Tag Archives: strange

Eggcorn collection

For several years now, I have been collecting eggcorns.  Eggcorns are words and phrases that make sense, but are not technically correct. The name comes (supposedly) from a child who asks how to spell “eggcorn,” which is how she had interpreted the word “acorn.”  Acorns look egg-shaped, and starting in the “E” section of the dictionary it would be hard to find the entry that would dispel the misconception.

So I would like to share some of my collection. I caught all of these in the wild.

  • “to rage war” (from “to wage war”)
  • “I would like to relay a story” (from “I would like to relate a story”)
  • “To breach a subject” (from “to broach a subject”)
  • “to interfear with the government’s terror campaign” (from “to interfere…”)
  • “Exception to the rulers” (from “exception to the rules”)
  • “I beg to dither” (from “I beg to differ”)

Comment and add your favorites!


The Strange fringe leads to something interesting

There’s a book by Orson Scott Card called “Folk of the Fringe.” It’s one of his lesser known works. I liked the symbolism. In the post-apocalyptic future, a group of people are terraforming the Utah desert into arable land. In the story, there’s a sequence of plants (engineered and natural) that need to grow on the land before it’s ready for crops. This sequence is planted as ever-expanding rings out from Salt Lake City (O.S.C is a Mormon).

Out at the newly planted regions, the fringe, people live far away from mainstream society. They ride in long circles, tending to the ever expanding ring of habitable territory. The symbolism is obvious. People who are on the edges of social acceptability are actually making more conceptual and social “space” available to the rest of us.
There’s a bit of a parallel in the sciences. Truth to tell, most “kooks” don’t have anything fundamentally interesting. But occasionally, a kook will strike gold out in the frontier and inspire a new rush of activity.

I don’t know how kooky the subject is of “Binaural auditory beats.” The fact that I first heard about it through the “alternative” sources suggests that it’s pretty kooky. But that’s irrelevant in the end. This study looks like it’s bringing the subject into the more respectable realm of controlled experiments:

Binaural auditory beats affect vigilance performance and mood.
Lane JD, Kasian SJ, Owens JE, Marsh GR.

Department of Psychiatry, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, USA

When two tones of slightly different frequency are presented separately to the left and right ears the listener perceives a single tone that varies in amplitude at a frequency equal to the frequency difference between the two tones, a perceptual phenomenon known as the binaural auditory beat. Anecdotal reports suggest that binaural auditory beats within the electroencephalograph frequency range can entrain EEG activity and may affect states of consciousness, although few scientific studies have been published. This study compared the effects of binaural auditory beats in the EEG beta and EEG theta/delta frequency ranges on mood and on performance of a vigilance task to investigate their effects on subjective and objective measures of arousal…

In any case, I’m not surprised that there are external stimuli that can have odd effects on our brain and consciousness. In fact, I would be surprised if there were not. This is the fringe, ladies and gentlemen. This is where fertile ground will be made from desert. Binaural beat stimulation is a crude probe compared to that which we are capable of designing. The last question is: what will we plant in this new ground made whole by our efforts?


Unconscious thought and an aritcle on the Unseen Mind

I’m back! I’ve just read a perspective over at Science that made me think of Blink.  I have mentioned Blink before. It’s even linked over in the sidebar. It’s a book I like to think about. Some have denigrated it as anti-intellectualism, but I disagree. In fact, I think the mistake is revealing.

An MRI of a human brain: how much is below the threshold of self consciousness

I will explain. The subject of Blink is intuition and unconscious thought. It turns out we have a lot of unconscious processing going on all of the time. The world we ‘see’ is a necessarily greatly filtered. If you had to deal consciously with facts like the number of spokes in every bicycle wheel that passed you or the color of the shoelaces on each stranger’s feet, or the smell of every room you entered, it is doubtful you could stay sane.

Our brains have mechanisms for dealing with these stimuli (‘inconsequential’ sights, sounds and smells). The filter is very effective, but not perfect. That is to say, sometimes it ignores things that are consequential, and other times it flags trivial things as important.

The point of Blink is that we can train these parts of our brain (the parts of which we are not consciously aware) to make them more effective. People do it all of the time. Sports coaches often can read subtle cues about an athlete’s movement that the average person couldn’t notice. And they may not even be able to express consciously exactly what it was that they noticed. But by being ale to see, they can help the athlete refine their skill anyway.

Intellectuals think that this is counter to rational thought. It’s a cop-out, they say, to rely on unconscious parts of your brain. People who see Blink as anti-intellectual have the notion that reasonable, intelligent people don’t have to resort to such mystical clap-trap to solve problems. Thinkers, they suppose, will rely on their conscious rhetoric and careful analysis just like they always have. But this misses the point. It only reveals that these intellectuals see a false division between their rational selves and their more intuitive unconscious faculties.

The truth is that nobody can avoid relying on these parts of their brain. We rely on unconscious parts of our brain whether we like it or not. The part of us that is our ‘self’ is not just the part that is narrating the internal monologue. It is an indefensible claim that the whole of our body including these lower parts of our consciousness is only present to get our higher cognitive faculties to meetings. The unconscious is as much a part of the whole as the conscious.

The part of me that is ‘me’ is more than the narrator of my internal monologue. Buddhists, who (arguably) have made the longest running investigation of consciousness, have known this for a long time. Science is finding it, too: “Studies such as that by Galdi et al. are documenting how the adaptive unconscious works and people’s limited introspective access to it. As these studies become more widely known, people might realize that … their conscious thoughts and feelings are but a small part of the workings of their minds.”


isolating mitochondria, strange science, turkey sperm

I tried a kit for collecting mitochondria today. It didn’t work, but it failed in an interesting way, it turns out. Not interesting in a scientific way, unfortunately for me, but it ended up being… humorous…

This kit is supposed to take cells in one end and spit their mitochondria out the other. But there were no mitochondria on the other side. I don’t know if anyone else would go looking though the samples for whole cells, so maybe it wasn’t obvious to other people why it wasn’t giving good yields for the cell type we like. But I did go looking, and I found cells that were not lysed. If they don’t lyse, then they don’t give up the mitochondria.

So I went looking for ways to lyse cells in a way that doesn’t lyse the mitochondria.

Arriaga uses digitonin (detergent) and a cell disruption bomb. The Thurston group isolated turkey sperm mitochondria (I’m too tired to really appreciate how awesome that is) using a combination of Dounce homogenization and sonication. That was back in 1993.

I’d like to share a quote from their paper: “Semen was collected from turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) by abdominal massage (Burrows and Quinn, 1937).” What I want to know is: who are these Burrows and Quinn characters? And how does someone in 1937 get the job of inventing a procedure to acquire turkey semen?

There’s a story there, by god.


myths, conspiracies and a little about the scary side of science

From the Berkeley Language Center – Speech Archive SA 0269: Huxley, Aldous. The Ultimate Revolution, March 20, 1962:

“We are in process of developing a whole series of techniques which will enable the controlling oligarchy… to get people actually to love their servitude… There seems to be a general movement in the direction of this kind of ultimate revolution, this method of control by which people can be made to enjoy a state of affairs which by any decent standard they ought not to enjoy.”

Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World in 1932. Here are a few things in fairly recent news:

FDA Panel Backs Implant To Counter Depression – washingtonpost.com

CDC: Antidepressants most prescribed drugs in U.S. – CNN.com

Understanding individual human mobility patterns – Nature

I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I don’t think that people need to ‘conspire’. The memes of consumerism, quick fix, and the drive to power are going to have their effects irrespective of the existence of some shadowy cabal. But it’s hard not to see the parallels between Huxley’s Brave New World and the world we are all creating.