Sunday, November 23, 2014

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Joseph Brodsky on How to Develop Your Taste in Reading


“You stand to lose nothing; what you may gain are new associative chains.”


“The most damning revelation you can make about yourself is that you do not know what is interesting and what is not,” Kurt Vonnegut famously proclaimed. But how is one to develop that discerning taste, especially in determining what is worth reading and what is not?

On May 18, 1988, several months after winning the Nobel Prize in Literature and exactly seven months before he delivered the greatest commencement address of all time, the prolific poet and essayist Joseph Brodsky gave the opening keynote at Turin’s very first book fair. His talk, titled “How to Read a Book” and included in the 1997 anthology On Grief and Reason: Essays (public library), is a beautiful and timeless meditation on the value — the purpose, the challenge, the transcendent joy — of the written word. Although it was written with books in mind, it applies just as brilliantly to the question of what is worth engaging in, in any medium — a question all the more pressing amidst our era’s constant influx of information of increasingly questionable quality, delivered with increasingly uncompromising ploys for our attention.


Scientists Achieve Direct Brain-To-Brain Communication Between Humans

Huffington Post

Telepathy is the stuff of science fiction. But what if the dystopian futurists were on to something? What if our brains could directly interact with each other, bypassing the need for language? The idea isn't quite so far fetched, according to a recent University of Washington study in which researchers successfully replicated a direct brain-to-brain communication between two people.

In an initial demonstration a year ago, one of the researchers was able to send brain signals over the Internet in order to control the hand motions of another researcher. Now, in a more comprehensive study, the researchers repeatedly were able to transmit signals from one person’s brain via the Internet, and used these signals to control the hand motions of another person within a fraction of a second.

The study tested three pairs of participants (each with one sender and one receiver) who were seated in separate buildings on the Washington campus, roughly half a mile apart. They were unable to interact with one another, except for the link between their brains.


The Genius of Wearing the Same Outfit Every Day


What do Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, our current president and Homer Simpson all have in common?

They've all worn the same outfit, pretty much every day.

Why? It isn’t a coincidence. Jobs and President Barack Obama, for example, are both part of the same-outfit club, but for different reasons. And both are logical, from both a scientific and business perspective.


Great Innovators are Relentless Rule Breakers

Destination Innovation

The song Bohemian Rhapsody was written by Freddie Mercury for Queen’s 1975 album A Night at the Opera. It broke all the rules for a popular music single release. At a time when most pop songs were simple and formulaic Mercury’s song was a complex mixture of different styles and tempos. It had six separate sections – a close harmony a capella introduction, a ballad, a guitar solo, an opera parody, a rock anthem and a melodic finale. It contained enigmatic and fatalistic lyrics about killing a man. And it was very long.


When it was proposed to Queen’s record producers EMI that they release the song as a single they flatly rejected the idea. It was 5 minutes 55 seconds in duration and the general rule of the day was that radio stations only played items that lasted no more than three and a half minutes.


5 Creativity Myths You Probably Believe


Let’s start with a fact: We are all capable of conceiving new, useful ideas. Unfortunately our chances of doing this are hampered by a few stubborn myths.

These misconceptions cloak creativity in mystique and they foster elitism—the idea that the potential for innovation and imagination is a rare gift enjoyed by only a select few “creative types.” Here we debunk five persistent myths that misrepresent the true neuroscience and psychology of creativity.

·         Myth 1: To be creative you need to be right-brained.

·         Myth 2: You’ve got to hope for a “Eureka!” moment

·         Myth 3: Creative people are lone, eccentric geniuses

·         Myth 4: You need external incentives to help you be creative

·         Myth 5: Brainstorming is the best way to be creative together

The potential for productive imagination lies in all of us. But it doesn’t come without effort. We must balance time alone with collaboration. We must research, listen and meet with others, sowing the seeds of fresh thinking in our minds. Prepare the ground with care and you’ll be rewarded with the growth of new ideas.


Using 3D Printers to Print Out Self-Learning Robots

University of Oslo

Researchers at Oslo University are developing self-instructing robots using three-dimensional (3D) printers. "Once the robots have been printed, their real-world functionalities quite often prove to be different from those of the simulated versions," says Oslo professor Mats Hovin. "We are therefore studying how the robots deteriorate from simulation to laboratory stage." When the researchers test the robots, they set up an obstacle course to enable them to teach themselves how to pass hurdles. The researchers hope in the future the robots will be able to give automatic feedback to the simulation program about how well they work, so the computer will be in a position to design an even better robot. "The explanation is that a 3D printer will construct whatever you want it to, layer by layer," Hovin says. "This means that you won't have to bother with molds, and you can produce seemingly impossibly complicated structures as a single piece." Hovin is testing certain technical production limits, such as how thin or thick the legs of the robot can be. He says a key benefit of this approach is the short distance from the ideas stage to the robot-testing stage. "Nevertheless, there are many practical challenges ahead before our robots can be exploited commercially," says Oslo professor Kyrre Glette.


Why Rush to Know the Gender of Your Friend's Baby? Megan Smith Points Out the Potential Impact for Tech's Gender Gap

The Washington Post

At a recent event hosted by the U.S. Agency for International Development and Intel, U.S. chief technology officer Megan Smith discussed ways to get young women enthusiastic about engineering and technology. Smith says it is vital to eliminate bias starting as young as preschool and continuing through elementary school. She notes even when adults purchase toys for infants, they will base their decisions on the child's gender. Ideally, adults will think through how to provide both girls and boys with "incredible toys and experiences," Smith says. She also notes it is common to envision men as software engineers, but not women, which may stem from a cultural notion of boys and computers from the 1980s and 1990s. To combat this, Smith calls for transforming classrooms into active learning spaces where people feel comfortable. Moreover, she says students should have access to various learning resources, such as laboratories, art class, home economics, shop, and gym. "A little kid doesn't start writing a fabulous essay or an amazing book from day one," Smith observes. "You start with little baby steps."


Anna and Elsa are teaching young 'Frozen' fans how to code

Daily Dot

We already know that Barbie can't teach girls how to code, but what about Anna and Elsa? is a non-profit educational group that helps kids of all ages learn to code by bringing them a variety of games and challenges to make the process fun. The website has drawn inspiration from President Barack Obama to Flappy Bird, and now it's turning to one of the biggest fandoms in recent memory: Frozen.

Its latest project has come just in time to help us cope with our wintery wonderland. Here's the website description:

Let's use code to join Anna and Elsa as they explore the magic and beauty of ice. You will create snowflakes and patterns as you ice-skate and make a winter wonderland that you can then share with your friends!


Productivity advice I learned from people smarter than me

Next Web

Like all people, I’d like to think I am a productive person. If I am, however, it’s because I’ve been ruthlessly efficient at one thing: stealing secrets and methods from people a lot smarter than me.


In my career, I’ve had the fortune of coming in contact with bestselling authors, successful entrepreneurs, investors, executives and creative people. Some I didn’t meet, but I found their thoughts in book form. Whether they knew it or not, I cased all of them and took from them what I thought were their best ideas on productivity.


Below are the secrets I learned from them. Thanks guys! You helped me get more done and be more creative.


The Psychology of Writing


Reflecting on the ritualization of creativity, Bukowski famously scoffed that “air and light and time and space have nothing to do with.” Samuel Johnson similarly contended that “a man may write at any time, if he will set himself doggedly to it.” And yet some of history’s most successful and prolific writers were women and men of religious daily routines and odd creative rituals. (Even Buk himself ended up sticking to a peculiar daily routine.)


[There is] evidence that environments, schedules, and rituals restructure the writing process and amplify performance… The principles of memory retrieval suggest that certain practices should amplify performance. These practices encourage a state of flow rather than one of anxiety or boredom. Like strategies, these other aspects of a writer’s method may alleviate the difficulty of attentional overload. The room, time of day, or ritual selected for working may enable or even induce intense concentration or a favorable motivational or emotional state. Moreover, in accordance with encoding specificity, each of these aspects of method may trigger retrieval of ideas, facts, plans, and other relevant knowledge associated with the place, time, or frame of mind selected by the writer for work.