Archive for the ‘ Cognitive Science ’ Category

Aliens are Just Like Us — Lazy

If extra-terrestial life is so probable given the amount of planets there are in the universe, then why haven’t we (SETI) made contact with any?

The answer is simple to Geoffrey Miller of SEED magazine, he says we’re lazy and so are the aliens (link). In a nutshell, he claims we’ve become so interested in virtual technology and self-stimulation that we’ve lost the “cosmic plot” and the motivation to search.

-Posted by Tyler

Note. I had scheduled an appointment to go skydiving over spring break but the weather thwarted me, rather than rescheduling, I got an iPod. Call me lazy.

Understanding the Brain

TIME magazine has a nice interactive feature about the various and oft parallel attempts to understand the brain. Ancient beliefs (e.g. trephination), to Anatomy (Phineas Gage), to Psychology’s contributions, to Disorders and Neuroscience are all included.


-Posted by Tyler

Photic Sneezers

I am a photic sneezer and so is my mother, 1 in 4 people are like us because they sneeze when exposed to bright light. Langer, Beeli, and Jancke (2010) published what they say is the first scientific examination of photic sneezers in the open-access peer-reviewed journal, Public Library of Science (PLoS).

The authors used electroencephalogram (EEG) to compare photic sneezers’ brain activity to a control group. They found

“enhanced excitability of the visual cortex (mainly in the cuneus) to visual stimuli in ‘photic sneezers’ compared with control subjects,” and “a stronger prickling sensation in the nose of photic sneezers was found to be associated with activation in the insula and stronger activation in the secondary somatosensory cortex.”

A photic sneeze has been assumed to be a reflex, however with this new evidence showing cortical activation, this type of sneezing cannot be categorized as a ‘classical reflex,’ or one that originates in the brain stem or spinal cord.

-Posted by Tyler

Roxxxy True Companion’s Uncanny Valley

I’ll admit it, I was reading about Roxxxy TrueCompanion on Slate (link). The most interesting thing in the article was not about this new sex robot though, but rather it was its reference to Masohiro Mori’s Uncanny Valley hypothesis. The uncanny valley hypothesis states that we are more empathetic toward robots (or other non-human-entities) as they become more human-like — but only to a point. When robots become nearly human, but just a little bit off or not exactly right, our empathy towards them drops off… into the uncanny valley (see figure after the break, you’ll notice zombies make an appearance at the valley’s nadir). Naturally, one might wonder why the valley exists at all.  Continue reading