In the News 06.08.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


In the News 06.08.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 06.08.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 06.08.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

How The Ice Age Shaped New York

A view from Green-Wood Cemetery, near Battle Hill, which is Brooklyn’s highest spot.CreditGeorge Etheredge for The New York Times

At the start of the last ice age, 2.6 million years ago, a sheet of frozen water formed atop North America that kept expanding and thickening until it reached a maximum depth of roughly two miles.

At its southern edge, the vast body deposited tons of rocky debris — from sand and pebbles to boulders the size of school buses. Then, some 18,000 years ago, the planet began to warm and the gargantuan sheet of ice began to melt and retreat.

Today, the southernmost edge of that frozen expanse is marked by a line of rubble that extends across the northern United States for thousands of miles. The largest deposits form what geologists call a terminal moraine.

The intermittent ridge runs from Puget Sound to the Missouri River to Montauk Point on Long Island, forming the prominence that supports its old lighthouse. The ancient sheet of ice also left its mark on a very modern phenomenon: New York City.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

Has Consciousness Lost Its Mind?


Start with Noam Chomsky, Deepak Chopra, and a robot that loves you no matter what. Add a knighted British physicist, a renowned French neuroscientist, and a prominent Australian philosopher/occasional blues singer. Toss in a bunch of psychologists, mathematicians, anesthesiologists, artists, meditators, a computer programmer or two, and several busloads of amateur theorists waving self-published manuscripts and touting grand unified solutions. Send them all to a swanky resort in the desert for a week, supply them with lots of free coffee and beer, and ask them to unpack a riddle so confounding that it’s unclear how to make progress or where you’d even begin.

Then just, like, see what happens.

The cover of the program for the Science of Consciousness conference, held recently in Tucson, shows a human brain getting sucked into (or perhaps rising from?) a black hole. That seems about right: After a week of listening to eye-crossingly detailed descriptions of teeny-tiny cell structures known as microtubules, along with a lecture about building a soundproof booth in order to chat with the whispery spirit world, you too would feel as if your neurons had been siphoned from your skull and launched deep into space.

Oh, by the way, attendees could also take a gong bath, during which you’re bathed in the musical vibrations of a gong being struck. Or lie down in a curiously unsupervised and unstable-looking sensory-deprivation chamber. Or take a black-light yoga class, which involves — as the name suggests — doing yoga in a room illuminated by black light accompanied by a DJ pumping out frenetic techno beats. Meanwhile, a company offered demos of a brain-stimulation device that had to be inserted way too far up one nostril. And an enthusiastic fellow demonstrated his Spontaneous Postural Alignment technique, in which a misaligned subject’s elbow is tapped with a gold medallion while the healer intones, “boy-yoi-yoing.”

Please note: This is a bona fide academic conference, put on by the University of Arizona under the aegis of its Center for Consciousness Studies. There were plenaries, concurrent talks, a keynote, lanyards, bag lunches, a sense of initial giddiness that gives way to acute information overload resulting in a desire never to leave your hotel room again. I took copious notes. I nodded thoughtfully. I pocketed the complimentary tea bags. I witnessed adults with terminal degrees utterly defeated by Microsoft PowerPoint.

So, in that sense, it was a normal conference.

Read the rest of this article at: Chronicle of Higher Education

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The 9 Lives of Katt Williams

I began by asking a simple question. And yet a question Katt Williams couldn’t answer: How old are you?

It’s not that he wouldn’t answer, he told me, but that he couldn’t. Because he doesn’t have an actual age. We’d already been together for the better part of two days, and by now I knew he meant this literally.

Evening was coming on in Miami, and we were, the two of us, shut in his assistant’s bedroom in a suite at the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne. Williams was pacing, orbiting the room like a shark. He was wearing a baseball hat. He was wearing pool slides. He was holding a Newport that maybe he’d smoke soon.

Outside, a storm had moved up the coast, and all we could hear from the window now was a whisper of surf.

But the Internet, I told him, says you’re 46.

“Please don’t get any of your information from Wikipedia, sir,” he replied crisply.

I can understand it if Katt Williams feels like he can’t trust the Internet. It’s part of a whole sociocultural-legal infrastructure that he feels isn’t interested in understanding the truth, or him. Katt Williams, you should know, is a comic icon. Have you seen Pimp Chronicles Part 1? Or Part 2? Or his new Netflix special? Have you been to one of his thousands of shows in the past decade or so? If you have, you know that Katt became a legend without broadening or diluting himself to become more “mainstream,” which is unusual. But if you look for Katt Williams on the Internet, what you’ll mostly find are stories of weird and purportedly criminal shit he’s done, as well as a lot of people searching “Is Katt Williams still alive?”

As for his age, he told me he grew up in a religion that does not celebrate birthdays, so he didn’t keep track. When I asked what that religion is, he told me that’s not the point.

So what was the point?

“The brain,” he said, “is more like a computer than we now understand.”

He tried to explain it to me: When you tell your brain what age you are, it makes your body be that age. Ah, okay, I said, so it’s like: Age ain’t nothing but a number? Katt Williams stopped pacing and gave me a look. A look that said: You, who cling desperately to the very instruments designed for your imprisonment, are just a limited, blinkered piece of sentient meat.

“I am the ageless one,” he said.

And do you know what? I believed him. And it was clear that he believed him, too.

“That’s why I can still run a 4.1 40-yard dash right now, no stretching, in street clothes, and yet maybe [smoking] like a chimney at the same time.”

He looked at me.

“I lead,” he said, “an experimental existence.” And by now I no longer questioned whether that was true.

Read the rest of this article at: GQ

Katt Williams-01

Sometimes You Have To Quit To Get Ahead

We’ve all heard the saying: “Winners never quit, and quitters never win.”

But what if we’ve been looking at quitting all wrong? What if, rather than a step backward, quitting with intention can be a way to leap toward your goals?

Enter “strategic quitting,” a seemingly counterintuitive approach to helping you free up more time, money and energy for the things that matter. (Another way to look at this: learning the power of “no.”)

Let’s say you want to write a book. That’s a monstrous, energy-consuming undertaking that, in all likelihood, will require you to “quit” your other creative pursuits or hobbies, according to Mark Manson, author of “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a —-.”

“What I give up when I’m writing a book is creativity in other arenas,” Mr. Manson said. “I have a limited amount of creative juice to use each day,” so writing a book gets the majority of that creativity quota.

The author Seth Godin, in his book “The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick),” maintains that winners are smart quitters who quit often, like when they realize their current path and decisions cannot get them any farther toward their goal. Cutting their losses allows winners to reallocate their time and energy to the things that do continue to move them forward, he said.

“It’s better to just start the things that you know you have the resources to finish. You don’t want to be surprised by the hard parts, you want to expect the hard parts,” Mr. Godin said. “The challenge we have is how we’re going to find the effort and the resources to break through.”

Zeroing in on something is key, but that intense level of commitment can be rare in our time of endless external stimulation. (When was the last time you “quit” your phone for a week, let alone a day, solely to focus on your passions?) In fact, researchers from the University of Adelaide explored the very idea that we have a hard time walking away from the myriad options in front of us, especially when the payoff is unknown.

In the experiment, 32 participants played a computer game and were asked to repeatedly pick one out of nine possible doors to enter. Each door participants chose to enter and explore rewarded them with a variable amount of treasure, which determined their compensation. But in some versions of this game, doors that were left unopened eventually disappeared. Under this condition, researchers observed that participants were willing to forgo a bigger reward to keep those options viable.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Tork Times

What Time Feels Like When You’re Improvising


Don’t look at the clock! Now tell me: How much time has passed since you first logged on to your computer today? Time may be a property of physics, but it is also a property of the mind, which ultimately makes it a product of the brain. Time measures out and shapes our lives, and how we live our lives in turn affects how we perceive the passage of time. Your sense of time is malleable and subjective—it changes in response to changing contexts and input, and it can be distorted when the brain is damaged, or affected by drugs, disease, sleep deprivation, or naturally altered states of consciousness. However, a new set of neuroscience research findings suggests that losing track of time is also intimately bound up with creativity, beauty, and rapture.

Time is most commonly manipulated by the kinds of things we do to fill it. When our minds are under-stimulated, time often feels like it is moving in slow motion, as in the scene in The Simpsons where Bart is made to lick envelopes for Principal Skinner all afternoon and groans when the clock starts ticking backward. On the other hand, when we are fully engaged, especially in the kind of “flow state” familiar to artists, athletes, and other top performers, our sense of time appears to speed up, or even to disappear entirely.

Many people describe being “enchanted” or “transfixed” when watching a live performance or viewing their favorite work of art. For example, when exploring the European paintings section of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I enter into a kind of dissociated, transcendent state, which many people report experiencing. All of our cares and worries disappear and time seems to stand still or fade away as we become lost in the world of the story, or work of art, or the virtuosity of the performer. This loss of time-awareness mirrors the process occurring in the brains of the performers or artists while they create.

During what psychologists call “flow states,” where one is completely immersed and absorbed in a mental or physical act, people often report an altered sense of time, place, and self. It’s a transportive and pleasurable experience that people seek to achieve, and that neuroscience is now seeking to understand. A great example of flow state is found in many improvised art forms, from music to acting to comedy to poetry, also known as “spontaneous creativity.” Improvisation is a highly complex form of creative behavior that justly inspires our awe and admiration. The ability to improvise requires cognitive flexibility, divergent thinking and discipline-specific skills, and it improves with training.

Not surprisingly, the frontal regions of the brain that have been shown to be involved in time perception and impulse control are also involved in spontaneous creativity. Improvisation appears to take place in an altered state of mind/brain, and studies of the neural mechanisms of musical improvisation have identified a network of prefrontal brain regions linked to improvisation. The creative act of improvisation, at least in the musical realm, appears to be a result of changing patterns of activity in two key areas of the prefrontal cortex (PFC).

Read the rest of this article at: Nautilus

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.

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