Thursday, June 23, 2005

Experiments on human brains

I had no idea that scientists could implant 100 electrodes in people's brains and then remove them safely. (They are going to remove them, right? That would be a tough one to explain at the airport.) I used to work in a neuropharmacology lab, and we considered this kind of thing rather destructive to the subject (not human in our case). It was quite difficult and painstaking to find a single firing neuron. I can't imagine how you find 100 of them, since you may have to poke around for a while. I presume that for human subjects they have some kind of precise mapping done beforehand and don't just poke around.

Anyway, thanks to eight epilepsy patients who had the 100 electrodes implanted for the sake of their treatment, scientists have been able to locate the neurons responsible for the Friends cast. It is both surprising and a relief to think that we waste only one neuron for a concept like Jennifer Aniston. Also kind of sad that we may use only one neuron for each grandparent.

Even though it would in some ways be fascinating to be a brain patient (they don't use anesthesia during the surgery so they can give you tests to see when they're messing things up), I nevertheless am sure to wear a helmet whenever I ride my bicycle.

Monday, June 20, 2005

"Too focused or localized, even meaningless"

I'm sure it's like when you learn a new word and suddenly it seems everybody uses it. (With the exception of "coup" which inexplicably got a lot of play in the late '80s.) Nobody wants to be a programmer, at least among young graduates making deliberate choices.

Interesting points from the article:

  • The Economic Policy Institute says the U.S. software industry lost 16 percent of its jobs from March 2001 to March 2004
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that more than 7,000 American information technology industry workers were laid off in the first quarter of 2005.
  • Gartner Inc. predicts that up to 15 percent of tech workers will drop out of the profession by 2010.
  • Gartner also forecasts demand for technology developers to shrink by 30 percent.

I still don't understand an economy where everybody is a salesman or consultant.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Training to run: Pain, but not excruciating pain

On Wednesday, I got some new running shoes (actually the link goes to the replacement for the discontinued model I got, and ran for 16 whole minutes. It was excruciatingly painful after a few minutes, and the pain lasted through Saturday. I found it hard to believe that people run for fun.

I was reminded of the triathletes who I helped at Chain Reaction who started their bike shopping by telling me how much they hate cycling. (Hint to triathletes: a bicycle shop is not the best place in the world to declare how much you hate the sport of cycling, especially to the staff who are the kind of people who are quite likely to enjoy riding bikes.) What kind of attitude is it to approach running with an attitude of, "I hate this"?

So I thought I would try again today, increasing my time to 24 whole minutes. I even warmed up today, instead of just starting my run at race speed up the hill that leads to the main road. It was not as painful. Certainly not excruciatingly painful, and the pain was limited.

Tonight, I am only in pain when I walk. I bet that's the ibuprofen I took as soon as I got home helping me out. Can you believe they hold triathlons in Singapore and ibuprofen isn't available over the counter?