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Mind/brain science in words and pictures

“Our minds are a playground far more compelling and engaging than the most expensive toys and computer games.” J Barth, 1998

The physical sciences provides us with the tools to explain the properties of all sorts of material like glass, metals, concrete, cement, wood, plastics. It is possible to understand why some materials are flexible, or strong, or transparent or hard, or super thin based on infrastructures like how atoms line up or crystal structures.

Similarly, mind/brain science provides us with some of the tools that allow us to explore and explain who we are, how we have evolved, our capabilities and limitations our responses to the world around us, the complex interplay of our genetics and life experiences. This website provides snapshots, stories, research reports, ideas, notes,  and musings about our brains in action. Also included in this personal science journal and diary are ongoing projects and collaborations with mind/brain scientists. While mind/brain science is of interest to many of us the application of what we have learned about how we function can be useful as applied to facets of our lives and is also the subject of many of the postings on this site.

No story or project is ever complete. New research knowledge will be added to existing posts. 

All postings are accessible by activating the buttons on the banner of the site. The most recent postings are listed to the right of this web page. Recent postings also include my log and diary and a preview of upcoming postings along with a synopsis of recently posted stories.

The website content includes; fiction stories; news clips of recent science findings, short and long science reports and projects. More details about the varieties of content can be seen on the ‘about’ page of the website.

You can search for any website content using the search button much like the find command on your computer word processor. Enter a key word that you are interested and you will find content that is pertinent.

To learn more about the site’s structure and content click on the about button.

I need your help. I am generally ‘in the dark’ when it comes to having a sense of how well this website works. It takes a good time and effort to keep this website alive and updated with new material.

Please note this website is a work in progress and therefore undergoes constant reversion. So…Please share your thoughts, reactions, critique of the website content. I will of course ‘listen’ and value what you have to say. Please use the email address mindsinresponse@gmail.com for your comments.

 

 

 

Diary/log of questions, thoughts, ideas for further consideration

Diary/log of questions, thoughts, ideas for further consideration

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A log of questions, thoughts, ideas, reactions to developing science and life events. Reflecting on how I work in a world of uncertainty, doubts, small victories and defeats and the awe of being alive.

5 May 2014:Nonsense is a powerful ingredient in determining how we live our lives.

How do you get rid of knowledge that is a toxic gift (in German gift means poison) that keeps on giving? I have written about this before and the theme is never put to bed. We individually and in groups often make decisions based on nonsense, knowledge, beliefs, attitudes that are myths rather truths based on evidence to support what we know. That would not be bad enough but it is our well-nourished bull that is often the strongest knowledge we use in making decisions and solving problems. Worse yet, well-established baloney never goes bad and prevents us from acquiring knowledge based on a foundation of evidence.

I suppose the real gold mine of phony baloney knowledge is reflected in the stories we tell ourselves and others about who we are.

A first cognitive cousin of our propensity to use false knowledge is our recurrent overused irrational mind set. While we are capable of logical, rationale, reasoned, reflective thinking we are just capable of conjuring up absurd thinking that doesn’t even measure up as good comedy.

All of that is obvious but what is not clear is how our rational and irrational beings live side by side under the same skin and what are the conditions that make our different ‘voices’ move to center stage. Some factors like stressors can move us from thoughtful to unreflective thinking but that is just one element in this puzzle of our multiple cognitive lives.

6 May 2014: Surround yourself with the smart ones

Work with people that can teach us what we don’t know, people that are successful, people who have something to offer. Don’t leap in to rescue the chronic underperformers among us. You don’t need the superhero rescuer role to enhance your image. I am often reminded of the adage that when playing tennis play with someone who is a bit better than you are, someone who will beat you most of the time. The same scenario is just as applicable in a work setting.

6 May 2014: You can’t solve everything

It is hard to give up, to admit, we can’t solve what we thought was solvable.  Sometimes it is stupid to keep trying to solve the unsolvable, unless of course you find it entertaining. Maybe we think we are superheroes the kind that can walk on water.

7 May 2014: Kids must learn early to work hard and enjoy the challenge

You can fill trucks with the research reports, articles, position papers on the ‘crisis’ in American education. Many types of interventions and initiatives’ are underway to correct what is believed to be the reasons why our schools fail our children. Everyone who has ever gone to school along with all sorts of experts (like developmentalists, neuroscientists, sociologists, anthropologists) have something to say on the subject. I have written several postings on this website and what I have to say seems to be totally inadequate.

One movement that continues to gain speed are initiatives’ that come from folks who live outside the traditional education community. Programs like forms of charter schools based on innovative curriculum and recruitment of non-traditional teachers (Teach for America), have made some significant contributions, innovations, in making schools more effective. These initiatives are evident all over the US and are supported by a very wide array of both public and private institutions (Walton Family Fund, Gates Foundation, Dell Computer Corp., Eli Broad insurance companies).

One innovative theme that continues to gain traction is teaching kids executive function skills (like planning, self-evaluation, budgeting cognitive resources. The methods used to teach executive cognitive functions in kids as young as preschoolers, have been explored in the laboratory by a growing number of neuroscientists such as Adele Diamond (see postings on this website) and what has been learned has been incorporated in charter schools such those run KIPP.

One more issue that has become unnecessarily divisive is the movement towards ‘rigorous’ standardized testing of basic skills in elementary schools around the country. Often parents complain that it puts unnecessary and harmful stress on their kids, and that teachers teach kids to perform well in these tests, and that even teachers feel stressed out since their performance evaluations are often based on the success of their students on these standardized tests. While the tests may not be as well designed as they should be and that test performance stress certainly does not make kids happy it is one more imperfect step in trying to improve educational performance which also means that kids have to learn to work harder and not necessarily be constantly entertained in the classroom.

4 June 14: Back from trip, jet lagged and still not able to hear my own voice over the din of others telling me all sorts of stuff. Love the expression “They say…..” Who are they anyway?  All I have to do is not listen “they” have hired a really good master crafter of info commercial and then I can’t adjust the volume of that programming.

But isn’t this issue of following your own voice a universal problem for many? Isn’t dwelling on this issue playing a role in a cliche? We may not be unique but our discomfort seems to take on a life of its own.

11 June 14: More back, back in the USA after biking through Belgium and Holland, from Bruges to Amsterdam.

No, unlike Bruce Weber I didn’t bike across the US and I could not do that but looking back and from a twisted angle feel pretty good about 30+ miles a day especially the first biking days in the cold, wind, rain and hail. I can still hear the squish, squish, squish sounds coming from my cold water logged sneakers and so be it. Coming back to Webber and his bike feat across our nation …what I really found so very engaging was his voice, the way he can tell the reader how connected and appreciative he was of all the sensations around him, the feel of the hills, the heat, the scary trucks that almost drove him off the road but especially his total appreciation of the people he met along the way. What was most inspiring about the book is his commitment to living the moment and his knack of sharing his experience with the reader. The lack of homogenized bullshit was stunning to me.

And then, after the biking and after Amsterdam it was back to where I was born, Flehingen, in Baden-Württemberg and Wolfgang Schoenfeld the archivist, historian that documented what happened to my family and the other Jews of the village. Amazing, stunning, and a mix of deadly emotions and questions, how did we all make it? His daughter Eva and her family lives in Flehingen and from her backyard I can see ours the once ours, the one left behind in 1939. It is all amazing and how can it not be that and more.

Which then reminds me that without some help from brave decent people we would not have made it out of 1939 Krautland. I am trying to write about resilience but it falls so far short of what makes sense that I perceive my efforts of as a cross between a joke and black humor. Without the decent ones around we would drown …..a lesson that gets played out over and over.

13 June 2014: Listening to your inner voice….that is what I said in my interview with Brandon ? in Bryant Park. The interview and my picture went all over the internet. and while my family and friends liked the ‘story’ while I was reasonably happy that I came off the way I thought fit who I was and what I thought. So, when it comes to listening and responding to what is meaningful to you is right on being able to manage that is not easy especially when we are stressed and running scared and super vigilant, conditions that are all too familiar to me.

21 June 2014: Hit a wall. The art work has fallen into a sink hole. I repeat myself and that is deadly, same patterns, colors, no new ideas. The book by Bruce Weber on biking across America was a fabulous treat. The guy is a alive and the biking experience brings out all of the ingredients that are necessary for having great breath control…..noticing what is surrounds you, tasting it all and most of all engaging with the people you meet and of course paying appreciative attention to our inner voice.

I need to get back on my bike. A rut need not be forever and I guess in the end, good things can come of it.

July 25, 2014: The Kahnemann book on fast and slow thinking is wonderful and well worth a read by anyone interested in all sorts of issues involving people. His point of view, two broadly defined kinds of thinking are most valuable in thinking about successful and unsuccessful cognitive outcomes.