Sunday, February 26, 2006

Trying something new (oh my!)

Since there are about six people who actually read this and I'm tired of the word verification every time I want to respond to a comment, I've removed word verification. It's supposed to weed out spam so if I suddenly find myself having to delete large amounts of spam, word verification will go back on.

In the meantime if you stop in to visit and have never commented (possibly because of the word verification), say "hello." I'm endlessly curious.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Take Descartes, please!!!!

I have a very short (4 pages more or less) paper due in History and Systems. This is one of two papers for the class. We have a choice from three topics, but we don't see all three choices at once. This is a pain because I might really like the next two topics. The length is immaterial. After all, four pages is barely a note to myself.

The first assignment is to choose one of the following people: Aristotle, Berkeley, Descartes, Donders, Ferrier, Galileo, Gall, Locke, Munsterberg, Von Helmholtz. Then answer these questions:

  1. When did the person live? Who else, relevant to our history, was alive at that time? What other important events were happening in the world, in general?
  2. What important contributions to the forwarding of physiology, philosophy, or psychology did this person make? What mistakes or false steps did the person make? How did these mistakes affect their own thinking and the thinking of others?
  3. Where does the person fall in the timeline of the topic? Whose ideas influenced his thinking, and whom did his ideas influence?
  4. Discuss any modern ideas that may be descendants of this person’s thinking.
Now this paper doesn't exactly rock my world, but I don't want to tie myself to the last two choices. Easier to get half the beast out of the way now. So I've been sitting here for five hours looking for information on Descartes. Why Descartes? Well...we spent a fair amount of time in the Nature and Origins of Consciousness seminar talking about Cartesian dualism. And I have trouble connecting Galileo (my personal favorite) to psychology.

Oh well, I'm off to write the paper. Anyone want to volunteer to read the first draft? LOL

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Blog mom, Teresa, tagged me on the same day that blog sister, Irish Pixie got me (and others) with a "getting to know you" email. sheesh. So here goes...

1: Black and White or Color; how do you prefer your movies? I like both - some movies are great in black and white others in color.

2: What is the one single subject that bores you to near-death? celebrity gossip

3: MP3s, CDs, Tapes or Records: what is your favorite medium for prerecorded music? Since I got the MP3, that is my all time favorite.

4: You are handed one first class trip plane ticket to anywhere in the world and ten million dollars cash. All of this is yours provided that you leave and not tell anyone where you are going ... ever. This includes family, friends, everyone. Would you take the money and ticket and run? As long as I could share photos after I got back, sure. Hey, I don't have to tell anyone where I went to share the photos. *grin*

5: Seriously, what do you consider the world's most pressing issue now? I'm going to plead the 5th on this (you all really don't want my rant on the general stupidity of people, the total inability to think logically or analytically, and how that all affects things like the environment etc., etc., etc.)

6: How would you rectify the world's most pressing issue? Start over???

7: You are given the chance to go back and change one thing in your life; what would that be? I'll leave my life as it's been.

8: You are given the chance to go back and change one event in world history, what would that be? There's a reason why all those sci-fi stories with time travel don't work out real well.

9: A night at the opera, or a night at the Grand Ole' Opry --Which do you choose? Definitely the opera.

10: What is the one great unsolved crime of all time you'd like to solve? Ask me about unsolved math problems, please.

11: One famous author can come to dinner with you. Who would that be, and what would you serve for the meal? Choices, choices. Sagan, maybe Riemann, or Hawking. I'd have pizza delivered. I want to talk to these guys not waste time worrying about the dinner.

12: You discover that John Lennon was right, that there is no hell below us, and above us there is only sky -- what's the first immoral thing you might do to celebrate this fact? Since I already agree with this statement and I'm not doing anything immoral, I don't need to celebrate.

I thought I'd try going after some relatively new people who will have no idea who I am
Blue Tige
and blog sister, Irish Pixie
and Sarah (cause I hear she's very nice and so will probably not come to my house and kill me)

Monday, February 20, 2006

Dilbert, mathematics, proofs, patterns, and biases

Dilbert: I need help making unrealistic assumptions to support a business case for a bad idea.

Dogbert: Easy. There's a hole in the back of our wardrobe closet that leads to a magical world of preposterous business assumptions.

Dilbert: We don't have a wardrobe closet.

Dogbert: Assume we do.

(Dilbert, 2/16/06 , copyright Scott Adams, Inc.)

Human beings are programmed to search for and identify patterns. We're pattern matching animals. Much of mathematics consists of formally and rigorously proving the existence of the identified patterns as they are defined by theorems.

How does Dogbert's statement, "assume we do" relate to mathematical proofs? A new math student learning the techniques of proof writing will see many short proofs that start with either "assume" or "suppose." Given the statement, "a implies b" a proof might be constructed that supposes or assumes "a" and then proceeds to logically show that "b" is true and follows from "a." So, assume we have a wardrobe closet. What will logically follow from this assumption?

As pattern seeking machines, people work very hard at fitting the available information into the patterns they have identified. This is a part of our "hard wiring." In the general day-to-day pattern matching, we do not follow the application of rigorously defined systems of logic that are requirements for mathematical proof. Instead, we attempt to make our observations fit the patterns we have already identified. Cognitively this leads to errors that arise from biases in our decision making processes.

The most common of these biases are:

The belief-bias where we use our established belief system almost exclusively. We believe something to be true so discount (or deny) those things which do not fit.

The confirmation bias where in an effort to support our hypothesis, we see only those things which confirm or support the hypothesis.

There are also illusory correlations that we create out of our belief that different and unrelated observations are actually related.

(Matlin, M.W. (2005) Cognition, (6th ed.) New York, NY:
John Wiley & Sons, Inc., pp 409 - 430)

Now that you have assumed the existence of a wardrobe closet. Where will this lead you? What patterns will you invoke? What landscape will you see? Will the mathematician's wardrobe imply yours? Or will yours imply the mathematicians?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

There's good science and...

then there's bad science. Through the application of bad science, I have determined that high blood pressure is caused by work. An insignificant amount of controlled experimentation and critical analysis were applied. are two of the children sleeping on their Uncle's lap. They're exhausted from their non-assistance during the determination.

And the big boy sitting up after checking out momma's new shoes.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Birds do it, Bees do it, even Babies do math

I'm copying the whole article from LiveScience here because it's short and I really want you all to read it. The author of the study, Elizabeth Brannon at Duke University, is my hero even if she thinks arithmetic is math. One of my fantasies is to go to Duke and study under her.

Like Monkeys, Babies Know Math
By Robert Roy Britt
LiveScience Managing Editor
posted: 13 February 200605:00 pm ET

After long suspecting we’re born with some math sense, researchers have shown infants indeed have some ability to count long before they can demonstrate it to Mom and Dad.

It turns out they’re not unlike grown monkeys.

In the study, seven-month-old babies were presented with the voices of two or three women saying "look." The infants could choose between looking at a video image of two or women saying the word or an image of three women saying it. The babies spent significantly more time looking at the image that matched the number of women talking.

“We conclude that the babies are showing an internal representation of 'two-ness' or 'three-ness' that is separate from sensory modalities and, thus, reflects an abstract internal process," said Elizabeth Brannon of Duke University.

Previous work with monkeys yielded similar findings.

"These results support the idea that there is a shared system between preverbal infants and nonverbal animals for representing numbers,” Brannon said.

Previous studies searching for this ability in human infants had failed, say Brannon and colleague Kerry Jordan, because the methods were inadequate.

The study, announced today, is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research is pursued in an effort to better understand the evolutionary origins of numerical ability and how that ability has developed in humans.

Now aren't you glad you read this?

Questions for anyone who hunts

I was listening to the news last night (always a bad idea) and the big deal after the snow storm was VP Cheney's hunting accident. Since I don't hunt and everything I know about guns can be summed up in two sentences - 1. They make really loud noises and, 2. Looking down the end that the bullet comes out is pretty scary - I have to ask two questions.

1. Do you usually hunt quail with buckshot? I'd think that would make a hash of the bird rendering it useless. This, of course, assumes that you're hunting the bird for food. If not, I guess it doesn't matter.

2. Since both people were wearing those bright orange vests and the area didn't look as if it were heavily wooded, wouldn't you look (notice?) before you blasted something/someone?

Just curious.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

It's snowing

More so south and east. Boston is getting hammered so the Boston news is going nutso and my regular Sunday morning program seems to be on hold. Can you imagine what would happen if we had an actual emergency. Oh wait...

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Which happy bunny are you?

_Jon over at We Swear posted this quiz. This is so me. LOL

kiss my ass2


You are the kiss my ass happy bunny.
You don't care about anyone or anything.
You must be so proud.

which happy bunny are you? brought to you by Quizilla

For your continued edification

I've added a new link to Machine Learning (Theory) under the Math heading. Very cool stuff. Today's post talks about Yahoo's learning problems. If you're interested in problems surrounding search engines, check it out.

This is after feeling really stupid. Ars Mathematica is asking "Who are you" and I made the mistake of reading the replies. *sigh* Note however, that this did not stop me from answering the question and asking one of my own.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

This is your brain on...

a Super Bowl ad. Interesting article at ZDNet. Take a look and follow the link to see the data and the brain scan images. A good way to end Super Bowl XL. (Sorry guys, but I didn't watch the Super Bowl or the ads or the half-time show.)

Personality Tests

Last semester I took a course entitled "Psychological Testing." The first part of the course covered how tests are created, verified, and scored. The rest of the course covered different types of tests. One of the things the professor did was have us take and score at least one of every type of test covered in the class. As a teaching tool, this worked rather well. For some of the "bigger" tests (with our permission), the professor provided us with a more detailed analysis of what our individual scores meant. This is how my life long dream of being a psychopathic deviant was crushed. The MMPI said I just wasn't going there. *grinning madly*

Tests designed to measure personality or different aspects of personality are a large part of the psychological testing venue. So I'm visiting over at Tammi's World and what do I see, but this post about The Five Factor Personality Test. (Hey, I almost made a sentence completely of links to other things! LOL) One of the best known personality tests is the Myers-Brigg Type Indicator or, scoring the same factors, the Keirsey Temperment Sorter. These tests are based on Jung's theories and produce four letter results that define a personality type (i.e., ESFJ, INTP, etc.). Briefly these tests score the person in four areas - introverted/extroverted, sensing/intuitive, thinking/feeling, judging/perceiving. These tests are used not only by psychologists, but also by businesses. I once worked for a company that had created a new position within the department. Everyone got to take the Myers-Briggs so that the company could decide on what personality type would best fit within the group. (I guess having the necessary job skills wasn't as important.) If you want to read more or want to take one of these tests, start with the Google page on Myers-Briggs.

So what does this have to do with The Five Factor Personality Test? Well....I took a look at it and it looks like a mini test that scores some of the same areas as the Myers-Briggs and Keirsey. Actually the questions are very similar. I wonder if the test writer has done any reliability and validity studies. *grin*

Did you know that a test can be reliable, but not valid (or valid, but not reliable)?
Just in case you care, I'm an INTJ. hehehe

Monday, February 06, 2006

Checking in (and bitching)

so you don't think I've died or done something equally as unsocial. Last week was a pain - I had insomnia every night. Not happy. Very crabby. The doctor has me on a diet to try to control high blood pressure and I'm not seeing any change. Not happy. Very crabby. The doctor hasn't got an answer to why I had chest pains so severe that I hied myself off to the ER on New Year's Eve. Not happy. Very crabby. Do not want to have to take medication for blood pressure. Not happy. Very crabby.

But....Saturday was wonderful. See The Mini Blog Meet over at my blog mama's. And I slept real good that night. Very happy.

Now I have to go play with the format on a paper that's due tomorrow. You'd think that having started life as an English major and spending a good part of 15 years writing for my job, that I could write this paper without a professor who is harping on using the college's published writing guide for the format. I went to the library, looked at the writing guide. Well sheesh, for psych papers it's just APA format. He couldn't say that???? Not happy. Very crabby.