Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Website under maintenance, expect nothing to work. Here are some links of our most popular articles that may work to hold you over until we're back to regular scheduled programming.

Visual Accessing Cues

The Cases Against Learning German

Six Flags is a Terrible Employer

Mental Benefits of Learning a Second Language

The Unanswered Question of Bee Domestication

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Phoenix University and For Profit Colleges

Yesterday after posting about how Phoenix University and Liberty University are accredited shams, I received an email from a reader who accused me of pointing fingers when I had in fact, never attended either school. Therefore here is PBS' Frontline view on for profit colleges like Phoenix University. The next article will be on Liberty.

Watch College Inc. on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Udacity To Offer $100 Degrees?

The website Udacity offers free computer science related courses. They offers certificates of completion for these courses as well. However I have avoided mentioning websites like this, as compared to established universities who have been doing the same thing because, well... Stanford and Princeton are a lot more prestigious than some website nobody has ever heard of.

However Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun plans to change that. In this interview he mentions that he is looking to pair up with testing centers so that students can receive a more valid form of certification in the classes they take. While the classes will remain free, the certification is what would cost money.

This situation offers an interesting question. Can websites receive certification? If University of Phoenix can be run as a for profit school, and Liberty University can give away science degrees with full accreditation while teaching creation science, why not Udacity? This could be a tremendous slap in the face to all the private and public colleges and universities in the US that have gradually been increasing tuition every year. This can't happen soon enough.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

How To Bypass DMCA Complaints on Google

Today's post is sort and sweet. Lots of us have seen the above message at the bottom of our Google searchers before. The easiest way to bypass this censorship, without using a proxy, is to simply click "read the DMCA compaint" link, and you will be able to see all the links that were requested to be removed from your search (and by whom) on ChillingEffects.org.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

LSD as a Treatment for Alcoholism

I am a huge fan of the Joe Rogan Podcast. However, after regurgitating something I heard from the show over dinner with other international students, I decided to do some fact checking. In an episode Rogan mentions an LSD study where 90% of the subjects had no desire to drink alcohol after being administed the drug. This is incorrect; however considering Rogan releases two to three episodes of his show a week, often lasting up to three hours in length, mistakes are going to happen.

The study, which was conducted by Teri Krebs at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, found that 59% of the subjects reported that they used less alcohol after being administered 50 mcg of LSD. More importantly, 38% reported using less alcohol after receiving a placebo! Even if it is expected, I guess I am excited to see actual placebo results from a recreational drug. This is sure to make a great party trick!

Nevertheless, there were no statistically significant long term results (defined as follow-ups after six months). On top of that, there are perceived problem with running a study like this. For example, results simply being reported can be misleading as the subjects could simply lie. The sample size, which is barely over 500 participants is a little small. The study also notes that while research with LSD has been done before, the few studies that have been done almost all use different dosage amount (with the median dose being 500 mcg). Almost all of the studies also report that a small portion of the subjects had an "adverse reaction" to the LSD.

On the other hand, the short term results are still impressive, and the authors note that a single dose of LSD "compares well" with other medications given to alcoholics (naltrexone, acamprosate, and disulfiram), if LSD can stop patients from relapsing into alcohol dependency then more research need to be done. For example, instead of daily doses of the aforementioned drugs, what if a patient only needed to receive a dose of medication every three months instead? The article also notes that LSD had been used before in conjunction with psychosocial intervention by "eliciting insights into behavioural patterns and genersating motivation to build a meaningful sober lifestyle".

The most important thing to take away from this study are two quotes given in the discussion section from previous psychedlic studies:
"It was rather common for patients to claim significant insights into their problems, to feel that they had been given a new lease on life, and to make a strong resolution to discontinue their drinking."
"It was not unusual for patients following their  LSD experience to become more self accepting, to show greater openness and accessibility, and to adopt a more positive, optimistic view of their capacities to face future problems."
This suggests to me that there are much more, and possibly greater, clinical (and non-clinical) uses for LSD outside of alcoholism. 

Krebs, Teri S., and Pål Ø Johansen. "Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD) for Alcoholism: Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials." Journal of Psychopharmacology (n.d.): n. pag. Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD) for Alcoholism: Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. 8 Mar. 2012. Web. 13 June 2012.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Innsbruck, Austria

Last week I took a trip to Innsbruck Austria. People there speak German as well, even if it is with a different dialect. Now originally, I thought I had a really good article in the bag. You see, I visited the the university's anatomical museum, which had all sorts of dissected brains. After speaking with the professor he told me I could take pictures of the brains if it was for academic purposes only, and after explaining my major, he permitted me to. Joyously I was off, and after thinking what a great article all these pictures would make he chimed in, and shaking his finger he said in German "now remember, don't go and post those pictures on the Internet".

Nevertheless dear readers, in place of photos of jarred grey matter, I hope that you find these mundane humdrum photos of the alps that every person with a camera who has ever visited Innsbruck has already photographed interesting. A separate article about the anatomical museum will come at another time.

Click photos enlarge.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Verbs and Lexical Access

(This time around, I have included a response paper that I originally wrote for a 400 level linguistics class at UMASS. I have made minor revisions, and this article is shorter than the original paper. For example, I have not included the original speech error list.

If anybody has any criticisms, comments, or additional information on my paper or the subject I would be glad to hear them.)

      Irregular verbs and past participles are stored and accessed differently in the brain than regular verbs. During speech, irregular verbs and verbs that use the past participle are often used in the wrong form, nevertheless the mispronounced sentence still makes sense to the listener. Just as children often add the suffix -ed to verbs in order to place them in the past tense, adults tend to make similar mistakes with the irregular and past participle verbs, showing us that unconscious grammatical decisions are being made.
      When looking for data, the criteria used was recorded speech errors overheard in everyday discussions on the UMASS campus. The errors collected were written down at the exact time and place of the utterance. From the list, errors were compiled together into appendix A. In this case the errors were irregular verbs and past participles used in the wrong tense. Later, several examples were traded with other students in the Linguistics class. Sentence [1] is a basic example of the speech errors being dealt with.
       [1] Yeah and then I drunk it.
Sentence [2] is an example of the speech errors where a past participle was not used.
       [2] He brung us the paperwork yesterday.
While these errors were encountered often, there was never a case where a regular verb was used in the wrong tense. The sentence below is an example of such a nonexistent sentence:
       [*] She had heal the wound.
In the case of regular verbs, it is nearly impossible to get the tense wrong because the form never changes. However, without realizing it, people seem to know when a verb is irregular and that they need to change the form of it some how. Often the case may seem to be made up, as in sentences such as [3] and [8].
       [3] I throwed him the keys.
       [8] Yeah, I dreamed of the same thing.
      The fact that people need to change the word reflects that the speaker has identified irregular verbs as being different from regular verbs, and need to be handled differently; the speaker may recognize that the word needs to be slightly conjugated, although not necessarily conjugated correctly.
       Proposed methods to study this hypothesis would be to present a subject with an identification test with a mixed group of sentences containing regular and irregular verbs in both correct and incorrect tenses. Then letting the subject decide which sentences are fluent or not fluent from a scale on one to five, and then mapping the results against one another. This will provide us with a graphic representation of which sentences are considered more fluent than others and at which point sentences become completely disfluent altogether.
       Further research could give us answers to questions such as; at what point does the use of the wrong tense make the sentence incomprehensible? Which sentences fall in the middle? Every sentence in Appendix A is not grammatically correct, but we still understand what is being communicated. For example:
       [6] I ain't got any.
       Furthermore, in a separate study subjects could be tested by asking them casual questions where full sentence responses from them would be likely to include irregular verbs and past participles such as “Tell me about your last dream.” or “tell me who brought you into the room”. Separate subjects could be asked the same questions, already using the wrong form (“Tell me about when you last dreamed.”, “Who brung you into the room?”) If the subject answers the questions while still using the incorrect form it would mean that they still completely understand the sentence, if they used the same incorrect form when answering a question it may mean that they have not dried to think about the grammar of a sentence anymore because there seems to be is already enough grammatical information available. However, this could also be seen as a form of priming.
       If the subjects were monitored using an ERP or fMRI device, it could be possible to see which neurons fire, and where in the brain they fire when a sentence that uses an irregular, regular, or grammatically incorrect sentence is uttered. Certain forms of irregular verbs may also be considered correct to the speaker or listener depending on colloquial speech or even slang. In which case a national or international survey or research which draws in subjects from various English speaking cultures could be compared with the same identification task mentioned above. An abnormality in verb conjugation from a group of speakers from a certain region may reflect this. Examples include “sunk” and “sank”, or possibly even the use of “y'all” as “you all” and which verb tenses are often used along with it.
       From a connectionist perspective is there a way to map verb conjugation in a similar way to word recognition? If this was the case maybe it would be possible to discriminate between when speakers use the past participle and when they don't. Is it possible that we may be subconsciously communicating something when we do or do not use the past participle? Either way, which mental processes are, or are not taking place?
Apendix A

Errors Involving wrong verb form being used.
  1. Yeah, and then I drunk it. Friend (drank, had drunk)
  2. He brung us the paperwork yesterday. Customer (brought)
  3. I throwed him the keys! Father (threw)
  4. I hate it when I make coffee and it don't get drank. Traded (nobody drinks it)
  5. I sweeped the floor. Traded (swept)
  6. I aint got any! Traded (I don't have any)
  7. He had took the receipts! Coworker (had taken)
  8. Yeah, I've dreamed of the same thing. Student (I've dreamt)

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Obscenity Case Over ‘Penis Landscape’

(This is a paper that I originally wrote in 2008 for freshman year writing, I have made revisions based on the notes given to me from the professor after receiving my grade, as well as other miscellaneous changes such as grammatical corrections, and the addition of pictures. You can find the This American Life episode here, and the track Tales From the Trial from The High Priest of Harmful Matter is available on Spotify. There are no sources provided, because we were supposed to use 'signal phrases'. )
Poster of Penis Landscape, Original by H. R. Giger
            The story here I am about to share is about a musician who the government tried to censor. In the eighties when the PMRC and Tipper Gore tried to repress the American music industry, many small independent artists who would have trouble defending and representing themselves in a court of law were particularly targeted. This is a specific case of a punk rock musician who was singled out.
In 1986 the Los Angeles police department raided the home of Jello Biafra. Biafra, whose real name was Eric Bouher, better known as the lead singer for The Dead Kennedys, was asleep when the raid took place. He tells of the whole incident himself in the spoken word album “The High Priest of Harmful Matter”. The nine police officers that showed up with a search warrant told Biafra that he was under suspicion of distributing harmful matter. The officers didn’t find drugs or guns, they found records; which is exactly what they were looking for. What would follow in a year and a half would be a three week long court case that eventually would be thrown out by the judge.
            The specific record the police were looking for was ­Frankenchrist by the Dead Kennedys. Every Frankenchrist album comes with an insert poster done by H.R. Geiger entitled “Penis Landscape”. While many people might not know him, Geiger won an Academy Award for set design on the movie Alien, as well as the Oscar for best effects. When the deputy chief of Los Angeles County, Michael Guarino saw the insert, he knew right away he had an open-shut obscenity case.
Dead Kennedy's 1985 Frankenchrist
LP, complete with warning sticker.
When the police left Biafra’s home they had three copies of the Frankenchrist album, three copies of the Geiger poster, and Biafra’s private mail as well as business paper work; not only from his home, but also from Alternative records, the record company that Biafra owns. Biafra was one of four people charged with distributing harmful matter, including a wholesaler, a guy who worked at Alternative Tentacles, and a 67 year old man who owned the factory that pressed the albums. Each could expect maximum of a year in jail and a two thousand dollar fine for what the Dead Kenndys had to say with an album. On top of that the Dead Kennedys would be blackballed from any music distributor; otherwise that distributor or retailer would be subject to similar fines for carrying “harmful matter”. The only reason the record store where the album was purchased was not prosecuted, was because they had already taken all Dead Kennedys albums off their shelves.
            The next day the district attorney said that prosecuting the Alternative Tentacles label was “a cost effective way to prosecute”. By singling out an independent label it was easier to enforce the censorship the Parents Music Resource Center headed by Tipper Gore had in mind, rather than go after a multimillion dollar record company such as Time Warner, Sony or Universal, and their musicians such as Prince or Madonna. Rather than pay the fine, Biafra fought the case which ended up costing him over eighty thousand dollars. Fortunately, not only was the No More Censorship Defense fund put into action where fans from all over the world sent in money, but a California criminal justice lawyer toke Biafra’s case for free, the ACLU sent a lawyer as well.
            The trial itself dragged on for three weeks in L.A. Testimony was given by a young girl who said that the album was purchased for her little brother as a Christmas present by her mother, and that the album had been opened by someone before Christmas. This is allegedly when the mother then seen the Geiger painting. The mother then sent the artwork to the Los Angeles district attorney’s office. The reason why this story seems so bizarre is because it’s not true. Years later Guarino alleges that he had found and listened to the Frankenchrist album himself and thought it would be an easy case to take on. After three weeks, the media had turned the case into a joke and the jury was hung, in favor of acquittal. When Guarino wanted to retry the case, the judge threw it out.
In 1995 on the Chicago Public Radio show This American Life, Guarino and Biafra talked on the phone. Guarino had in his own words “changed his ways”, apologized to Biafra and said that at the time he thought he was doing the right thing and thought he had the moral high ground in the case. The funny thing was, Biafra thought he himself had the moral high ground as well. After a while the reporter that did the story, David Segal, said “the two started talking like old war buddies” and “it was hard to get a word in edgewise”. In the background a recording on their phone conversation can be heard where the two discussed everything from politics to going out and getting dinner with Guarino’s son, who incidentally ended up being a huge Dead Kennedy’s fan.
            So in the end Biafra and company got off, and in the process won a civil liberties battle on free speech. Had they lost, all Dead Kennedys material would have been deemed “harmful” in the state of California, if not the country, and anyone charged with distributing it would have been fined and possibly jailed. Guarino would have then gone on a harmful matter slash censorship triad and gone after other artists, and though it took three weeks, Biafra stopped him dead in his tracks. Jello Biafra fought the law, and Jello won.        

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Coffee Drinkers May Have Lower Risk of Death

I love coffee. In fact right now I am gulping down a hot cup of (unfortunately) instant coffee. However a few months ago I tried to quit drinking coffee all together, and the results were, simply devastating. Two weeks ago I picked it up again, and came to the conclusion that after drinking coffee heavily, I am an addict; only reassured by the fact that I will hopefully never have to suck cock in a dark alley way for my Folger's instant.

While browsing online for academic articles on coffee  I found this academic article; "The Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality" (citation at bottom of post) which suggests that coffee drinking is correlated with lower mortality.

402,260 subjects were assessed twice, once in 1995 and then again in 2008.While it was originally found that there was an increased risk of death for coffee drinkers, it was also found that the coffee drinkers were more likely to smoke, and adjustments were made for in relation to this. After the modifier was applied, an inverse assosiation between coffee consumption and onset of mortality (with the exclusion of cancer) was found. The results were simmilar to those that had reported that they never smoked.

This study doesn't suggest why coffee drinking is associated with living a little longer; however it suggests that antioxidants many play some sort of role in this. It could be just as likely that "coffee drinkers" lead some sort of different "lifestyle". Honestly I would have thought the results would be the opposite considering caffeine is a stimulant. 

Freedman, Neal D., Yikyung Park, Christian Abnet, Albert R. Hollenbeck, and Rashmi Sinha. "The Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality." New England Journal of Medicine (2012): 1891-904. Print.