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“Neither ocean states nor human-induced climate change, factors that can provide long-lead predictability, appeared to play significant roles in causing severe rainfall deficits over the major corn producing regions of central Great Plains,” the report summary said.
The drought in Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota was the worst since record keeping began in 1895, even eclipsing the notorious Dust Bowl droughts of 1934 and 1936, said study leader Martin Hoerling, a NOAA meteorologist.

“The event was rare, and we estimated maybe a once in a couple of hundred years event,” Hoerling said. “But for as extreme as it was, it didn’t have any strong indications for early warning.


“I’m an advocate of global warming because science tells me that greenhouse gases have warmed the planet by about 1 degree Celsius in the last 100 years. So there’s no question about that,” he said. “But the science also tells that every drought that’s occurring isn’t a result of climate change.”

Some people’s minds might not be THAT hard to change, if you are willing to stoop to trickery:

Researchers in Sweden have discovered a clever way to trick partisan voters into switching parties, through the application of a simple survey and some slight of hand.

Exploiting a known defect in human psychology called “choice blindness,” researchers writing for the journal PLoS One got 162 voters to fill out surveys pinpointing their views on key issues like taxes and energy, then covertly switched the survey with one created to show the exact opposite answers. Participants were then confronted on why they gave the faux responses.

What the researchers found is astonishing: A whopping 92 percent of respondents did not catch that their answers were manipulated, and only 22 percent of the switched answers were noticed by participants. During questioning after the survey, 10 percent of the subjects actually switched their preference in political party, while another 19 percent of previously partisan voters said they’d become undecided. […]

Bitcoins: ever hear of them? This is a decent article about them and the general nature of money (recommended by Paul Krugman). Upshot: money is about putting your faith in something.

President Obama’s budget: too centrist for many on the left.

I’m not sure what to think. It appears to me that second term Presidents drift somewhat to center during their second terms. I wonder if this is what is happening here.

April 13, 2013 Posted by | Barack Obama, climate change, economics, economy, environment, mind, politics, politics/social, social/political | Leave a comment

science and economics

Does excessive salt in your diet harm your autoimmune system? There is some evidence that it might;

Salt may play an important role in autoimmune diseases, according to two new papers published today (March 6) in Nature. Exposure to high levels of salt was found to make both cultured mouse and human T cells more pathogenic, and high-salt diets worsened autoimmune disease in mice.

“I thought the papers were very exciting and provocative,” said John O’Shea, a doctor at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), who wrote a Nature commentary accompanying the new findings and was not involved in the study.


Meanwhile, David Hafler’s lab at Yale University was coming to similar conclusions from the opposite direction. The group had completed a study where they measured TH17 cells in the blood of healthy human subjects, sequenced the people’s microbiomes, and had them fill out questionnaires about their diets. While the study was supposed to be focused on the influence of the microbiome, the researchers noticed that participants who frequently ate in fast food restaurants had elevated levels of pathogenic TH17 cells. They hypothesized that the saltiness of the food could be part of the explanation.

“That led to a whole series of experiments trying to figure out the role of salt,” Hafler said. Unlike Regev and Kuchroo’s labs, which looked at TH17 differentiation in mouse cells, Hafler’s lab added salt to human cell cultures. They also found that it was associated with more pathogenic TH17 cells. “Salt just seems to trigger all the genes associated with bad autoimmune T cells,” Hafler said.

But the effect hasn’t been proven in humans. There is proof for mice, and some correlation in humans.

The Brain: help for us oldies:

The flip of a single molecular switch helps create the mature neuronal connections that allow the brain to bridge the gap between adolescent impressionability and adult stability. Now Yale School of Medicine researchers have reversed the process, recreating a youthful brain that facilitated both learning and healing in the adult mouse.

Scientists have long known that the young and old brains are very different. Adolescent brains are more malleable or plastic, which allows them to learn languages more quickly than adults and speeds recovery from brain injuries. The comparative rigidity of the adult brain results in part from the function of a single gene that slows the rapid change in synaptic connections between neurons.

By monitoring the synapses in living mice over weeks and months, Yale researchers have identified the key genetic switch for brain maturation a study released March 6 in the journal Neuron. The Nogo Receptor 1 gene is required to suppress high levels of plasticity in the adolescent brain and create the relatively quiescent levels of plasticity in adulthood. In mice without this gene, juvenile levels of brain plasticity persist throughout adulthood. When researchers blocked the function of this gene in old mice, they reset the old brain to adolescent levels of plasticity.

That would be nice; I’ve found it is harder for me to absorb brand new material, though I have more context for other material.

Nature Cicadas have interesting wings: they have a structure that enables them to kill bacteria by an interesting mechanism:

The veined wing of the clanger cicada kills bacteria solely through its physical structure — one of the first natural surfaces found to do so. An international team of biophysicists has now come up with a detailed model of how this defence works on the nanoscale. The results are published in the latest issue of the Biophysical Journal1.

The clanger cicada (Psaltoda claripennis) is a locust-like insect whose wings are covered by a vast hexagonal array of ‘nanopillars’ — blunted spikes on a similar size scale to bacteria (see video, bottom). When a bacterium settles on the wing surface, its cellular membrane sticks to the surface of the nanopillars and stretches into the crevices between them, where it experiences the most strain. If the membrane is soft enough, it ruptures

Note: this is “rupture by stretching” rather than by puncturing.

Austerity during a recession does NOT drive down the deficit; remember that stimulus puts money into the economy.

March 10, 2013 Posted by | biology, economics, economy, mind, nature, science | , , | Leave a comment

Fun: is what you see really there?

I don’t know who to give credit to, but this is fun:

Is there really a woman in this picture? Look carefully.

Actually, I see the human figure in all of these cropped pictures.

May 13, 2012 Posted by | mind | Leave a comment

Purple crabs and swimsuits with no confusion at all

Swim workout 2650 yards (1.5 miles); 500 of long/free, 500 of fist/free, 500 of 3g/free, 500 of (50 side/50 free), 6 x (25 fly, 25 free, 25 back, 25 free), 50 free.
This was routine and seemed “short”, at least in terms of duration.

Yes, Ms. “purple suit” was back! 🙂

Paul Krugman points out that Keynesian economic ideas ARE/DID win the day, so to speak, though the conservatives constantly lie or attempt to distort what actually happened.

Pretty crabs I am not one to call a crab “pretty”, but Jerry Coyne has an article about such a species.

(click on the small photo to see the larger one at the source, along with the article)

Religion and the mind

Friendly atheist has an article with a provocative title: If you can answer this math problem correctly, you may be an atheist. Yes, the title is illogical: you might get the problems correct and not be an atheist….and….well, there are plenty of atheists who would miss the problems. 🙂

What are the problems?

1. “If 5 machines in 5 minutes can make 5 widgets, how long will it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets?”
2. “A population of lily pads in a pond doubles every day. On day 48, the pond is completely full. On what day was the pond half full?”
3. “A baseball and a baseball bat together costs 110 dollars. The bat costs 100 dollars more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?”

What was curious to me wasn’t “what group did better” on the questions; it was THIS (via Scientific American):

But the researchers went beyond this interesting link, running four experiments showing that analytic thinking actually causes disbelief. In one experiment, they randomly assigned participants to either the analytic or control condition. They then showed them photos of either Rodin’s The Thinker or, in the control condition, of the ancient Greek sculpture Discobolus, which depicts an athlete poised to throw a discus. (The Thinker was used because it is such an iconic image of deep reflection that, in a separate test with different participants, seeing the statue improved how well subjects reasoned through logical syllogisms.) After seeing the images, participants took a test measuring their belief in God on a scale of 0 to 100. Their scores on the test varied widely, with a standard deviation of about 35 in the control group. But it is the difference in the averages that tells the real story: In the control group, the average score for belief in God was 61.55, or somewhat above the scale’s midpoint. On the other hand, for the group who had just seen The Thinker, the resulting average was only 41.42. Such a gap is large enough to indicate a mild believer is responding as a mild nonbeliever—all from being visually reminded of the human capacity to think.

Another experiment used a different method to show a similar effect. It exploited the tendency, previously identified by psychologists, of people to override their intuition when faced with the demands of reading a text in a hard-to-read typeface.

The bottom line: reminding people of thinking (turning on the “logic vs. intuition” switch) immediately made people MORE skeptical.

Atheism and labels
The following video troubled some fellow atheists (including a couple that I have a lot of respect for):

I admit that I had no trouble at all with this; all Dr. Tyson was saying is that he really isn’t interested in taking part in this debate, so to speak.

Yes, I think a lot about it and I self identify as an atheist (strictly speaking, I am an agnostic atheist with respect to some amorphic “spirit of the universe”, “higher power”, “creative force”, etc. and an “almost gnostic” atheist with regards to the deities that I am aware of (the Hindu ones, the Mormon ones, the Abrahamic deity(s), etc.)

But, well, I ENJOY thinking about some things. I really don’t care how Dr. Tyson identifies (or doesn’t identify) himself.

This is good enough for me:

And anyone who thinks that we are here because of naturalistic processes and that there is no direct divine intervention in the universe and that we (the earth and humans) were not the intentional outcome of some plan…well, they are a kindred spirit, IMHO.
I really don’t care about the rest.

April 27, 2012 Posted by | atheism, biology, economics, economy, evolution, mind, religion, science, swimming | Leave a comment

Religious reasoning, hidden brains

We know some things are wrong (e. g., racism) but sometimes, when under stress, we seem to not be able to help ourselves. What gives? This is a Salon article called “The Hidden Brain”; my reading list has gotten even longer.

For some reason, humans almost seem to enjoy a persecution complex. We see this with Christians in the United States; evidently hearing criticism means “persecution”.

Speaking of believers: Mano Singham points out that while some believers admit “hey, it is faith”. But many (most) attempt to use “reason” (even if they do it poorly).

Speaking of brains: it has been shown that specific memories lay in specific brain cells!

Human evolution: yes, we belong to the ape family; check out this post for details.

On the lighter side (sort of): you can’t make this up. An international sporting event thought that the Borat version of a national anthem was the real one!

Social: I thought that this tribute by the Miami Heat to Trayvon Martin was touching.

March 25, 2012 Posted by | evolution, mind, nature, religion, science, social/political | Leave a comment


Workout notes
Leg weights (up to 200 on adduction and abduction; 135 on push backs; some lunges and hip hikes)
Swimming: 2200 yards: 10 x 25 fist, 25 free, 5 x 25 fist, 75 free, 5 x 25 free, 25 back, 50 free, 5 x 25 fly, 50 side, 25 free, 200 cool down.

It went ok.


Fallacies of thinking: there are times when I commit some of these. I am ok at overriding my “natural” distrust of probabilities. But there are times when I make up my mind on emotion and then try to “argue the case” with logic; that is, use logic to reinforce my current opinion. Giving up securely held beliefs is tough. I am good about avoiding some of these.

No a penny dropped off the Empire State Building won’t kill you; it reaches terminal velocity at a drop of 50 feet. But a ball point pen is another matter.

Religion and fundamentalism
This is how some creationists see evolution.

Surf to PZ Myers’ blog to see more.

So yes, this claim about “Village Idiots” is not really an exaggeration.

Then we have this:

That is right: Pat Robertson said that prayer could have turned the tornadoes away. It is astonishing how superstitious some adults are.

March 6, 2012 Posted by | mind, religion, science, shoulder rehabilitation, superstition, swimming | Leave a comment