Friday, February 26, 2010

Crocoduck 0 - Crocadillo 1

This is just the cutest thing.

Interesting how "upright" the stance is, with the legs under the body rather than splayed. Some other land-dwelling crocodilian fossils seem to have that more mammal-like stance.

In other news, Scripps Institute scientists have advanced the study of abiogenesis, by putting together self-replicating ribozymes.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

First, try thinking *inside* the box.

One of those phrases that drive me nuts is "think outside the box". A lot of the problem is that people don't bother to *think* "inside the box" (in the usual framework), particularly when it's repeated as a mantra (yesterday I heard someone say it to me three times in ten minutes .... gnnnhaaahhh, makes me stabby).

The problem isn't so much the box, its the lack of thinking.

We have frameworks - ways of thinking about things - for a reason, and we should take advantage of them first. Then, maybe we should consider if the framework is the problem.

You want an illustration of the emptiness of the concept "think outside the box"?

An obvious one is that rarely to people give you strategies for doing so*. Without it, "think outside the box" is pretty useless.

Here's a second one: the people exhorting you to "think outside the box" can't be bothered to think outside their framework for long enough to come up with a less hackneyed and overused phrase, thus illustrating that they are utterly unable to follow their own advice for the few minutes it would take to come up with a more interesting expression.

"Think outside the box" is about as useful and as cliche as that poster of a kitten saying "Hang in there".

*(de Bono does have some exercises/approaches that are sometimes useful, sometimes not -- but he also doesn't say "think outside the box", thankfully)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Out of body experiences... interesting, but not mystical

The weekly TV science program on our national broadcaster, called Catalyst, started its 2010 season on Thursday, and had an item on the various things that combine to produce out of body experiences (I don't know if that video works outside Australia, but the transcript is there too).

The text there is only a fraction of the item on out of body experiences, they talked about what produces the feeling of floating up out of your body (showing how you can induce sensations of rotation and floating), and how you can identify your body as being somewhere other than it is, before talking about trying to actually produce an out of body experience.

[As usual I didn't watch the whole thing live (early evening is a hectic time in our house, so we record anything we actually don't want to miss). I'll give it a more careful look when I get to it, but what I saw of it was fascinating.]

So anyway, the point was that out of body experiences are simple consequences of the way our body and brain work, and that it's not hard to reproduce many aspects of them. Nothing particularly mystical, and certainly not evidence for a soul.