The Crow's Dream

Philosophy, geekery, and the meaning if life, and what I read this week…

Posts Tagged ‘science

Moonwalking with Einstein

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Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering EverythingMoonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this book, Joshua Foer explores memory and the tricks people use to improve it, which sounds boring, but Mr. Foer manages to cast the book into a heroic journey during which he learns the ancient secrets of memorization. The result is an entertaining, though occasionally self indulgent story about practice and mastery. While this book will not teach you everything you need to learn about memory, it will give you a vivid window in to the world of remembrance, and may even spark an interest in further studying it.

Reading this book was fun, because I am familiar with some of the techniques the author describes, and I can attest to their effectiveness and limitations. I like to memorize poetry, and while the skill has come in handy only once, the whole endeavor was worth it. I recently took a couple of very difficult technical tests, and building a “memory palace” to master some of the concepts proved to be very helpful.

This book was very, very nerdy, but in a good way. I liked that Mr. Foer was skeptic about some of the more pseudoscientific promises made by memory gurus, and that he addressed the limitations of the systems he explores. If you are curious about memory, check this book out. It is probably one of the most entertaining ones in the subject.

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Here is a TED talk by the author:


Written by Hector

July 12, 2015 at 9:49 pm

Posted in books

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Some Thoughts on Dark Matters

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So I was reading an article in the Scientific American website that tells us that Dark Matter is one of those things modern Science is really far from completely understanding. The article says that although Dark Matter makes up the majority of the Universe, we only know it is there, because of its gravitational influence on the rest of the cosmos.

My interest in the article, however, became somewhat more personal when I noticed the comment section. Apparently, a few people. had taken it upon themselves to point out that Dark Matter is actually a manifestation of human consciousness. Here is what they said:

Dark Matter is the manifestation within our consciousness of the darkness within our hearts

Of course, the comment could have been a joke. One can hope.

It seems like every time we run across some sort of barrier to our our understanding, someone has the need to fill in the gaps with creative storytelling. We all do it, though. When we worry about something, it is often because of what we imagine will happen if we don’t. It is because we do not have enough information, so we imagine things to make us feel better about the lack of information. The same holds true about our daydreams. As long as they remain as dreams, they are merely a convenient way to avoid interacting with a universe filled with Dark Matter, and other Weird stuff we do not understand. I am not against daydreaming, as long as we know that failing to act on it renders it in to a very cool form of entertainment.

According to the article, it may be 10 years until we figure out what a whopping 96% of the universe actually is, but in the mean time, we should get used to dealing with imaginative “revealed” explanations. Maybe, however, Some of us can choose to embrace the beautiful uncertainty and mystery of the world around us. I, for once, will gladly wait 10 years to Know what dark matter really is.

The imageon this article is in the public domain

Written by Hector

July 12, 2010 at 11:10 pm

Posted in science, thoughts

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Mind Hacks: The mighty fortress of belief

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Here is an awesome article about belief. It might have subconsciously inspired my own. Though I didn’t get a chance to read it until today. Enjoy!

Mind Hacks: The mighty fortress of belief.

Written by Hector

July 5, 2010 at 4:43 pm

The Ghost Map

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The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic–and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book complements Johnson’s earlier works by providing them with an illustration. If his previous explorations exposed wide patterns, this one gives the screen to project them. Though it is tempting to dismiss the material as outdated, the author manages to make a case for the relevant and heroic exploits of Snow and Whitehead, whom, according to the author, were the first to show a means through which urban living could not only be beneficial, but actually desirable. I do not think of these men as the sole cause for the growth of cities, and at some points it feels like Johnson falls for the “great man theory of history.” Both Snow and Whitehead were vital to cities as we know them, but I think they are a case study, an important one to be sure, but not the case itself.

Though Johnson’s voice is modern, his tale has the feel of a mystery writen by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, it even has a Sherlock in Snow and a Watson in Whitehead, which I thought was cool.

The idea that cities are greener spaces than the alternative–suburban sprawl and the country–reinforced my love of the urban and crowded. Additionally, the book shows the process of science and its liberating influence, thus providing a stern warning against superstition. An enjoyable read, though it occasionally lags. A must read if you enjoy the Victorian, or want to know more about the way science and history are made.

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Written by Hector

April 20, 2009 at 8:56 pm


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I love crows enough to have named my blog in their honor. For someone who absolutely loves corvids and the other species who have learned to live with us, this video was an awesome treat. I hope that you will enjoy it too.

Written by Hector

January 30, 2009 at 8:05 pm


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This is one the first scientific ideas that completely changed my life. After reading Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s work, I slowly began to leave the darkness behind. 

Written by Hector

December 16, 2008 at 3:33 am

Thoughts on ants and people

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Today, I listened to a lecture about Superorganisms. It all came about because I found a very interesting video in another blog. I’m not going to repost it here, but if you want to see it go to youtube

Basically, a superorganism is an organism composed of many individuals. Ants are a great example of such a thing. The main characteristic of superorganisms is division of labor. There is usually a queen in charge of reproduction, and a few males whose sperm can be stored in pouches within the queen for years. There are workers and there are warriors. Complex organizations such as these emerge in nature though evolution, and are only possible because of communication between the different aspects of the hive or ant hill. Every member communicates though gestures and though pheromones, much in the way our brains communicate through neurotransmitters, and you and I though this blog. 

Did you know that  the total weight of all the dry ants on Earth equals the total weight of humans? They are very successful beings!

Although unscientific, it is almost impossible not to draw parallels between humans and ants. It seems like whenever we find an emergent system, there are a few things these systems have in common. For example,according to László Barabási, they all contain hubs of information, an these hubs connect and pass along self replicating structures. It is amazing how simple the complexity of existence can be once you look at it as the interaction and the communication of particles. 

It seems to me that humans are a successful species because we have learned to divide labor. It would be impossible for anyone to learn everything there is to learn about everything. The endeavor of science and discovery is centered around sharing the results of our discoveries, of course, it would e foolish to say that we are just like ants, because we are also individuals, but we know that nature loves to reuse successful adaptations, like the wings of bats and birds, or the fins in fish and dolphins. 

I think one of the good things about not being an ant, and I’m sure there are many, is our ability to enjoy the fruits of our labor. I’ve been trying to find the right approach to my new life as a married man. It is clear that my wife and I need to divide what we do, so I volunteered to make lunch and dinner, I guess that if I was an any I’d just predigest leaves and vomit them on plates, but as a human, I can actually imbue the process of cooking with art and with mastery. I can do better than consuming processed and junky food, and I can use food preparation as a way to expand the boundaries of my brain. Is culture a visual pheromone? 

As humans we use music, food, and clothing to communicate, we even use postures and smells. I think art is pretty cool. We enjoy and appreciate what we do, and we can create amazing complexity out of our surroundings. Our brains create convincing simulations of the world around us… Still, ants are pretty impressive.

Written by Hector

November 21, 2008 at 7:25 pm