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  • 310122.1718

     

    Cognitive neuroscientist V. S. Ramachandran's Tell-Tale Brain is an exceptional walk through the modular elements of brain structures that appear to regulate or promote syntax, metaphor, grammar, parts of what we label as language. By deciphering anomalistic behaviors in distinct properties of language correlated to minute parts of the brain, he comes close to proving what linguists have theorized about for decades: The human brain comes wired with language's capabilities. This neuroscientist adds forensic linguist to his titles; he combines both Pinker's and Chomsky's separate, complimentary theories as well a few others into a larger holistic one built on the available structural data. That's merely the first part of the book. What Ramachandran does once he has these pieces is to launch a two pronged adventure. Magellan cubed. First he searches for the missing link in early consciousness: when did the brain 'switch' on this language ability? Secondly he extends these brain structures into visuals. Humans are visual thinkers that enabled verbal language to communicate with. Ramachandran explores how this language 'ability' with its origins in separate parts of the brain, first operated using images the eye sees and the brain memorizes. His eureka is that humans assemble visual information, like spoken language, with properties of syntax, semantic, grammar and metaphor. His careful observations add to the book's self-awareness (he notices in the east an integration between image and context and a disintegration in the west).  He closes his book with a treatise on how visual art operates, and as a lure I've included a taste below, his 9 laws of aesthetics.. A groundbreaking highly readable book.

     Ramachandran's 9 Laws of Aesthetics (from The Tell Tale Brain)

    1. Grouping

    2. Peak Shift

    3. Contrast

    4. Isolation

    5. Peekaboo, or perceptual problem solving

    6. Abhorrence of coincidences

    7. Orderliness

    8. Symmetry

    9. Metaphor

    Below, Ramachandran's mirror-box. A device to help amputees alleviate 'phantom' pain in phantom limbs.

  • 310117.1111

    "The public doesn't demand anything...it is only after a thing is created that the public demands it."

    Sid Grauman, Hollywood's first exhibitor impresario, operator of Grauman's Chinese & Egyptian Theaters

  • 310113.1425

    This is an interesting tumblr begun 2011 to showcase Lucas's mirroring/doubling (thanks John Fell Ryan for spotting). While they begin with a series of Hidden Fortress, Seven Samurai and Searchers's parallels, the tumblr shifts later to internal dialogue doubling, isomorphs and object-oriented scale-mirrors.

    starwarsverses.tumblr.com/

    Here are two pieces from our archives about what this all might mean.

    herocomplex.latimes.com/2010/12/26/did-george-lucas-change-cinema-with-star-wars-prequels/

    www.mstrmnd.com/log/1241

  • 310110.1150

    www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/may/10/crisis-big-science/

  • 31095.1622

    A mind-bending summary article for a very complex physics experiment that yielded light (photons), not a reflection but a generation from molecules. Both summary and paper are web-visible.

    Mirror, Mirror: Collective electron excitations in metals, called plasmons, can play an important role in second-harmonic generation of light.

    Below, Second Harmonic Generation.

  • 31092.2145

  • 31090.0926

    Stare at it for a long, long time.

    "The United States is the only developed nation without a visual literacy curriculum in its public education program."

    paraphrased from Douglas Rushkoff's Coercion

    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2012/03/hunger-games-and-trayvon-martin.html

  • 31082.0955

    Wasson explored a critical link between human and mushroom through language. A tour de force. No longer in print.

    Unlike its commonly known spawn, Huxley's orwellian synthetic superdrug, Soma is a word that originates in the Rg Veda, one of the first verse collections in Indo-European languages. It describes a god-like substance found on mountains that 'filters' the sun into visionary realms. Soma is the Noah's ark of the Rg Veda, a mystical concoction lost in time and translation, spoken of in hard to miss descriptives. Many scholars treaded before Wasson, assigning Soma's label to bhang (cannabis) or rhubarb (the verses describe it sometimes as leafless, almost always red) among many other possible botanical candidates, none have ever passed muster, except Wasson's take on it. Wasson deplores earlier discovery work and carefully constructs an argument that surmises the origin language of ours was begun in a religious practice led by priests that regularly imbibed mushrooms to achieve ecstatic states. The book cross references both the Vedas and other linguistic treatments of key words across the planet to give resonance to his arguments, plotting even the geographical movement of his adored supermyth mycodrug.

    By the end of Wasson's narrative, we're only 3/4 way through the book. What follows is a large appendix chapter of source notes, each entry a few paragraphs to a page long. To propel his argument, Wasson devotes considerable energy to proving his hunches. The appendix is its own mini novel: riveting documentary evidence in quick spurts; is copiously noted. His argument that the pivotal mushroom became a legendary flay-agaric (a killer of flies and bedbugs) as a twist of linguistic 'evolution' is brilliant. When he shows rational proofs of the fly-agarics lack of effect on flies, followed by western visitors' uses of the Soma mushrooms in eastern regions the 1700s, his patterns connect. Even the pathway from Soma to the Old Testament's Apple is analyzed. The birch tree, given the moniker tree of life among northern ancient languages, is both the source of Soma's red button-tongue mushroom and the primitive form of aspirin. Wasson tracks the religion's/language's spread from forest to forest of birch through an ur-literate time passing into literate.

    "The careful scholarship of the dedicated amateur mycophile R. Gordon Wasson reads like an exciting scientific detective story. Moreover, his willingness to pursue the quest through the wide range of linguistics, archeology, folklore, philology, ethnobotany, plant ecology, human physiology, and prehistory constitutes an object lesson to all holistic professional students of man."

    Weston La Barre, American Anthropologist

  • 31081.1150

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/mar/17/facebook-dark-side-study-aggressive-narcissism?cat=technology&type=article

     A typical 18-24 year old week...

    8 Hours: Visiting social networking sites.
    8 Hours: Listening to music
    7 Hours: Watching full-length television shows.
    4 Hours: Watching full-length movies.
    4 Hours: Watching video clips (e.g. YouTube)
    4 Hours: Instant messaging

  • 31078.0706

    Lisa Miller uses Xanax and describes in New York Magazine a culture of fear endlessly popping chemical shields to a key mammalian growth mechanism: anxiety. A must-read for anthropologists, sociologists, and public health thinkers, a quote:

    "Xanax and its siblings—Valium, Ativan, Klonopin, and other members of the family of drugs called benzodiazepines—suppress the output of neurotransmitters that interpret fear. They differ from one another in potency and duration; those that enter your brain most quickly (Valium and Xanax) can make you the most high. But all quell the racing heart, spinning thoughts, prickly scalp, and hyperventilation associated with fear’s neurotic cousin, anxiety, and all do it more or less instantly. Prescriptions for benzodiazepines have risen 17 percent since 2006 to nearly 94 million a year; generic Xanax, called alprazolam, has increased 23 percent over the same period, making it the most prescribed psycho-pharmaceutical drug and the eleventh- most prescribed overall, with 46 million prescriptions written in 2010. In their generic forms, Xanax is prescribed more than the sleeping pill Ambien, more than the antidepressant Zoloft. Only drugs for chronic conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol do better.

    “Benzos,” says Stephen Stahl, chairman of the Neuroscience Education Institute in Carlsbad, California, and a psychiatrist who consults to drug companies, “are the greatest things since Post Toasties. They work well. They’re very cheap. Their effectiveness on anxiety is profound.”