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The Mysteries of the Placebo Effect

October 5, 2011 Leave a comment

 

The Science of Learning from Mistakes

October 5, 2011 Leave a comment

“Education isn’t magic. Education is the wisdom wrung from failure.

A new study, forthcoming in Psychological Science, and led by Jason Moser at Michigan State University, expands on this important concept. The question at the heart of the paper is simple: Why are some people so much more effective at learning from their mistakes?

After all, everybody screws up. The important part is what happens next. Do we ignore the mistake, brushing it aside for the sake of our self-confidence? Or do we investigate the error, seeking to learn from the snafu?

The Moser experiment is premised on the fact that there are two distinct reactions to mistakes, both of which can be reliably detected using electroenchephalography, or EEG.

The first reaction is called error-related negativity (ERN). It appears about 50 milliseconds after a screw-up and is believed to originate in the anterior cingulate cortex, a chunk of tissue that helps monitor behavior, anticipate rewards and regulate attention. This neural reaction is mostly involuntary, the inevitable response to any screw-up.

The second signal, which is known as error positivity (Pe), arrives anywhere between 100-500 milliseconds after the mistake and is associated with awareness. It occurs when we pay attention to the error, dwelling on the disappointing result.

In recent years, numerous studies have shown that subjects learn more effectively when their brains demonstrate two properties:

1) a larger ERN signal, suggesting a bigger initial response to the mistake, and

2) a more consistent Pe signal, which means that they are probably paying attention to the error, and thus trying to learn from it.”

Aquatic Invisibility Cloak Developed Using Carbon Nanotubes

October 5, 2011 Leave a comment

“Scientists have created a working cloaking device that not only takes advantage of one of nature’s most bizarre phenomenon, but also boasts unique features; it has an ‘on and off’ switch and is best used underwater.

The researchers, from the University of Texas at Dallas, have demonstrated the device’s ability to make objects disappear in a fascinating video.

This novel design, presented today, Tuesday 4 September, in IOP Publishing’s journal Nanotechnology, makes use of sheets of carbon nanotubes (CNT) – one-molecule-thick sheets of carbon wrapped up into cylindrical tubes…

Through electrical stimulation, the transparent sheet of highly aligned CNTs can be easily heated to high temperatures. They then have the ability to transfer that heat to its surrounding areas, causing a steep temperature gradient. Just like a mirage, this steep temperature gradient causes the light rays to bend away from the object concealed behind the device, making it appear invisible.

With this method, it is more practical to demonstrate cloaking underwater as all of the apparatus can be contained in a petri dish. It is the ease with which the CNTs can be heated that gives the device its unique ‘on and off’ feature.”