Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Monday, May 25, 2009
The idea that believing you are ill can make you ill may seem far-fetched, yet rigorous trials have established beyond doubt that the converse is true - that the power of suggestion can improve health. This is the well-known placebo effect. Placebos cannot produce miracles, but they do produce measurable physical effects.
The placebo effect has an evil twin: the nocebo effect, in which dummy pills and negative expectations can produce harmful effects. The term "nocebo", which means "I will harm", was not coined until the 1960s, and the phenomenon has been far less studied than the placebo effect. It's not easy, after all, to get ethical approval for studies designed to make people feel worse.
The problem is that we did not evolve a baloney-detection device in our brains to discriminate between true and false patterns. So we make two types of errors: a type I error, or false positive, is believing a pattern is real when it is not; a type II error, or false negative, is not believing a pattern is real when it is. If you believe that the rustle in the grass is a dangerous predator when it is just the wind (a type I error), you are more likely to survive than if you believe that the rustle in the grass is just the wind when it is a dangerous predator (a type II error). Because the cost of making a type I error is less than the cost of making a type II error and because there is no time for careful deliberation between patternicities in the split-second world of predator-prey interactions, natural selection would have favored those animals most likely to assume that all patterns are real.
But we do something other animals do not do. As large-brained hominids with a developed cortex and a theory of mind—the capacity to be aware of such mental states as desires and intentions in both ourselves and others—we infer agency behind the patterns we observe in a practice I call “agenticity”: the tendency to believe that the world is controlled by invisible intentional agents. We believe that these intentional agents control the world, sometimes invisibly from the top down (as opposed to bottom-up causal randomness). Together patternicity and agenticity form the cognitive basis of shamanism, paganism, animism, polytheism, monotheism, and all modes of Old and New Age spiritualisms.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Did I wait until the last minute again? Yes.
Do I suck? Yes.
Mondo Marvel #3: July-August 1962
This installment brings us looks at Fantastic Four #5, The Incredible Hulk #2, Journey Into Mystery #83 (featuring the first appearance of Thor, God of Thunder), and Amazing Fantasy #15 (featuring the first appearance of Spider-Man).
Monday, May 18, 2009
"My daddy ate my eyes."
A search warrant report said the father "was displaying symptoms of being under the influence of PCP."
Seriously, the last month and a half of Season Two were as good as, if not, at times, a little better than Battlestar Galactica on its better days.
But Fox renews Dollhouse? Really, Fox? You're gonna play it like that?
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
The director, who declined to be named, said. "A snake's mouth isn't always clean."
Especially that snake's mouth.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Former firefighter Gavin, of Witney, Oxfordshire, said: “Four hospital doctors had previously examined me and were all puzzled by the lump.
“Some thought it was a cyst, others an in-grown hair.
“Then one said it could be my undeveloped identical twin that I absorbed at a very early stage. I feel absolutely fine now but it has not sunk in yet that I could have had a twin brother. I have him in a jar at home and I call him little Gav. I haven’t told many people. I feel like a bit of a freak.”
Friday, May 08, 2009
It's actually about the consciousness of movement - where the impulse to move apparently originates in the parietal cortex, signals to the premotor cortex which then initiates the movement and signals back to the parietal cortex that a movement was made.
Not exactly "Free Will," but then whether or not Free Will even exists is a question that hasn't been answered to everyone's satisfaction.
But interesting, nonetheless.
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
The column is a little long, so pop some popcorn, pour yourself a tall one, settle in and enjoy!