are bits of writing from many sources such as personal correspondence,
posts to on-line discussion groups, notes, and occasionally even some
All of this is informal in nature, but contains some interesting and/or
[Posted to the
group on MySpace.com]
There are a
of people who mistakenly include a lot of things under the neuroscience
umbrella. For instance, the teaching profession has shown a lot of
in what they term "brain research," yet they include work that treats
brain as a black box or ignores it entirely. There's nothing inherently
wrong with research of this sort (e.g., you can study behavior without
framing things in terms of neuron function), but it doesn't qualify as
"brain research" if you don't bother to actually research the brain
I gave up
about my research to people years ago. If they aren't in something
there's too much background to go through and I just lose them. I also
just tell people I'm a biologist and leave off anything about
The narcissist I told you about a while back used to tell people she
a neuroscientist all the time... especially when it was irrelevant to
person she was talking to, and I realized that if I was studying this
my ego, I was doing it for the wrong reasons.
most scientists sound a bit cold. They aren't emotional, so they
just wish people would look at the facts. They're more
when people don't understand because, after all, the facts are right
It isn't in their nature to make an emotional plea and they feel put
to have to explain what (to them) is self-evident.
One of the
things about scientific research is that a keen intellect is not really
a measure of success. I'm bright, but too flighty. I learn what I can,
then loose interest, regardless of whether I've published on it or not.
However, someone methodical who plods along and does his/her work
giving it much thought (you can become an expert without
see the medical profession, for example), can be successful by more
measures. That's kind of lame, but I don't know any way around it, so
aggrandize me on the basis of esoteric knowledge. It's a little more
There is a
schism between researchers and practitioners. The medical community is
*programmed* to act. Researchers spend forever thinking about things
any *direct* application resulting from my thesis research. My work
be only part of figuring out this problem of neurons generating bursts.
Eventually a model of bursting behavior may be generated. This will be
a mathematical description describing the influence of the different
entering the cell. Eventually this will be entered into a computer
This could be used to predict the action of different drugs affecting,
for example, the motor system. One eventual application could be to use
this model to send electrical signals into the nervous systems of
individuals in order to simulate the signals that should be arriving
their brain. That’s a good way into the future.
of patent sharing, generally universities share ownership as an
to productivity. There are other studies possible which could lead to
However, the area with the greatest potential for profit would be drug
discovery. However, in order to access all that money, one would have
go through clinical trials in order to obtain FDA approval. I can’t
that with cultures of a narrow class of cells.
As far as the
of this information: It will eventually be published in a neuroscience
journal. While they still print physical copies, for the most part
are made available electronically. Thus, they are searchable in a
of ways (titles, abstracts, keywords, full text, etc.), so it is very
to find what you need if the work has been performed by another lab
to potential grad students
advice I can give someone looking for a graduate position would be to
at least two major concerns in deciding a lab:
-Find a lab
content area(s) (and more importantly the tasks associated with
in that area(s)) is (are) something(s) you can stay interested in for a
couple years at a time.
-Find a major
who seems level-headed and compatible with your personality (or at
someone who you feel you could tolerate you and the converse is equally
true. It would be a good idea to talk to graduate students already in
lab. Graduate programs are not terribly structured, thus, personality
often a determining factor in navigating this relationship.
hours devoted to this disciple: There are periods that will allow
but when you are experimenting, you generally want to go after all the
data you can get from a preparation while it is still viable. At a
the other night I was talking to one of my professors about some
experiments recording from live cat brains (they were still in their
heads). I asked her how they were able to use the cat again. She said
couldn’t; they generally continued experimenting around the clock for 2
to 3 days until they were completely exhausted or the brain would no
yield any meaningful results.
One of the
I went into neuroscience was to better understand why people (myself
end up thinking the way they do. We’re still a long way off from
the reasons why chemical changes result in behaviors. We know that the
presence of certain chemicals influences thoughts and behavior in one
or another, but the mechanisms of these influences are unknown. As a
I’m stuck with introspection and opinions off of the internet for all
means never being able to explain anyone what you did today. It isn't
what I'm working on is so complicated; it just takes a couple minutes
explain things at each stage. If it was a joke, you wouldn't remember
laugh by the time I got to the punchline.
you get into studying neuroscience?
Well, like the
of the title of the book/movie "The Perfect Storm," there was a
of synergistic elements that shoved me in this general direction.
than attempting to string them into a more contrived sounding
here are some of said elements in no particular order:
-I had an
neuroscience professor as an undergrad. He presented difficult material
without watering it down, yet made it very accessible.
-I ended up
a master's in education, and much of what I studied during that time
with psychology and neuroscience in that it examined perceptions of
particularly at developing ages. Many of the questions and concerns of
these fields (as well as my job as a teacher) are to think about how
is processed, and what are the fundamentally best approaches for
it or making it as accessible for the learner (newspaper writing
this constantly, and usually has it down to a science itself).
-While I was
high school (which I did for two years), I was separated from sources
information that would allow me to develop my own ideas or read about
I really couldn't advance myself while I was working full time, and
bothered me. This was clear enough to my students that they wondered
why I wasn't in a lab somewhere, even though it was obvious I did enjoy
teaching was under a new administration that was pretty terribly (to
you an idea, about 75% of the staff quit; yes, I did the math... we
keep the phone directory current). This presented an opportunity to get
back into academia, which I might otherwise had passed over.
-The lab I am
now, that I found while searching the web, works with small groups of
I had hoped this work might yield information about the mechanisms of
processing, etc., but it really hasn't to the extent that I had hoped
my coursework has told me much more).
eventually achieve its implied promise to understand (and, where
control) the processes of the mind. However, scientists are notoriously
conservative where their results are concerned, for fear that they are
over-extending phenomena seen under a microscope to a whole organism.
to "see" things one way at a time. You know how you can see a line
of a transparent 3-D cube two different ways (which corner is closest
you)? That's a problem, and it's the basis of Boggle. You have to track
down one word at a time, but the whole thing simply "is." If you
pull out a word, now you've taken away parts of the other words, so now
you have reduced the complexity of the whole by "highlighting" a part.
This has major implications for experimental design since you try to
for everything except for the one thing you're manipulating. The part
the Boggle metaphor I just outlined touches on issues of the Hawthorne
Effect (i.e. the general form of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle)
and the generalizability of results generated outside of a "whole"
(e.g. cell cultures vs. intact organisms). Granted, science is
but can you ever really "know" if there is no other method? This is a
Okay, that's just a piece of my view of it. Another chapter some other
night. I'm sure there are even larger metaphors borne from chess
[Posted to the
group on MySpace.com]
is undeniably a broad discipline by almost any measure, I question it
an undergraduate major. I don't know that there are that many
of it as an undergraduate degree. It's something like pre-law or
in that you are obligated to pursue additional schooling in that field
in order to use it as such... and there are alternative degrees that
prepare you for graduate work already.
a B.S. in neuroscience, more generalized majors such as biochem and
biology look better on a resume if you ultimately chose to take a
course in life. By that, I mean that you might end up seeking
in a non-neuroscience institution. For example, say you want to work in
a biomedical lab or for the EPA or for any number of other places. An
with a general degree might receive preferential consideration because,
"Well, we aren't looking for a neuroscientist here."
courses specific to neuroscience have their own attraction since that's
what anyone reading this would likely want to study, but that might be
a short-sighted approach during your undergraduate years.
Of course, it
just be that I'm jealous that this degree wasn't an option when I was
[Posted to the
group on MySpace.com]
about what interests people about studying the brain/ the CNS/ neurons/
cognitive theory/ etc. what was it that first sparked an interest?
influences that interacted that left me driven to learn whatever I can.
Here are the two big ones.
1) A terrific
neuroscience course at LSU by Dr. John T. Caprio. It was one of the
and best-taught courses I have ever had. Dr. Caprio made difficult
accessible and interesting, and he made certain that we understood the
science underlying what we were learning about (i.e., how do we know
we know?). We never used a textbook. Instead we worked from the
journal publications so that we could see exactly what was studied
than a summary of it. However, unlike many neuroscience courses that
to tackle the entire brain, this one constrained things to the level of
axons, synapses, and (finally) to the senses. The implicit message was
that it all starts here, has a physical/biological basis, and there's a
lot to know just from these fundamentals before you ever get to the big
picture and start talking about how the brain works.
2) Next I went
education for a number of reasons that I won't go into. During my M.Ed.
program, we looked at learning and understanding from a number of
perspectives (e.g., everything from prescriptive teaching methods to
abstract and esoteric philosophy). It seemed that a lot of what it came
down to was understanding cognition and information processing, and
was a relative dearth of understanding of that in the realm of teacher
>what is it
keeps you interested in studying it?
the lack of conclusive answers. We're all sort of left hanging here.
new piece of information is a little more to the puzzle, but we still
a long way to go.
My goal for
present is to ultimately move back toward education and to synthesize a
lot of what we know about how the brain works with what we know about
teaching practices. There's a lot that these two areas could offer to
another, especially seeing as how both neuroscientists and teachers
their days manipulating brains.
you wanna be a neuroscientist?
[reply to a
I met online]
>...so Im a
clueless on specific classes I should make sure I take.
following the basic biology curriculum, but focus more on the
type classes than the ones on animal diversity (e.g., ornithology,
etc.) or environmental science. (However, *do* take ecology just for
own benefit; that was one of the most informative classes I had as an
Now, for electives, take as much psychology as you can squeeze in.
the general psych class, be sure to take a class that specializes in
(mine was called "The Psychology of Learning" or something like that)
that indirectly gets at things like Hebb and Kandel have studied for
won't here much about the connections across disciplines, as
as they are; Academics tend not to swim in one anothers' pools. It's
sad. I only discovered a lot of this because I went into science
and so I tapped into a broader range of knowledge than I would have
in any one track.
I read the
in an interview about apoptosis with Professor Seamus J. Martin. I
how he put things concisely here, and thought you might enjoy this for
your "why do science?" files.
Q: What impact
your work and research advances in your field have on the general
A: I am
that discoveries in the apoptosis field will have a major impact in
therapy within the next 5-10 years. Work in this area has thrown up a
of drug targets that should yield drugs for many other conditions:
inflammation, sepsis, hepatitis. These drugs will be discovered by
drug companies (for that is their job) and they will take all of the
and quickly forget why they targeted these molecules in the first
People in industry and many clinicians often forget that this is a
of which we are all a vital part. I hope the general public appreciates
The rest of
interview is here:
I like reality
but not the poorly designed (read: flawed!) social experiments they air
now. It's sad when network tv is ripping off Mtv's sorriest material
The Real World and Road Rules). I would prefer to see short segments
they play a prank on someone.
a number of criteria for a scientifically valid experiment. First, they
controlled the situation by typically choosing scenarios in which we
how the mark would have responded in *normal* circumstances... Then
changed one thing (e.g., which direction the people in the elevator
while keeping everything else constant. Further, they showed most of
results in their entirety, including a few of the "failures" (e.g.,
who were unphased or who realized they were being put on). "Reality"
today draw maybe 40 minutes from several weeks of tape, thereby
things from their context, typically to (false) dramatic effect.
Candid Camera would perform the same "experiment" repeatedly so that
saw a sample of the population, not just the most extreme (although,
they were biased toward these in what they aired).
Shows like The
and the rest make one pass and change the rules at every turn. That's
but not in a very productive way.
Sagan related the early history of observations of Venus. When people
looking at that planet, they realized they couldn't see any surface
They surmised it must be covered with clouds. They soon got to
"if there are clouds, then there must be water, right?" And if there's
water, there were probably swamps. And if there were swamps, then the
must be covered with dinosaurs! Observation: Nothing. Conclusion:
The reality was that the clouds were sulfuric acid, thoroughly
to anything they could dream up. It's scary how often I hear of
assumptions made in everyday life.
[Posted to the
group on MySpace.com]
Here is a
list of guidelines to the decorum of the neuroscience discussion group:
If I catch you in a lie, then the only honorable thing for you to do is
commit harakiri. Or you can spend your days stoned watching Cheech and
Chong movies. That equates with death in most biological definitions.
be grounded in science. If your opinion runs counter to the literature
published, then it is flawed and should therefore be recalled and
If it is founded on nothing to begin with, then it is raw sewerage and
is a heath hazard. Clean it up!
be cited. If you can't cite something to back up a generalization, them
I'm going to call you on it. If you can't follow through on that
your brain will be collected for the purposes of studying microcephaly.
be labeled as such. If you do not know how to do this, just indicate
color of your aura when aliens planted this idea in your head.
will be questioned. If there is a conflict of interest, you will state
it clearly or I will run a wedgie right up your longitudinal fissure to
your corpus callosum.
lot of people don't understand just how for away we are from answering
some of these topics/questions - and ones much more trivial!
One of the
I used to get my students to do when they asked general questions was
design experiments that would address it scientifically. Invariably,
experiment would only reveal a facet of the phenomenon they inquired
(e.g., memory or emotion were popular topics). It's frustrating not to
be able to nail things down after just one trial, but at the end of it,
you do at least have that one finding. That's more than you had at the
beginning. Those who never do any experiments at all (nor bother to
those that have been conducted previously) have nothing.
>In fact, I
a lot of people don't understand just how little we know about the
in general. They don't understand its complexity, which is ok because
just how complex the brain is turns out to be difficult no matter how
your level of expertise is.
brain is aware of itself, so it thinks it understands itself. That's a
brain is like building a complete model of the universe that is smaller
the universe... You basically used up the universe to build it if you
to capture every detail and make it accurate. If you have a complete
representation of your brain in your brain... you don't have any room
anything else. And that doesn't even take into account the fact that
areas (in the general sense), by definition, aren't even involved in
understanding, so the internal model of this neural "universe" is
larger than the universe itself. Paradox! It's easier to stick with the
mirage and go watch tv for a while.
>It is even
upsetting when people get their information from media outlets and
You can get
information from these channels, but you have to be able to evaluate
quality and establish their sources. For example, Angry's post of
quotes about science from a creationist working in retail may have been
among the funniest things George Carlin and I never wrote.
you have to fact-check her after the fact of her post to catch her in a
lie. In the case of the posts in this thread, most of the fallacious
have been so patently wrong that no one would believe them, but a
reader probably wouldn't bother to double-check while skimming for
to his favorite recreational drug.
be turned into an intelligent debate?
the ideal sense. That would require both parties to bring to the table
information gleaned through careful study to support opposing
Angry is outgunned in that department and has a history of presenting
as facts (even in the absence of supporting documentation), so I don’t
think she’s capable of pursuing that route without much prodding.
for her would be to address open-ended questions that are difficult to
address experimentally. I posed ten of those and she didn’t bite. I
she provide others. No luck there either. I thought it would have been
right up her alley to speculate beyond the edge of the frontier, but
she has even less imagination than knowledge. I wouldn’t have thought
using threads like these as Socratic dialogues in which one person
not to understand and the other explains it in elementary terms.
the ignorance is rarely feigned in these exchanges.) This is a more
approach than a lengthy missive on a particular topic and it provides
readers an emotional buy-in to the cross-fire that would be absent in
sterile transfers of information. I don't like lecturing, that's why I
tend to break apart posts like this and respond to them piece by piece
like a spoken conversation. This is a much more natural way of
for most readers as it creates something of a narrative. Like I said
I think this thread finally earned its name.
mindset between doctors and medical researchers. Doctors are forced to
act prescriptively. There are procedures drilled into them that when a
patient presents with a set of symptoms, then act as though it's *this*
disease, even if there is the possibility that it's something else.
do not like to go the route of test, test, test, deduce, treat the
they've excluded all the other possibilities down to. Obviously the
of this approach would be several weeks of tests and experimental
with meds for what may be the wrong condition before they ever give you
what you really need, but the approach you're getting is largely based
on the assumption that they're right at the start until there's some
to the contrary (that they, of course, aren't going to themselves seek
do you do?
It's hard to
my research, so I usually just avoided the topic. It's like telling a
with a really long set-up and a punchline that makes you go, "All that
the protein-interaction topic is only a few years old, so maybe they
worked out the applications yet.
a technology like this will suddenly find a lot of unexpected uses. For
example, there was a story on NPR a couple weeks ago about the first
in which they used a DNA sequence amplified from PCR to establish
They just tried to answer the question of whether you could establish
between two individuals. You would think that that being a basic
of DNA, that would be the first application they thought of, but not so.
easier to get good publicity if your company says they're working on
Kandel (winner of the Nobel prize for his work on learning and memory)
always used to write grants such that he connected his work with this
sea slug creature to things like Alzheimer's disease, education, etc.
reality, there wasn't a lot that could connect this to the rest in the
beginning, but he made his case based on the hope he would be able to
something applicable eventually. (Incidentally, no, he really hasn't
but the work is pretty impressive.)
group meeting, the students were making fun of some papers coming from
Berkeley that kept getting published, even though their results weren't
that great, because this one famous guy put his name on them. It was
no matter what the paper was about, if this one guy put himself as an
it would get published.
This happens a
more than it should. Apparently, journals want the prestige of saying
published something by so-and-so..." even if it's crap. Several Nobel
went on to be highly visible complete idiots. For example, Linus
got the whole thing started about vitamin C curing everything from the
common cold to cancer, etc. Amount of evidence to support this: None.
that science? Hardly.
Watson (of DNA fame) went into cognitive science in spite of having
no training in that area. He was a visiting "researcher" (I saw this in
quotes because he did no actual lab work there to my knowledge) at a
when one of my professors was a grad student. She said in lab meetings
he would just offer wild speculation about things that were completely
untestable. She said he had absolutely no sense regarding how to
approach things. He just wanted to make it all up, and unfortunately he
had the clout to get people to listen to him spout nonsense.
think are the most important, unresolved questions in Neuroscience?
Here's a big
for me. I don't know that there's a name for it, but I've always
about developmental microanatomy. In other words, how does the
and/or learning process create these small structures that make us who
we are. This is one of those questions that is sometimes addressed by
of learning that look at the cellular level, but most
relationships are described in terms of entire brain regions.
I would like
understand how knowledge/behavior/whatever is stored in just a few
I've met always seem like they're coming from somewhere else compared
the rest of the science research people. There is a major schism
researchers and practitioners. The medical community is *programmed* to
act. Researchers spend forever thinking about things and testing
There are a lot more differences in personality than that. You probably
see a lot of that just moving between departments and looking at the
they view things and interact with you.
neuroscience is interesting because it's simultaneously esoteric and
with central issues of human experience. I can talk weird things about
so many aspects that are universal to us all.
done nothing but show that humans are nothing more that cells and
not interaction. It's from the interaction of the components that
properties spring forth. That's the interesting stuff. I mean, my
is just a pile of plastic and metal with a little bit of sand, but it
capable of far more than a paper weight. And that's hardly a worthy
when you're talking about things with much more interesting
like bodies and brains. Honestly, did you quit watching sports after
first semester of physics? Did music loose its appeal after you learned
it was nothing but vibrating air? Did you lose interest in food after
took microbiology? Okay, that last one is a bad example. Yuk!
why our brain works the way it does, and why we feel and think the way
we do. The human brain, which practically constitutes who we are, is
more than a mass of cells (a very complex mass, but still cells none
less). It seems the only thing that separates humans from other
is our complexity.
Maybe I missed
but I couldn't find anything in there to be despondent about. In fact,
that's all pretty interesting to me.
that differentiates humans is their genetic code and their life
There no longer seems to be a reason to believe that humans have a
or a driving spirit of any sort.
Only if you
the dynamics from the equation. The mass of cells that is you happens
be alive. A girl I dated for a while used to say, "Life is a bunch of
that got together to be 'me' for a while." The "me" part of it is
really interesting, not the cells themselves. Just how did "I" come out
of this little convention? (Actually, the cells are kind of interesting
misplaced hopes with informed worldviews? Definitely! It means that the
possibilities we consider are valid ones rather than imaginary and,
untestable (unrealizable) ones. In fact, there are more possibilities
to us when confronted with the complexity of nature than our limited
could otherwise invent.
>I used to
i was [happy], but i'm not. I want to believe that there's something
to life than that. Maybe i just want a fairytale to believe, but since
i have no proof for anything that isn't science, i can't seem to make
believe anything differently.
I can't tell
this nihilism is borne out of the "grounded" realizations of science or
the fact that science has effectively displaced the "fairy tales."
than a worldview, it sounds like you are searching for purpose in the
and that's something that you'll have to find for yourself in your more
educated vista. Science can inform that, but it won't dictate it.
you could try skydiving. Once again, it's just physics, but people find
on life? --are we just a mass of cells, or is there something more?
when the cells come together that is, for lack of a more informed word,
magic. Just as importantly, who you are is almost infinitely
I went through a(n on-going) phase of self-discovery a few years ago
found out that you could live with a person all your life and not
know a whole lot about him, which is kind of odd when he's you. He/I
the same mass of cells (actually, probably fewer if anything), yet I'm
still finding things in this mix that I didn't know were there.
other scientists who believe that there's more to life than what we've
proven, or does the vast majority believe only what is proven?
I would word
differently. Rather than "proven" and "unproven," I would say
and "undiscovered." There's always more over the horizon. It sounds
you're falling into the trap of thinking you are at the edge of
that there are no surprises left. Well, there are, even if no one has
them yet. That's what keeps us all going. In fact, we would be out of a
job if there weren't any more mysteries.
is the reason to study neuroscience?
There is more
one. For one thing, as we understand how we work, we can begin to
ourselves and enrich our existence. We can't even begin to guess at
that will lead. One aspect of this that has interested me is the
of transhumanism. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transhumanism for
overview.) Neuroscience in particular can figure into shaping our
in the future and that means shedding many of our limitations. Part of
that is understanding how we work and how to eliminate diseases, but
we have yet to discover will inevitably lead to paradigm shifts that we
cannot predict. That's just one piece of what keeps me interested.
Kara, you got
neuroscience earlier and more intensely than most people I know, so
got you started? What did you hope to find? Personally, I found that
of the things I came into this looking for haven't been successfully
yet. But I didn't come away empty-handed. I may not have all the
but I have much more refined questions and even more than a few new
I never thought to ask in the beginning.
[Posted to the
group on MySpace.com]
This line of
isn't unique to the biological sciences. I know a lot of people reject
the behaviorist branch of psychology for similar reasons since many
that it portrays humans in mechanistic terms. The thing is, we *are*
and predictable at some levels. You can despair over it and push it out
of your mind, but it doesn't make that view less valid. However, like
many other frameworks, behaviorism is accurate, useful, but,
it doesn't assign meaning to behavior; it merely describes (to some
why it occurs and how one might change it. It doesn't say whether or
a given behavior is good or bad in moral, ethical, or aesthetic terms.
This framework informs who we are, but I don't know that it takes
away from us. As was stated above, we just understand ourselves more
That's additive to the human experience; I don't know that it can
take anything away from it except assumptions that were never valid in
the first place.
the movie "Contact" (which is one my all-time favorites, so shut up
and they got to a scene (no, not the very memorable opening shot) where
they looked down at the whole Earth. There was a cacophony of radio
as we listen and see all of us on our little planetary island. At that
point the "signal" from outer space comes booming steadily in.
I guess the
with this question of looking for high meanings in facts is that one
view that image in a positive or negative light. You might look at it
say, "That's it? We're all so small and limited. Each of us is a tiny
in a huge throng of voices in a great big universe. We don't amount to
anything in the grand scheme of things. Oh, I give up."
could look at the same scene and think, "Wow, for all we think
know, there's so much out there that we don't yet that we'll always be
in a state of absolute wonder."
Now, I don't
how much the concept of "free will" figures into this, but if you think
you have a choice in the matter, then make the positive one.
vs. research cont'd
I think the
between those who enter MD/Ph.D. programs are more fundamental than
academic interests. It seems that they represent completely different
mutually incompatible personality types.
who have done a turn in our lab tend to look for definitive answers.
the right way to do this?" "What's the accepted explanation for this?"
Of course, research by its very nature is cutting edge. Quite often
are no right answers because you're the first one doing something. The
pre-med types tend to want to be *programmed* to act. And this makes
An MD who
in a neuroscience lab down the hall said medical professionals are
to respond prescriptively. They don't have time to tinker and try out
of hypotheses when a patient comes in. They just follow the most
course of treatment pretty much right away, especially if they're
in the ER.
the research types think ends with a question mark. Every time I
some new finding with a friend or professor we don't go, "Oh, another
of the puzzle! Yay!" Instead we think for a second and go, "I wonder if
they tried it this way what would happen..." Researchers are
completely sure of anything. We're always digging deeper and looking
more evidence on which to base even "accepted" conclusions, and there
always unknowns at the periphery. Every discovery results in more
and it seems like it never ends, but that never really bothers us.
A friend of
who got his masters before moving on to med school said that this
ambiguity used to drive him nuts. One of his professors said she had
seen anyone work so fast in a lab. He never tinkered or explored any
He just did what he needed to do to get his results and he moved on.
course of study you want to follow, it would seem that the questions
have ask are more internal than external. Which environment is most
do you need to be statistically significant?
depends on the results, not just the sample size. You could have a
of n=1,000,000 and it might not be significant.
asking is what is an appropriate sample size for this to be a valid
design. A rule of thumb (which really isn't very popular) is that you
have 30 statistical objects per block. In this case we have 12
signs, so n=360 would be desirable so long as we averaged around 30
per block. Of course, if we found that we collected 360 responses and
or more of the signs was not represented, then, hell, I might even
there was something to astrology.
to do (provided we collect enough data) is to run this through a Chi
goodness-of-fit test. This will compare the frequencies of the actual
signs (based on the birthdays reported by the participants) to their
sign based on the personality description attributed to it by
and provided by Jonatron (who is the exact opposite of an astrologer).
Presumably, Jon can run this test at any time, but a large sample is
flaws to this design, but they can't really be avoided in this medium.
For example, as Jon mentioned at the outset, someone who is familiar
astrology could pick their sign based on the description if they
to recognize it from another source. Another flaw (as much with
as with this design) is that astrologers don't agree with one another
which personalities to attribute to which sign. Why should they?
all making it up as they go along. And they'll decry negative results
incompatible with their unique (and wholly imaginary) worldview.
One of the
I went into neuroscience to find out was how much is "free will" vs.
much was hardwired into us. I'm of the mind that a lot of who we are
out of modes built into us. For example, one of the incidents of
I experienced was back in high school when I had all the Pink Floyd
There was no "next step" on my musical horizon, so I was despondent.
was so much music that was disappointing whereas PF's stuff was just
weird and unpredictable from one album to the next (especially the
stuff). So I just wandered around music stores looking for weird things
that would shake me up. I didn't chose to have that drive, and I don't
know that there was anything in my past that imbued me with it. In that
case, it's a great thing to have had, but not to have all the time. If
that makes any sense.
persuaded by rhetoric, it seems. How else can you explain Rush Limbaugh?
Yeah, you have
touch on a lot of different parts of the brain to get a message
and the form of the message is more than its contents. There's a good
called "Data Smog" that looks at, among other things, how politicians
substantially more votes by framing things in terms of anecdotes rather
than presenting facts. And speaking of statistics, consider this one:
of all people have below average intelligence.
[Posted to the
psych group on MySpace.com]
Two others I
-SAS - This is
great one to learn on, but it requires you to write a "program" (just
really) to describe what you want it to do which which variables,
how, in what order, etc. You have the flexibility to specify a lot of
things, but it is tedious unless you use it almost all the time. It is
also DOS-based (or at least was maybe three years ago when I used it
believe it or not. I don't recommend it, but if you know someone using
it already, then you have an "in" to get you started and to
if you can't get it to run properly.
contrast with SAS, this one is really easy and gives you just what you
want... as long as you aren't too picky. Everything is accomplished via
pull-down menus, so it is possible to run a test or series of tests
quickly. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of unusual tests mixed in
the standard ones.
SPSS is a good
between the flexibility and ease of use of these two. For one thing,
can save your "routines" as a macro if you're going to be running the
battery of tests over and over again. You can also customize things via
syntax (provided you want to take the time to learn it; I didn't). I
the ease of use of SigmaStat for getting things done quickly with an
output, so I used that one for a lot of things I've done just for fun
well as in actual research.
Life science is my weak point.
of embarrassed to be a biologist. Physics is so much more tantalizing
its implications are literally universal (as opposed to describing a
class of cells only found in one relatively small -but important- group
of organisms on a single planet in an unfashionable arm of a
"milky" galaxy not even close to the bright center of the universe...
is what I do in my work).
I have a
table t-shirt. One day I was making up a stock solution, but didn't
a table with which to calculate the weights of the solutes I needed. I
out in the hall and saw a girl studying. I asked her if she had a copy
of the periodic table on her, and she was like, you mean like the one
your shirt? I was like, um, I just wanted to see if you were paying
and ducked back into my lab.