October 31, 2010

A theory of punctuation.

Laurie Anderson's theory of punctuation is that "instead of a period at the end of each sentence, there should be a tiny clock that shows how long it took you to write that sentence".

October 29, 2010

Subtitle of the year!

"Go ahead, reverse them."

Supposedly, a prefiguration of the spin echo was rejected by Boltzmann, who, when told that a system that had recently departed from non-equilibrium conditions could be returned to such conditions by reversing all the particle velocities, responded with: "Go ahead, reverse them."

Some years later, Erwin Hahn showed that we could do just that.

October 28, 2010


A followup on funding for Alzheimer's Disease research: Our understanding is that for the 2011-2012 fiscal year, the National Institute on Aging, which funds most Alzheimer's Disease research in the United States, is predicted to have a "payline" of three percent, meaning that 97% of all research grant applications in this area will not be funded.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall...

MIT graduate student Ming-Zher Poh has developed a mirror that reads your pulse rate:

Spare a(nother) penny? Or two?

Just one sentence from "The Age of Alzheimer's" by the Hon. Sandra Day O'Connor, Dr. Stanley Prusiner, and Dr. Ken Dychtwald, from the Op-Ed page of today's New York Times:
"As things stand today, for each penny the National Institutes of Health spends on Alzheimer’s research, we spend more than $3.50 on caring for people with the condition."

October 27, 2010

Mid-week dog-blogging!

[Backyard, 10/19/10. With thanks to Dr. L. for propelling the ball that was caught in mid-air.]

October 26, 2010

"m" is for "memory"

"Analgesia" is the reduction or elimination of pain; "amnalgesia" (which we admit is pretty much an obsolete word) is the reduction or elimination of pain and the memory of pain.

October 25, 2010

October 22, 2010

October 21, 2010

What do alginate beads have to do with brain motion?

This is a brief note about an odd footnote in a thoughtful paper.

In a "Technical Note" last year in NeuroImage entitled "Functional imaging of the human superior colliculus: An optimized approach", Matthew B. Wall, Robin Walker, and Andrew T. Smith cite a 1992 paper by D. Poncelet et al., entitled "Production of alginate beads by emulsification/internal gelation".

Why? Well, presumably because they meant to cite the 1992 paper by B.P. Poncelet et al., on "Brain parenchyma motion: measurement with cine echo-planar MR imaging".

Same year, same first-author surname, but otherwise, rather different.

[Yes, people really do read citations!]

October 20, 2010

Do jewels make it faster?

We've seen road bikes with components that are drilled (to remove material in order to reduce weight), but never before one that's drilled and bejeweled.

[The full page devoted to that 16.4 lb drilled & bejewelled beauty from 1974 is here.]

October 15, 2010

The most pressing question of our time?

"The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge."

Daniel J. Boorstin (1914 – 2004)

I respectfully submit that the greatest puzzle of our time is how we managed to eliminate ignorance while elevating nonsense.

If I ask you, say, how old Buddy Holly was when he died, then, using the same device you are using now to read this, you can find the answer to that question. You cannot not know how old Buddy Holly was when he died, once you've been asked, because getting the answer is just a matter of touching your smartphone or tablet or laptop or what have you the right way, and the answer will be yours.

So, we have, in a sense, eliminated ignorance. But how is it then that there so much nonsense? How is it then, that a substantial fraction of the population believes that our President's religion, or birthplace, or even nationality, are different than the truth? How does such nonsense thrive?

Dear NeuroCooking friends, I do not have an answer. I just think this is perhaps the most interesting – and pressing – question of our time. How is it that we have, simultaneously, managed to eliminate ignorance while elevating nonsense?

October 13, 2010

October 12, 2010

On rails?

That blue icon – it indicates the transit option on google maps – is it a train, or a streetcar?

Not that it matters in our neighborhood, because google maps doesn't know about the DC Metro system. Busses, yes; Metrorail, no. Google won't put you on a train.

Look what happens when you ask for directions from the Bethesda to the Grosvenor stations. That's five minutes on the Red Line – but google puts you on a bus for more than half an hour:

Maybe they should use an icon of a bus, if that's what they mean.

[Not that we mind busses; we rode the 31 & the 33 today.]

Photo-blogging autumnal blossoming, IV.

Same rose, different day. Make that night.

[A little before 9 PM last night, by the light of a pocket flashlight – i.e., a D700 camera with 'micro' 60 mm f/2.8 lens in my right hand, & a Fenix LD01 in my left hand. 1/60 s, f/8, ISO 1600.]

October 11, 2010

Photo-blogging autumnal blossoming, III.

Same rose, different day:

[Backyard yesterday, 10:33 AM. 60mm f/2.8 'micro' lens on D700 camera; 1/160 s, f/8, ISO 1600.]

October 9, 2010

Photo-blogging autumnal blossoming, continued.

[Backyard, 6:36 PM. 60mm f/2.8 'micro' lens on D700 camera; 1/80 s, f/6.3, ISO 12,800.]

October 7, 2010

Everyday time dilation.

Einstein showed that time is relative. Maybe you've heard of the twin paradox? That is a thought experiment, in which someone who goes on a high-speed rocket journey returns to Earth younger than their stay-behind twin.

Well, time dilation has been well-demonstrated, but generally only at fairly high speeds; we've never thought of it as something that's relevant or detectable in everyday experience (for those of us who don't ride rocket-ships).


In a recent paper in Science, researchers at NIST used novel "optical clocks" to detect time dilation at everyday speeds, and, perhaps most spectacularly, due to one foot of elevation: They showed that their clocks can be used to detect the difference in the rate of passage of time due to a change in one foot in elevation with respect to the gravitational field of the earth!

October 5, 2010

Photo-blogging autumnal blossoming!

A back-yard rosebush has brought forth an autumnal bud.

[Photo: 5:40 PM today]

Photo-blogging autumnal blossoming: Whoops!

We were out back, trying to shoot our autumnal rosebud, and at one point we "squeezed one off" just to confirm that the off-camera flash was actually firing, and we got this:

[Yes, those are heptagons.]

October 1, 2010

"To move forward..."

Last night we braved the downpour (sans umbrellas, per Secret Service) to attend a very special evening event at Constitution Hall. The featured musical guest was B.o.B:

And the featured speaker was President Obama:

"To move forward, you put the car in D – To move backwards, you put the car in R."

[Photos are our own (more here), taken with a Ricoh GX100. Because the invitation said "small cameras okay", we did not want to risk bringing a camera that might not be considered "small".]


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