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Life & Philosophy Psychology Science

Information is the sum of parts

The brain is just a collection of tangled wires with neuron connectivity levels. We call its output ‘information’ because we need some way of describing chemical synchronicity.

The computer works the same way.

On the inside, it’s a collection of chips and wires with various voltage levels. What we see on screen is what we label as information.

Information is the same name we give to brain chemicals and computer voltage to describe the organized chaos.

The squalor is why it works.

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Life & Philosophy Science

We can redesign our brain

“Who you are depends on what your neurons are up to, moment by moment,” writes David Eagleman in his book The Brain: The Story of You.

The classical textbook tells us that our brains are immutable after a certain age, that in fact, our neurocognitive code is set in place right after our teens.

But today’s neuroscience studies show that the mind remains forever elastic. By staying challenged and interested in new experiences, we can plant even more brain cells and make even more connections.

Writes Sharon Begley in Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain:

William James, the father of experimental psychology in the United States, first introduced the word plasticity to the science of the brain, positing in 1890 that “organic matter, especially nervous tissue, seems endowed with a very extraordinary degree of plasticity.”

Sharon Begley, Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain

It’s therefore vital that the information we choose to digest and how we categorize it ameliorate the brain’s flexibility rather than deteriorate it.

We may be born with a set number of preconditions, but that will never account for what we can gain from trial and error. Neuroplasticity ensures that we can redesign our brains as we wish.

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Psychology Science Video

What your thoughts look like

To be in your own thoughts — language, like headphones, delivers a sense of privacy.

Of course, no thinking is linear. Neurons are always crashing into each other, trying to connect and build new avenues of ideas. The whole of brain waves is greater than the sum of its parts.

Neurons that fire together, wire together

But knowledge presents a key constraint in the gobbling of information — it requires a dishwasher of synthesis to make even more sense of the apparent world.

What’s most dizzying is experiencing nothing. Whatever your neurons are up to this very moment determines what you do next.

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Life & Philosophy Science

Clear now, confused tomorrow

We have to think and talk our way through things in order to get a grip on past expressions.

Unless we can pin down our thoughts to exactitude, we have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and confused.

And that’s ok. Forced familiarity breeds forgetfulness — the attrition of synaptic connections is a function of memory.

Part of escaping the pinning is to remind ourselves why we believed in anything in the first place.

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Arts Life & Philosophy Science

The flashes of the arts

If at first we emulate, then we originate.

Thankfully, our bad memories serve a grand purpose in helping us forget most of what we learn. But then the urge of discovery restarts, leaving us compelled to relearn our sense of wonder.

Life is not a rote study course.

We’ll all be remembered not for what we copied but whatever we did differently.

The role of any artist is to adopt a
system of experimentation that is open to chance encounter and new ideas.

There is a tendency amongst creators to make things for the purpose of instant gratification.

These pieces and posts may get likes but they are consumed and quickly forgotten like the fast fashion of Forever 21.

We sculpt perception through our own diligent work.

Categories
Creativity Productivity & Work Science

Eureka moments are a myth 💡

In 1726, an Apple dropped from a tree and hit the elder physicist Isaac Newton on the head.  It was then he discovered insight into gravity. Or so the story goes. 

In reality, he had already done a lot of his thinking while staring at the surrounding apple trees. Newton’s friend and biographer William Stukeley wrote: “Occasion’d by the fall of an apple, as he sat in contemplative mood.” 

We polish stories, embellish them, so they’re more memorable and thus more shareable. To quote librarian Keith Moore, the Newton story is “an 18th-century sound bite.”

There is no such thing as a Eureka moment. Light-bulb moments arise because we’ve already spent a long time thinking about them and letting the subconscious do its work.

It’s no surprise that big ideas seem to happen in dull moments when we’re in the shower or doing the dishes. Ideas also come to us during rest. A resting mind still hungers for stimulation because creativity is always awake.

This is also why planning unscheduled time is so vital to the work process. We have to get out of our own heads so we can think with more clarity.

Eureka moments are a myth. They occur when we’re thinking without thinking. The right ‘creative’ brain is always on. It splits duties with the left brain to interpret various phenomena.

Categories
Psychology Science

Tips for boosting your memory and brain power

If you’re looking to boost your memory and brain power, this video contains some excellent tips and reminders.

In summary:

  • Exercise. Physical exercise helps form new brain cells and solidifies existing neurons. It also increases the hippocampus brain area which is responsible for memory and learning.
  • Never stop learning. Learning something new builds new brain cells. In fact, parts of your brain shrink when you stop learning. Be a life-long learner!
  • Play music. Learning to play music stimulates your verbal memory. This is because music training improves your left temporal lobe.
  • Use Mnemonics. Associate new information with a shortcut of memorable images, sentences, or simple words. Also, try the Acrostic and Mind Palace techniques. The more you can combine words with images, the stronger your brainpower. Keep in mind what Einstein said about creativity.
  • Gain new experiences. Do small things like eating with your weaker hand to stimulate more connections between areas of your brain. Such practice also strengthens nerve cells and ward off the negative impact of aging.
  • Try brain games. You can also work out your brain with puzzles, crosswords, or Sudoku. Playing brain games improves cognition and keeps surviving neurons active.
  • Eat omega-rich foods. Your brain needs omega-3 fatty acids to function at its optimal level.
  • Challenge your brain. It’s vital to do small tasks like practicing math skills so you don’t outsource all your thinking to computers.

Above all, stay mentally active by engaging in mental stimulation. That does not mean chasing the nearest dopamine hit. Do any of the above tips on a daily basis instead.

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Science Video

The persistence of memory

What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.

Carl Sagan, from the Cosmos episode “The Persistence of Memory”
Categories
Creativity Science

‘Grab a leash and take your thoughts for a walk.’

Said Henry David Thoreau, “Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.”

Walking boosts creativity. If you ever get stuck in a creative rut, science shows that you should go for a stroll to get your endorphins moving.

As learning scientist Marily Oppezzo notes in her TED presentation below, walking generates twice the ideas. Even if you walk and then sit, your mind will continue to generate novelty.

But you can’t just walk forever, nor should you run. You should discuss your ideas out loud; the good ones will stick around. If you really want to remember everything discussed, record the thinking session on your phone.

So, how do you walk and brainstorm?

Says Oppezzo:

  1. Pick a problem/topic for brainstorm
  2. Walk at a comfortable pace WHILE you are brainstorming
  3. Generate as many ideas a you can
  4. Speak and record your ideas
  5. Cap your time

The chair-based lifestyle is not only killing us, but it’s also stifling good ideas. Go for a walk to freshen up your pattern of thinking.

Categories
Science

The blurry black hole photo

In the New Republic, writer Matt Ford rightly argues why we should be in awe of the blurry photo of the black hole. It’s not about the picture as much as the effort in went in to capturing it. Context is king.

This level of cynicism is better understood as ignorance. The image itself might indeed seem unimpressive. But judging it as you would any other digital photograph, shorn of all context and understanding, would be shortsighted. One also has to consider the thought and labor behind its creation. The photograph might not depict the horror of galactic destruction as some expected, but it represents something even better.

In other words, the photo should not just be consumed and forgotten like every other piece of digital (re: social) media. The image of the black hole is an artifact.

Think about it: A group of mostly hairless primates, stranded on a rock circling a nuclear spark, used radio waves to photograph an invisible sun-eater so far away that a person would have to travel for 55 million years at the speed of light to reach it. It’s hard to not feel a frisson of awe at the scale of the feat. This context is vital to fully appreciating the image itself, in the same way that the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling is even more impressive when you know that Michelangelo spent three years of his adult life bent over backwards to paint it.

Read In Defense of the Blurry Black Hole Photo