What your brain activity looks like when you’re thinking

This 3D brain visualization depicts real-time activity from EEG signals, with the golden lines representing white matter anatomical fiber tracts. Information transfer between brain regions is visualized as pulses of light. When I watch this visualisation I can’t help but try to see where the self is located in among all this activity – or does the self only emerge from the whole. Also, I keep asking whether consciousness is mathematical (in other words, could it be recreated purely computationally)? Or does it require a certain type of hardware, such as a biological brain? And if so, why – is it that brains are quantum computers?

Here’s a fascinating National Geographic article about the researchers who made the video. Check out the link because there are some other intriguing videos there too.

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My new series of web development books is published

My new series of four web development books is now available. In them the four main platforms for modern web development are explained: PHP, CSS & CSS3, HTML & HTML5, and JavaScript. Between these technologies you can manage every aspect of web development from front end and design, to Ajax communications with a web server, and the back end workhorse code of a website.

Each book teaches you its subject in under 20 lessons of less than an hour each, and that’s including the comprehensive online video tutorial that accompanies each lesson. All the books also come with a collection of example files so you can load them onto your own computer to try out for yourself .

All told there are 20 hours of supporting on-line video tutorials for this series. Here’s a video with more details:

You can order your copies at all good bookstores and online retailers, or from Amazon where you’ll save 30 percent (following are links to the Amazon US website):

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What the heck were you thinking mnn.com?

UK Dasani AdJust this morning I stumbled onto a ‘news’ article at Mother Nature Network, innocently entitled About Water Stewardship, and whose first paragraph is as follows:

“Inside every bottle of Coca-Cola is the story of a company that understands the priceless value of water, respects it as the most precious of shared global resources and works vigorously to conserve water worldwide. We can’t imagine treating water any other way.”

Coca-Cola and respect are not two words that belong in the same sentence. Along with a handful of other mega corporations, The Coca-Cola corporation has helped produce the biggest health epidemic in human history; runaway obesity and diabetes. As a result of Coca-Cola’s lobbying, it is beloved by politicians and thought of as a wonderful employer and great economic powerhouse. But the facts are that the costs to health care of treating the diabetes, obesity and related heart and other health issues it contributes towards, far outweigh any financial benefits the corporation confers.

And talking about Coca-Cola and water. When the corporation wanted to launch its Dasani water brand in the UK, it opened up a bottling plant in South East London, sourcing tap water from the local utility company, and calling it ‘pure water’ (implying that it was somehow special). Even worse, unaware that the word is a British term for semen, Coca-Cola released an advertising campaign calling the product “Bottled Spunk“. Then, soon after, UK inspectors found a concentration of bromate (a suspected human carcinogen) in the product that could be considered harmful if consumed in large quantities, and which was not present in the water supply prior to the plant’s treatment process. As a result Coca-Cola immediately recalled half a million bottles and pulled the Dasani brand from the UK market, and the European launch of the product was also halted, along with any future plans for the brand.

Oh did us Brits have a really good chuckle over that whole fiasco :) But Coca-Cola’s relentless efforts to sell more and more carbonated and sugary drinks worldwide continue unabated, and are not so funny. Sure the company sells Dasani outside of Europe and supplies other water products in the EU, but its foundation is flavored drinks (generally sweetened with sugar or HFCS, but sometimes using controversial artificial sweeteners), and often incorporating chemicals such as phosphoric acid (which leaches calcium from bones and teeth), or brominated vegetable oil (banned almost everywhere in the world, except for North America), which was only discontinued in 2014 after decades of prior use.

Coca-Cola is not a company we can turn impartially to for advice on water, and its consumption, use and stewardship. So what the heck is mnn.com (a website that is about nature, uses the phrase ‘Earth Matters’, and which has lifestyle sections on healthy eating and drinking) doing taking money from this corporation? Yes, I realize this is a sponsored article, but don’t you have any ethical standards?

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What would you do if you could dream any dream you wanted?

“I wonder, I wonder, what you would do if you had the power to dream at night any dream you wanted to dream? And you would of course be able to alter your time sense, and slip, say 75 years of subjective time into 8 hours of sleep. You would, I suppose, start out by fulfilling all your wishes. You could design for yourself what would be the most ecstatic life – love affairs, banquets, dancing girls, wonderful journeys, gardens, music beyond belief…

“And then after a couple of months of this sort of thing, 75 years a night, you’d be getting a little taste for something different, and you would move over to an adventurous dimension, where there was sudden dangers involved, and the thrill of dealing with dangers, and you could rescue princesses from dragons, and go on dangerous journeys, make wonderful explosions and blow them up. Eventually get into contest with enemies.

“And after you’ve done that for some time, you’d think up a new wrinkle. To forget that you were dreaming, so you’d think it was all for real, and to be anxious about it. Because it’d be so great when you woke up. And then you’d say, well, like children who dare each other on things, how far out could you get? What could you take? What dimension of being lost, of abandonment of your power, what dimension of that could you stand? You could ask yourself this because you know you’d eventually wake up.

“And after you’d gone on doing this, you see, for some time, you’d suddenly find yourself sitting around in this room, with all your personal involvements, problems, etc, talking with me. How do you know that’s not what you’re doing? Could be, because after all, what would you do if you were God? If you were, what there is, the self. In the Upanishads, The basic text of Hinduism, one of them starts out saying in the beginning was the self, and looking around it said, ‘I am’. And thus it is that everyone to this day, when asked who is there, says, ‘It is I’.

“If you were god, and in this sense that you knew everything, you would be bored. Because, if looking at it from another way, we push technology to its furthest possible development, and we had instead of a dial telephone on one’s desk, a more complex system of buttons, and one touch would give you anything you wanted, Aladdin’s lamp, you would eventually have to add a button labelled surprise, because all perfectly known futures are past. They have happened, virtually. It is only the true future that is a surprise.

“So if you were God, you would say to yourself, ‘Man, get lost.’ “

- Alan Watts

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Still not convinced by the Low Carb High Fat diet?

Is the low carb diet, as espoused by Atkins, just another fad, or is there some real science behind it? In other words, Low Carb Diet: Fat or Fiction?

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