The siren song of digitization is one we are hardly even trying to resist. E-books are outselling hardcovers on Amazon, the Beatles sold over 2 million songs on iTunes in a week, and you can read 350-year-old scientific papers online. But why should we fight it? Digital media is cheap, it’s easy, and it’s clutter free.
But like all of the siren’s attempted seductions, digitization is an attractive tune with a twist. The convenience that digital storage offers now will more than likely be made up for in future headaches. So a pair of researchers recommend that we bring some analog back into our lives.
Steffen Schielke and Andreas Rauber are neither picky audiophiles nor hoodie-clad hipsters, they’re computer scientists, and they are worried about the long-term storage of all this data we’re collecting.
Magnetic tape, floppy disks, CDs and DVDs have all more-or-less come and gone in the last 80 years. While trying to find the equipment and expertise to actually use the different formats can be a burden, there are also issues with software, say Schielke and Rauber, the authors of a new study on the future of data archiving published in the International Journal of Electronic Governance. You may have even experienced this before. As Brien Posey recalls on the TechRepublic blog:
There are many different kinds of intelligent. Are you book smart? Street smart? Good at school and test-taking smart? Good at schmoozing your way out of deadlines and into jobs smart? Better at writing or math?
One new intelligence test, put online today by New Scientist and the Discovery Channel, claims to be the best test of overall smarts. The test was designed by neuropsychologist Adrian Owen to test 12 different “pillars” of wisdom, and to work every part of your mind.
From Owen’s article about the test for New Scientist:
Like many researchers before us, we began by looking for the smallest number of tests that could cover the broadest range of cognitive skills that are believed to contribute to intelligence, from memory to planning.
But we went one step further. Thanks to recent work with brain scanners, we could make sure that the tests involved as much of the brain as possible – from the outer layers, responsible for higher thought, to deeper-lying structures such as the hippocampus, which is involved in memory.
As an intrepid blogger, I went ahead and took the test. Some of the exercises resembled classic games like “Memory” (to test paired associates learning, you’re asked to remember what items are hidden where) and “Simon” (to test working memory, you have to remember sequences). Others are more similar to cognitive psychology tests like the Stroop test (which tests focused attention), and there are also some puzzle-solving tests (to test your ability to plan for the future).
The 12 tests are designed to test 12 different aspects of working memory, reasoning, focus, and planning. I did the worst on the “verbal working memory” test, which was reading a string of numbers and typing it in from memory. This actually makes sense, because I’ve always known myself to be a physical learner, and highlight or write down everything I hear that I need to remember. I wonder if there is a correlation there?
You can only take the test once, so make sure to do some mental push-ups first before diving in. Then come back here and tell us what you thought! Also, visit www.cambridgebrainsciences.com to play additional games, to train your brain, and to test your 12 pillars.
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Serious scientists may disdain anecdotal evidence, but we have evidence that some of them are pretty good with an anecdote.
Last Thursday, the World Science Festival brought a collection of science geeks to The Moth, where the brave souls took the stage not to explain their work, but to tell stories of their lives in science. The evening’s biggest scientific celebrity was theoretical physicist Frank Wilczek, winner of a 2004 Nobel Prize in physics. His story began with a phone call.
The editors of Scientific American were hoping he would write a rebuttal to a letter they’d just received. “The letter was from a man who I later learned was a banana farmer in Hawaii,” Wilczek recalled. “He was worried about black holes. He was worried about a particle accelerator that was being built on Long Island that could produce black holes, and he was worried that the black holes would swallow up Long Island and then the world.”
“How will we remember the 2000s? What were the high and low points? Who were the heroes and villains?” William Saletan asked in a Slate article last week.
Do you remember when Senator Joe Lieberman voted to convict President Clinton at his impeachment trial, when President George W. Bush chilled at his Texas ranch with Roger Clemens while Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans, and when Hillary Clinton used Jeremiah Wright in a 2008 TV attack ad against Barack Obama?
You shouldn’t remember any of these things, because they didn’t happen. But Slate made pictures to use as evidence that these events did actually occur as an exercise in “altering political memories.” Slate mixed doctored photos of these fake events with other photos of real ones, and asked the readers which they remembered. The readers had no idea they were part on an experiment in memory hacking.
Our obsession with posting photos on Facebook, tweeting our every move, and surfing the Internet creates an electronic trail of our life, whether we like it or not. But 75-year-old Microsoft researcher Gordon Bell takes digital recording to a whole new level: He creates e-memories so he won’t have to remember a single detail of his days.
Bell lugs around video cameras and audio recorders to record every action and social interaction. Not only does he save receipts by taking digital pictures of them, he records every single bill, medical record, and conversation. So far he’s in his tenth year of living this digital lifestyle and has amassed more than 350 gigabytes of memory (not including the video storage).
If you’re jealous, the good news is that soon you might be able to make your own digital library of your life. Microsoft is creating a SenseCam, a device that would hang around your neck and take pictures.
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Image: flickr/ Aquillo
Peter Piper picked a peck of….what was it again?
It’s hard to forget Peter and his pickled peppers, even if you wanted to. But besides helping you memorize ridiculous nursery rhymes, could alliteration, like the long string of “P’s” in Peter’s famous phrase, actually help readers remember the tone and events contained in a larger written work?
Ever wonder what spurred you to order that bottle of Chablis? As it turns out, researchers are hard at work deciphering the answer to your question. Brock University in Ontario has announced the opening of its Consumer Perception and Cognition Lab, which is touted by the Calgary Herald as the “first academic facility in North America dedicated exclusively to studying the link between consumer approval and wine’s origins and flavours.”