Monthly Archives: January 2013

What tipping point?

75th Precinct NYPD

Malcolm Gladwell claims that everyday life is fundamentally nonlinear. He said that his father, Graham Gladwell, a British mathematics professor, described this principle in a concise way that was particularly poignant for young Malcolm as he tried to pour the desired amount of ketchup at the family dinner table: “Tomato ketchup in a bottle-None will come and then the lot’ll.”

Indeed, sometimes a small change can suddenly bring about an enormous effect when, as Gladwell famously contended, a “tipping point” is reached (e.g., infectious diseases, crime rates, dropout rates).

But not everything works this way. Other things produce an effect proportional to the effort applied. Gladwell only describes that some things ‘tip’; he doesn’t tell us whether something will tip or when it will tip. So how do we know if something is nonlinear, and if so, where the tipping point is?


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Do animals have emotions?

The PBS show Nature claims that “careful scientific research is validating what we intuitively understand: that animals feel, and their emotions are as important to them as ours are to us.”

The show NOVA, on the other hand, argues, “Seeing dogs for what they are—and not crediting them with qualities of intelligence or emotion they don’t possess—is best for both dog and master.”

Animal Science professor Temple Grandin says, animals have emotions, but they are not the same as those of humans. “The main difference between animal emotions and human emotions,” Grandin says, “is that animals don’t have mixed emotions the way normal people do.”

Scientists Acknowledge Animal Emotions

Animal emotion: When objectivity fails

Is the truth in the middle again? What do you think?

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What did we ever do before GPS?

Well, believe it or not, we used our brains more. And according to Julia Frankenstein, a psychologist at the Center for Cognitive Science at the University of Freiburg, Germany, the more we rely on technology to find our way, the more likely we are to lose our ability to develop our own mental maps.

Now, some of my best friends use a GPS regularly, and I have been rescued more than once by friends and strangers with one when I was lost, but if you rely too much on it, you may degrade your spatial abilities instead of strengthening them, “as with someone who learned a musical instrument and stopped playing,” Frankenstein says.

So, she suggests, “Next time you’re in a new place, forget the GPS device. Study a map to get your bearings, then try to focus on your memory of it to find your way around…and give your brain the chance to live up to its abilities.”

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