Interesting stuff for December 2008

Here’s another monthly collection of cool and interesting things I’ve discovered online. This one’s a little early, to make room for Christmas.

Several of the articles that caught my attention this month have been about brain science.

  • There’s been some talk about the body-swapping illusion, in which the sensation is induced that someone else’s body belongs to you. In other news, the rubber hand illusion (of which the body-swapping illusion is an extension) has been shown to work for amputees.
  • Memento was perhaps the most depressing movie I’ve ever seen (good, yeah, but so very depressing). However, having a perfect memory would also be really, really horrible.
  • We’re a step closer to the science fiction world in which a computer can tell what you are seeing by looking into your mind. (BTW, I know that the writing style on Neurophilosophy can be opaque, but it’s enough to get the gist of the story.)
  • Some new evidence that the purpose of yawning is to cool the brain.

Now here’s the rest of this month’s list:

  • The evolution of the turtle, in particular its shell.
  • The latest in Australia’s battle against the cane toad.
  • I read up on the history of Australian Sign Language.
  • John Wilkins of Evolving Thoughts has started a new political blog, focussing on Internet censorship and other issues.
  • The Buddhabrot has been added to the inventory of fractals I know about. While the renderings on the Wikipedia page do look somewhat Buddhaesque, the version I saw first was Roger Hodgin’s, which doesn’t. As I said in a comment on Bioephemera, I think it looks like a sorceress queen summoning a small demon which materialises in a flash of light upon a tall, thin pedestal.
  • The results of algorithmically evolving the Mona Lisa (There’s also software, but it doesn’t work on my computer.)
  • Greg Laden has written a nice little essay about neanderthals, overviewing a number of important points.
  • Whistling orang-utans.
  • I’ve been browsing Thomas Lessman’s world history maps.
  • Biology is a whole lot weirder if you know this is possible.
  • Now for some astronomy, and here’s the latest news on dark energy.

After receiving a CD of the first 48 episodes as described here, I’ve been catching up on Astronomy Cast, and am now up to epsisode eighty or so. One of the links from episode 78 (on the shape of the universe) is this magazine article, which is quite a good read.

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