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siderea August 24 2014, 04:40

[psych/neuro] Cognitive strengths correlates of dyslexia

Via marginalrevtion:

In The Advantages of Dyslexia at Scientific American, Matthew H. Schneps reports that studies suggest that people with dyslexia show greater sensitivity to causal incongruity, and perhaps other categorical incongruities, too:
The trick that makes Escher’s drawings intriguing is a geometric construction psychologists refer to as an “impossible figure,” a line-form suggesting a three-dimensional object that could never exist in our experience. Psychologists, including a team led by Catya von Károlyi of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, have used such figures to study human cognition. When the team asked people to pick out impossible figures from similarly drawn illustrations that did not violate causality, they were surprised to discover that some people were faster at this than others. And most surprising of all, among those who were the fastest were those with dyslexia.


Though the psychologists may have been surprised, many of the people with dyslexia I speak with are not. In our laboratory at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics we have carried out studies funded by the National Science Foundation to investigate talents for science among those with dyslexia. The dyslexic scientist Christopher Tonkin described to me his sense of this as a sensitivity to “things out of place.” He’s easily bothered by the weeds among the flowers in his garden, and he felt that this sensitivity for visual anomalies was something he built on in his career as a professional scientist. [...]

In one study, we tested professional astrophysicists with and without dyslexia for their abilities to spot the simulated graphical signature in a spectrum characteristic of a black hole. The scientists with dyslexia —perhaps sensitive to the weeds among the flowers— were better at picking out the black holes from the noise, an advantage useful in their careers. Another study in our laboratory compared the abilities of college students with and without dyslexia for memorizing blurry-looking images resembling x-rays. Again, those with dyslexia showed an advantage, an advantage in that can be useful in science or medicine.

Why are there advantages in dyslexia? Is it something about the brains of people with dyslexia that predisposes them to causal thinking? Or, is it a form of compensation, differences in the brain that occur because people with dyslexia read less? Unfortunately, the answer to these questions is unknown.

One thing we do know for sure is that reading changes the structure of the brain. [...]

When illiterate adults were taught to read, an imaging study led by Stanislas Dehaene in France showed that changes occurred in the brain as reading was acquired. But, as these adults developed skills for reading, they also lost their former abilities to process certain types of visual information, such as the ability to determine when an object is the mirror image of another. Learning to read therefore comes at a cost, and the ability to carry out certain types of visual processing are lost when people learn to read. This would suggest that the visual strengths in dyslexia are simply an artifact of differences in reading experience, a trade-off that occurs as a consequence of poor reading in dyslexia.

Read the whole thing here.

I am now contemplating the possibility that universal literacy may have accidentally made our society less cognitively astute and discerning of subtleties.

I am now also wondering if this is the grain of truth in the old stereotype of book-learning as something that makes one -- or is characteristic of those -- not "sharp" and "streetwise".
siderea August 21 2014, 20:31

[MA, practice] Questions re targetted advertising

Dear local (and ex-local) peeps familiar with MIT and Harvard:

I am looking for suggestions of where/how to achieve certain advertising ends. I, above all, want to be prosocial and not violate norms or be rude in my advertising, so please factor that in to your suggestions. Also, while I'm open to abstract clever ideas of the "figure out where Xs Y" sort, I'm more looking for local knowledge of these specific institutions, precisely to help me figure out where Xs Y.

0) I am trying to figure out how to advertise to MIT research staff, both faculty and other, working both on main campus and at other Boston-area (e.g. LL yes, WHOI no) facilities. Most of what I know about how to reach MIT affiliates is reaching students or alums, who are not the population of interest for this question. So, for example, AFAIK, MIT staff are not big readers of The Tech, so advertising in it wouldn't be helpful (pls correct me if I'm wrong.)

1) Harvard does science. I know this because there's a Science Building and I've been in it and everything. I can't imagine that's the entirety of their lab space. Ignoring the juggernaut of Harvard Medical School and its vasty institutional appurtenances (Longwood, MHG, etc) for the moment, where, physically, geographically, specifically, do faculty and staff scientists of Harvard actually go to work? (Again, within the general Rt-128 area.) (I already know about the Broad Inst.)

1a) Also, where exactly is Harvard's math department? The faculty offices, not the classrooms, if it makes a difference.

1b) Any suggestions about how to advertise to those two populations? Like, where do they eat lunch? Does Harvard have an internal electronic BBS or equivalent they use for community notices? Do they communicate via actual physical bulletin boards? Is there any useful periodical (i.e. do staff actually read Harvard Magaine)?

Preëmpting one suggestion: anything along the lines of "find out if they have an EAP and get involved in it" is not what I'm looking for atm. In particular, I'm looking for advertising channels which don't require any institutional endorsement, so official staff newsletters are out unless they allow random advertisers from the community.
siderea August 21 2014, 16:38

[current events, pols] "General Instructions"

[Via a source that will remain unnamed here.]

The principles which were set out in the ‘General Instructions’ that were issued to every new police officer from 1829 were:

1. To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.

2. To recognise always that the power of the police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.

3. To recognise always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.

4. To recognise always that the extent to which the co-operation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives.

5. To seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion; but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws, by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour; and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.

6. To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public co-operation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.

7. To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

8. To recognise always the need for strict adherence to police-executive functions, and to refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary of avenging individuals or the State, and of authoritatively judging guilt and punishing the guilty.

9. To recognise always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.
From https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/policing-by-consent , an official UK Home Office explication of "a long standing philosophy of British policing", known (possibly erroneously) as "Robert Peel's 9 Priniciples of Policing".
siderea August 19 2014, 04:03

[gastronomy, recipe] Old Thyme Pork Tenderloin

Pork tenderloin is a choice cut of meat, and out of my fiscal grasp under ordinary circumstances.

For reasons as of yet still unfathomable to me, Star had a sale on pork tenderloin for about 60% off. It even rang up correctly at the register and everything. All 18 lbs of it I bought, because, hey.

I of course had not the faintest idea what to do with pork tenderloin because I don't usually live this large. So I did some googling, got intimidated, and called fabrisse.

This is the recipe she dictated to me over the phone. She said to pick one of rosemary, thyme, or savory for the seasoning, and, well, I have this bottle of dried thyme I never use, that isn't getting any younger, so.

The results were fabulous, even if I did use somewhat inferior ingredients. I now understand what all the excitement about pork tenderloin is all about.

~3/4 cup mustard (I actually had a shade over 1/2 cup, but it was ample to the ~5.5lbs of pork)
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 clove garlic minced fine (I went with a heaping tsp of commercial minced garlic)
1 Tbsp thyme OR rosemary OR savory (used thyme)
2 Tbsp olive oil

0) Preheat oven to 425degF.

1) Mix all the ingredients except the pork in something you can pour from.

2) Lay out the pork in the roasting pan. You're supposed to put it on a rack to keep it out of the juices, but I didn't have one. Stab the pork all over a bit with a fork.

3) Pour the mustard-thyme sauce all over the pork and coat well.

4) Make sure the oven is at 425degF when you put the pork in. I wound up baking it for about an hour.

5) Let rest for a while before eating..

Note, I prepared this with two packages of "pork tenderloin" weighing 2.6 and 2.9 lbs respectively, that when opened turned out each to contain two long skinny pork tenderloins, totalling four. I was somewhat taken aback, because my planning was for 2 ~3lb lumps of meat, not 4 1.5 lb lumps of meat, but I ultimately shrugged, smooshed the pairs back together as logs, made a point of getting sauce between them, and then proceeding to cook them as I originally planned. I'd been using the calculation of "20min/lb + 15 min if there's two of them" for an original cook time of 1.25hrs. But at 1hr, my meat thermometer said 160degF (I was only shooting for 145degF) and it looked great, so I stopped there.

I hope the cooked meat survives freezing alright; I made a double batch so I wouldn't have to run the oven again for a while, and could just have microwaveable dinners. But now I'm worried about ruining the perfect consistency and delicious juiciness of the meat.
siderea August 17 2014, 04:03

[phreaking, tech] SendHub retiring free version

SendHub is retiring their free accounts on Sept 12.

I never used them for voice, and their pricing is based on their improved voice service, which I don't use, and awfully high (I'm eligible for the $15/mo plan) for what I do use, so I'm moving elsewhere for my text msg reminder services.

I currently have three plans I'm contemplating.

One is to use my SendHub number, while I have it, to create a fresh Google Voice number (which is free), and then use Google's API (if it still exists) to write my own app to provide the SendHub functionality GVoice lacks. Of course, Google might pull the plug on GV at any moment.

The next is to whip out my credit card and subscribe to Oh Don't Forget. While it's non-zero, the price is basically right ($5/mo or $50/yr), but has a catch: clients can't text me back (last I checked). I've mostly trained all my clients not to reply to my text alerts from SendHub, but (1) new patients, and (2) there's one who is only recently broken of the habit.

The third is to get a Twilio account (cheapest non-free option, I think) and write my own #%(*@&# webapp for it. If I do this, then I'd offer to share it, for a modest monthly/annual fee of my own, with my peeps at the clinic.

(NTS: my-cool-sms.com looks fabulous, but, unsurprisingly including as it does unlimited international texts, it's exorbitantly expensive. If you ever need to send scheduled reminders to many clients in Azerbaijan, there you go.)

(NTS2: tropo.com and nexmo.com look like potentially viable Twilio competitors.)

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