This is an 18 minute film about the computational aspects of vision that I had the honor to write and direct. Neuroscientist Bruno Olshausen from UC Berkeley tells us that the eye is not a camera and the brain is not a hard drive – and how Bayes’ theorem can help us understand optical illusions.
In psychology, the concept of “flow” is a state we attain when we enter completely into a challenging activity and forget everything else around us. It was coined by the Hungarian-American researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. In his house in Los Angeles, he spoke to us about the history behind his idea, and the role that simplicity and complexity play in it.
When and how did you come up with the concept of flow?
The idea must have come when I started rock climbing in Italy, before I emigrated to the United States. I did a lot of climbing in the Alps, in Switzerland, Austria and Italy. When I came into the US at first, Chicago was completely flat, and then I discovered the Grand Tetons. In the summers, I used to take a train or a bus and get down to Colorado and Wyoming and do mountain climbing. I started writing about climbing in journals as an experience of sport, but also as a way of discovering oneself and coming to terms with life.
I think it is probably very important that you gave the phenomenon that name, “flow”.
At first it was just a feeling. One day when I was swimming in a river up in Northern California, I thought: oh, that’s the feeling that I get when I climb. And I ended up calling that the flow experience, it was a natural analogy.Read More
(This is an extended version of the interview in Zeit Online – I thought some of the parts that were omitted might be interesting to readers.)
Is the internet broken? Tech evangelist Tim O’Reilly doesn’t think so. He still believes in its positive effects. A conversation about cheetahs, elephants and Donald Trump
Tim O’Reilly has coined terms like “Web 2.0” and “Open Source” and has been called the “Oracle of Silicon Valley”. As founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media, he has published several books on topics such as Windows, Twitter and Unix, for example. In his latest work, “WTF? What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us,” he writes about what he calls the “Next Economy.” In an interview with ZEIT ONLINE, he speaks about artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet status quo.
Mr. O’Reilly, would you rather be governed by a president like Donald Trump or by artificial intelligence?
That depends a lot on which AI. Just like it depends on which person.
There are likely going to be many types of AI, just like there are many types of living beings. And they will have different abilities. A horse can beat a human in a race, and so can a cheetah. But a human being can do many things they can’t. So let’s talk about specific skills.Read More
A recent analysis found that most research mischaracterizes the relationship between music and skills enhancement.
IN 2004, a paper appeared in the journal Psychological Science, titled “Music Lessons Enhance IQ.” The author, composer and University of Toronto Mississauga psychologist Glenn Schellenberg, had conducted an experiment with 144 children randomly assigned to four groups: one learned the keyboard for a year, one took singing lessons, one joined an acting class, and a control group had no extracurricular training. The IQ of the children in the two musical groups rose by an average of seven points in the course of a year; those in the other two groups gained an average of 4.3 points.
Schellenberg had long been skeptical of the science underpinning claims that music education enhances children’s abstract reasoning, math, or language skills. If children who play the piano are smarter, he says, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are smarter because they play the piano. It could be that the youngsters who play the piano also happen to be more ambitious or better at focusing on a task. Correlation, after all, does not prove causation.
The 2004 paper was specifically designed to address those concerns. And as a passionate musician, Schellenberg was delighted when he turned up credible evidence that music has transfer effects on general intelligence. But nearly a decade later, in 2013, the Education Endowment Foundation funded a bigger study with more than 900 students. That study failed to corroborate Schellenberg’s findings, finding no evidence that music lessons improved math and literacy skills.
Schellenberg took that news in stride while continuing to cast a skeptical eye on the research in his field. Recently, he decided to formally investigate just how often his fellow researchers in psychology and neuroscience make what he believes are erroneous — or at least premature — causal connections between music and intelligence. His results, published in May, suggest that many of his peers do just that …
IT’S A FAMILIAR SCENE: roughly a hundred journalists cram into the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, only 49 of them privileged enough to have a seat, competing like school kids for the attention of the president or, more often, his press secretary, wrangling with White House aides over the microphone and granted speaking privileges at the whim of whoever is at the podium. When he watches the White House briefings, Gregor Mayntz is happy to be a German. “Whenever I see this, I think how lucky we are to have the Bundespressekonferenz.” …
Thousands of undocumented young people are studying at US universities. They are facing an uncertain future after the Trump rescinded DACA. ausende Studierende leben illegal in den USA. Unter Donald Trump wächst die Ungewissheit dieser “Dreamer” täglich. Besuch bei zweien, die nicht aufgeben.
Mayra Lozano stammt aus Mexiko. Sie ist 22, aber sie hat das Land seit ihrem fünften Lebensjahr nicht mehr gesehen. Die Studentin der weltweit bekannten University of California in Berkeley, USA, hat keine Erinnerungen an ihr Heimatland, es ist ihr fremd. Sie spricht akzentfreies Englisch und kennt den Fahneneid auswendig, der an vielen amerikanischen Schulen morgens abgelegt wird. Aber ständig schwebt die Gefahr über ihr, dass es eines Tages bei ihr klingelt und sie abgeschoben wird in ihre fremde Heimat. Denn Mayra ist illegal in dem Land, in dem sie seit ihrer Kindheit lebt.
Christoph Drösser is a freelance science writer from Germany living in San Francisco, working mainly for German newspapers, magazines and radio stations. Before arriving in the Bay Area, he was a science editor and reporter at Germany’s major weekly paper, Die Zeit, for 18 years. His weekly column, “Stimmt’s?” (“Is it true that…?”), about scientific and other urban myths, has been printed weekly since 1997. From 2004 to 2006, he was the founding Editor-in-Chief of Zeit Wissen, a bi-monthly popular science magazine still in publication. His radio column, “Stimmt’s?” has aired daily on Radio Eins since 2002.
Christoph Drösser has published about 15 popular science books in Germany, including: Total berechenbar? Wenn Algorithmen für uns entscheiden (Hanser, 2016), a book on how algorithms are shaping our daily life; Wie wir Deutschen ticken (Edel, 2015), Wir Deutschen und das Geld (Edel, 2016) and Wir Deutschen und die Liebe (Edel, 2017), three books with representative surveys about various general topics about the Germans’ life, and their attitude towards financial matters; Hast du Töne? Warum wir alle musikalisch sind (Rowohlt, 2009), a book on research about music and the brain, and why everybody is musical; and Der Mathematikverführer (2007), Der Logikverführer (2012) and Der Physikverführer (2010) (all with Rowohlt), three popular books on mathematics, physics and logic. Der Mathematikverführer was a national best-seller and sold more than 130,000 copies.
Christoph Drösser was a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT (1993-94), a Journalist in Residence at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara (2014) and a Journalist in Residence at the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing in Berkeley (2017). He was awarded the Media Prize of the German Mathematical Association (DMV) (2008) and was Science Journalist of the Year in Germany (awarded by Medium Magazine) in 2005.
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Literary agent for Germany: Heike Wilhelmi, agenturwilhelmi.de
In the English version of my website, I only include articles published in English, of which there aren’t too many at the moment. Go to the German version (change the language in the upper right corner) to get a more representative picture of what I write about, even if you can’t read every article!
We all want to be unbiased. We don’t want to hire people based on their gender; we don’t want people to be incarcerated because of the color of their skin. Laws explicitly forbid discrimination on the basis of a set of “protected categories” like sex, race, religion, or age. The conventional wisdom is that fairness is best achieved when you try to be as blind as possible to these categories – for example, by having people apply for a job without stating their name and age or attaching a photograph. Then the employer would pick candidates solely based on their qualification for the job. But this assumption – the essence of many equality laws and court decisions – might be wrong. Mathematically provably wrong …