quinta-feira, 27 de janeiro de 2011

Wonders of the Human Body, BBC Explorations

Explorations this time examines the marvels and mysteries of the human mind and body. From brain implants to artificial intelligence, we explore the complexity and achievements of the human mind.
Up to the age of six months babies are able to swim comfortably underwater thanks to a reflex
that still puzzles scientists. Although we lose this reflex very early on, the most successful free divers can train their bodies to hold their breaths for up to six minutes. Free divers can plunge to amazing depths because they use their minds to control and over-rule their bodies natural instincts to breathe. Now experiments are being carried out to see if we can breathe liquids whilst underwater. Perfluorocarbons carry twenty five times more oxygen than water and deliver it to the lungs three times more effectively than air. Mice have survived in the liquid for several weeks. Once the liquid has drained away from their lungs, the mice make a complete recovery.

The Mysteries of Human Brain, part 3

The Mysteries of Human Brain, part 2

The Mysteries of Human Brain, part 1

The human brain is the center of the human nervous system and is a highly complex organ. It has the same general structure as the brains of other mammals, but is over five times as large as the "average brain" of a mammal with the same body size.[citation needed] Most of the expansion comes from the cerebral cortex, a convoluted layer of neural tissue that covers the surface of the forebrain. Especially expanded are the frontal lobes, which are involved in executive functions such as self-control, planning, reasoning, and abstract thought. The portion of the brain devoted to vision is also greatly enlarged in humans.

Brain evolution, from the earliest shrewlike mammals through primates to hominids, is marked by a steady increase in encephalization, or the ratio of brain to body size. The human brain has been estimated to contain 50100 billion (1011) neurons[citation needed], of which about 10 billion (1010) are cortical pyramidal cells.[citation needed] These cells pass signals to each other via around 100 trillion (1014)[citation needed] synaptic connections.

In spite of the fact that it is protected by the thick bones of the skull, suspended in cerebrospinal fluid, and isolated from the bloodstream by the blood-brain barrier, the delicate nature of the human brain makes it susceptible to many types of damage and disease. The most common forms of physical damage are closed head injuries such as a blow to the head, a stroke, or poisoning by a wide variety of chemicals that can act as neurotoxins. Infection of the brain is rare because of the barriers that protect it, but is very serious when it occurs. More common are genetically based diseases[citation needed], such as Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, and many others. A number of psychiatric conditions, such as schizophrenia and depression, are widely thought to be caused at least partially by brain dysfunctions, although the nature of the brain anomalies is not very well understood.

Brain Anatomy and Functions

Brain Anatomy and Function. This 3D animation shows the anatomy and function of the brain using color coded areas.

Metamemory: How Does the Brain Predict Itself?

Dr. Alfred W. Kaszniak, Professor and Head, Psychology, presented on March 30, 2010, as the fifth lecture in the University of Arizona College of Science Mind and Body Lecture Series. Dr. Kaszniak's research program is aimed at increasing our understanding of human brain systems involved in both cognition and emotion.

Our brains recreate past experience, monitor recall efforts, and predict our chances of remembering things in the future. The knowledge we each possess about our own memory, and strategies to aid memory, form what is called metamemory. Studies of persons with impaired metamemory due to neurological illness, along with brain imaging studies of healthy adults making judgments about memory, indicate that the brain systems active in retrieving information are distinct from those that self-monitor memory. Metamemory research is helping build an understanding of a wide range of experiences from tip-of-the-tongue forgetfulness to the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.

The Circuits in our Brain: the new way to study brain signals

by Charles R. Legendy, Columbia University.

The complexity of the brain, and in particular the visual cortex, is so overwhelming that, in the last decades, progress toward circuit-based understanding of brain design has all but come to a halt. Part of the problem is that the usual theoretical methods, including computer simulation and mathematical analysis, are not very well suited to the specal environment presented by the brain -- if we are ever to understand how the brain works, new methods are needed. -- --

The book on which this video is based, CIRCUITS IN THE BRAIN (Springer, 2009), describes a set of methods which seem to work quite well. -- --

The book concentrates on vision, and is formulated as a model shape processing utilizing the long horizontal fibers in layer 2/3 of the primary visual cortex. If its premises prove to be correct, it means that vision, far from being a step of passive mapping as described in older models, involves functional features usually associated with higher brain function such as a rudimentary form of learning, and the transmission of rudimentary sentences complete with syntax. -- --

The new methods amount to applying engineering principles to the creation of neuronal network designs for given processing tasks, and going to enough concrete detail to permit comparisons with experimental data. -- --

The methods include analyzing the problems of "logistics" whereby fragments of information are packaged into synchronized multi-neuronal volleys of spikes, and made to reach the localities where they are needed. The video shows the methods in action, as applied to the elusive problem of visual shape processing. It shows how the brain can combine many two-element relations between details of objects into a single many-element relation -- which is how a whole complex visual image can be seen all at once, as a unified Gestalt.

quarta-feira, 26 de janeiro de 2011

The Century Of The Self - Happiness Machines, part 6

The Century of Self Happiness Machines, part 5

The Century of Self Happiness Machines, part 4

The Century of Self Happiness Machines, part 3

The Century of Self Happiness Machines, part 2

The story of the relationship between Sigmund Freud and his American nephew, Edward Bernays. Bernays invented the public relations profession in the 1920s and was the first person to take Freud's ideas to manipulate the masses. He showed American corporations how they could make people want things they didn't need by systematically linking mass-produced goods to their unconscious desires.

Bernays was one of the main architects of the modern techniques of mass-consumer persuasion, using every trick in the book, from celebrity endorsement and outrageous PR stunts, to eroticising the motorcar.

His most notorious coup was breaking the taboo on women smoking by persuading them that cigarettes were a symbol of independence and freedom. But Bernays was convinced that this was more than just a way of selling consumer goods. It was a new political idea of how to control the masses. By satisfying the inner irrational desires that his uncle had identified, people could be made happy and thus docile.

It was the start of the all-consuming self which has come to dominate today's world.

terça-feira, 18 de janeiro de 2011

The Century Of The Self - Happiness Machines, part 1 of 6

The Century Of The Self By Adam Curtis

Episode 1: "Happiness Machines"
Episode 2: "The Engineering of Consent"
Episode 3: "There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads: He Must Be Destroyed"
Episode 4: "Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering"

"This series is about how those in power have used Freud's theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy." - Adam Curtis

Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, changed the perception of the human mind and its workings profoundly. His influence on the 20th century is widely regarded as massive. The documentary describes the impact of Freud's theories on the perception of the human mind, and the ways public relations agencies and politicians have used this during the last 100 years for their "engineering of consent".

Among the main characters are Freud himself and his nephew Edward Bernays, who was the first to use psychological techniques in advertising. He is often seen as the "father of the public relations industry". Freud's daughter Anna Freud, a pioneer of child psychology, is mentioned in the second part, as well as Wilhelm Reich, one of the main opponents of Freud's theories.

Along these general themes, The Century of the Self asks deeper questions about the roots and methods of modern consumerism, representative democracy and its implications. It also questions the modern way we see ourselves, the attitude to fashion and superficiality.

The business and, increasingly, the political world uses PR to read and fulfill our desires, to make their products or speeches as pleasing as possible to us. Curtis raises the question of the intentions and roots of this fact. Where once the political process was about engaging people's rational, conscious minds, as well as facilitating their needs as a society, the documentary shows how by employing the tactics of psychoanalysis, politicians appeal to irrational, primitive impulses that have little apparent bearing on issues outside of the narrow self-interest of a consumer population. He cites a Wall Street banker as saying "We must shift America from a needs- to a desires-culture. People must be trained to desire, to want new things, even before the old have been entirely consumed. [...] Man's desires must overshadow his needs."

In Episode 4 the main characters are Philip Gould and Matthew Freud, the great grandson of Sigmund, a PR consultant. They were part of the efforts during the nineties to bring the Democrats in the US and New Labour in the United Kingdom back into power. Adam Curtis explores the psychological methods they now massively introduced into politics. He also argues that the eventual outcome strongly resembles Edward Bernays vision for the "Democracity" during the 1939 New York World's Fair...

About Love, Michael Hardt 1/6

Michael Hardt, the author of Multitude and Empire talks about love, how can love function as a political concept, why love, the proper and improper ways love has functioned politically, love as activism, and evil and its relationship to love. Public open video philosophy lecture for the faculty and students of the European Graduate School, Media and Communication Studies Department Program, EGS, Saas-Fee, Switzerland, Europe, 2007. Michael Hardt. Michael Hardt, born 1960 is an American literary theorist and political philosopher based at Duke University. Perhaps his most famous work is Empire written with Antonio Negri. The sequel to Empire, called Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire, was released in August, 2004, and details the idea of the multitude (which Hardt and Negri initially elaborated in Empire) as the potential site of a global democratic movement.

Sometimes referred to as the "Communist Manifesto of the 21st Century", Empire proposes that the forces of current class oppression, namely - corporate globalization and commodification of services (or "production of affects") have the potential to fuel social change of unprecedented dimensions.

Born in Washington DC, Hardt attended Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland. He studied engineering at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania from 1978 to 1983. In college during the 1970s energy crisis, he began to take an interest in alternative energy sources. Talking about his college politics, he said, "I thought that doing alternative energy engineering for third world countries would be a way of doing politics that would get out of all this campus political posing that I hated."

After college, he worked for various solar energy companies. Hardt also worked with NGOs in Central America, doing tasks like bringing donated computers from the U.S. and putting them together for the University of El Salvador. Yet, he says that this political activity did more for him than it did for the El Salvadoreans. In 1983 he moved to Seattle to study comparative literature. From there he went to Paris where he would meet Negri and write his dissertation under Negri's guidance. Michael Hardt speaks fluent French and Italian, and is Professor of Literature and Italian at Duke University. In 2006, he was a member of the group of 88 Duke professors who signed a statement supporting the accuser in the Duke rape case.

What is a Paradigm? Giorgio Agamben 1/10

Giorgio Agamben, asking what is a paradigm, philosophy, epistemology, Methodology, Figures and phenomena, techniques, patterns and members, the Muselmann, Homo sacer, the State of exception, Michel Foucault, development capability of philosophy, philosophical element, Entwicklungsfähigkeit, ignorance, potential. Free public open philosophy and politics lecture for the students of the European Graduate School EGS, Media and Communication Studies department program, Saas-Fee, Switzerland, Europe, 2002, Giorgio Agamben.

Giorgio Agamben born 1942 is an Italian philosopher who teaches at the Università IUAV di Venezia, the Collège International de Philosophie in Paris and previously at the University of Macerata in Italy. He also has held visiting appointments at several American universities, European Graduate School and at Heinrich Heine University, Düsseldorf. Agamben's best known work includes his investigations of the concepts of state of exception and homo sacer. Agamben received the Prix Européen de l'Essai Charles Veillon in 2006.

Agamben was educated at the University of Rome, where he wrote a thesis on the political thought of Simone Weil. Agamben participated in Martin Heidegger's Le Thor seminars on Heraclitus and Hegel in 1966 and 1968. In the 1970s he worked primarily on linguistics, philology, poetics, and medievalist topics, where he began to elaborate his primary concerns, though without as yet inflecting them in a specifically political direction. In 1974--1975 he was a fellow at the Warburg Institute, where he wrote Stanzas 1979. Close to Elsa Morante, on whom he has written, Pier Paolo Pasolini in whose The Gospel According to St. Matthew he played the part of Philip, Italo Calvino, Ingeborg Bachmann, Pierre Klossowski, Jean-Luc Nancy, Jacques Derrida, and Jean-François Lyotard, his strongest influences include Walter Benjamin, whose complete works he edited in Italian translation, and the German jurist Carl Schmitt, whom he frequently cites. Agamben's political thought draws on Michel Foucault and on Italian neo-Marxist thought. In his published writings and interviews he represents himself as a public thinker interested in language and social conflicts on a global scale.

Stanzas: Word and Phantasm in Western Culture. University of Minnesota Press 1993, Infancy and History: The Destruction of Experience 1993, The Coming Community 1993, Idea of Prose 1995, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Stanford University Press 1998, The Man without Content 1999, The End of the Poem: Studies in Poetics 1999, Potentialities: Collected Essays in Philosophy 1999, Means without Ends: Notes on Politics 2000, Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive 2000, The Open: Man and Animal 2004, State of Exception 2005, The Time That Remains: A Commentary On The Letter To The Romans 2005, Various articles published by Multitudes, The State of Emergency, extract from a lecture given at the Centre Roland Barthes-University of Paris VII, Denis Diderot, Italian Nei campi dei senza nome, Il Manifesto, 1998 November 3, French Gênes et la peste Genoa and the plague, L'Humanité, 2001 August 27.