Sleep deprived judges hand out longer sentences

20 Feb

This study just appeared in the journal Psychological Science:

The degree of punishment assigned to criminals is of pivotal importance for the maintenance of social order and cooperation. Nonetheless, the amount of punishment assigned to transgressors can be affected by factors other than the content of the transgressions. We propose that sleep deprivation in judges increases the severity of their sentences. We took advantage of the natural quasi-manipulation of sleep deprivation during the shift to daylight saving time in the spring and analyzed archival data from judicial punishment handed out in the U.S. federal courts. The results supported our hypothesis: Judges doled out longer sentences when they were sleep deprived.

The Monday after the shift to day light savings time is associated with about 40 minutes of lost sleep. Other studies have found an increased number of car accidents on that day. The authors of this study report that sentences are 5% longer than those on comparison Mondays.

An interesting result, although I do have some skepticism about how well confounding variables can be controlled statistically.

Henry David Thoreau, United States environmentalist author bicentenary

19 Feb

July 12 will be the bicentenary of Henry David Thoreau’s birth.

Dear Kitty. Some blog

Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817 – May 6, 1862) was an essayist, poet, philosopher, opponent of slavery, naturalist, and historian from the USA.

This video from the USA says about him:

31 May 2009

Henry David Thoreau sought the simple life in 1845 when he moved to the woods outside Boston to live on Walden Pond. We visit the remains of his home. …

In wildness is the preservation of the world,” wrote Henry David Thoreau in 1851 at a time when he was one of the few thinking about environmental conservation. Six years previous he had embarked on a now-famous experiment in simple living. He’d gone to the woods outside Boston to live in a 150-square-foot cabin to avoid living “what was not life”. …

He spent two years, two months and two days in his cabin at Walden Pond and in 1854, he…

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105 amateur cyclist is more aerobically fit than most 50-year-olds

17 Feb

Another amazing story from The New York Times about the capacities of an aging athlete:

At the age of 105, the French amateur cyclist and world-record holder Robert Marchand is more aerobically fit than most 50-year-olds — and appears to be getting even fitter as he ages, according to a revelatory new study of his physiology.

You can read the research paper here.

Atypical neural oscillation as a cause of dyslexia?

15 Feb

Neural oscillation refers to the rhythmic activity of large numbers of the brains neurons. It is these oscillations that produce the brain waves that are measured on a EEG. Here’s a recent paper suggesting that dyslexia may be caused by abnormal neural oscillation in parts of the brain related to auditory and visual processing. Here is the abstract:

It has been proposed that atypical neural oscillations in both the auditory and the visual modalities could explain why some individuals fail to learn to read and suffer from developmental dyslexia. However, the role of specific oscillatory mechanisms in reading acquisition is still under debate. In this article, we take a cross-linguistic approach and argue that both the phonological and orthographic specifics of a language (e.g., linguistic rhythm, orthographic depth) shape the oscillatory activity thought to contribute to reading development. The proposed theoretical framework should allow future research to test cross-linguistic hypotheses that will shed light on the heterogeneity of auditory and visual disorders and their underlying brain dysfunction(s) in developmental dyslexia, and inform clinical practice by helping us to diagnose dyslexia across languages.

 

Raymond Smullyan

13 Feb

I am surrounded by the books of Raymond Smullyan and I was very sad to read of his death at age 97 in today’s New York Times. When time allows, I have been been very slowly working my way through his Set Theory and the Continuum Problem (co-authored with Melvin Fitting). For a more gentle introduction to his thought try Who Knows?: A Study of Religious Consciousness or his autobiography Some Interesting Memories: A Paradoxical Life.

Here is piece composed by Jeanell Carrigan in honor of Smullyan:

The bird has a mind of its own

10 Feb

When I saw this I though of this passage from Henry Beston’s The Outermost House

We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.

(Hat tip to BoingBoing)

Washington Post’s history of the treadmill

8 Feb

Sunday’s Washington Post tells the story of the treadmill. Fifty million Americans uses treadmills, but I was surprised that so many seem to hate it.

As the weather turns colder, Jen Forman will do what she’s always done to get her runs in: She’ll go to her treadmill in her home, press start and run until she’s done.

And she will hate every moment of it.

I think treadmill time is a great opportunity to learn. I use it to practice foreign languages and listen to podcasts.

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