How and why children notice what adults miss

❝ Although adults can beat children at most cognitive tasks, new research shows that children’s limitations can sometimes be their strength.

❝ In two studies, researchers found that adults were very good at remembering information they were told to focus on, and ignoring the rest. In contrast, 4- to 5-year-olds tended to pay attention to all the information that was presented to them – even when they were told to focus on one particular item. That helped children to notice things that adults didn’t catch because of the grownups’ selective attention…

The results have important implications for understanding how education environments affect children’s learning

❝ Vladimir Sloutsky, co-author of the study, said that adults would do well at noticing and remembering the ignored information in the studies, if they were told to pay attention to everything. But their ability to focus attention has a cost – they miss what they are not focused on.

The ability of adults to focus their attention – and children’s tendency to distribute their attention more widely – both have positives and negatives.

❝ “The ability to focus attention is what allows adults to sit in two-hour meetings and maintain long conversations, while ignoring distractions,” Sloutsky said.

“But young children’s use of distributed attention allows them to learn more in new and unfamiliar settings by taking in a lot of information.”

RTFA for a couple of unanswered questions as interesting as the studies themselves. Like, taking the results and examining whether or not it might be useful to make classrooms boring?

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Interested in directly uploading books to your brain?

❝ What if humans could upload all the great classics of literature to their brains, without having to go through the arduous process of reading? Wonderful and leveling as that may seem, it’s a prospect that I’m not sure we should readily embrace.

❝ A while ago, I listened to an interview with futurist Ray Kurzweil on astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s radio show StarTalk. Kurzweil described…how our brains might someday interface directly with non-biological forms of intelligence, possibly with the help of nano-bots that travel through our capillaries.

Given how much faster this interface would be than regular reading, he went on, we’d be able to consume novels like “The Brothers Karamazov” in moments, rather than the current rather clumsy form of ingestion known as reading, which, he said, “could take months.”

❝ At this point Tyson interjected: Are you saying we could just upload “War and Peace”? Yes, Kurzweil answered: “We will connect to neocortical hierarchies in cloud with pre-loaded knowledge.”

This snippet of conversation has baffled and fascinated me ever since. I confess that I do not know a lick about neuroscience. But just knowing something about reading makes the above story implausible, if not alarming.

❝ I’m not sure what Kurzweil thinks when he says our computer minds won’t need to bother to read the book, and I want to give him and his other futurist computer-brain friends some credit. They surely mean more than having the text of the book itself available to us, or even memorized. That wouldn’t represent knowledge. It must be something deeper, a representation of the book possibly as a narrative, or maybe a movie. But again, if we have access only to that movie, it doesn’t represent the same learning that would come through reading and experiencing the book.

A conclusion that is neither correct or incorrect – because, so far, there is no result, no product, to evaluate.

Finally, there’s the possibility that the book’s true meaning would change depending on the state of my brain — that the interface would look into my mind, see and understand my patience with hypocrisy and spiritual conflict, and then transform the story accordingly. In which case, every time I uploaded that book or any other, I’d experience a different story. I doubt this is possible, and in any case I would find the lack of active participation creepy. That said, I’d definitely pay a monthly subscription to try it out.

Disclaimer: I think Ray Kurzweil rocks. In the case of his ventures with Stevie Wonder, that is a literal opinion. IMHO, he makes folks think about new things in new ways and that is invaluable. And, yes, I accept as obvious that outlandish changes confronting 21st Century minds will no doubt be experimented with, evaluated sooner or later.

If an inquiring, well-educated mind finds interest in a process which might increase our capacity to enjoy live and create – as the capability to experiment and decide happens, so will the experiments. Might be fun. Or more.

Latest NASA Night Lights Maps


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NASA scientists are releasing new global maps of Earth at night, providing the clearest yet composite view of the patterns of human settlement across our planet.

Satellite images of Earth at night — often referred to as “night lights” — have been a gee-whiz curiosity for the public and a tool for fundamental research for nearly 25 years. They have provided a broad, beautiful picture, showing how humans have shaped the planet and lit up the darkness. Produced every decade or so, such maps have spawned hundreds of pop-culture uses and dozens of economic, social science and environmental research projects…

In the years since the 2011 launch of the NASA-NOAA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite, Román and colleagues have been analyzing night lights data and developing new software and algorithms to make night lights imagery clearer, more accurate and readily available. They are now on the verge of providing daily, high-definition views of Earth at night, and are targeting the release of such data to the science community later this year.

Wow. Worth looking forward to.

NASA’s Juno Probe Just Sent Us Photos of Jupiter Unlike Anything Before


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Juno Swirls

Roughly the size of a basketball court, NASA’s Juno probe departed in 2011, hurtled through space for five years and finally made itself comfortable in Jupiter’s orbit in July 2016.

Now, at about 415 million miles from Earth, it has made its fifth close flyby of the Gas Giant and the images it sent home are breathtaking

So far, they’ve discovered what Jupiter’s poles look like for the first time and are continuing to study the swirling clouds and storms covering the planet’s atmosphere (it’s thought they might be linked to complicated currents from the planet’s moon, Io)…

Traveling 129,000 miles per hour, Juno itself will never get closer than 2,700 miles from the cloud tops. Though that seems far, the data from the probe has already allowed scientists to rewrite what they thought they knew about giant planets and, possibly, the origins of our entire solar system.

No space travel available for cranky old geeks like me; so, photos like these are the next best thing. That and the creative minds of folks making movies with great CGI, nowadays.

Trump wants to shut off the space camera that monitors climate change

❝ The Deep Space Climate Observatory is an American satellite that sits in a special orbit between the earth and the sun, about 1.5 million kilometers away from us. That distance allows it to capture unique images of the entire earth…US president Donald Trump said he wants to shut down those cameras.

❝ DSCOVR, as it is known, will still have a mission: Giving an early warning of solar weather events that could potentially cause damage back on earth, like power outages or interrupted communications.

But the satellite’s two other observation tools, one a camera that takes images across 10 different levels of the visual spectrum, the other a radiometer to measure radiation on earth, will apparently be shut off…

Why is the satellite’s job being cut? No justification is given in the president’s new budget, but cost is probably not part of it…In fact, it was the space agency’s second cheapest ongoing earth sciences program…

The simple explanation is that cutting DSCOVR, along with three other NASA earth science missions that were still under development, is part of the administration’s “see no evil” strategy on man-made climate change, influenced by the fossil-fuels industry. If the government stops collecting data on the weather, it won’t have to worry about doing anything about it.

Trump should form a special 3 monkeys science society for illiterate, incompetent government officials around the world. By the time we get rid of this fool, the United States would lead the world in seats inside that fool’s paradise.

All Earth’s spiders could eat every human on Earth — in one year


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Spiders are quite literally all around us. A recent entomological survey of North Carolina homes turned up spiders in 100 percent of them, including 68 percent of bathrooms and more than three-quarters of bedrooms. There’s a good chance at least one spider is staring at you right now, sizing you up from a darkened corner of the room, eight eyes glistening in the shadows.

❝ Spiders mostly eat insects, although some of the larger species have been known to snack on lizards, birds and even small mammals. Given their abundance and the voraciousness of their appetites, two European biologists recently wondered: If you were to tally up all the food eaten by the world’s entire spider population in a single year, how much would it be?

❝ Martin Nyffeler and Klaus Birkhofer published their estimate in the journal the Science of Nature earlier this month, and the number they arrived at is frankly shocking: The world’s spiders consume somewhere between 400 million and 800 million tons of prey in any given year. That means that spiders eat at least as much meat as all 7 billion humans on the planet combined, who the authors note consume about 400 million tons of meat and fish each year.

Or, for a slightly more disturbing comparison: The total biomass of all adult humans on Earth is estimated to be 287 million tons. Even if you tack on another 70 million-ish tons to account for the weight of kids, it’s still not equal to the total amount of food eaten by spiders in a given year, exceeding the total weight of humanity.

In other words, spiders could eat all of us and still be hungry.

RTFA more even more info aimed at making it harder to fall asleep at night. In a nice, warm, dark room.

This beautiful new cloud – Asperitas – now officially in the International Cloud Atlas


Click to enlargeInternational Cloud Atlas/Kairo Kiitsak

❝ Gavin Pretor-Pinney, the London-based president of the Cloud Appreciation Society, first saw the unusual cloud in 2006. A member of the amateur cloud-spotting group in Cedar Creeks, Iowa emailed a photo of an oddly wavy cloud, and asked how it would be classified…

Its shape was similar to what the World Meteorological Organization would categorize as an undulatus formation, but was “more intense, more chaotic.” The WMO’s International Cloud Atlas, first published in 1896, didn’t include anything like it.

❝ Every six months or so, a similar image would arrive, maybe from Scotland, or Australia. The president and others began to feel that a new label was needed to fit the unfamiliar cloud. In 2008, the amateur cloud-spotting group proposed the name asperitas, Latin for “roughness,” and submitted the idea to the WMO.

Nearly 10 years after they floated the idea, the society’s efforts paid off: the WMO has added the asperitas to the updated International Cloud Atlas, released online earlier this week…

❝ Naming clouds, says Pretor-Pinney, builds a deeper connection to what’s visible in our atmosphere, “which also makes us care more about what we’re doing to it.”

I’ll second that emotion. RTFA for details on cloud-naming in disciplined scientific fashion. An enjoyable read. Lovely photographs.

Weather may just be weather; but — The North Atlantic may get its 1st-ever named storm in March next week

Just one hurricane has ever formed in the northern Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, or the Gulf of Mexico in the month of March — a time when the oceans are still cold from the winter months in the northern hemisphere. This occurred in 1908 with an unnamed hurricane that, according to the Atlantic Hurricane database, reached sustained winds of 100mph and caused damage in the Caribbean islands.

As the 1908 cyclone formed long before the National Hurricane Center existed, there has never been a “named” storm in March. That could change next week, as an area of low pressure may develop several hundred miles to the east of Florida, in the Atlantic Ocean. This storm system is unlikely to be a major threat to landmasses, with the possible exception of Bermuda. Due to the rarity of March cyclones, however, it would garner significant attention…

Forecast models indicate a low pressure system will develop early next week. It may reach a “peak” in strength by Tuesday or Wednesday, potentially with 40 to 60mph winds, which would exceed the 39mph threshold for a storm to get a name. In this case, the storm would be named “Arlene.”

If we get lucky, it might even drop a little rain or hail on MAR-A-LAGO.