mind your awareness about decision making, van gogh’s sunflower mutations, silent world

Intuition is a real phenomenon. It may not turn out to be correct or productive once accumulated, but the brain gathers bits and pieces of information, it may even began relating them to some long-term memory, and you have that hopefully wonderful moment of realization. That process where your brain is, or mind if you like, gathering that information is awareness.  Awareness is different from purposeful study. You’re not sitting down with a book or report and consciously trying to stuff a lot of facts or thoughts into long-term memory. How Awareness Changes the Relative Weights of Evidence During Human Decision-Making

Human decisions are based on accumulating evidence over time for different options. Here we ask a simple question: How is the accumulation of evidence affected by the level of awareness of the information? We examined the influence of awareness on decision-making using combined behavioral methods and magneto-encephalography (MEG). Participants were required to make decisions by accumulating evidence over a series of visually presented arrow stimuli whose visibility was modulated by masking. Behavioral results showed that participants could accumulate evidence under both high and low visibility. However, a top-down strategic modulation of the flow of incoming evidence was only present for stimuli with high visibility: once enough evidence had been accrued, participants strategically reduced the impact of new incoming stimuli. Also, decision-making speed and confidence were strongly modulated by the strength of the evidence for high-visible but not low-visible evidence, even though direct priming effects were identical for both types of stimuli. Neural recordings revealed that, while initial perceptual processing was independent of visibility, there was stronger top-down amplification for stimuli with high visibility than low visibility.

Whether it is advertisers, politicians or media pundits they are aware on some level of the value of high visibility over depth of content. It is known that an often repeated piece of misinformation – regardless of the quality of the fact checking that refutes it – takes on the life of a fact. Sense much of this information plays into personal biases individuals are much less likely on average to allow for actual facts.

blue antique map detail wallpaper

UGA scientists reveal genetic mutation depicted in van Gogh’s sunflower paintings

In addition to being among his most vibrant and celebrated works, Vincent van Gogh’s series of sunflower paintings also depict a mutation whose genetic basis has, until now, been a bit of a mystery.

In a study published March 29 in the journal PLoS Genetics, however, a team of University of Georgia scientists reveals the mutation behind the distinctive, thick bands of yellow “double flowers” that the post-Impressionist artist painted more than 100 years ago.


I posted this just because of the intersection between art and science. That sunflower mutations does mean a lot in real economic terms for the flower industry. This part of the post is a factlet, not a factoid.

I have done a few posts on days when the news was particular bad and called them we’re doomed post. As bad as some news is, as bad as some of my own days have been, they have never been as awful as what Kurt Vonnegut went through and survived.


And you finally arrived in Dresden.


In a huge prison camp south of Dresden first. The privates were separated from the noncoms and officers. Under the articles of the Geneva Convention, which is a very Edwardian document, privates were required to work for their keep. Everybody else got to languish in prison. As a private, I was shipped to Dresden . . .


What were your impressions of the city itself before the bombing?


The first fancy city I’d ever seen. A city full of statues and zoos, like Paris. We were living in a slaughterhouse, in a nice new cement-block hog barn. They put bunks and straw mattresses in the barn, and we went to work every morning as contract labor in a malt-syrup factory. The syrup was for pregnant women. The damned sirens would go off and we’d hear some other city getting it—whump a whump a whumpa whump. We never expected to get it. There were very few air-raid shelters in town and no war industries, just cigarette factories, hospitals, clarinet factories. Then a siren went off—it was February 13, 1945—and we went down two stories under the pavement into a big meat locker. It was cool there, with cadavers hanging all around. When we came up the city was gone.


You didn’t suffocate in the meat locker?


No. It was quite large, and there weren’t very many of us. The attack didn’t sound like a hell of a lot either. Whump. They went over with high explosives first to loosen things up, and then scattered incendiaries. When the war started, incendiaries were fairly sizable, about as long as a shoebox. By the time Dresden got it, they were tiny little things. They burnt the whole damn town down.


What happened when you came up?


Our guards were noncoms—a sergeant, a corporal, and four privates—and leaderless. Cityless, too, because they were Dresdeners who’d been shot up on the front and sent home for easy duty. They kept us at attention for a couple of hours. They didn’t know what else to do. They’d go over and talk to each other. Finally we trekked across the rubble and they quartered us with some South Africans in a suburb. Every day we walked into the city and dug into basements and shelters to get the corpses out, as a sanitary measure. When we went into them, a typical shelter, an ordinary basement usually, looked like a streetcar full of people who’d simultaneously had heart failure. Just people sitting there in their chairs, all dead. A firestorm is an amazing thing. It doesn’t occur in nature. It’s fed by the tornadoes that occur in the midst of it and there isn’t a damned thing to breathe. We brought the dead out. They were loaded on wagons and taken to parks, large, open areas in the city which weren’t filled with rubble. The Germans got funeral pyres going, burning the bodies to keep them from stinking and from spreading disease. One hundred thirty thousand corpses were hidden underground. It was a terribly elaborate Easter-egg hunt.

A fitting entry for the last day of Women’s History Month:  Alice Eastwood botanist and California Academy of Sciences curator

As BHL is celebrating Women’s History Month by featuring women of science, I could not resist shining a light on Alice Eastwood, one of the California Academy of Sciences’ early female curators. Born in Toronto in 1859, Alice Eastwood spent her teenage years in Denver, Colorado. She proved to be a bright and capable student, embarking on a career as a schoolteacher, but she spent her leisure hours exploring the flora around her. She was a self-taught botanist, using the few books available to her, including Asa Gray’s Manual of the Botany of the Northern United States and John M. Coulter’s Manual of the Botany…of the Rocky Mountain Region. A visit to the California Academy of Sciences in 1891 led to a job offer, and the following year Eastwood left her teaching job in Colorado to assume a curatorship in the Academy’s Department of Botany.

Alice was also a self-sacrificing hero.  After the massive earthquake of April 18, 1906 she there were a lot of fires. They consumed the California Academy of Sciences along with 28,000 area buildings. Eastwood, along with museum staff managed to save 1497 irreplaceable botanical specimens. She did so as her own house was lost to the fires.

A tour of Paris very early in the morning before the city starts its day. It also gives me a chance to post some Gregorian chant by way of part of the soundtrack, Silent world

Music by Philip Glass and Daft Punk.
Direction and editing by Lucie & Simon.