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Watch A Robot Jam Out On The Marimba

[ 4 ] August 15, 2010

Ryan Nikolaidis, a PhD student at the Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology, has invented a robot that can improvise on the marimba.  The robot, “Shimon,” uses real-time programmed algorithms that calculate tempo, rhythm, and harmony as the music plays.  While it may not be the most moving music, it’s still pretty awesome (especially the head-bobbing.)

You Silly Monkey!

[ 2 ] August 13, 2010

Laurie Santos, a Yale Psychologist, studies primate cognition.  In here recent TED talk, she lucidly explains how monkeys show the same economic riskiness as we do, treating economic losses differently than gains.  I wonder if there’s a Capuchin monkey recession going on that we don’t know about…


The Anxious Apple Doesn’t Tremble Far From The Tree

[ 1 ] August 11, 2010

In a new research article in Nature,  Jonathan Oler and his team show that chronic anxiety is partly heritable. The form of clinical anxiety they studied is termed “Anxious Temperament” (AT), and Olen describes AT as,

“A trait-like phenotype evident early in life that is characterized by increased behavioral and physiological reactivity to mildly threatening stimuli (Olen et al, 2010).”

The researchers studied a large population of rhesus Monkeys (200+); by eliciting anxiety in the monkeys while analyzing their brains using PET scans, they found that “the central nucleus region of the amygdala and the anterior hippocampus are key components of the neural circuit predictive of AT.”  Furthermore, the hippocampal-driven anxiety response was often seen in closely related individuals.  I wonder what Woody Allen’s folks were like…

“Early in life, I was visited by the bluebird of anxiety.”

Funny How?

[ 3 ] August 9, 2010

The Three Sages

More on humor, courtesy of Machines Like Us:

Is Immoral Behavior Funny?

Caleb Warren and A. Peter McGraw, two psychological scientists from the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado-Boulder, argue that violations of norms are laughable, but only if benign.  If I actually shot the sheriff, it would not matter whether or not I killed the deputy.  If I really did it, it’s really serious.  McGraw explains:

“We laugh when Moe hits Larry because we know that Larry’s not really being hurt.  It’s a violation of social norms. You don’t hit people, especially a friend. But it’s okay because it’s not real.”

Here’s a link to a PDF of the paper, published in Psychological Science. Disclaimer:  It is not a knee-slapper.  In fact, the only thing we surely don’t need science to tell us is that the easiest way to ruin a joke is to explain it to death.

More British Brain Comedy…

[ 1 ] August 3, 2010

If you have yet to check out the BBC’s hilarious, absurdist, educational-video-spoof show “Look Around You,” you must.  It’s the brainchild of the uber-talented British comedians Robert Popper and Peter Serafinowicz.   The show no longer airs new episodes, but it can be viewed/bought online.

And now for your enjoyment, the gut-splitting pseudo-neuroscience episode — “The Brain.”

The Art of Good Humor

[ 2 ] August 1, 2010

John Cleese is one of the funniest men alive.  The veteran British comedian—who has appeared in classic films such as A Fish Called Wanda and Monty Python and the Holy Grail—is known for a unique blend of high- and low-brow humor.  This, the thirty-third installment of his podcast, is a perfect example of intelligent silliness:

The Brain Explained

(Nonsense neuroscience, but seriously hilarious).

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