The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
 
 
Sunday, September 30, 2012
Brain / Mind ... Psychology ... Technology ... Zen ...

I just found out about the Flynn Effect. The Flynn Effect is all about “psychometrics”, i.e. the measurement of human intelligence. About 28 years ago, a New Zealand sociology researcher who specializes in intelligence issues (whose last name is Flynn, not surprisingly) noticed that IQ scores have been rising steadily since at least the late 1940s, possibly since 1932. This effect has been taking place for both the highest and lowest scoring groups, as well as the middle. In effect, every new generation seems to be smarter than the one preceding it. That effect goes on today. I got out of college in 1975, so the class of 2012 has me and my peers beat by quite a bit — around 12 points (the effect is about 1/3 IQ point per year).

According to a recent Scientific American article (which brought me up to speed on this issue), the Flynn effect has been driven by one specific component of the IQ tests. It is not the component for arithmetic skills, nor the component for vocabulary skills; these scores have only gone up a bit over the past 60-odd years. The big jump is in “similarities”, the measurements of “fluid intelligence”. These are the tricky questions that attempt to gage a person’s “abstract intelligence”, the ability to see patterns (according to someone’s judgment about what patterns are important to see). I.e., which of the following animals is least like the others: orangutan, anteater, skunk and zebra; or BOOM is to 4267 as ZOOK is to (choose one): 3902, 54892, 3319 . . . or Mary is 16 years older than her brother, and is four times her sister’s age; if her sister was born two years before her brother, then . . . (these are not real IQ questions, of course).

Interestingly, the Sci Am article points out that Dr. Flynn and others feel that the Flynn Effect reflects changes in what society expects from us, both in  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:11 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Monday, September 24, 2012
Science ...

The existence of the Higgs Boson particle has been confirmed by experiments at the CERN Large Hadron Collider in Europe, and particle physicists now have proof that a mechanism exists within their “Standard Model of Particles” that imparts the quality of “mass” to various particles (i.e. most everything except the photon, the force carrier of electromagnetism, and the gluon, the particle that holds quarks together as protons and neutrons in the interior of atoms). Does that explain everything? Well no, there is still a big problem that they call “The Hierarchy Problem”. This problem is a bit tricky for we physics junkies who don’t understand all the heavy duty math behind it. I will now cite three articles that try to explain this important Problem in three different ways, and see if I can weave them together into a “hierarchy for dummies” presentation.

Ethan Siegal’s “With A Bang” column gives a brief overview of the huge disparity in energy levels between gravity and the old familiar electrical force (light, magnetism) along with the weak force (radioactive decay and neutrino interactions — rare as they are). Gravity is extremely smaller than electrical and weak forces, by a factor of 10 with 40 zeros following it; i.e., one big number. Well yes, but just what is the problem with that arrangement? Mr. Siegal doesn’t really take you across that divide, he just forges ahead to reviewing the possible solutions, and how they imply some interesting future discoveries for the CERN collider.

Fine, but . . . maybe you’d like to know more about the problem before you jump to the solution. OK, so let’s try out Matt Strassler’s often insightful blog called “Particular Significance”.  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 1:26 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Saturday, September 22, 2012
Politics ... Society ...

I was progressing through the September (2012) issue of The Atlantic, thoroughly enjoying James Fallows’ detailed comparison of the debating skills and experiences of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, willing to consider Hanna Rosin’s theory that the modern emphasis on casual sex on the college scene (the so-called “hook-up culture”) is actually “an engine of female progress . . . harnesses and driven by women themselves” . . . when I came to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Fear of a Black President“. And at first I was going to give it a quick look then move on to the usually interesting short notes at the end of the magazine.

I had previously read some of Mr. Coates’ by-lines, and knew more-or-less that he was quite sensitive to alleged racial issues in 21st Century America. It is clear right from the start of his new article that Mr. Coates, a young African-American, is quite angry with the state of black-white relationships in America today (“a properly angry essay”, as James Bennet writes in the Editor’s Note). I am somewhat familiar with the phenomenon of on-going yet under-spoken racial anger on the part of educated black professionals, having seen occasional signs of it in my own workplace. I didn’t think at first that Mr. Coates would tell me anything that I didn’t already know.

But on second thought . . . maybe I owed it to those people at work  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 6:50 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Sunday, September 16, 2012
Photo ...

Local dojo on Sunday morning. And if you need to know who Shakil is . . .

◊   posted by Jim G @ 11:41 am       Read Comments (3) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Thursday, September 13, 2012
Brain / Mind ... Personal Reflections ... Psychology ...

It’s been almost 20 years since I found out about the Myers Briggs theories of human temperament, and their associated system of classification and testing. I’ll assume that most everyone who trips across this blog is familiar with this, but if not, here’s another link, one of hundreds if not thousands available on the web.

I was in the midst of a short-lived but very intense relationship with a woman from Florida (Gainesville Florida, a rather strange and interesting town located just inside the armpit of the Sunshine State). The relationship disintegrated rather quickly and unexpectedly, something like the two Space Shuttle tragedies. So I came away with it with some interesting stories and mostly good memories; but given what I saw in the final days, I had relatively few regrets over its demise. One of the good things that I walked away with was a personal discovery of Myers Briggs. During the final high-energy months, Ellie told me about the MB Inventory, and so I quickly got to a local bookstore and obtained a copy of Kiersey’s “Please Understand Me“. I made haste to take the test quiz in the book, and lo and behold, I was found to be an INFJ. Just like Ellie! For a brief moment, it seemed like the two of us were a match made in heaven.

Well, we weren’t. But still, I was an INFJ! The most rare of the  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:10 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Saturday, September 8, 2012
Outer Space ... Science ...

After two political conventions in two weeks, it seems like a good time for a diversion, a look into the world of 21st Century physics. I’d like to share some recent developments of interest (they interest me, anyway!). These papers have not gained as much public attention as the recent confirmation of the Higgs boson or the controversy over possible faster-than-light neutrinos from last year. But I myself believe they have a lot of potential in defining or altering what the physicists will teach future generations about how our Universe works.

The first item regards a recent experiment involving the decay pattern of sub-atomic particles called B mesons. As you probably know, there are only a handful of stable particles which make up the stuff that we experience in our regular lives; i.e., mixtures of top and bottom quarks arranged as protons and neutrons, along with electrons and the ghostly neutrinos. There are many, many other kinds of particles, but they only exist for a tiny fraction of a second and usually only manifest themselves in rare circumstances involving very high energy levels (as are created in research particle accelerators). B mesons are such a particle.

Even though exotic particles like the B meson are not typical, physicists can still  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:16 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Thursday, September 6, 2012
Economics/Business ... Politics ...

The philosophical contrast behind the Presidential election candidates and their parties this year is about the sharpest and widest that I’ve seen in my almost 6 decades. My interest in Presidential elections goes pretty far back, right to the Kennedy-Nixon contest in 1960. Never has there been so much disagreement between the Democrats and Republicans on what direction to take the nation.

Although nothing in this world is black and white (life and politics are still ultimately shades of grey — but this year the dark grey is VERY dark, and the light grey is VERY light), I think it’s fair to say that Barack Obama and the Democrats will continue to emphasize a large government apparatus with extensive intervention into all aspects of the commerce and economic doings of our nation. Mr. Romney and the Republicans are calling for a smaller government with a shrunken role in economic regulation and taxation. The winner will arguably have a mandate from the public to pursue their favored philosophy of political economics (although thus far the race looks like a dead heat, and the winner may emerge as in 2000 more because of luck than from public consensus, regarding just how socialist or capitalist our nation should be).

So, I will try to make as clear and plain an explanation as I can of the underlying arguments for and against Mr. Obama’s views versus Mr. Romney’s plans.

Let me first go to bat for the Republicans.  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:17 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Saturday, September 1, 2012
Photo ...

Rubble at a demolition site in Newark, former electrical goods factory. Where hundreds of people were employed, once upon a time. That was back when Newark had enough decent jobs for anyone who wanted to work. The world certainly has changed since then.

“Well you can tear a building down, but you can’t erase a memory . . .” (Living Color).

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:29 pm       Read Comments (3) / Leave a Comment
 
 
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