Jan, 2014

Boys and girls, the secret is out: playing video games can make you more creative. According to a study published by Michigan State University, the more people who play video games, the more creative they will be in different daily tasks.

Professor of Psychology of Michigan State University Linda Jackson confirmed that it is the first ever evidence-based study that showed the link between technology use and creativity. This is obviously welcome news because the Entertainment Software Association discovered that over 72 percent of the U.S. households play video or computer games.

Playing Computer Games is Better Than Watching TV

Dr. Daniel Johnson from Queensland University of Technology Games Research and Interaction Design Lab said that watching television is a ‘passive experience’. According to a study conducted by his team, adults are said to be better off playing video and computer games than spending a lot of time watching television shows. Johnson explained that video and computer games are interactive and allows players to develop their cognitive and problem solving skills. “There is a lot of negative press about gaming and that’s not well-supported. Where there is a negative effect, research shows it’s on the minority of people,” he said.

Video And Computer Games Develop Auditory and Visual Skills

Doctors Sue Fisher and Mark Griffiths wrote in the Journal of Gambling Studies that the video/slot/computer games can develop a series of characteristics in players. These include the provisions of auditory and visual rewards for winning moves; the rewards per correct behavior; self esteem; and attention or recognition through competition.

Video And Computer Games Are A Great Source of Friendly Competition

The study also discovered that the key determinant of a game’s enjoyment among movie themed computer games is competition. In fact the recent addition to Castle Jackpot’s movie themed slot games, Star Trek Against All Odds, has infused movie dialogues, cinematography, and references from the recent J.J. Abrams’ reboot. The game, according to International Game Technology, emulates the action-packed storyline of the movie-but with an arcade, skill-based twist that engages the brain and helps trigger many cognitive skills.

Additionally, such games feature high score tables which are pivotal to repeat plays, “as players attempt to not only beat their own score, but the highest score amongst their peers.” Says Karen Collins, et al. On Addictive Gameplay: What Casual Game Designers Can Learn from Slot Machine Research. All of these help aid competitiveness and creativity to overcome boundaries within the player.


Jul, 2013

From io9:

Jabari Johnson’s rap, titled “Quest for Joulelry,” is the winner of this year’s Science Genius Rap B.A.T.T.L.E.S., held last month at Columbia University. The competition is the product of a collaboration between Rap Genius, Columbia math professor and urban science education pioneer Christopher Emdin and Wu Tang Clan’s GZA:

B.A.T.T.L.E.S. (Bringing Attention to Transforming, Teaching and Learning Science) was conceived as a way to keep students engaged in school and in science… GZA and Jeremy Dean of Rap Genius were among the six judges who watched as teens ages 14 to 20 strode the stage at TC’s Joyce B. Cowin Conference Center and “spat” lyrics that ran a gamut of topics from rock science, natural selection and genetics to how materials freeze or melt.

Johnson’s rhymes are more than just scientific, they’ve also got rhythm and tight, clever lyrics, presented in their entirety here (click through for line-by-line annotations at Rap Genius):

This concept is applied to all lives
We stride times distance
Ill let you be a witness to the prize.
Be a man, understand
You comprehending this is vital, work = FD
The equation for survival;
Your only rival is friction don’t get caught up in the drag
So you better prepare cuz obstacles fight back

When you get knocked down though don’t please don’t cry,
Just get up and apply more force next time

One day I was dreaming with a really strong hope
That I’ll make it but to make it takes more than just believing,
These resistance slash demons were kinda holding me back,
And I let’em but the simple way to get me on track was,

Force times displace, Is work no debate
I’ll take that concept apply it to my mistakes,

And now I’m progressing a natural Rap Genius
And I’ma get an A if I see this on the regent


Here’s the lesson, I know it kinda hurts but if you truly want to work than there must be progression cause,
FD=W the rule and the unit measurement for the product is called joules, Cool.
I did the work I’ma try to let it flow the more people I know kinetic energy grows so,
I’ma go to work convert all of my potential, and as my speed increases then I’ma grow exponential.

[Verse 2: Kinetic Energy]

The work has been applied if my equations are correct
The energy that is left creates a domino effect

My mass is what I’m bringing to the table underestimate
You’ll wish that you had brought a bigger dinner plate.

Separate me from the fakes let me educate
Velocity’s my following and that’s I’ma generate
Through these shows and gigs and just overcoming all the friction

To the point where friction doesn’t even make a difference.
I feed my interest with the laws of physics
When m and v multiply the picture is painted vivid,
The work was just something that got me inside the door,
Now we, squaring the v and it’s exponentially more.
I got a lot in store the v’s
Cuz I’m progressin’ my m
And when you multiply them
There’s no end to the kinetic energy
You better be prepared
Cause I’m fillin’ you up with envy with my ½ m v2


Here’s the lesson, I know it kinda hurts but if you truly want to work than there must be progression cause,
FD=W the tool and the unit measurement for the product is called joules, Cool.
I did the work I’ma try to let it flow the more people I know kinetic energy grows so,
I’ma go to work convert all of my potential, and as my speed increases then I’ma grow exponential.

Link to the rest, including a video interview featuring Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson and GZA, at io9.

Jun, 2013

Here’s a great video pondering the objective reality of mathematics, and running down all the different schools of thought on where mathematical truth comes from — does it exist outside of systems of codification by intelligent beings, as an eternal part of the universe; or is it something that we invent through codification?

ORIGINAL: Is Math a Feature of the Universe or a Feature of Human Creation? | Idea Channel | PBS [via Boing Boing]

Mar, 2013

The Hogwarts Sorting Hat has been said to place kids based on qualities they value rather than those they exhibit — still, each of the school’s Houses does tend to collect a certain kind of student. Gryffindors are often brave and daring; Ravenclaws brainy and witty; Slytherins ambitious and cunning; and Hufflepuffs patient and loyal. It stands to reason, therefore, that each house would appreciate its own collection of reading material — but what actual books might a Gryffindor read? How would they compare to the reading list of a Slytherin?

It was while perusing acclaimed HP fanfic Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality that Jesse Galef (half of the brother/sister duo behind Measure of Doubt — a fantastic blog dedicated to rationality, science and philosophy) got to thinking about this exact question; what might a rational student from each house actually read? He writes:

I realized that there’s actually quite a lot of potential for interesting reading in each house. Ravenclaws would be interested in philosophy of mind, cognitive science, and mathematics; Gryffindors in combat, ethics, and democracy; Slytherins in persuasion, rhetoric, and political machination; and Hufflepuffs in productivity, happiness, and the game theory of cooperation.

After much brainstorming, Galef produced four incredibly well-thought-out reading lists (one for each house), photographed their physical counterparts on a bookshelf, and even created a series of Facebook cover images, “so that you can display your pride both in rationality and in your chosen house.” Here’s the cover image for Gryffindor (click to enlarge), followed by its corresponding booklist. For the other houses’ lists, go check out Measure of Doubt. [Source: Measure of Doubt, via i09]

Feb, 2013

From Scientific American:

The number of smartphones, tablets and other network-connected gadgets will outnumber humans by the end of the year. Perhaps more significantly, the faster and more powerful mobile devices hitting the market annually are producing and consuming content at unprecedented levels. Global mobile data grew 70 percent in 2012, according to a recent report from Cisco, which makes a lot of the gear that runs the Internet. Yet the capacity of the world’s networking infrastructure is finite, leaving many to wonder when we will hit the upper limit, and what to do when that happens.

There are ways to boost capacity of course, such as adding cables, packing those cables with more data-carrying optical fibers and off-loading traffic onto smaller satellite networks, but these steps simply delay the inevitable. The solution is to make the infrastructure smarter. Two main components would be needed: computers and other devices that can filter their content before tossing it onto the network, along with a network that better understands what to do with this content, rather than numbly perceiving it as an endless, undifferentiated stream of bits and bytes.

To find out how these major advances could be accomplished, Scientific American recently spoke with Markus Hofmann, head of Bell Labs Research in New Jersey, the research and development arm of Alcatel–Lucent that, in its various guises, is credited with developing the transistor, the laser, the charge-coupled device and a litany of other groundbreaking 20th-century technologies. Hofmann and his team see “information networking” as the way forward, an approach that promises to extend the Internet’s capacity by raising its IQ.

How do we know we are approaching the limits of our current telecom infrastructure?
The signs are subtle, but they are there. A personal example—When I use Skype to send my parents in Germany live video of my kids playing hockey, the video sometimes freezes at the most exciting moments. In all, this doesn’t happen too often, but it happens more frequently lately—a sign that networks are becoming stressed by the amount of data they’re asked to carry.

We know there are certain limits that Mother Nature gives us—only so much information you can transmit over certain communications channels. That phenomenon is called the nonlinear Shannon limit [named after former Bell Telephone Laboratories mathematician Claude Shannon], and it tells us how far we can push with today’s technologies. We are already very, very close to this limit, within a factor of two roughly. Put another way, based on our experiments in the lab, when we double the amount of network traffic we have today—something that could happen within the next four or five years—we will exceed the Shannon limit. That tells us there’s a fundamental roadblock here. There is no way we can stretch this limit, just as we cannot increase the speed of light. So we need to work with these limits and still find ways to continue the needed growth.

Link to the rest at Scientific American