henry copeland @hc

having fun with people and pixels, via racery, pullquote, twiangulate, improv, running

Recent quotes:

mistakes

. So much of lived experience is composed of what lies beyond our agency and prediction, beyond our grasp, beyond our imagining. In the perfected landscapes of Second Life, I kept remembering what a friend had once told me about his experience of incarceration: Having his freedom taken from him meant not only losing access to the full range of the world’s possible pleasure, but also losing access to the full range of his own possible mistakes. Maybe the price of a perfected world, or a world where you can ostensibly control everything, is that much of what strikes us as “experience” comes from what we cannot forge ourselves, and what we cannot ultimately abandon.

Will home be obliterated by virtual life?

When I asked Rosedale whether he stood behind the predictions he’d made during the early years of Second Life—that the locus of our lives would become virtual, and that the physical world would start to seem like a museum—he didn’t recant. Just the opposite: He said that at a certain point we would come to regard the real world as an “archaic, lovable place” that was no longer crucial. “What will we do with our offices when we no longer use them?” he wondered. “Will we play racquetball in them?” I pressed him on this. Did he really think that certain parts of the physical world—the homes we share with our families, for example, or the meals we enjoy with our friends, our bodies leaning close across tables—would someday cease to matter? Did he really believe that our corporeal selves weren’t fundamental to our humanity? I was surprised by how rapidly he conceded. The sphere of family would never become obsolete, he said—the physical home, where we choose to spend time with the people we love. “That has a more durable existence,” he said. “As I think you’d agree.”

Second Life Still Has 600,000 Regular Users - The Atlantic

In July, Linden Lab launched a beta version of a new platform called Sansar, billed as the next frontier: a three-dimensional world designed for use with a virtual-reality headset such as Oculus Rift. The company’s faith, along with the recent popularity of VR in the tech world (a trend that Facebook’s purchase of Oculus VR attests to), raises a larger question. If advances in virtual reality solve the problem of a cumbersome interface, will they ultimately reveal a widespread desire to plunge more fully into virtual worlds unfettered by glitches, lags, and keyboards?

Seeking density

an early study by Linden Lab that found the vast majority of Second Life users lived in rural rather than urban areas in real life. They came to Second Life for what their physical lives lacked: the concentration, density, and connective potential of urban spaces; the sense of things happening all around them; the possibility of being part of that happening.

Second Life Still Has 600,000 Regular Users - The Atlantic

But if Second Life promised a future in which people would spend hours each day inhabiting their online identity, haven’t we found ourselves inside it? Only it’s come to pass on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter instead. As I learned more about Second Life, and spent more time exploring it, it started to seem less like an obsolete relic and more like a distorted mirror reflecting the world many of us live in. Perhaps Second Life inspires an urge to ridicule not because it’s unrecognizable, but because it takes a recognizable impulse and carries it past the bounds of comfort, into a kind of uncanny valley: not just the promise of an online voice, but an online body; not just checking Twitter on your phone, but forgetting to eat because you’re dancing at an online club; not just a curated version of your real life, but a separate existence entirely. It crystallizes the simultaneous siren call and shame of wanting an alternate life. It raises questions about where unfettered fantasy leads, as well as about how we navigate the boundary between the virtual and the real.

The Effects of Physical Exercise and Cognitive Training on Memory and Neurotrophic Factors | Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience | MIT Press Journals

This study examined the combined effect of physical exercise and cognitive training on memory and neurotrophic factors in healthy, young adults. Ninety-five participants completed 6 weeks of exercise training, combined exercise and cognitive training, or no training (control). Both the exercise and combined training groups improved performance on a high-interference memory task, whereas the control group did not. In contrast, neither training group improved on general recognition performance, suggesting that exercise training selectively increases high-interference memory that may be linked to hippocampal function. Individuals who experienced greater fitness improvements from the exercise training (i.e., high responders to exercise) also had greater increases in the serum neurotrophic factors brain-derived neurotrophic factor and insulin-like growth factor-1. These high responders to exercise also had better high-interference memory performance as a result of the combined exercise and cognitive training compared with exercise alone, suggesting that potential synergistic effects might depend on the availability of neurotrophic factors.

Frontiers | Metacognitive Therapy for Depression in Adults: A Waiting List Randomized Controlled Trial with Six Months Follow-Up | Psychology

A new treatment approach to depression that has produced encouraging results is metacognitive therapy (MCT; Wells, 2009). This approach is based on the metacognitive model where psychological disorder results from an inflexible and maladaptive response pattern to cognitive events labeled the Cognitive Attentional Syndrome (CAS; Wells, 2000; Wells and Matthews, 1994, 1996). The CAS consists of persistent worry and rumination, threat monitoring and ineffective coping strategies that contribute to the maintenance of emotional disorder. Rumination in depression is seen as a coping strategy which follows an initial negative thought labeled a ‘trigger thought’. The depressed individual engages in rumination consisting of repeatedly analyzing negative feelings, past failures and mistakes. Depression is therefore understood as an extension of low mood resulting from a problem of overthinking (e.g., worry and rumination) and withdrawal of active coping. (e.g., social withdrawal and reduction in activity). According to the metacognitive model of depression, rumination and worry is maintained by metacognitions and not by changes in mood or events. Further, this response to triggers extends negative thinking, leads to reduced attentional flexibility and involves a failure to exercise appropriate control over negative affective experiences (Wells, 2009). According to the metacognitive model metacognitive beliefs control, monitor and appraise the CAS (Wells, 2009). There are both positive and negative metacognitive beliefs. Positive metacognitions are concerned with the benefits of worry and rumination, while negative metacognitions are concerned with the uncontrollability and danger of thoughts. Positive metacognitions related to depression may be exemplified by statements like: “Analyzing the causes of my sadness will give me an answer to the problem”, and “Thinking the worst will make me snap out of it”. Such positive metacognitive beliefs lead to repeated and/or prolonged engagement in ruminative thinking. Negative metacognitions are activated as the rumination process leads to distress and/or as a result of what the individual learns about depression. Examples of negative metacognitions are: “I can’t control my thinking”, “My thoughts are caused by my defective brain”, “Sleeping more will sort out my mind”. and “Thinking like this means I could have a mental breakdown”. Negative metacognitions lead to more distress and to unhelpful behaviors that reduce effective coping.

Smart people have better connected brains: In intelligent persons, some brain regions interact more closely, while others de-couple themselves -- ScienceDaily

The study shows that in more intelligent persons certain brain regions are clearly more strongly involved in the exchange of information between different sub-networks of the brain in order for important information to be communicated quickly and efficiently. On the other hand, the research team also identified brain regions that are more strongly 'de-coupled' from the rest of the network in more intelligent people. This may result in better protection against distracting and irrelevant inputs. "We assume that network properties we have found in more intelligent persons help us to focus mentally and to ignore or suppress irrelevant, potentially distracting inputs," says Basten. The causes of these associations remain an open question at present. "It is possible that due to their biological predispositions, some individuals develop brain networks that favor intelligent behaviors or more challenging cognitive tasks. However, it is equally as likely that the frequent use of the brain for cognitively challenging tasks may positively influence the development of brain networks. Given what we currently know about intelligence, an interplay of both processes seems most likely."

Spatial and Sex-Dependent Responses of Adult Endogenous Neural Stem Cells to Alcohol Consumption: Stem Cell Reports

hronic alcohol abuse results in alcohol-related neurodegeneration, and critical gaps in our knowledge hinder therapeutic development. Neural stem cells (NSCs) are a subpopulation of cells within the adult brain that contribute to brain maintenance and recovery. While it is known that alcohol alters NSCs, little is known about how NSC response to alcohol is related to sex, brain region, and stage of differentiation. Understanding these relationships will aid in therapeutic development. Here, we used an inducible transgenic mouse model to track the stages of differentiation of adult endogenous NSCs and observed distinct NSC behaviors in three brain regions (subventricular zone, subgranular zone, and tanycyte layer) after long-term alcohol consumption. Particularly, chronic alcohol consumption profoundly affected the survival of NSCs in the subventricular zone and altered NSC differentiation in all three regions. Significant differences between male and female mice were further discovered.

The Hidden History of Trump’s First Trip to Moscow - POLITICO Magazine

As Trump tells it, the idea for his first trip to Moscow came after he found himself seated next to the Soviet ambassador Yuri Dubinin. This was in autumn 1986; the event was a luncheon held by Leonard Lauder, the businessman son of Estée Lauder. Dubinin’s daughter Natalia “had read about Trump Tower and knew all about it,” Trump said in his 1987 bestseller, The Art of the Deal. Trump continued: “One thing led to another, and now I’m talking about building a large luxury hotel, across the street from the Kremlin, in partnership with the Soviet government.” Trump’s chatty version of events is incomplete. According to Natalia Dubinina, the actual story involved a more determined effort by the Soviet government to seek out Trump. In February 1985 Kryuchkov complained again about “the lack of appreciable results of recruitment against the Americans in most Residencies.” The ambassador arrived in New York in March 1986. His original job was Soviet ambassador to the U.N.; his daughter Dubinina was already living in the city with her family, and she was part of the Soviet U.N. delegation. Dubinin wouldn’t have answered to the KGB. And his role wasn’t formally an intelligence one. But he would have had close contacts with the power apparatus in Moscow. He enjoyed greater trust than other, lesser ambassadors. Dubinina said she picked up her father at the airport. It was his first time in New York City. She took him on a tour. The first building they saw was Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, she told Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper. Dubinin was so excited he decided to go inside to meet the building’s owner. They got into the elevator. At the top, Dubinina said, they met Trump. The ambassador—“fluent in English and a brilliant master of negotiations”—charmed the busy Trump, telling him: “The first thing I saw in the city is your tower!” Dubinina said: “Trump melted at once. He is an emotional person, somewhat impulsive. He needs recognition. And, of course, when he gets it he likes it. My father’s visit worked on him [Trump] like honey to a bee.” This encounter happened six months before the Estée Lauder lunch. In Dubinina’s account she admits her father was trying to hook Trump. The man from Moscow wasn’t a wide-eyed rube but a veteran diplomat who served in France and Spain, and translated for Nikita Khrushchev when he met with Charles de Gaulle at the Elysée Palace in Paris. He had seen plenty of impressive buildings. Weeks after his first Trump meeting, Dubinin was named Soviet ambassador to Washington.

Low Dopamine Levels During Withdrawal Promote Relapse to Smoking

“This study is an elegant example of yet another way that addiction ‘hijacks’ the reward system. The phasic release of dopamine triggers us to seek things that, in theory, help us to adapt to our environment,” commented Dr. John Krystal, editor of Biological Psychiatry. “However, in addiction the phasic release of dopamine is heightened and it triggers the pursuit of abused substances. This disturbance of dopamine function would, conceivably, make it that much harder to avoid seeking drugs of abuse.”

Use it or lose it

“I usually put this in more obscene language,” van Loon says, “but you can mess up a lot more in one week than you can improve in six months of training.”

Bob Lutz: Kiss the good times goodbye

A minority of individuals may elect to have personalized modules sitting at home so they can leave their vacation stuff and the kids' soccer gear in them. They'll still want that convenience. The vehicles, however, will no longer be driven by humans because in 15 to 20 years — at the latest — human-driven vehicles will be legislated off the highways.

The Running Bubble Has Popped. (You Couldn’t Hear It in New York.) - The New York Times

“Back when you could enter a road race for $10 and you could enter a marathon for $25, the sport really had no appeal or very little appeal for for-profit businesses,” Stewart said. “But then we moved into an era where people would pay $85 for a half and $135 for a marathon. That’s when you really had all the for-profit groups, and it just transformed the model.” Stewart specifically cited the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon race series, which put a heavy focus on the social experience of running events and charged high prices for it. (Fees for races in its 2017 Las Vegas race series are $79.99 for the 5K up to $179.99 for the marathon.)

100 years after the October revolution, the neo-Bolsheviks come from the right - The Washington Post

His extremism was precisely what persuaded the German government, then at war with Russia, to help Lenin carry out his plans. “We must now definitely try to create the utmost chaos in Russia,” one German official advised. “We must secretly do all that we can to aggravate the differences between the moderate and the extreme parties . . . since we are interested in the victory of the latter.” The kaiser personally approved of the idea; his generals hoped it would lead the Russian state to collapse and withdraw from the war. And so the German government promised Lenin funding, put him and 30 other Bolsheviks — among them his wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya , as well as his mistress, Inessa Armand — onto a train, and sent them to revolutionary Petrograd.

Penny-wise, pound-foolish decisions explained by neurons' firing: Spending decisions influenced by adaptation in neural circuits -- ScienceDaily

The researchers discovered that the neurons' firing rates reset between the two sessions. In the first session the maximum firing rate corresponded to the option of two drops of juice, and in the second it corresponded to 10 drops of juice. In other words, the same change in how rapidly the neuron fired corresponded to a fine distinction in value when the range was narrow, and a coarse distinction when the range was broad. "As we adapt to large values, we lose some ability to consider smaller values," Padoa-Schioppa said. "This is why salesmen try so hard to sell you upgrades when you're buying a car. Spending $100 to add on a radio seems like no big deal if you're already spending $20,000 on a car. But if you already have a car and you are thinking of spending $100 for a radio, suddenly it seems like a lot. They know that people don't come back and buy the radio later."

Luck plays a role in how language evolves, team finds -- ScienceDaily

"If you have a phonetic neighborhood with lots of rhyming irregular verbs, it acts like a gravitational force and makes it more likely that the past tense of other rhyming verbs will irregularize," said Clark.

Smiling Makes You a More Efficient Runner | Outside Online

During the runs, the volunteers were instructed to smile, frown, relax their hands and upper body (by imagining, for example, that they were carrying potato chips between their thumb and forefingers without breaking them), or just think their usual thoughts. The results more or less supported the benefits of smiling. Running economy was a little more than 2 percent better when smiling—an improvement that’s comparable to what you see in studies of weeks or months of plyometrics or heavy weight training.

>50% medical journal editors get money from drug companies

The authors investigated 52 influential U.S.-based journals in 26 physician specialties. In 2014, approximately half the editors of these journals received payments from pharmaceutical or medical device companies. These payments were disclosed by the applicable companies in the U.S.-based Open Payments database a federally run program that requires industry to report information about financial relationships to physicians. These payments were made to the editors personally, rather than for research funding, and were characterized in various ways, including honorariums, patent royalties, food and beverage, travel expenses, and consulting fees. The highest payments went to editors from endocrinology journals, followed by cardiology, gastroenterology, rheumatology and urology. The authors found that, on the whole, journal editors who are also physicians received higher payments from the pharmaceutical and medical device industries than physicians in their same specialty who are not journal editors.

Your brain does not process information and it is not a computer | Aeon Essays

Worse still, even if we had the ability to take a snapshot of all of the brain’s 86 billion neurons and then to simulate the state of those neurons in a computer, that vast pattern would mean nothing outside the body of the brain that produced it. This is perhaps the most egregious way in which the IP metaphor has distorted our thinking about human functioning. Whereas computers do store exact copies of data – copies that can persist unchanged for long periods of time, even if the power has been turned off – the brain maintains our intellect only as long as it remains alive. There is no on-off switch. Either the brain keeps functioning, or we disappear. What’s more, as the neurobiologist Steven Rose pointed out in The Future of the Brain (2005), a snapshot of the brain’s current state might also be meaningless unless we knew the entire life history of that brain’s owner – perhaps even about the social context in which he or she was raised.

Group exercise improves quality of life, reduces stress far more than individual work outs -- ScienceDaily

At the end of the twelve weeks, their mean monthly survey scores showed significant improvements in all three quality of life measures: mental (12.6 percent), physical (24.8 percent) and emotional (26 percent). They also reported a 26.2 percent reduction in perceived stress levels.

Virtual reality reduces phantom pain in paraplegics -- ScienceDaily

"We tapped the back of the subject near the shoulders and the subject experienced the illusion that the tapping originated from the paralyzed legs," explains Polona Pozeg, co-author of the study and now neuroscientist at the Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV). "This is because the subject also received visual stimuli of dummy legs being tapped, viewed through the virtual reality headset, so the subject saw them immersively as his or her own legs."

Gossip serves underdogs sometimes

Gossip, though it draws those motivated by envy and resentment, is also a tool of the powerless. It’s a mechanism for coordination.

Civil, the blockchain-based journalism marketplace, is building its first batch of publications » Nieman Journalism Lab

Built on top of blockchain (the same technology that underpins bitcoin), Civil promises to use the technology to build decentralized marketplaces for readers and journalists to work together to fund coverage of topics that interest them, or for those in the public interest. Readers will support reporters using “CVL” tokens, Civil’s cryptocurrency, giving them a speculative stake in the currency that will — hopefully — increase in value as more people buy in over time. This, Civil, hopes will encourage more people to invest in the marketplaces, creating a self-sustaining system that will help fund more reporting.

Small talk topics at dinner parties should be banned | WIRED UK

According to a 2010 study by social anthropologist Kate Fox, in Britain, more than nine in ten people admit to having talked about the weather in the last six hours. Around 38 per cent say they've talked about it in the past hour. (And when was the last time you heard someone say, "I wish we had another 45 minutes to get into the weather in more depth"?)

outsiders see the big picture

One of the interesting "side effects" of this project was the discovery of the great connectedness of the yellow nodes -- the outside contractors -- in this project. They were better integrated in the knowledge flows of this project than any other group -- they reached more people, over shorter paths. Of course, the bad news is that these contractors will all leave at the end of the project, and the company will no longer have access to their knowledge. The company did not want to lose key knowledge from, and about, the project. They set up regular knowledge-sharing sessions where key network nodes would share their wisdom, experience and learning about the project. This allowed the knowledge to flow from the well-connected contractors back into the regular organization.