Archive for ‘Science’

August 3, 2017

Nominative Determinism

Implicit egotism

Nominative [nom-uh-nuh-tivdeterminism [dih-tur-muh-niz-uhm] is the hypothesis that people tend to gravitate towards areas of work that fit their names. The term was first used in the magazine ‘New Scientist’ in 1994, after its humorous ‘Feedback’ column noted several studies carried out by researchers with remarkably fitting surnames.

These included a book on polar explorations by Daniel Snowman and an article on urology by researchers named Splatt and Weedon. These and other examples led to light-hearted speculation that some sort of psychological effect was at work.

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May 22, 2017

Phenakistiscope

Joseph Plateau

The phenakistiscope [fen-uh-kiss-tuh-skohp] was the first widespread animation device that created a fluent illusion of motion. The phenakistiscope is regarded as one of the first forms of moving media entertainment that paved the way for the future motion picture and film industry. It is sometimes compared to GIF animation since both show a short continuous loop.

A phenakisticope usually comes in the form of a spinning cardboard disc attached vertically to a handle. Arrayed radially around the disc’s center are a series of pictures showing sequential phases of the animation. Small rectangular apertures are spaced evenly around the rim of the disc. The user would spin the disc and look through the moving slits at the images reflected in a mirror. The scanning of the slits across the reflected images keeps them from simply blurring together, so that the user can see a rapid succession of images that appear to be a single moving picture.

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May 5, 2017

McCollough Effect

Celeste McCollough

The McCollough effect is a phenomenon of human visual perception discovered by American psychologist Celeste McCollough in 1965 in which colorless gratings appear colored contingent on the orientation of the gratings. It is an aftereffect requiring a period of induction to produce it. For example, if someone alternately looks at a red horizontal grating and a green vertical grating for a few minutes, a black-and-white horizontal grating will then look greenish and a black-and-white vertical grating will then look pinkish.

The effect is remarkable because it is very long-lasting. McCollough originally reported that aftereffects may last for an hour or more, but they can persist much longer. A 1975 study found that 15 minutes of induction can lead to an effect lasting three and a half months.

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February 26, 2017

Contrarian

SuperFreakonomics

A contrarian is a person that takes up a contrary position, especially a position that is opposed to that of the majority, regardless of how unpopular it may be. A contrarian investing style is one that is based on identifying, and speculating against, movements in stock prices that reflect changes in the sentiments of the majority of investors.

Contrarian journalism is characterised by articles and books making counterintuitive claims, or attacking what is said to be the conventional wisdom (a phrase attributed to Canadian economist and diplomat John Kenneth Galbraith) on a given topic. A typical contrarian trope takes the form, ‘everything you know about topic X is wrong.’

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February 3, 2017

Prisoner’s Dilemma

reciprocal altruism

The prisoner’s dilemma (PD) is a paradox about co-operation. It shows why two ‘rational’ individuals might not co-operate, even if it seems in their best interests. It is studied in game theory.

In the classic example two people are arrested for a crime, and the police are uncertain which person committed the crime, and which person abetted the crime. If each remains silent, they are both soon released. If one betrays the other, the betrayer goes free, and the other is imprisoned for a long time. If each betrays the other, they both are held for a short time. No matter what happens, they will never see each other again.

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January 8, 2017

James Webb Space Telescope

jwst

James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is a space observatory under construction and scheduled to launch in 2018. It is a replacement for the Hubble Space Telescope which was launched in 1990. The telescope is named after James E. Webb, who was a director at NASA and created the Apollo moon program. It will have a main mirror that is 6.5 meters (21.3 feet) wide, seven times larger than Hubble. The main mirror is composed of 18 sections that fold together.

Once operational the observatory will be looking mostly in the infrared spectrum, but also in the red part of visible light. Images will be color coded for public viewing. Because heat is visible to infrared sensors, the JWST must be kept as cool as possible. It is protected by a large sunshield, the size of a tennis court, and will be placed in a special orbit around the sun, beyond the moon, at the second Lagrange point (L2), a place of stable gravity. This keeps it in the Earth’s shadow most of the time.

November 22, 2016

Naïve Realism

lee ross

bias blind spot

In social psychology, naïve realism is the human tendency to believe that we see the world around us objectively, and that people who disagree with us must be uninformed, irrational, or biased. It provides a theoretical basis for several other cognitive biases, which are systematic errors in thinking and decision-making.

Naïve realism causes people to exaggerate differences between themselves and others. Psychologists believe that it can spark and exacerbate conflict, as well as create barriers to negotiation through several different mechanisms. 

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October 25, 2016

Einstellung Effect

two-string

nine dots problem

Einstellung [ahyn-stel-luhng] (German: ‘attitude’) is the development of a mechanized state of mind. Often called a ‘problem solving set,’ Einstellung refers to a person’s predisposition to solve a given problem in a specific manner even though better or more appropriate methods of solving the problem exist. The Einstellung effect is the negative effect of previous experience when solving new problems. It has been tested experimentally in many different contexts.

The Einstellung effect occurs when a person is presented with a problem or situation that is similar to problems they have worked through in the past. If the solution (or appropriate behavior) to the problem/situation has been the same in each past experience, the person will likely provide that same response without giving the problem too much thought. This behavior is heuristical (related to mental shortcuts), it is one of the human brain’s ways of finding solutions as efficiently as possible.

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October 19, 2016

Epiphany

newton

An epiphany [ih-pif-uh-nee] (from the ancient Greek ‘epiphaneia,’ ‘manifestation,’ ‘striking appearance’) is an experience of sudden and striking realization. Generally the term is used to describe scientific, religious, or philosophical discoveries, but it can apply in any situation in which an enlightening realization allows a problem or situation to be understood from a new and deeper perspective. Epiphanies are studied by psychologists and other scholars, particularly those attempting to study the process of innovation.

Epiphanies are relatively rare occurrences and generally follow a process of significant thought about a problem. Often they are triggered by a new and key piece of information, but importantly, a depth of prior knowledge is required to allow the leap of understanding. Famous epiphanies include Archimedes’s discovery of a method to determine the density of an object (‘Eureka!’) and Isaac Newton’s realization that a falling apple and the orbiting moon are both pulled by the same force. The word epiphany originally referred to insight through the divine. Today, this concept is more often used without such connotations, but a popular implication remains that the epiphany is supernatural, as the discovery seems to come suddenly from the outside.

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July 3, 2016

Elizabeth Coleman White

whitesbog

Elizabeth Coleman White (1871 – 1954) was a New Jersey agricultural specialist who collaborated with botanist Frederick Vernon Coville to develop and commercialize cultivated blueberries. White was Quaker, graduating from the Friends’ Central School in Philadelphia in 1887. Afterwards she worked at her father’s farm, Whitesbog in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, supervising cranberry pickers in the bogs. Pine barrens are plant communities that occur on dry, acidic, infertile soils dominated by grasses, low shrubs, and small to medium-sized pines.

In the early part of the 20th century, White offered pineland residents cash for wild blueberry plants with unusually large fruit. Her collaboration with Coville began in 1910. Their project revealed the importance of soil acidity (blueberries need highly acidic soil), that blueberries do not self-pollinate, and the effects of cold on blueberries and other plants. Their work doubled the size of some strains’ fruit, and by 1916, Coville had succeeded in cultivating blueberries, making them a valuable crop in the Northeastern United States.

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June 8, 2016

Pharmacy

Materia medica

rx

Pharmacy is the science and technique of preparing and dispensing drugs. It is a health profession that links health sciences with chemical sciences and aims to ensure the safe and effective use of pharmaceuticals. Since pharmacists know about the mode of action of a particular drug, and its metabolism and physiological effects on the human body in great detail, they play an important role in optimization of a drug treatment for an individual.

The scope of pharmacy practice includes more traditional roles such as compounding (reformulating) and dispensing medications, and it also includes more modern services related to health care, including clinical services, reviewing medications for safety and efficacy, and providing drug information. Pharmacists, therefore, are the experts on drug therapy and are the primary health professionals who optimize use of medication for the benefit of the patients.

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June 5, 2016

I Cut, You Choose

Envy-free cake-cutting

Divide and choose (or ‘I cut, you choose‘) is a procedure for envy-free cake-cutting between two partners. It involves a heterogeneous good or resource (‘the cake’) and two partners which have different preferences over parts of the cake. The protocol proceeds as follows: one person cuts the cake into two pieces, and the other person chooses his piece first.

Divide-and-choose is mentioned in the Bible. In Genesis, when Abraham and Lot come to the land of Canaan, Abraham suggests that they divide it among them. Then Abraham, coming from the south, divides the land to a ‘left’ (western) part and a ‘right’ (eastern) part, and lets Lot choose. Lot chooses the eastern part which contains Sodom and Gomorrah.

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