Imagination and Reality Flow in Opposite Directions in the Brain

Read the full article Imagination and Reality Flow in Opposite Directions in the Brain at

As real as that daydream may seem, its path through your brain runs opposite reality. Aiming to discern discrete neural circuits, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have tracked electrical activity in the brains of people who alternately imagined scenes or watched videos.

The research is in NeuroImage. (full access paywall)

Research: “Reversal of cortical information flow during visual imagery as compared to visual perception” by Daniela Dentico, Bing Leung Cheung, Jui-Yang Chang, Jeffrey Guokas, Melanie Boly, Giulio Tononi, and Barry Van Veen in NeuroImage. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2014.05.081 (

Image: Electrical and computer engineering professor Barry Van Veen wears an electrode net used to monitor brain activity via EEG signals. His research with psychiatry professor and neuroscientist Giulio Tononi could help untangle what happens in the brain during sleep and dreaming. Credit Nick Berard.

The Doorway Effect: Why your brain won’t let you remember what you were doing before you came in here

I work in a lab, and the way our lab is set up, there are two adjacent rooms, connected by both an outer hallway and an inner doorway. I do most of my work on one side, but every time I walk over to the other side to grab a reagent or a box of tips, I completely forget what I was after. This leads to a lot of me standing with one hand on the freezer door and grumbling, “What the hell was I doing?” It got to where all I had to say was “Every damn time” and my labmate would laugh. Finally, when I explained to our new labmate why I was standing next to his bench with a glazed look in my eyes, he was able to shed some light. “Oh, yeah, that’s a well-documented phenomenon,” he said. “Doorways wipe your memory.”

Being the gung-ho new science blogger that I am, I decided to investigate. And it’s true! Well, doorways don’t literally wipe your memory. But they do encourage your brain to dump whatever it was working on before and get ready to do something new. In one study, participants played a video game in which they had to carry an object either across a room or into a new room. Then they were given a quiz. Participants who passed through a doorway had more trouble remembering what they were doing. It didn’t matter if the video game display was made smaller and less immersive, or if the participants performed the same task in an actual room—the results were similar. Returning to the room where they had begun the task didn’t help: even context didn’t serve to jog folks’ memories.

The researchers wrote that their results are consistent with what they call an “event model” of memory. They say the brain keeps some information ready to go at all times, but it can’t hold on to everything. So it takes advantage of what the researchers called an “event boundary,” like a doorway into a new room, to dump the old info and start over. Apparently my brain doesn’t care that my timer has seconds to go—if I have to go into the other room, I’m doing something new, and can’t remember that my previous task was antibody, idiot, you needed antibody.

Read more at Scientific American, or the original study.

Stop sharing accounts! SDR2 thread is at risk of closing!

According to Slow Beef’s recent tweet, the thread is at risk of being gassed. Nobody wants that. In an effort to eliminate shared accounts, Slow Beef is offering upgrades to anyone who can find and autoban a shared account. It’s a great incentive, and it should help to weed out those who can’t follow the site’s rules. Outdated information. The thread is safe. I guess account sharing isn’t as common anymore with the mirror now well-established.

Now, here are my thoughts. Most of you reading this only visit Something Awful for SDR2. I can understand your past frustration with the paywall, but orenronen has already allowed the creation of this mirror. There will obviously never be a paywall here on tumblr, there is no future risk of spoiler banners, and new updates are mirrored very shortly after they are posted in the thread. The first LP has been archived, and the current LP is in progress here on this blog. If you are only interested in Dangan Ronpa, there is absolutely no reason to attempt sharing accounts on Something Awful.

If someone is upset about the paywall, please direct them here. If someone is asking to share an account, please, please direct them here. If you come across a shared account’s login information, I encourage you to get it autobanned to prevent future use. Please spread the word about this mirror, and please be a decent person so we can continue enjoying this fantastic LP.

Black and Hispanic Children Underrepresented in Autism Identification

Read the full article Black and Hispanic Children Underrepresented in Autism Identification at

The number of children diagnosed with autism has increased in recent years, but a new study co-authored by a University of Kansas professor shows that while the number of students with autism increased in every state from 2000 to 2007, black and Hispanic children were significantly underrepresented.

The research is in Journal of Special Education. (full access paywall)

Research: “Racial Disparity in Administrative Autism Identification Across the United States During 2000 and 2007″ by Jason C. Travers, Michael P. Krezmien, Candace Mulcahy, and Matthew Tincani in Journal of Special Education. doi:10.1177/0022466912454014

Image: The disparities suggest white students are more likely to access early behavior intervention services, educational support and occupational support designed for those with autism than black or Hispanic children. The image is for illustrative purposes only. Credit NIH.

The Top 5 Best Uses For Your Local Library (That Aren’t Just Books)

H/T to Lifehacker:

  1. Rent A/V Equipment
  2. Get Access To Paywall Content
  3. Find Tickets To Museums, Concerts, And Events
  4. Print Off Legal Forms
  5. Fill Up On E-Books
Stop Calling it Content



With the New York Times finally erecting its paywall last week, I thought it was relevant to write about the subject of content, and how we value it.  A good friend of mine is a film director and the closest person I know to a professional creative person. Despite having directed multiple studio films, my friend still hasn’t found financial success.  He is currently living on the floor of his brother’s house, and is pretty much broke.  And at age 36, he has no plans of giving up any time soon.

I once tried to explain AOL’s business strategy to him – I told him we are trying to produce high quality content for the web – and his response has been ringing in my head ever since: “your first problem is that you’re calling it content.”  He doesn’t live on the floor of his brother’s house so that he can create “content.” He does it to create artful, beautiful, and emotional experiences.  He does what most of us dream of doing as kids and most of us eventually give up on.  It occurred to me that calling it content commoditizes it and sends a message to the creative community that quality doesn’t matter.  It’s not unique to AOL either, everyone in Silicon Valley calls it content - it was eye-opening to see how repulsive that was to my friend and probably to most of Hollywood and the artistic community.

Journalists and reporters are also artists of a certain kind – maybe better described as passionate professionals.  The business model of news distribution is changing dramatically, and we all agree that journalists need to get compensated if we want them to continue the important work they do.  But I would argue that charging consumers to read news articles is not only bad for consumers, it’s also bad for journalists.

I have had a chance to work with hundreds of publishers over the last several years, first heading up business development for Digg, and now as VP of business development at AOL.  Publishers have two revenue models: subscriptions or advertising – and in some cases both.  The benefit of the advertising model is that the publisher and the writer have mutually aligned interests.  They both want as many people reading each story as possible.  The writer gets famous, and the publisher has more pageviews on which to sell more ads.  However with the subscription model, the writer and publisher have misaligned interests because while the writer still wants broad distribution, the publisher wants to keep the best stories locked up for only the paid subscribers to see.   The better writer you become, the less distribution you get.

The New York Times released what seem like complicated rules allowing readers to access up to 20 free articles per month, but the first five clicks from Google don’t count toward that 20, nor do any clicks that come from Facebook. They are trying to delicately balance the conflicting needs of getting massive exposure for a story while still protecting the value of a subscription.  While I think they’ve done an elegant job with a complicated problem, I worry that the underlying model just isn’t feasible.

The fundamental question is whether readers will pay to access stories from one publisher when others offer the same news for free?  Even if you believe that the New York Times writers have the best prose, analysis, and access to newsmakers, is it really $180 a year better than all the other free sources on the web combined?  Then consider that you are probably reading the article on a three-inch screen while stopped at a red light, and it’s even more difficult to justify the subscription model.

If writers need to get paid, subscriptions don’t work, and ads aren’t paying the bills, then what will work?  I think the answer is out there.  One possibility: Netflix reportedly bid close to $100 Million to distribute a TV show with David Fincher and Kevin Spacey.  Netflix is a brand that offers a broad range of value and convenience to consumers, and is enhancing that value proposition with top tier premium shows.  That’s a much easier sell to a consumer than an individual publisher charging to access its own news articles.  I also think there are ad models that will work, but that’s a subject for a different post.

By analogy to what Netflix is doing, an aggregated news reader like Flipboard (or AOL’s upcoming Editions) is something that offers value beyond just the articles.  I could imagine paying a subscription to Flipboard if it gave me access to multiple premium sources, I could read the articles within a really slick interface, it made smart recommendations for me and constantly added features that made my news reading experience better.  Then Flipboard could share that subscription revenue with the publishers.  I think the money is there to pay for the cost of creating and publishing the news, but it is going to take more creativity than we have seen so far in the publishing industry.  As business people, we need to do better.  Let’s start being more creative about how to get creative people paid.

Jeffrey Zeldman's Awesome Internet Design Panel (13/03 @ 5PM)

Web standards pioneer and general icon of the internet Jeffrey Zeldman was one of the first names on my must-see list when skimming through the conference listings. His session this year was titled ‘Jeffrey Zeldman’s Awesome Internet Design Panel’ and the big man began by explaining that the SXSW people demanded he add an adjective to the title, hence ‘Awesome’. With him on the panel was designer Dan Mall, Mandy Brown of Typekit and A List Apart, and Roger Black of, er, Roger Black Studio Inc. 

We kicked off with a discussion on web platforms, perhaps the most widely-changing aspect of the web in the past 18 months. Zeldman began with a story about his efforts to check in to his upcoming flight to SXSW from a taxi cab in New York. He entered his details into his airline’s mobile app and clicked the ‘log in’ button, only to be taken to their desktop website which required Flash to log in, which inevitably, his iPhone didn’t support. How did this kind of user experience failure occur?

Dan Mall responded by making an interesting point: the choices we make dictate the context we see things in. Sounds obvious perhaps, but he suggested that we buy iPhones to see apps that look iPhone-like, or that we use Chrome (as opposed to Internet Explorer or Firefox) to see websites rendered in a particular fashion. Perhaps this only applies to more technical users who know the difference between Webkit and Gecko, but still noteworthy. Mall did add that when straddling the divide between user and developer, things became tricky to negotiate. Zeldman’s problem with his airline was aided by his understanding of why it failed - an average user would perhaps just feel frustrated that it didn’t work and may have continued to attempt to log in.

Moving on, the panel began to discuss publishing. The advent of plugins like Readability and a new product Roger Black is working on called TreeSaver allow readers to specify how they want to see content, and the advent of web standards means that content is generally separated from presentation, to the benefit of the reader. Zeldman made the point that the entire platform is for content, which makes it odd when some products are designed with the content being the last thing in mind.

The paywall quickly came up and the overwhelming ethos from the panel was “if you have exclusive great stuff, people will pay for it”. Dan Mall suggested that traditional publishers didn’t understand alternative modes of publishing and were attempting to price them at the same rate as their paper-and-ink versions. Mandy Brown joked that many publishers saw the iPad as their saviour, just like they did with the CD-ROM back in the 90s. She also made the point that despite its web-savvy audience, the A Book Apart project’s sales were 75% print.

Discussion turned to content curation - Dan Mall mentioned that he follows so many Twitter users that he almost requires a service to filter them for him; a human-powered content recommendation tool. This for me highlighted the need for journalism in the 21st century - while we could all get our news from Twitter or similar, the role that journalists and editors play in sifting through the noise is absolutely crucial and will always have a place in the way we consume information - no matter how clever Google’s algorithms get.

A question at the end returned to Zeldman’s airline issue and asked whether it was really the fault of the airline - was it Apple’s fault for not supporting Flash? Adobe’s fault for not producing a lightweight version of Flash? Zeldman’s fault for not just using their (working) mobile site? Zeldman responded that while all of those things can be cause for concern, the way to solve these issues is always to simply put the user first. Make the user happy and research their needs, expectations and frustrations and everything else will follow. A good conclusion to a great talk by an iconic figure.

- Matt Andrews

New York Times Co said on Tuesday it will halve the number of free articles readers can view on its site.

Starting in April visitors to the website will be able to read up to 10 free articles a month, down from 20 free articles previously. The change comes one year after launching the paid digital subscription, which now has 454,000 paid subscribers.

The Times, like other U.S. newspaper publishers, has been struggling with sinking advertising sales and dwindling print subscribers and has focused on improving its digital strategy to replace the lost revenue.

The company started 2012 without a CEO or a digital boss after former CEO Janet Robinson and former digital head Martin Nisenholtz retired.

Read more: New York Times cuts free digital articles by 50 percent

The recent news that Skype has started charging a fee for group videoconferencing may not have come as a surprise to anyone—after all, the company had clearly stated that it was planning to make the feature a pay service once Skype 5.0 exited beta. However, that doesn’t change the fact that one of the best multi-party videoconferencing options for OS X has suddenly disappeared behind a paywall.

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Fear not, though. The intrepid Macworld staff has scoured the Internets to bring you five alternatives to Skype that will let you create a videoconference with your friends while still preserving the sanctity of your wallet. Some of the options are obvious ones, while others are a bit off the beaten path. In all cases, this article only focuses on applications and services that allow multiple users to be connected together in a videoconference, rather than just simple one-to-one conversations.