My paper on astrology published!

22 Oct

My paper, “A failed demonstration of sun sign astrology,” has been published in the most recent issue of Comprehensive Psychology. Here is the abstract:

“A 2013 paper by Adel, Hossain, and Johnson presented findings that seem to support a tenet of astrology: the relationship between birth sign and celebrity. However, their finding was simply an artifact of assigning an arbitrary starting point to the zodiac signs and, consequently, the data do not support the validity of astrology.”

The Adel, Hossain, and Johnson paper that I critique can be found here.



Adaptive intelligence of urban raccoons

21 Oct

Jude Isabella writes about how raccoons have adapted to living in the city:

“Unlike many animals, raccoons “flourished rather than receded in the face of human expansion,” Pettit points out in an article for the American Psychological Association.1 Part of the reason for their success may be that the urban environment has contributed to their intelligence. In humans, the effect is well known. Educational psychologist Walkiria Fontes has compared the cognitive abilities of rural and urban children on two metrics: crystallized intelligence, which is associated with experience, and fluid intelligence, which is the ability to think logically and solve problems in novel situations, independent of acquired knowledge. She found that urban rich kids have the edge with both kinds of intelligence. But even poor urban students scored better than poor rural students in fluid intelligence.

City raccoons also appear smarter than their rural counterparts. Suzanne MacDonald, a comparative psychologist who studies raccoon behavior at York University in Toronto, has compared the problem-solving skills of rural and city raccoons. The result? Urbanites trump their country cousins in both intelligence and ability.”

So the effects of cognitive enhancement may not be unique to humans!

Why a Leading Professor of Media Studies Banned Electronic Devices from his Classroom

21 Oct


“he had to choose between teaching and watching his students interact with their devices. He chose to teach.”

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

While tech entrepreneurs are rubbing their hands together gleefully about the dawn of the new age of technology in the classroom, Clay Shirkey of New York University has resolved to ban all electronic devices from his classes about the new media. Why? Students could not pay attention or learn what he was teaching because they were so distracted by the messages on their cellphones, laptops, tablets, etc.

Clay Shirkey is not just any technology professor. He is one of the leaders in the study of new techologies and social media.

He writes:

“This is all just the research on multi-tasking as a stable mental phenomenon. Laptops, tablets and phones — the devices on which the struggle between focus and distraction is played out daily — are making the problem progressively worse. Any designer of software as a service has an incentive to be as ingratiating as they can be, in…

View original 286 more words

Ventriloquism and the brain

20 Oct

I’ve always loved the art of ventriloquism. Now, Deric Bownds points to an article on the neuroscience of ventriloquism. The entire phenomena is fascinating, an illusion where normal cues are manipulated and we misattributed the source of a sound. In a sense, it is the ultimate misdirection.

Here is a clip of Paul Winchell, Jerry Mahoney, and Knucklehead. Keep your eyes on Winchell during the performance.

Winchell was not only an accomplished ventriloquist but an inventor, who created an early version of the artificial heart. I would love to read his autobiography, but it is out of print and lists on Amazon at $7,770.79!

Peter Ivers’ “Showroom Model”

19 Oct

I have been listening to a series of fascinating lectures by New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman. Hearing about the passion story reminded me of a passion play broadcast on public television decades ago called Jesus: A Passion Play for Americans. I remember that Jesus and his disciples were portrayed as long-haired radicals and the Romans were shown as cops in riot gear. But the one thing that has always stood out in my memory, was a strange and eerie  song “Showroom Model.” So yesterday, I was inspired to see what I could find out about this song.

Sure enough I was able to find it on youtube.



The song was composed by Peter Ivers. I had never heard of him, but he was an important force in both experimental theater and new wave music.

I learned that his work impressed the director David Lynch, who asked him to write a song for the film Eraserhead:


I was saddened to learn that Peter Ivers was murdered in 1983, the crime has never been solved.

Art Garfunkel’s booklist

18 Oct

While we’re on the subject of book lists, it turns out that Art Garfunkel posts a list of every book he has read since 1968. He includes a list of favorite books. It is interesting to see Garfunkel’s interest in the mystic Gurdjieff.

Here is Garfunkel’s note to his younger self:

Latest science on vegetarian diets

18 Oct

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has published the most recent results of a longitudinal study of members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Here is the abstract:

“The Adventist Health Study 2 is a large cohort that is well suited to the study of the relation of vegetarian dietary patterns to health and disease risk. Here we review initial published findings with regard to vegetarian diets and several health outcomes. Vegetarian dietary patterns were associated with lower body mass index, lower prevalence and incidence of diabetes mellitus, lower prevalence of the metabolic syndrome and its component factors, lower prevalence of hypertension, lower all-cause mortality, and in some instances, lower risk of cancer. Findings with regard to factors related to vegetarian diets and bone health are also reviewed. These initial results show important links between vegetarian dietary patterns and improved health.”


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 201 other followers

%d bloggers like this: