Friday, February 19, 2010

Addicted!

I meant to just try it once, but then I couldn't stop. CAPITAL LETTERS! They were demanding immediate attention, captivating, impossible to ignore. I GOT STUCK IN CAPS LOCK. Now I'm on withdrawal. WITH OCCASIONAL RELAPSE. Therefore, today we'll talk about ADDICTIONS.

In the comments to a previous post, Steven remarked:
“[Chad Orzel] is a blog addict, by all accounts. Me too, I admit it, and I've only been blogging seriously for a few months! Christ, this stuff is more addictive that nicotine. Is there a 12-step program for blogging addicts, somewhere?

David Carr from the New York Times is quoted with saying:
“Sometimes I wonder whether I care [about my blog] to the point that I neglect other things, like, oh, my job. Tweaking the blog is seductive in a way that a print deadline never is. By the time I am done posting entries, moderating comments and making links, my, has the time flown. I probably should have made some phone calls about next week's column, but maybe I'll write about, ah, blogging instead.

And of course there's a self-help group called Bloggers Anonymous (Living with blog addiction? You are not alone!) This made me wonder what it actually means to be addicted. CAN ONE GET ADDICTED TO CAPITAL LETTERS? And am I addicted to my blog? Googling for “addicted to blogging” brings up a rather silly self-test (on which I score 57%, whatever that might mean) and a Dr. who wants to tell you you're seriously sick when “you recognize yourself in any of those:
  • I only blog on important topics - well, important topics to me.
  • I can stop blogging anytime I want. I just don’t want to stop. This is not hurting me or anyone else.
  • I am not addicted [...] Blogging isn’t a drug.
  • ...
And of course you are denying it! “Disbelief that it is possible to be addicted to blogging” is part of your problem. There is probably a book you can waste money on that will cure you. Okay, WAIT.

Let's clarify what we are talking about:

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM) doesn't talk about addiction at all, it distinguishes between substance dependence” and compulsive behaviour” (not to be confused with the obsessive-compulsive disorder). Substance dependence involves, well, a “substance” whose repeated abuse has averse effect on the health and/or ability to organize ones life, in med speech it “leads to clinically significant impairment or distress.” A compulsive behavior is basically a behavior which you can't stop even though you'd want to. Trying, trying, FAIL.

Typically, substance abuse is associated with mindaltering drugs while compulsive behavior is associated with self-control problems like gambling, overeating, or blogging. Addiction is colloquially meant to encompass both. There is however no clear demarcation line between substance abuse and compulsive behavior. Really, what is a substance?” Is a blogpost substance? Well, what is not substance? One can get quite metaphysical about that.

But besides that, as typical for psychological problems, exactly where a behavior starts being in need of professional help is not clearly defined either. You can find examples in your newspaper: nicotine addiction is meanwhile considered an illness, while it is under debate whether or not overeating is an actual disease or a bad habit. And then there's the Dr. who tells you your “internet addiction” needs treatment. Dear Abby, I obsessively check my BlackBerry every two minutes. Can I call in sick?

Okay, so I learned my Capslock disease is not a case of substance dependence, just a little compulsive behavior. I'LL GET OVER IT. I am also still in denial about my alleged blogging addiction. But now I'm concerned about something else. Is information a “substance” one can be dependent on? Steven later added to his above comment
“What is addictive about blogging? Hmm. Well, for me, it's knowledge. I can't get enough.”

Arguably, information is a mindaltering experience indeed: it can create knowledge. So to understand the risks let's have a look at the averse effects of addictions. The neurological basis for both substance dependence and compulsive behavior is the same and lies in what is known as

The Reward Circuit


Happiness and self-fulfilment are common goals in the game that is human life. However complex the rules of that game, eventually it is a neurobiological response in our brains that makes us feel happy or satisfied. Natural selection favored those who desired to achieve behavior that was beneficial for the survival of the individual and its kind. In the course of evolution, we were thus endowed with what neuroscientists call the “reward circuit.” The reward circuit becomes active if we do what is necessary or beneficial for survival - such as eating, learning, or having sex - and triggers a feeling of happiness by a complex release of chemicals.

But research has also shown the reward circuit is not only a direct response mechanism that leads to the production of endorphins responsible for happiness. It is coupled to the hippocampus, our learning and memory center, and the prefrontal cortex, relevant for our thinking and planning. This enables us to develop possibly quite elaborated tactics to trigger the reward mechanism.

And there are shortcuts to immediate happiness. Drugs like cocaine, speed, angel dust, heroine, morphine, alcohol and tobacco stimulate the reward system, and often provide greater pleasure than is normally the result of natural stimulation.

With repeated drug use, neurotransmitters in the brain develop a SUBSTANCE TOLERANCE, it then takes a larger dose to achieve the same effect. Simultaneously, the user becomes less receptive to natural stimuli and loses interest in activities other than obtaining the next dose. Changes in the brain metabolism cause WITHDRAWAL effects, which makes it hard to fall back into a previously stable and pleasant state. Our usually beneficial ability to learn from rewards and direct our actions towards this goal then leads to a planning of how to get the next kick. It becomes the center of interest, many users report a constant OBSESSION. The addict neglects primary survival needs. The result can be fatal.

A wrongly wired reward circuit thus leads us to learn behavior damaging for the physical and mental health. What makes this rewiring of the brain so dangerous is that knowledge of negative consequences is generally not sufficient to break out of the vicious cycle.

Addiction...

...is thus characterized by: withdrawal symptoms, obsession with the next kick, substance tolerance, and is accompanied by physical changes in the brain's function. However, as far as the physical changes are concerned, it is also known that there are correlations between physiological and psychological changes in the brain, and the causation is not always clear. Thus, exactly when and why substance use turns into substance abuse in general remains fuzzy, though for some drugs the mechanisms are meanwhile well understood.

Knowing the working of the reward circuit also makes clear why many popular songs refer to love as an addiction: you can quite literally be Addicted to Love. Falling in love causes release of phenylethylalamine (a natural monoamine alkaloid that is also found in chocolate), which is responsible for the euphoric feeling, not to mention that it evidently sparks creativity. I hate myself for loving you, but how am I supposed to live without you? I can't get you out of my head! I try to say goodbye and I choke, I try to walk away and I stumble, I promise myself, No, I’m not gonna do this, but oops, I did it again. It's all chemistry, really. Thus, being in love comes with all the symptoms of an addiction: obsession, withdrawal symptoms, and finally substance tolerance, also known as marriage.

So, can one be addicted to blogging?

It still seems implausible to me that blogging makes for a sensible addiction, mostly because its behavioral meaning is vague and individually different. It is more plausible one or the other aspect of blogging is addictive. Being on top of news is likely one of them, fame is another. And to some extend blogging has elements of gambling too. Combine all that with the instant social glue of Web2.0, and you get a very sticky mess instead. The immediateness and global connectivity the internet offers can amplify these effects, but is there really something new about this?

Okay, so now that I've convinced myself I'm not an addict, I have a confession to make. I sometimes do get up in the middle of the night. Not to check my blog stats though, but to look up an equation. Last night I fell asleep on Jackson's Classical Electrodynamics. Clearly not healthy. I'm probably addicted to physics! Help! I always have some in my drawer. It's affecting my work life.

But at least I got over my little problem with the capital letters. Well. ALMOST :-)

PS: And of course I only blog on important topics. Well, important topics to me.

43 comments:

Steven Colyer said...

Actually, I have a sick addiction to Science books. I've decided to go cold turkey. "From Eternity to Here" and "How To Teach Physics To Your Dog" will be the last two I ever buy. It's Internet, Library, or bust from here on out.

Thank goodness I bought/own Weinberg's "The Theory of Fields - Foundations." That and Zee's Nutshell book (there Anthony ... I said it) means I have an outside chance to learn QFT.

Jérôme CHAUVET said...

Firstly, I want to say that that weird problem with the sidebar seems to have been definitely fixed (Bee will understand)

Back to topic, I must say, as a biochemist who attended many lectures in neurobiology in Montpellier, that the summary written by Bee is perfect. No flaw.

There are indeed many sorts of addiction: those triggered by chemical compounds, and those triggered by a certain mental activity, e.g. gambling. However, it seems like in the former case, some neuronal circuitries may be destroyed so that the compulsory behavior could become irreversible; in the latter, the rewarding drug may be a natural one (endorphin or serotonin regulation), making the addiction less destructive regarding neurological structures. About blogging addiction, one may be in the second case (except if you are used to drinking Vodka whilst blogging).

What characterizes addictions is the voice telling you to go back to your addiction when you have been long away from it. I think the very point is here.

Personnally, what I find addictive in blogging is this constant relationship to all of those who talk to me and to whom I talk. If we had met on a street, not sure whether we would have talked together so long. What I find addictive is the possible relationship with others without so much restrictions as in the real life.

Best,


is relation to other people.

Uncle Al said...

Fourier transform lowercase Times Roman versus [FONT FACE="Arial, Helvetica, Geneva" SIZE="+0"] UPPERCASE [/FONT] sans serif Helvetica. Sharp terminations and unrounded angles drip high frequency components. The visual system snags on intense analysis and metabolites bleed over into other anatomies.

To stay sane, have sparse matrices and tails with automatic filling with zeros. See? Easy!

The next "bible of psychiatry" (billable insurance guide) reduces intolerable Severely and Profoundly Gifted snarkiness to a compact linear scale punctuated by pharma. The dangerously insane and the inconveniently intelligent will share a common remediation. (Get yourself a Piper Cherokee PA-28...)

Bee said...

Hi Jérôme,

I didn't know you're a biochemist! Here's a question for you: What do you think of legally controlled substitutes for hard drugs? Are they any good? I mean, does it really solve a problem on the level of damage done to the brain, or is it more a social problem that's addressed there? It seems to me a topic that's quite sensitive (many people are opposed to the idea for ideological reasons). Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Steven,

What's sick about reading science books?!? Nice to know you're also reading Sean's book. I'll probably have a review on it on some point, then we can compare notes so to speak :-) Zee's book is just great. I wish I had had it when I was learning QFT. Let me know if you like it. Some people find it a little too superficial. Best,

B.

Steven Colyer said...

What's sick about Science books isn't the books but the need of the individual to buy them. I have seen the light. The Internet has all the books online, for free, I need ever read. I need buy no more "ages with time" papyrus versions.

With the exception of course of YOUR book, Bee, should you ever decide to write one. :-)

But before you write one ... see if you can't get your spouse to write a Wikipedia page for you. Yours and Smolin's application of cool and clear Aristotelian logic to the application of Occam Razor and singularities strikes me as one being warranted.

Trust me Bee, "singularities" are most likely the product of the theoretical mind. Mechanical engineers such as myself know that such things probably don't exist. It's why we come close to popping a blood vessel and dying like poor John Stewart Bell every time we see an article about "Naked Singularities" in popular Science mags.

Nice "pure" mathematics. So is number theory. And superstrings theory. But if it's not too much trouble, could we get a bit phenomenological, here?

Bee said...

Hi Steven,
Writing takes time. With paying for reading you acknowledge the author's effort put into the book. You get a piece of their knowledge (plus the hardware or software, depending on whether you read digital or on paper), they get a piece of your income. There's nothing sick about that, that's capitalism. That's how the world works. It basically tells you there's value in knowledge. Best,

B.

Steven Colyer said...

It takes about 2 years to write a book, Bee. Three years if you include the detail that Lee Smolin includes in The Trouble with Physics, four years if you include the detail of Peter Woit in Not Even Wrong.

It's not the writing, it's the editing. Royal pain in the ass, that. (Beginning with the self-editing, let alone with what others will do to your work. Do painters have to deal with that? No. Only writers. Damn editors).

I'd still love to be able to link to a Wiki page about "Sabine Hossenfelder", though. That would be awesome. :-)

Jérôme CHAUVET said...

Hi Bee,

Well, first of all I think there is a deep misunderstanding about what hard drugs are on one side, and what chemical remedies are on the other side. In fact, both are on the same side. The philosophy in pharmacology is that the latter is the same as the former, the very difference being that the latter is in lower concentration as compared to the former.

Indeed, you could kill someone with aspirin (with holes in stomach) if you wanted to, and it's all about the CONCENTRATION you are injecting in the blood, and the ratio gain/loss for the body. There is also a relativity theory in pharmacology, and this precisely this one point.

In the case of drugs substitutes, you may realize first that many of the strong antalgics used in hospitals are in fact hard drugs, the so-called opioid family, though given with controlled concentration and protocol. They act on the endorphin system to soothe your pain, and can lead to addiction. Physicians have always dealt with hard drugs since the dawn of medecine :)

In case you are suffering from cancer and are going to perish in a few months, addiction is of no concern for you and the ratio is: gain/loss > 1.

Bearing this on your mind, the use of drug substitutes as a rehab protocol may appear as nothing more perverse than conventional therapy for an addictive illness. Remember the gimmick: chemical remedies are hard drugs at low concentration.

Opioids are not known for damaging the brain, and if brain-damaging substitutes are to be used, then there is a physician here to decide what concentrations fit with a therapeutical effect.

As I said, it's all about the ratio gain/loss for the patient. If you are strongly addicted to a drug you buy on streets, the gain for you is to first change your "dealer". Not one who wants to get money from you, but one who wants you to heal and who is going to find a way to progressively diminish the quantity you "need" until you are no longer addicted to the molecule.

Here was my answer... Wo ist jetzt mein Vodka?

Best,

Jérôme CHAUVET said...

I'd still love to be able to link to a Wiki page about "Sabine Hossenfelder", though. That would be awesome. :-)

True. Motl has a wiki page, but Bee not. IT'S A SHAME!

Jérôme CHAUVET said...

Question: Is Uncle Al a bot or something?

Arun said...

How is it that, separated by ocean or continent, yourself, CIP and myself have all been looking at Jackson's Classical Electrodynamics (well, in your case, you're sleeping on it) in the past few days?

Neil B said...

Uncle Al is real. I've corresponded with him and also know of him through Mensa (although he isn't in my local group.) He and his blog are certainly interesting. He's somewhat "irascible" and into sometimes grumpy right-leaning political perspectives. Essentially a chemist, Al is very keen on his chiral gravity theory which someone knowledgeable should at least take a look at.

Re Jackson's Classical Electrodynamics - well really of course that also includes "relativistic" since SRT is combined into the scheme of EM (even if not realized when EM was being hashed out by people like Maxwell.) Hence this is a case where "classical" is a misleading term, since it usually implies classical mechanics which is not always true. But the EM equations are "always true" AFAIK, with SRT factors correcting to make it so.

Blogs and the Internet: I am certainly addicted, to both intellectual stuff like this blog and flashy media stuff. I also get into Facebook and am pleased to have Friended many scientists and related types including Bee. Dorigo accepted today. My latest kick is getting wowed by Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" video. Everyone really should see it at least once, it is truly a stupefying spectacle. (Just enjoy the camp and have fun.) Check the ladygaga.com website. BTW the Youtube version shows over 100 million views, AFAIK that is accurate!

However, there are some remaining weird issues like having to take internal energy into account when talking "force" = dp/dt on wires, and the paradoxes deriving from radiative reaction force (which Jackson talks about. AFAIK, that stuff really isn't fully resolved as such.)

PS Steven C: by now you should know not to be fooled by Chad's decoherence for dogs explanation, but REM he isn't one of the gonzo advocates (like Zurek) anyway.

Christine said...

Hi Bee,

Are you asking our opinion, if *we* think whether you are addicted to blogging or not ?? :) :)

Seriously, compute how much time you spend connected (not only blogging), but reading other blogs, navigating, social networking, email, etc...

For myself, I am more and more disconnected. To give you an idea, currently, I only read yours and Peter Woit's blog. Other blogs, very rarely, only if some interesting link for them shows up. I have shut down my Theorema Egregium blog, and I am keeping only my other math education blog (with very, very sparse entries). I have a twitter account and although I did not like it first, now I think I enjoy it. But I do not follow many people nor tweet too much.

In any case, even if I *wanted* to be addicted to blogging, or the internet, I couldn't. I work from 8 am to 5 pm from mondays to fridays, and blogs (as well as many other pages) cannot be accessed from my work. When I get home, I have many other things to do with my family, house and myself (in that order). Sometimes I'm too tired even to think about connecting at night or during weekends. In fact, I'm trying to disconnect completely on Sundays. But normally, I've been already quite disconnected lately.

And I have been feeling *very* well with that, because then I have much more time to dedicate myself to my *books*!! Addicted to them??? Completely and forever!

I always keep several books at my bedside (technical, fiction, philosophy, etc). I often purchase books, I often find myself at the bookstore at the lunch hour (before around 1 pm), drinking a coffee and with a book. I don't care whether I can find an electronic copy of a book in the internet, I *want* the paper thing, I want to read it as a real book.

I am addcited to navigate at amazon, because it is there where I can find technical books (impossible to find in a local bookstore here). I often purchase there. I have a small library. I want to die reading a book.

When I was very young and my mother gave me money to purchase some clothes, I would go straight to the bookstore and bought some books instead.

Sometimes people do not understand why should I buy an expansive technical book if I can find a copy at the library. Right, it's not that I agree with the price (I often do not) nor that I never borrow books from libraries (I do), but when I find I book that I really like, I try to get my own. I can't change that.

So yes, addicted to books. I don't want to be cured!

Jérôme CHAUVET said...

Uncle Al is real. I've corresponded with him and also know of him through Mensa

@Neil B: I was asking this because the text here seemed to be out of control... Does "Fourier transform lowercase Times Roman versus [FONT FACE="Arial, Helvetica, Geneva" SIZE="+0"] UPPERCASE [/FONT] sans serif Helvetica." make sense to anyone?

Thanx

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

A nice piece that asks the question as to what the distinctions snd similarities might be between addiction and obsession. However, when it comes to things like the type of blogging you do, as well as your chosen profession, I think it’s not what really it forms as representing to be, which I would say are better described as passions. What I find so incredible is in realizing you have such a tremendous capacity for passion and particularly of the kind that others can share in to benefit as a result.

The bottom line in all this for me is that additions give nothing real for those addicted, while more often than not wreaking havoc in other’s lives, while a passion can provide a reason for living, while adding something of value to others. So although some might find having passion for things to be simply as addictions, I then must admit to shamelessly wishing you have trouble in ever finding a cure. .

Best,

Phil

Arun said...

hi bee, it occurred to me that until you get over your addiction we should not feed you any more capital letters.
:)

Arun said...

hi bee, not to worry, the journal of irreproducible results says that the addiction to capitals is often a temporary byproduct of becoming a resident of a capital city. it should wear off soon :)

Arun said...

CapiTaliTIS, a cosmetic affliction, not be compared with the more often fatal capitalism.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Christine,

I found it interesting reading through your comments to Bee, as I find you having so much in common and also how at times you may seemingly stand for some in contrast to one another. As you know I was aware that you had given up your blog as of late and personally found that to be a loss. However, I can understand what your reasons being for this at the current time and yet would contend you haven’t painted the total picture in such regard.

That is first it should be noted that although you wrote less frequently in your blog, that none the less you did manage to find time and reason to write a science fiction novel, one which I’m still hoping will be published in English so I might be able to read it. Second it should be made evident that you for several years have had another fellow that holds importance in your life, other than your husband, with that of course being your son and all of us who are parents realizing how much of your capacity for passion this demands in such respect. Finally I would point to the fact that you as Bee are also a physicist, as to remind others of the effort this requires born only in having a passion for as to be understood.

So again the bottom line for me in all this is that you as Bee are one of those rare individuals who live for their passions, the products of which many may find benefit in and yet never themselves being blessed in having enough of to ever realize its importance as the two of you have . So although I wish that all may be spared of addiction, that a passion for life is found as spreading in the world to epidemic proportions and ultimately discovered to be incurable.

Best,

Phil

Steven Colyer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steven Colyer said...

"Most such ideas are eventually discarded or shelved. But some persist and may become obsessions. Occasionally an obsession does finally turn out to be something good."
... C.N. Yang talking about an idea that he first had as a student and that he kept coming back to year after year

from 226, "Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell" by A. Zee, opening quote to Chapter IV.5, "Nonabelian Gauge Theory"

Bee said...

Hi Jérôme,

That was roughly also my understanding of the situation, thanks for the explanation. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Christine,

The actual reason for this post was that I found it an interesting question what one can plausibly be addicted to. I started out thinking it doesn't make much sense to talk about an "internet addiction" or something similar. It sounds more like it makes a catchy headline without an actual basis. It wasn't really clear to me that on a cognitive basis the process is very similar, and it is hard to draw a line between a bad habit and a serious problem.

As far as I am concerned. Well, I am of course in denial about my blogging addiction ;-) However, I do some moderate amount of self-reflection on a regular basis, and I presently don't think my blogging is of concern. Phil hit upon part of the reason. Since I've spent the last few years moving around the globe while almost all of my relatives and friends are Germany, the activity you see on this blog is so some extend time not spend with friends and family. Besides that, most of what I write actually doesn't take much time, it's just "stuff on my mind," that I share. What really takes time, as you can guess, are the explanatory posts (like the recent posts on Causal Diagrams etc).

For what reading is concerned, of course I read a lot. For one because it comes with the job and then because I prefer books over movies. However, I notice that when I read too much, it becomes a very passive activity (and now he says this, and then he says this, ah-hum). I can relate very well though to what you say about owning a book. I also prefer to have a hardcopy myself. Best,

B.

Christine said...

Hi Bee,

Yes, I did understand the rationale of your post, my first question was a provocative joke -- see the happy faces :)

Also, no need for explanations. Anyone in a position far from family and friends would certainly use at large the internet as a means for connection. Actually, it is very nice to have such a feature available (years ago it would have to be only telephone and letters). So, it's actually the best of times. Make the best use you can.

BTW, I find your expository posts excellent and a good reading. One should not only have the time but also the capacity of writing clearly the material. You and Stefan add a great value and give sense to an ideal "physics blog". If there were more like yours, I'd be "more connected".

I used to be more connected previously... There were positive outputs that otherwise I wouldn't have got without such connections. I've learned a lot by writing and reading blogs, including several very useful comments that I read or received... This made me directly connect to people like Lee Smolin, otherwise such a thing would never have happened (or it would be difficult to). But somehow I have found that there was a limit above which the noise became too much of a distraction and the gain started to get lost. Somehow I decided to become more minimalist and simple, less connected and more focused.

The main problem I see is dispersion and noise. How to get focus to read, think and comment, or to keep a reasonable "conversation" in a blog, according to certain reasonable rules and etiquette?

Is it a problem of the blog format or is it intrinsic to the human being? How to improve communication and increase focus?

I don't know.

Concerning reading books: I usually separate (or try to): consumption (= reading), production and thinking. Although I do have an "addiction" to books, it's obviously not reasonable (or possible) to "read all the time". Sometimes I simply do not want to read, but to think and write. Sometimes, I just browse books and imagine that in my lifetime I will not be able to read all books that interest me. Or to write myself a book that would interest others...

best,
Christine

Christine said...

Hi Phil,

Yes, I think Bee and I have a lot of things in common, but at the same time, some noticeable differences as well. This is expected but in a sense it is most interesting.

Concerning both my SF novel and Poem book, both were written when I was in my 20's. I have many SF short stories that I wrote as well (from 12 to 20+ years old). So these books are not from a more "mature" age, as I find myself now. I have the first chapter of that novel translated into English (by myself). From the result, I came to the conclusion that it would be better to pay for a professional translator. Not sure if it would be worthy though, since I really would like to write a new, more "mature" SF book. I have written some 10 pages of it last year, directly in English, and it was a complete pain.

best,
Christine

Bee said...

Dear Arun,

How is it that, separated by ocean or continent, yourself, CIP and myself have all been looking at Jackson's Classical Electrodynamics (well, in your case, you're sleeping on it) in the past few days?

I did actually manage to open it before I rested my head on it :-) Well, I don't know, what were you looking in Jackson for? My search for input goes in somewhat obscure ways back to Verlinde's recent "gravity is entropy" paper. Best,

B.

Uncle Al said...

'Does "Fourier transform lowercase Times Roman versus [FONT FACE="Arial, Helvetica, Geneva" SIZE="+0"] UPPERCASE [/FONT] sans serif Helvetica." make sense to anyone?

This Comment section does not allow font specification and rejects its HTML. Do it by hand to see the example. All sharp terminations (e.g., a square wave) have large high harmonic content. The mammalian visual system is sensitive to modulation frequency. Curved letters with serifs are easy to read for most of their information resides in visual low frequency components. Blocky sans serif letters are painfiul in large doses for their rich harmonics.

"Comic Sans is a casual script typeface designed by Vincent Connare and released in 1994 by the Microsoft Corporation." Friends Don't Let Friends Use Comic Sans.

http://oursciencepage.com/illusion-einstein-monroe.jpg
Look at it close up, then walk back a few feet.

Plato said...

As Uncle points out, the "comment blog box" is limited as to the html it is willing to accept.

Addicted?

As one looks back over the years one definitely sees the growth that goes on in terms of blogging and knowledge accumulation.

From starting your research Bee in Arizona? You've come a long way. Never ever thought to comment on the "distance that is" makes the heart grow fonder, that one just accepts it to be the way it works in your life.

What is blogging good for? Why only one blog?

Maybe "others" for different audiences? The knowledge overlaps then? It's not all just about science is it.

While I look to "my library of books" I think this type of information is faster in terms validating what someone has said, or, to have found correlations with while doing ones own research previously on the same subject.

Why not see if it can be taken a step further. Maybe not?:)

Best,

Bee said...

I guess what Uncle is saying is that fonts with serifs are easier to read because the serifs create lines that guide the eyes whereas it tends to get lost on sans serifs. Possibly this does indeed show up in a Fourier transformation of density contrast. The guiding line is one of the reasons why pretty much all books are printed in Old Style, the most common one is Garamond. There's other fonts with serifs, but they have other disadvantages. Eg Modern fonts also have serifs but have a higher thick/thin contrast which can look funny when printed and the thin lines get easily lost in small fonts/cheap print or paper. Sorry, I recently read a book on typography, reading addiction and all ;-)

Bee said...

STOCKHOLM STOCKHOLM STOCKHOLM STOCKHOLM :-)

Bee said...

Hi Phil,

"additions give nothing real for those addicted, while more often than not wreaking havoc in other’s lives, while a passion can provide a reason for living"

I think that's too simplistic. More often than not addictions are a way to cope with a situation people find, for one reason or the other, unbearable. Sometimes that's reasons you may be able to relate to, but sometimes it's psychological problems that are hard to understand for somebody who hasn't been in the same situation. The German word for "addiction" is "Sucht" which (possibly coincidentally) is a combination of the words search ("Suche") und escape ("Flucht"), which makes a lot of sense. Needless to say, the problem is that in the long run many addictions are not sustainable, so it's not a good way to cope. But the point is that for the user the addition does have a real benefit, that's why it's so hard to give it up in the first place. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Christine,

How to increase focus and decrease noise, I don't know, but here's some thoughts. I have the impression discussion style (or absence thereof) is to a large extend a matter of habit. There are additional challenges an online communication poses too, but I think the biggest problem is really that there's too little of a culture for constructive discussion, or maybe it's also a matter of education.

People on the average comment very thoughtlessly (the most obvious problem is what Chad pointed out that comments are frequently repetitive). One other point that I've written about a couple of times is they've never heard what a logical fallacy is. It is very sad if you read e.g. comment sections to newspaper articles how abundant logical fallacies are. You could discard more than 95% of these comments immediately because they make one or the other mistake in argumentation. That, needless to say, adds a lot to the noise.

One other aspect is cultural in the sense that values differ. Some learn from small on to promote themselves and try to be in the spotlight whenever possible, while other cultures might put more weight on humility. Guess who will produce more noise? Best,

B.

Christine said...

No doubt that cultural factors, bad education, lack of basic argumentation practices, etc, increase the noise. Maybe these factors also grow in evidence because people generally feel more at ease do say whatever behind the computer screen, specially under anonymity.

Lack of focus is another problem related to the naturally dispersive environment of the internet.

I think there is a large room to improve or evolve from the current blog structure, although I don't have a concrete answer. It would be nice if there was a tool to help people developing better habits in the dispersive internet, but maybe this is just impossible or even ridiculous if you think about the idea.

In any case, I'm trying to go against the current trends of spending too much of (my already limited) time navigating around, too much information. I'm trying to increase my focus, which I believe has somewhat been affected by the previous years, being much more connected than really necessary.

Arun said...

Hi Bee,

Both myself and CIP looked up Jackson, though for different things, with respect to this sort-of-puzzle.
Here

Phil Warnell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

I suppose my explanation could be considered a little simplistic, especially when approached from the German meaning of the word. Then again even in German where it means a “search for escape” we can still use my differentiation with what I rather find to be a passion. That being with escape more often than not one intends and briefly succeeds in loosing themselves, while with a passion one is more prone to find themselves.

Let’s now use this Blog as an example, where except for the pieces focused around your work, which are mainly to inform and instruct, the majority of them are usually written in the form of a open question (often sociological or political in nature), which begins with your own self analysis then having it offered up for discussion. So in this respect I would call this blog a mechanism of “search-find”, rather than one of “search-escape. So then the question I would put to you being what this would be called in German, for it appears to me that in English it’s known as having a passion for knowing, with one of its greatest practical manifestations being science.

Best,

Phil

Phil Warnell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil Warnell said...

HI Christine,

So I was correct in my observation that even though you for now have given up blogging, you still and have always maintained a passion for writing. I think what I would call quality blogging is simply a technological enabled evolution of the same, with the difference being ones readership seen as some unrealized group, yet rather there for one to come to have tp be known. So in many respects blogging is a synthesis between writing and theatre, with the media itself serving merely as the stage.

This then has me to prefer blogs where the writer maintains to be true to their character and avoiding surrendering it to the will of their audience. I find if they are able to do this it becomes a place where the audience then is challenged to consider and perhaps to better understand, while if they fail it simply becomes one more painful example of what’s called “a reality show”, which long ago its manifestation being the Roman Forum. This then again stands as further argument of what the distinction being between addiction as defined by Bee in German as “search-escape” and what I recognize as passion driven “search-find”.

Best,

Phil

Arun said...

Funny coincidence ADDICTED! (on tobacco) made it to the recommended diary list on dailykos today!

Plato said...

In regards to Uncle, most certainly doing research might find certain things "more pleasing then others," but in this case why not just show it:)

Plato said...

What you find in science definitely overlaps into the real world, so you look for comparisons to actually validate what is being said. Demonstrate them in society?

Helps to form definitive pictures about the direction theoretic is going in. I know if we translate it to computerization modes then most certainly Glast/Fenmi has produced information about events in the calorimeters, as scintillators of information

These are the "real forms" that Lee Smolin is looking for, and the likes of Hooft, Hawking, and Susskind understand this as we are gathering information about our universe.

The better informed, the more we understand where and what we are. The why follows suit too. You encapsulate the language in current processes in order to validate and set up the question for the next step.

Best,

Bee said...

Hi Christine,

Hope you don't mind me asking, but what are you focusing on? Best,

B.