Archive for the science Category

Solitude & Participation, the muses of creativity

Posted in art, film, literature, music, news, philosophy, pop culture, religion, science, tech, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on January 2, 2011 by Trip Jennings

This is a good refresher on creativity and how to stoke it. I found myself agreeing that the seemingly contradictory combo of solitude and participation are key to stirring up creativity. I do the participation thing. Reporting. Interacting online. Reading books, magazines, newspapers, blogs. The challenge in my world is finding time for solitude. Thanks to Kelly Brewer for posting it on Facebook.

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Creativity is a nebulous, murky topic that fascinates me endlessly — how does it work? What habits to creative people do that makes them so successful at creativity?

I’ve reflected on my own creative habits, but decided I’d look at the habits that others consider important to their creativity. I picked a handful of creatives, almost at random — there are so many that picking the best would be impossible, so I just picked some that I admire, who came to mind when I thought of the word “creative”.

This was going to be a list of their creative habits … but in reviewing their lists, and my own habits, I found one that stood out. And it stands out if you review the habits and quotes from great creative people in history.



Computers: Detecting heart disease and recognizing faces, they also gauge how you like a movie

Posted in film, philosophy, pop culture, science, tech, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on January 2, 2011 by Trip Jennings

The New York Times gives us an update on computerized video-cameras and what they’re doing across a wide swath of society.

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Daniel J. McDuff, a graduate student, stood in front of a mirror at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab. After 20 seconds or so, a figure — 65, the number of times his heart was beating per minute — appeared at the mirror’s bottom. Behind the two-way mirror was a Web camera, which fed images of Mr. McDuff to a computer whose software could track the blood flow in his face.

The software separates the video images into three channels — for the basic colors red, green and blue. Changes to the colors and to movements made by tiny contractions and expansions in blood vessels in the face are, of course, not apparent to the human eye, but the computer can see them.

“Your heart-rate signal is in your face,” said Ming-zher Poh, an M.I.T. graduate student. Other vital signs, including breathing rate, blood-oxygen level and blood pressure, should leave similar color and movement clues.


Making new connections, synaptic that is, in 2011

Posted in philosophy, science, Uncategorized on January 1, 2011 by Trip Jennings

Oliver Sacks reminds us of the power of the brain and its ability to adapt, to learn, in his NYT op-ed piece posted yesterday. It reminds me of something I’ve heard for decades now. The brain is like a muscle. The more you use it, and cross-train it at times, the stronger it becomes as it makes new connections. It’s something I’m storing away in my cerebral cortex as I start 2011. I’m thinking I gotta rewire some of my synapses this year. Maybe I’ll take up something new. I men I gotta keep this old brain o mine plastic.

Student protests open window into broader discussion

Posted in art, literature, music, news, philosophy, pop culture, religion, science, tech with tags , , on December 12, 2010 by Trip Jennings

I’ve not paid close attention to the recent protests in Britain beyond reading the headlines and marveling at the shocked faces of Prince Charles and Camilla as angry students attacked their car last week. But a couple of blog posts I read today, admittedly old posts, opened a window into the situation, at least for me. It’s a small window, from a distinct angle. Historical allusions to May 1968, of course, are on display, as is the contention that students are putting to use what they are learning in class. I’m always suspicious of such grand comparisons and pronouncements that students are making the move from theory to praxis. But I found the posts worth reading, not only for the on-the-ground observations but for suggesting ways to think about the protests. this one:

UPDATE: The first URL doesn’t lead you to the essay I read, so I’m posting the address again.


Physical v. metaphysical: where does consciousness (soul) lie?

Posted in literature, philosophy, pop culture, religion, science with tags , , , on December 11, 2010 by Trip Jennings

Where is human consciousness situated? Is there an incorporeal soul? Or is what we think as individual self-hood just synapses firing? These are questions John Morehead raises in a guest column for Religion Dispatches in which he uses AMC’s zombie TV show The Walking Dead as a starting point for a discussion.

For more than a century, and certainly in the past few decades, theologians and philosophers have debated how to integrate new neurological discoveries into theories of consciousness and the various theological attempts to refine the dualistic vision bequeathed to us by the ancients. The fight over where consciousness lies — in the physical or the metaphysical — is centuries old. (See Carl Zimmer’s wonderful book Soul Made Flesh.) Such questions are intriguing, which is one reason I enjoyed this column. Another reason: Morehead uses pop culture as an entre into a serious discussion.

Does WikiLeaks show us the limits of public space on Internet?

Posted in news, science, tech on December 8, 2010 by Trip Jennings

WikiLeaks and the documents it has made available to the media in recent days has set off a paroxysm of criticism and derision across the globe, inciting powerful entities — from the U.S. government to mighty corporations — to action.I’m not sure where I stand on WikiLeaks’ mission and how it plays out in the real world. My own experience has reinforced a belief that power comes with access to information. I also understand the importance of secrets, in certain circumstances. As we debate the merits or pitfalls of releasing so many secrets a parallel conversation is going on concerning WikiLeaks’ experience on the Internet, particularly vis-a-vis companies that control key gateways on the information highway. Here’s one perspective in that discussion. I’m interested to hear what others think.

Melville on getting past nihilism

Posted in literature, religion, science on December 6, 2010 by Trip Jennings

Here’s a good read from The Stone, the forum for philosophy brought to us by the good people who give us the Opinionator blog at the New York Times. It’s a worthwhile read, just to tease out the inherent tensions the author is getting at. The author touches on a lot of crosscurrents I’ve spent the last few years thinking about given my background, this point in history and the diverse world in which I find myself living.