Archive for August, 2009

Absolute pitch: what it can tell us about cognitive faculties

August 28, 2009

P Bermudez and R J Zatorre explain why in this mini-review at Journal of Biology:

Root, fifth, sixth, flatted seventh, octave, ninth, flatted seventh, octave, ninth, octave. When played with the right rhythm and attitude, these musical intervals will be recognized by many people as the main thematic refrain from So What, by Miles Davis. We are able to discern this because the pattern of intervallic relationships (of both pitch and time) forms the melody, no matter the starting pitch. If given the information that the root note is ‘D’, any trained musician will be able to compute the rest of the note names by identifying the intervallic distances between each note of the melody and the root (or any other note that has been determined), yielding D, A, B, C, D, E, C, D, E, D. This ability is referred to as relative pitch. A small minority of musicians, however, can identify all the notes ‘absolutely’, each in isolation and without reference to any other note. In other words, they possess some sort of internal template, a stable representation of pitches to which they can compare the incoming signal and subsequently identify the notes by name, by sounding them on an instrument, or other responses. This is referred to as perfect or absolute pitch (AP). A comprehensive review of the factors influencing the likelihood of acquiring AP is far beyond the scope of this brief commentary, although the two most frequently mentioned are early musical training (particularly during an early developmental phase during which there is relatively preserved affinity for absolute information), and a predisposing biology, the nature of which is still largely speculated. As we will see shortly, a brain functional magnetic resonance imaging study comparing musicians with and without AP published recently in BMC Neuroscience by Shulze and colleagues [1] now fits another piece to the puzzle.

Take a look!

You already had your recession!

August 26, 2009

Once, when I was doing my PhD, one of my friends asked me not to have too much of fun. I asked him why. He told me that the total amount of fun a person can have in his life is a fixed quantity; so, if you have too much of fun and exhaust your quota, for the rest of your life, you can not have any. Now, PhD Comics chimes in with more or less the same thought!

Fiction (almost) always anticipates reality!

August 25, 2009

The day when the newspapers from our world would indistinguishable from the ones  of the wizard world of Harry Potter is not too far away; take a look at this report (via).

Defending the act of immersing oneself in the liquid, frothy, language of literature

August 25, 2009

Poirier beautifully defends the act of immersing yourself in the liquid, frothy, language of literature as an act of freedom, an act of resistance to the ordinary, sometimes bullying language of assertion and proposition and point-making that can wall us in.

From this tribute.

Resorting to the indignity of …

August 24, 2009

Numerical simulations!!! P W Anderson as quoted here (via ZapperZ):

Very few believed [localization] at the time, and even fewer saw its importance; among those who failed to fully understand it at first was certainly its author. It has yet to receive adequate mathematical treatment, and one has to resort to the indignity of numerical simulations to settle even the simplest questions about it.

—Philip W. Anderson, Nobel lecture, 8 December 1977

The certaintly of death and the need to slow down

August 24, 2009

John  Freeman in WSJ:

We will die, that much is certain; and everyone we have ever loved and cared about will die, too, sometimes—heartbreakingly—before us. Being someone else, traveling the world, making new friends gives us a temporary reprieve from this knowledge, which is spared most of the animal kingdom. Busyness—or the simulated busyness of email addiction—numbs the pain of this awareness, but it can never totally submerge it. Given that our days are limited, our hours precious, we have to decide what we want to do, what we want to say, what and who we care about, and how we want to allocate our time to these things within the limits that do not and cannot change. In short, we need to slow down.

Link via Amitava Kumar.

What protests mean and why they matter

August 21, 2009

Brayden at Orgtheory:

I like the idea of saying that protests are signals. It corresponds with Spence’s definition of signals. The costlier a protest is to organize, the more value it should have in the eyes of third parties.  I also like thinking of protests as signals because it suggests that protests are informational. One of the main functions of protests is to communicate new information about a social issue to a broader public (even if only to let others know that some people are really pissed off about this issue!). If you just can’t get enough of protests (and believe me, I understand the fascination), I wrote a post addressing this question a few months ago.

A nice one (and at the right moment too!)

Comments: 123 simple steps to publish

August 19, 2009

A nice post with a link to a must-read how to.

By the way, one of the things I found the most annoying about journal publications is the page limit; as the author, I should have the freedom to decide how lengthy or short a paper should be; but that is exactly how it does not work.

Savings: how much is too much

August 19, 2009

One of the most difficult decisions that we have to make as a family is the question of how much to save — are we saving too much at the cost of enjoying the fruits of our labour now, or, are we saving too little for harder times, if and when, ahead? Partha Dasgupta, in the latest PNAS writes about Saving for an uncertain future:

For example, squirrels collect food for winter. Because that requires energy they face tradeoffs between current and future consumption. The question arises: what collection size would maximize inclusive fitness? Similarly, people save a portion of their wealth, not only for their own future consumption but also for their offspring and, by recursion, the offspring of their offspring, the offspring of their offspring’s offspring, and so on, down the generations.

A nice one; take a look!

HowTo: programme (minimal advice)

August 18, 2009

From Cosma Shalizi