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Blue Screen vs. Lethe

If this is true—and I think it is up in the air whether this is pure quackery or sound science—it would explain a lot here. There are many people who complain of the same problem, being tired and not being able to fall asleep. Virtually everybody uses a computer a night to read, watch movies or TV, etc. It’s sort of a chronic thing. I had always attributed to general stress and vague apprehension.

This is a big, long article in CNN that doesn’t seem have much science to it.  Theoretically, the light emanating from electronic screens is different from the light from a lamp that bounces off a paper book or a nonglowing screen like the Kindle. Much is made of blueness.

(From “Althouse: So now there’s this theory that the iPad is going to cause insomnia but the Kindle will not.“, via Ann Althouse.)

May 16, 2010   Comments Off

The ball is not a ball

This is a really interesting fact, combined with some speculation. Apparently very intense magnetic fields, focused inside the brain, can cause visual hallucinations of glowing orbs and lines. The speculation is that at least part of the time, when people think they are seeing “ball lightning” they are actually standing close enough to a magnetic field induced by lightning to stimulate the same hallucination.

Focus the field in the visual cortex, for example, and the induced eddys cause the subject to ‘see’ lights that appear as discs and lines. Move the the field within the cortex and the subject sees the lights move too.

All that much is repeatable in the lab using giant superconducting magnets capable of creating fields of as much as 0.5 Tesla inside the brain.

But if this happens in the lab, then why not in the real world too, say Joseph Peer and Alexander Kendl at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. They calculate that the rapidly changing fields associated with repeated lightning strikes are powerful enough to cause a similar phenomenon in humans within 200 metres.

I assume this works by inducing current between synapses when the magnetic field moves. The experience would be unique to each person since it depends both on the precise orientation of the field, and the unique way each person’s brain is wired. So this technology could never be used to cause mass, shared hallucinatory perception. Presumably.

By the way, the Wikipedia article linked above describes creating a synthetic form of ball lightning using a microwave. Anybody got a spare microwave?

(From “Technology Review: Blogs: arXiv blog: Magnetically-Induced Hallucinations Explain Ball Lightning, Say Physicists“, via Slashdot.)

May 12, 2010   Comments Off

Falling behind

The Instapundit notes where the US is falling behind Russia, India, and now Japan.

India. Russia.

JAPAN ACTIVATES the Monju Fast-Breeder Reactor. If we’d started building these in the 1970s, the world’s energy probems would be largely solved, and carbon emissions would be much lower. But environmentalists blocked them. Thanks for nothin’, guys.

We could have had this here, too. Perhaps we can power our future cars with rainbows and unicorns, since we are about to experience 30 years of irrational panic about off-shore drilling. On the other hand, spending some time up close and personal with Mother Nature in her untamed state has a way of whetting people’s appetite for risk.

(From “Japan Activates the Monju Fast-Breeder Reactor…“, via Instapundit.)

May 8, 2010   Comments Off


Why I don’t do Facebook:

There is one question that I hear all the time. Is Facebook going to last, or is it just a fad? My answer is always the same. If you are trying to find an excuse for not doing “social,” then Facebook is here to stay. But, if you ask “is Facebook going to last?” Then the answer is no; it’s already dying.

So I don’t know if this is true from personal observation, like I said, I don’t do Facebook, but I could have guessed at exactly the types of brain dead behaviors he describes. Been there, hated it.

(From “Facebook is Dying – Social is Not (by @baekdal) #opinion“, via Marginal Revolution.)

May 8, 2010   Comments Off