Archive for January, 2015

January 31, 2015

See a Man About a Dog

return video tapes

To see a man about a dog (or see a man about a horse) is an English language colloquialism, usually used as a way to say one needs to apologize for one’s imminent departure or absence – generally euphemistically to conceal one’s true purpose, such as going to use the toilet or going to buy a drink (particularly during Prohibition). The original, non-facetious meaning was probably to place or settle a bet on a racing dog.

The earliest confirmed publication is the 1866 Dion Boucicault play ‘Flying Scud’ in which a character knowingly breezes past a difficult situation saying, ‘Excuse me Mr. Quail, I can’t stop; I’ve got to see a man about a dog.’ In a listing for a 1939 revival on the NBC Radio program ‘America’s Lost Plays,’ ‘Time’ magazine observed that the phrase was the play’s ‘claim to fame.’

January 30, 2015

A Course in Miracles

levels of the mind

A Course in Miracles‘ (ACIM or simply the ‘Course’) is a book written and edited by psychologist Helen Schucman, with portions transcribed and edited by psychologist William Thetford, containing a self-study curriculum of spiritual transformation. It consists of three sections entitled ‘Text,’ ‘Workbook,’ and ‘Manual for Teachers.’ Written from 1965 to 1972, some distribution occurred via photocopies before a hardcover edition was published in 1976. The copyright and trademarks, which had been held by two foundations, were revoked in 2004 after a lengthy litigation because the earliest versions had been circulated without a copyright notice.

Schucman believed that an ‘inner voice,’ which she identified as Jesus, guided her writing. Throughout the 1980s annual sales of the book steadily increased each year, however the largest growth in sales occurred in 1992 after spiritual teacher Marianne Williamson discussed the book on ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show,’ with more than two million volumes sold. The book has been called everything from ‘a Satanic seduction’ to ‘The New Age Bible.’

read more »

January 22, 2015

Prosecutor’s Fallacy

Lucia de Berk

damned lies

The prosecutor’s fallacy is a fallacy of statistical reasoning, typically used by the prosecution to argue for the guilt of a defendant during a criminal trial (though some variants are utilized by defense lawyers arguing for the innocence of their client). The fallacy involves assuming that the prior probability of a random match is equal to the probability that the defendant is innocent. For instance, if a perpetrator is known to have the same blood type as a defendant and 10% of the population share that blood type, then to argue on that basis alone that the probability of the defendant being guilty is 90% makes the prosecutors’s fallacy.

Consider the case of a lottery winner accused of cheating based on the improbability of winning. At the trial, the prosecutor calculates the (very small) probability of winning the lottery without cheating and argues that this is the chance of innocence. The logical flaw is that the prosecutor has failed to account for the large number of people who play the lottery.

read more »

January 19, 2015

Poker Tell

poker face

Hand reading

A tell in poker is a change in a player’s behavior or demeanor that can indicate the strength of their hand. A player gains an advantage if they observe and understand the meaning of another player’s tell, particularly if the tell is unconscious and reliable. Sometimes a player may fake a tell, hoping to induce their opponents to capitalize on bad information. More often, people try to avoid giving out a tell, by maintaining an expressionless ‘poker face’ regardless of how strong or weak their hand is.

A tell may be common to a class of players or unique to a single player. Some possible tells include leaning forward or back, placing chips with more or less force, fidgeting, doing chip tricks, showing nervous tics, or changing one’s breathing, tone of voice, facial expressions, direction of gaze. Other tells are associated with a player’s actions with the cards, cigarettes, or drinks, or merely by their style of play.

read more »

January 18, 2015

Sensory Substitution



Sensory substitution means to transform the characteristics of one sensory modality (e.g. light, sound, temperature, taste, pressure, smell) into stimuli of another sensory modality (e.g. Tactile–Visual, converting video footage into into tactile information, such as vibration). These systems can help handicapped people by restoring their ability to perceive aspects of a defective physical sense.

A sensory substitution system consists of three parts: a sensor, a coupling system, and a stimulator. The sensor records stimuli and gives them to a coupling system which interprets the signals and transmits them to a stimulator. If the sensor obtains signals of a kind not originally available to the bearer it is called ‘sensory augmentation’ (e.g. implanting magnets under the fingertips imparts magnetoception, sensation of electromagnetic fields). Sensory substitution is based on research in human perception (the organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information in order to represent and understand the environment) and neuroplasticity (how entire brain structures, and the brain itself, can change from experience).

read more »

January 8, 2015

Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation


Galvanic [gal-van-ikvestibular [ve-stib-yuh-lerstimulation (GVS) is the process of sending electric messages to a nerve in the ear that maintains balance. This technology has been investigated for both military and commercial purposes, and is being applied in Atsugi, Japan, the Mayo Clinic in the US, and a number of other research institutions around the world for use in biomedical engineering, pilot training, and entertainment.

A patient undergoing GVS noted: ‘I felt a mysterious, irresistible urge to start walking to the right whenever the researcher turned the switch to the right. I was convinced — mistakenly — that this was the only way to maintain my balance. The phenomenon is painless but dramatic. Your feet start to move before you know it. I could even remote-control myself by taking the switch into my own hands.’