Links Roundup #2



The Fairy Fellers’ Master-Stroke by Richard Dadd (1817-1886). Richard Dadd was an Enlish painter who developed a mental illness, something like skizophrenia, and underwent a dramatic personality change becoming delusional and violent. He murdered his father and attempted to kill another man. His life and work are the subject of a book by Nicholas Tromans.


Frans de Wall, a biologist and “monkey watcher”, author of The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society, says that human morality has its biological basis in the need to cooperate to survive, reproduce, and pass genes.


For most of the last century one of the central dogmas of neuroscience was that the brain couldn’t grow new cells once embryonic development was ended. In 1980 Fernando Notthebhom found evidence that “the adult canary brain undergoes seasonal changes in size. Males sing to serenade females, but the song-producing brain regions decrease dramatically in size after breeding season. The following spring, they are regenerated by neurogenesis so the male can learn new songs." Nowadays adult neurogenesis is one of the hottest topics in neuroscience.


How do you decide if a neuroscientific interventions for dyslexia is a valid treatment or an hoax? Some useful criteria could be: Who is behind the treatment? Is there a credible scientific basis to the treatment? What is the attitude of those promoting the intervention to conventional approaches? 

The same criteria can be used to judge also other kind of treatments.


In 1374 strange episodes were reported across Europe. People started dancing, uncontrollably, screaming, shouting and singing, appearing to neither see or hear nothing but their hallucinations. These events are known as dancing plague.


”[…] using prediction during instruction can create learning opportunities to enhance the understanding and doing of mathematics”. Students asked to predict “how linear and exponential factors work—before this information was taught—became more curious about the content of the lessons they then proceeded to learn." Engaging math in this way promotes reasoning, and the students appear to understand the material more deeply compared to when math is proposed (implicitly or not) and viewed, only as a matter of memorizing facts and procedures.


A new research investigate the connection between fear and perception in spider phobic individuals showing how they are biased by their fear and perceive spiders as larger than they really are. / “[…] perception is just as much about construal, belief, the interaction of environment and memory as it is about sensory inputs

It was as big as my head, I swear!


Are babies super? A reasoned critique to development psychology studies claiming babies have incredible hidden abilities.

The great snare of the psychologist is the confusion of his own standpoint with that of the mental fact about which he is making his report. I shall hereafter call this the ‘psychologist’s fallacy’ par excellence.

William James, Principles of Psychology

Links Roundup #1



When we admire the artwork of M.C. Escher, or we see some impossibile figure like the Pensore triange, how does the brain processe impossible objects?


"The DSM-5 Mood Disorders Work Group has proposed eliminating in DSM-5 the major depression criterion E, “bereavement exclusion” (BE), which recognizes that depressive symptoms are sometimes normal in recently bereaved individuals.”

The failing in recognizing the difference between a proportionate response to a devastating emotional event and a mental illness carry the risk to make a caricature of psychiatry. Psychiatrists must think better.


"Children as young as three to five years of age have the potential to learn mathematics that is surprisingly complex and sophisticated”, and, more impressive, infants by two months understand that unsupported objects will fall, and that hidden objects still exist and by five months of age they expect non-cohesive substances like water and sand to pour. This suggests that babies born with a basic understanding of how things in their environment operate.


Ray Kurzweil is convinced that ”[…] by 2020 we’ll have computers that are powerful enough to simulate the human brain […] By 2029 […] we will have completed the reverse engineering of the human brain.”

Mh. I’m not sure.


The Royal Statistical Society proposes 12 rules of “number hygiene” for journalists to at least achieve a basic understanding of numbers, statistics, graphs and so on (all of which are far too loved by journalists).


"An EVA is probably the most physically demanding task an astronaut can undertake."How astronauts learn to “spacewalk”.


The Sounds of Space.

"Musics in space is something very important for the moral of the crew and for the psychological support of the crew."

Scipsy Valentine’s Edition /2

"We like to feel independent and free of the brain systems that regulate the mating habits and regimens of animals, but the fact is that we’re not"

Yep, falling in love is all in our brain.

Love is in the air? Well, scientists debate the role of pheromones in sexual attraction, so maybe it is really…

What is more clear is that at least a dozen brain regions work together to make you feel love.

But romance is not just for the young, a new research shows that people over the age of 60 represent the fastest-growing demographic of online daters, and that older women don’t want to waste time: 

"They want to make a decision quickly and cut their losses, because they have learned life is too short for dating games."

Tom Whyntie, a researcher at Imperial College London, took data from one of the earliest collisions at the LHC and added simulated data that followed the path of a heart-shaped equation, then used the result as a Valentine’s card for his girlfriend. It worked, now they are married.

But, according to some fMRI studies, love is like an addictive drug that stimulate the same as opioids and cocaine, so, take it with moderation.

Scipsy Valentine’s Edition

From Esa With Love: a romantic animation of heart shaped things as seen from space.

Zookeepers at ZSL London Zoo use CK Obsession to make a perfumed heart-shaped sack to stimulate mating behaviour in Raika and Lampur, two Sumatrian Tiger. (via NewScientist)

Malaria parasite goes bananas before sex, literally, it changes into a banana shape before sexual reproduction. 

The male of Paratrechalea ornata, a south-American species of spider, uses "gift" wrapped in silk as a ”nuptial gift” to encourages the female to accept him as mate.

But talking about humans, did you know that falling in love makes you broody? Yes, especially if you are a man. When one fall in love shows greater activation of brain areas related to parental attachment when they see a baby compared to single people. Be careful.

Anyway guys, I must tell you:

"To date, there is no compelling evidence any online dating matching algorithm actually works.

Ah, another thing: 

This year Valentine’s Day is mathematically cancelled: 14-2-12=0”

A list of a bunch of articles I’ve read the past few days.

Uncertainty and Countertransference by Robert L. Tyson

Rangell said that uncertainty exists when there are inadequate or unsatisfactory results from cognitive efforts to reach a conclusion; that indecision appears when the ego cannot commit itself to action […]

Too smart to be a cop by Razib Khan

Though is it in the social interest that someone with an IQ as high as Robert Jordan’s ends up a prison guard?

Internet privacy: control your computing before it controls you by Richard Stallman

This does not mean Internet users can’t have privacy. This does not mean that Internet users can’t have control of their computing. It does mean that you’ll have to swim against the current to have them. 

King of the Cosmos (a profile of Neil deGrasse Tyson) by Carl Zimmer

“Any other questions?” Tyson asks. “Oh, there was a question about dark matter, right?

A boy named Henry speaks up. “Yes. Thank you! Thank you, I’ve been waiting.”

“Okay, what do you know about dark matter?” Tyson asks.

Henry pipes up, musing in a high voice. “Just, like, there’s seventy percent or so—maybe even more—of the universe that’s missing and we think that’s made of dark matter.”

“Okay, so why are you asking me what dark matter is?” Tyson asks. The hardness is back in his voice—a joke varnishing a challenge.

“Because, like, that’s all I know,” Henry admits. “I don’t really get what it is.”

“Oh, so you think there’s more known about dark matter than what you just told me?”

“Yeah. Sure,” Henry says. He doesn’t sound sure.

“We don’t know any more than what you just said,” Tyson says.

At Boston bar, Harvard scientist find physics at work by Carolyn Y. Johnson

Seeking more adventurous physical phenomena, the physicists requested a drink called the half sinner, half saint, which contains absinthe. In the bottle, absinthe is clear. But when Gertsen gingerly poured it over the back of a spoon, the absinthe floated atop a dark mixture of vermouth, forming a cloudy white halo. Absinthe, the physicists explained, contains oils that form “spontaneous emulsions’’ -droplets of oil in water that scatter the light, making it look opaque.

Beware corporate psychopaths by Brian Basham

At one major investment bank for which I worked, we used psychometric testing to recruit social psychopaths because their characteristics exactly suited them to senior corporate finance roles.

Climate Change and the End of Australia by Jeff Goodel

This is not to say that the entire continent will sink beneath the waves anytime soon. What is likely to vanish – or be transformed beyond recognition – are many of the things we think of when we think of Australia: the barrier reef, the koalas, the sense of the country as a land of almost limitless natural resources. Instead, Australia is likely to become hotter, drier and poorer, fractured by increasing tensions over access to water, food and energy as its major cities are engulfed by the rising seas.