Ming the Mechanic
The NewsLog of Flemming Funch

Monday, March 26, 2007day link 

 Savants and synestesia
picture Daniel Tammet is a savant with quite fantastic mental abilities, and only few of the negative effects of autism. You can see a 50 minute documentary with him here. Amongst other feats, he has recited Pi to 22,500 decimals, and he can learn a new language in a week. In that program they put that to the test, by asking him to learn Icelandic in 7 days. Icelandic is very hard, but at the end of the week, he was interviewed on Icelandic TV and had obviously mastered it.

Part of what is interesting is that, as many autistic savants, part of his trick is synestesia. What is particularly unique about him is that he can articulate his own mental processes. He loves numbers, but he doesn't really do calculations. He experiences each number as a certain visual pattern. Each number from 1 to 10,000 has a certain distinct shape and color to him, which he can draw or model in clay. When he's asked to calculate something, the result sort of flickers in front of his eyes, and he simply reads off what he sees.

One of the researchers tried to throw him off by presenting him with a section of the decimals of Pi which was wrong, with some digits in the wrong place. And, whereas the real series of decimals is pure beauty to him, the false series gave him a strong reaction of being wrong and disharmonious.

What's sort of interesting and inspiring about people like that is that it hints at the possibility that anybody could do the same thing, if we better understood how. Their brains have somehow become short-circuited a bit, so they don't have the filters 'normal' people have, but they have more direct access to their abilities. Which often comes with a cost of lost functionality in some other area, or an inability in understanding emotions. But sometimes it doesn't.

.. Oops, I actually wrote about him before. I was looking for a picture of him, and Google suggested I'd find it on ming.tv. I guess I don't have perfect memory.
[ | 2007-03-26 20:35 | 3 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Ken Wilber stops his brain waves
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"If you want to know God, you've got to get your brain out of the way first. It's just one big stupid filter."
Yeah, I think I'd agree with that. It is a quote from Ken Wilber. Anyway, it was an introduction to this video, or here on Youtube. Wilber demonstrates some different kinds of mediation that sort of stop his brainwaves. Of course it doesn't stop his brain activity altogether, or he'd be dead. But you know these kinds of brainwave monitors, similar to EEG machines, used for showing how much beta, alpha, theta and delta activity one has. Usually one has activity in one or several of those bands. Beta is when one is alert and working or thinking logically. Alpha is when one is in a relaxed, reflective mode. Theta is drowsy or dreaming. Delta is deep, dreamless sleep. So, what he demonstrates is that one can put oneself into a state where there isn't any activity that stands out in any of those areas at all. Which isn't in any way the same as a flatline EEG, but it is still a quite remarkable feat.

I picked this up from metafilter. Quite interesting how many negative comments a thing like that produces. Seems like a lot of people feel very threatened by the idea that one can control brain waves, and particularly by the idea that there might be something more significant, as far as consciousness is concerned, beyond the brain.
[ | 2007-03-26 21:12 | 34 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 My French blog
I've finally decided to blog in French too. You'll find my French blog here: C'est pas Mécanique. I suppose I could have chosen to have posts in several languages in one blog, but I can't quite make sense out of that. I'm not really sure what I'll be writing, but it might quite possibly end up being something different than what'd I'd write in English. Just like I'd say different things if I wrote in Danish. One sort of thinks differently in a different language, so different things will come out. So, it is a separate blog, even though that's a little annoying to administrate.

Part of the reason for having a blog in French is, well, I'm in France for one thing. And handing out my ming.tv blog address is of somewhat limited value. Most people are not going to read it, even if they speak English, which a lot of people don't. A blog is one way of being known, of developing a network, of accummulating some kind of body of material, and it is useful for me to do that in French too. And, I guess, it is a personal challenge, to see if I can. I'm a perfectionist, but there's no way I'll be writing perfect French at this point. But I at least feel confident enough to do it anyway.

I'll probably do really short posts, and quote other people a lot, but, hey, that's ok in a blog.
[ | 2007-03-26 21:28 | 16 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

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