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Spike activity 19-12-2014

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: MIT Tech Review has an interesting piece about ‘troll hunters’ – a new wave of internet abuse vigilantes. ABC All in the Mind has a good edition asking whether mirror neurons have been oversold. Spoiler alert: yes, they have. The New York Magazine’s Science […]

Economics against sexual violence

PBS has an article on ‘How economic theory can help stop sexual assault’ which despite its unappealing title is actually a genuinely thought-provoking piece on how game theory and social norms marketing could help prosecute and prevent sexual violence. Both approaches look at how people’s behaviour is shaped by their perception of other people’s beliefs […]

Humans of The Future

A look into the future evolution of human beings is rather speculative, even when it’s dedicated scientists doing the looking. The psychological, social and physical changes humans will experience in the coming thousands of years are simply unknown to us. However, we know that human beings are still evolving, that change is imminent, and that […]

Universal Medicine Uses Google To Silence Critics

An Australian based company called Universal Medicine (UM) has been criticized by various skeptical blogs and groups as being a new age alternative medicine cult. Looking through their website, this seems like a reasonable observation. (The term “cult” is fuzzy, but many of the features seem to be present.) In response to this criticism, UM [...]

The celebrity analysis that killed celebrity analysis

Most ‘psi’ professionals are banned by their codes of conduct from conducting ‘celebrity analysis’ and commenting on the mental state of specific individuals in the media. This is a sensible guideline but I didn’t realise it was triggered by a specific event. Publicly commenting on a celebrity’s psychological state is bad form. If you’ve worked […]

Brain overclaim syndrome: Can I convince you I know something by citing neuroscience?

Are so many mediators citing neuroscience these days because it is cool? Hot? Fashionable? I don't know. That the science being cited is often either inaccurate or not helpful to conflict resolution is sometimes a tad disturbing. Even though I have blogged about it before, I had forgotten about the phrase "brain overclaim syndrome" until reading this book review from...

Egnor Doubles Down on Incoherent Nonsense

Egnor continues his dualist neuroscience denial in two follow up posts, mostly responding to PZ Myers’ take down of his original post. Egnor has also been writing separately about computers, arguing that they have no memory and will never be intelligent (have agency). In all  of these posts Egnor is following the same basic intellectual [...]

Does High IQ Increase the Risk of Depression and Mental Disorders?

Blame it on movies or books, but we have fallen into the habit of stereotyping. Popular culture portrays highly intelligent men and women as moody, secretive people who have so much going on in their minds that they are mentally always on the edge. There is probably a point here because psychiatrists are tinkering with […]

Predicting Seizures Amid the Chaos

We are one step closer to predicting the unpredictable. Robin Gras, PhD, an associate professor in the School of Computer Science and Canada Research Chair in Learning and Simulation for Theoretical Biology, and his PhD student Abbas Golestanti have developed novel methods for long-term time series forecasting. In a Scientific Reports article, Gras and Golestanti […]

Towards a nuanced view of mental distress

In the latest edition of The Psychologist I’m involved in a debate with John Cromby about whether our understanding of mental illness is mired in the past. He thinks it is, I think it isn’t, and we kick off from there. The article is readable online with a free registration but I’ve put the unrestricted […]

Neurosurgeon Thinks the Brain Doesn’t Store Memories

It has been six years since I have written a blog post deconstructing the nonsense of our favorite creationist neurosurgeon, Michael Egnor. In case you have forgotten, he is a dualist writing for the intelligent design propaganda blog, Evolution News and Views. He delights in ridiculing what he calls “materialist metaphysics,” or what scientists call, [...]

The Concept of Race in Science – A Debate

Race is a label. Race does not exist. Race is still an issue. These are some of the apparently contradictory statements that we can find in the debate, a subject with renewed tension in the US after a series of shootings of unarmed “black” men in the US by “white” policemen. Race is a slippery […]

The Mound Builder Conspiracy

Even after a couple of decades as a skeptical activist I can still encounter new dark recesses festering with pseudoscience. The human capacity for nonsense seems endless. A report in an alternative news outlet from the American Institution of Alternative Archeology (AIAA – the tag “alternative” is a huge red flag) claims that the Smithsonian [...]

Perception Is the Opposite of Reality

Do you ever feel like you are actually doing, seeing, or experiencing the things in your daydreams? Perhaps the warm sand beneath your toes while you relax on the beach; the wind rushing through your hair while you drive a fancy sports car; the smooth finish of that fine wine you have been wanting to […]

Decoding Creativity – It’s In the Genes!

What do Beethoven and the violinist who plays in the subway for a few dollars of tips share? What’s common between Vincent Van Gogh and the spraycan-wielding graffiti artists who paint the walls of your city with their bold artwork? Creativity? Yes, but the similarities go deeper. According to scientists and psychologists, these artists share […]

Spike activity 12-12-2014

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: The new trailer for upcoming Pixar movie Inside Out is very funny and has a remarkably accurate depiction of brain function. Neuroskeptic covers hipster neuroscience. Is the ‘bilingual advantage’ in cognitive performance a result of publication bias? Maybe, suggests the Science of Us. The […]

The Future Threat of AI

Occasional warnings about artificially intelligent robots taking over the world convulse through the media. There is currently a ripple involving prior interviews with Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk. Their names attract attention, and so the issue will provide a media distraction for a day or two. In an interview with the BBC, Hawking said: “The [...]

Another Terrible Anti-Consumer Health Bill

On the desk of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is a bill that would protect doctors practicing substandard medicine from being investigated by the Office of Professional Medical Conduct. The bill is similar to one unfortunately passed in Connecticut a few years ago – it is meant to protect doctors who prescribe long and recurring [...]

Food Babe Misinformation on Travel

The “Food Babe” is an excellent object lesson in why people who are not qualified should not be dispensing advice to the public. Spouting uninformed opinions is one thing, but presenting information in an authoritative manner as if from an expert should not be attempted by the non-expert. If you want to dispense useful information [...]

Glenn Beck’s Medical Narrative

Recently Glenn Beck has revealed that he has been struggling with medical issues for the last five years or so. On his show he states: “Tonight’s show is not for the casual fan or, really, anyone in the press,” Beck said. “This is a one-on-one between friends. No one in the media ever does a [...]

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