Archive for August 28th, 2009
If we are to believe the results of a new study from Marc Berman, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, the answer is “yes”. These finding come at an interesting crossroads– for the first time ever, more humans live in cities than in rural settings. The findings argue that the brain becomes confused and tired as it is forced to respond to the massive amounts of stimulii that are present in cities. The brain is constantly searching its surroundings, trying to anticipate threats. Not only does one have to negotiate traffic and constantly re-assess the changing visual landscape, but this is often done while carrying on a conversation or mentally planning a route through the city. Quoting from Boston.com:
The reason such seemingly trivial mental tasks leave us depleted is that they exploit one of the crucial weak spots of the brain. A city is so overstuffed with stimuli that we need to constantly redirect our attention so that we aren’t distracted by irrelevant things, like a flashing neon sign or the cellphone conversation of a nearby passenger on the bus. This sort of controlled perception — we are telling the mind what to pay attention to — takes energy and effort. The mind is like a powerful supercomputer, but the act of paying attention consumes much of its processing power.
Interestingly, the researchers found that just showing people a picture of an urban environment was enough to cause substantial impairment to the test subject’s levels of attention and working memory. Similarly, a different study quoted in the article shows that even very small amounts of exposure to nature were enough to confer significant improvement on subjects’ cognitive abilities and sense of well-being.
Additionally, the research indicates that living in cities may also have a harmful effect on one’s level of self-control.
Flickr is a private company. Therefore, it is free to censor photos and comments, which it apparently does with pride and gusto.
Flickr is a private company, of course, so it is no subject to any legal argument regarding “free speech.” At some point, however, after tens of millions of people adopt Flickr as their photo and comment community, it does seem to function like a government. But, again, Flickr is a private company and it can do what it wants.
We have the same potential problem with many private entities that now control the flow of huge amounts of information (e.g., Google). It will be interesting to see how this situation evolves, especially to the extent that these private companies seek to distort the flow of information for private gain or for capricious exercise of power. It’s not like it hasn’t happened before–think of the mass media. But also consider the telecoms: one increasingly hot angle on this issue is net neutrality.
I cleaned out lots of weeds growing in a corner of the yard five days ago, but now I’m paying the price. I’ve got lots of chigger bites on one of my arms, and do the EVER itch!
While looking up recommended treatments–there’s not much you can do other than wait and use hydrocortisone cream–I decided to find a photo of a chigger. I found a terrific photo, and much more. If you want to see some excellent photos showing what the most common and most dangerous bugs look like, along with photos of what their bites look like, visit this slideshow by WebMD. You’ll see chiggers, mosquitos, brown recluse spiders, black widows, scabies, red ants and much more. It’s called the “Bad Bugs Slideshow,” which stirs in an unnecessary moral dimension to the topic! But, again, the photos are really well done. You might be interested even if you aren’t currently covered with bug bites.