2 October 2016

E-readers vs paper books

Kretzschmar et al. did a study in 2013 that compared reading effort on three different media: a paper page, an e-reader (e-ink) and a tablet computer. They studied eye movement, brain activity and reading speed. The participants also answered a few questions to determine reading comprehension. The interesting thing was that all participants said that they preferred reading on paper, even though the study found no support for it being more effortful to read on digital media. ... Read more

11 August 2016

Off my trolley problem

People interested in self-driving cars keep discussing the “trolley problem” — that is, in the event of an imminent accident, how should the car decide who gets to live, and who dies? The problem is, ethics is a really tricky area of philosophy. So I have A Modest Proposal: Technology can enable a free market solution instead. Each passenger in a vehicle or pedestrian with a smartphone can place accident compensation funds in escrow, and be issued a digital certificate stating the amount. ... Read more

10 August 2016

Captain’s log

I woke up to a faint buzzing noise and the voice of the suit computer telling me that the life support systems were online. A bright sun shone through my visor as the computer continued its restart routine. I got up and looked around the landscape. It didn’t look good. My Rasamama S36 scout ship was a few meters away in the middle of a plain of what looked at first glance like assorted crash debris. ... Read more

6 August 2016

Kant, bees, and the brain’s GPS

How do we find our way around? One obvious method is landmarks. Researchers have identified “place cells” which represent locations in our cognitive map of the world. However, that doesn’t explain how we can find out way around in a place we’ve never been before. In 2005, a second kind of brain cell associated with location was identified in the paper Microstructure of a spatial map in the entorhinal cortex. The new cells were called grid cells: ... Read more

5 August 2016

Intellectual debate

This week the Harvard Republican Club wrote a letter about failing to endorse Donald Trump. It started as follows: Dear Members and Alumni, In every presidential election since 1888, the members and Executive Board of the Harvard Republican Club have gathered to discuss, debate, and eventually endorse the standard-bearer of our party. But for the first time in 128 years, we, the oldest College Republicans chapter in the nation, will not be endorsing the Republican nominee. ... Read more

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