Friday, November 30, 2012

Accessing Scholarly Journals

Many of the articles on this website would not have been possible without access to sholarly, peer reviewed journals. Being a university student makes journal access 1,000 times easier, as there are hundreds of walls set in place for sholarly journal access due to large bloodsucking publishing companies whom universities and colleges pay millions of dollars to a year. Open access can't come soon enough! In a year I'll be out on my ass, and my fortunate opportunity will have passed on by. I have compiled a short list of alternative ways to access scholarly journals without necessarily being a college student. Please comment if this proves helpful to you in any way, or if you know of an alternative method.

/r/scholar - is probably the easiest way to access whatever you're looking for. It is a community of redditors who have journal access, and will find for you whatever journal article you need. If you currently have journal access, consider "paying in" to the system with the hope that others will do it for you in the future. If you are going to post there, read the guidelines on the right of the page.

Get in touch with your nearest university library - My host institution has gratuitous requirements for obtaining a library card. This will grant you journal access in the library, and perhaps e-journal access. It may sometimes be possible to get journal access just by using the library's Internet to access the databases. This probably works best with public institutions.

Get in touch with your former university or college - Nazareth College was willing to set me up with my old .edu email address even though I transferred four years ago. Many schools will not let you keep your student email after graduation. I found that I was also able to use my library account. Although this may have been a fluke, it's worth the phone call.

Directory of Open Access Journals - requires no membership or fees.

Your local library - has a list of databases you can access with a library card there, once again just a phone call away. They may get you copies of journal articles through inter-library loan if you cannot access the digital version of the article.

Google Scholar - Provides a search of scholarly literature, although is very limited in that it may only pull up certain pages of the journal article you are trying to read.

arxiv - is
Cornell's open access archive of physics, mathematics, computer science, Biology, Finance and Statistics journal articles. 

Regrowing Hair Cells in The Cochlea

A piece of pop-science that you may be fammilar with (and irks me to no end) is this small snippet from Children of Men:

Besides Strawberry Cough, it seems as if this is the only part of the film anyone remembers. The statement is wrong essentially. Explosions and the ringing sounds are motifs throughout the film, and with an attitude, the viewer is given the impression that loud sounds will make it so that they will never hear certain frequencies again. Yes, the ringing in your ear means that the hair cells in your ears are breaking. No, you are not going deaf.

This piece of pop triva is usually passed on by the same people who in the same breath call the cochlea the "co-chell-a". It's co-clee-a"... not a California based music festival. These hair cells, which reside in the cochlea, break when exposed to loud sounds. They also break over time which is why every one in a while yo will hear a faint ringing in your ears, and the reason why the mosquito ringtone can exist. In such an instance, you will not ever hear that frequency again. However going to a concert will not damage your hearing long term, just for the next few days. Operating a jackhammer every day will. Studies reflecting this have been around since the eighties.

My psychology 100 textbook explained the issue like so:
Imagine these hair cells as a carpet. Sometimes you walk on it, you place furniture on it, and you might rearrange the furniture for a day or so. All of this leaves imprints in the rug that go away fairly easy. However there will always be an impression of where a sofa had sat for a year or so, and over time the carpet will begin to age as well. You will always be able to see where that sofa was for so long, and it will never return to the original state. Such is the case with your cochelear hair cells.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Human Use of Echolocation

Daniel Kish wears prosthetic eyeballs. Legally blind, he produces short, sharp clicks with his tongue in order to navigate. He can describe the architecture of buildings one thousand feet away, and describe the distance, size, shape and texture of objects without touching them by using echolocatio . He can dance, ride a bike and even roller blade.

By having two ears, we are able to have the same sort of depth perception that we have with vision. We also hear better than we see. This is why it is so easy to have certain three dimensional illusions. For example we can see a shape in three dimensions on a computer screen, but we will always know it is an image. Meanwhile you will never see a shape that is behind you, but you will hear it.

The processing of these clicks takes place partially in the visual cortex. It is typical that regions essential for visual processing take on new roles in the brains of blind subjects. After all a piece of folk psychology that we are all familiar with is that blind people have exceptional hearing. And while I want to write this off as an example of the marvelous plasticitic brain, the truth is also that blind people must practice this skill, because they rely on it so much more.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Patrick Henry College

Patrick Henry College was founded in 2000, one hour away from Washington D.C. The unaccredited institution solely exists in order to place Evangelical Christians in future federal leadership positions in the United States. And yes, despite what Wikipedia might say, the institution is unaccredited. In the U.S. regional accreditation is the only thing that matters, not national accreditation. Receiving any sort of 'national acredidation' is equivalent to me sending you an official looking degree saying you have met my strenuous requirements as an institution of higher learning by cutting me a check for a few thousand dollars. So while Patrick Henry College may be accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, they are not accredited by the DeMaio Institutional Association of American Colleges and Other Bullshit. The only good news here is that this institution (not school) has an enrollment of four-hundred.

A German reporter published an article in Die Zeit earlier this month about going to the institution undercover! (English translation here.) Many of the students are home-schooled. Something the author notes with a marked interest, because homeschooling is illegal in Germany. In the US the practice of home-schooling is often seen as backwater and is primarily reserved for religious fanatics. In 2007, the most common reason parents gave for home-schooling was a desire to provide religious or moral instruction. Which means that the educational reality of a significant portion of home-schooled children is similar to this:

Amrai Coen lets the school get off too easily. In 2006 NPR interviewed three audiogenic Patrick Henry College Students, and it is really easy to see with American eyes what a typical student from PSC is like.

At about twenty minutes into the interview a student states that the seperation of church and state exists to protect the church from state involvement. When the interviewer asks if it also means that a Muslim student should not have to participate in Catholic prayer in public school, the student stalled and said that he had not really thought through if that is something separation of church and state would recognise. At twenty-three minutes a student makes an appeal to complexity fallacious argument for intelligent design. Later on the female student talks about how lack of religion has created a moral vacuum in Europe, and that Christianity needs a non-hostile environment... because of course every one knows that the United States has always had Christians on the top of the "Who Are We Oppressing This Decade" List. Right next to Blacks, Gays, Lesbians, Muslims, the Irish, Japanese, and Native Americans. The visual equivalent of the bullshit these three PSC students spew would be someone vomiting feces that they've ingested back into the other person's mouth.

Paradoxically I agree with a point made by the caller at thirty-four minutes. About how he had attended Brown and that although the school was advertised as being diverse, "they" did not accept opinions of conservative Christians, and how can one claim to be diverse when they do not provide an open square for discussion? Then he starts to trail off about how no one's truth can challenge that of the Biblical truth.

Towards the end of the Die Ziet article, Coen wraps up my sentiment of the institution:

Könnten diese Studenten wirklich eines Tages Amerika regieren, frage ich mich nach ein paar Stunden und vielen Gesprächen auf dem Campus. Die meisten von ihnen kennen nur ihr Wohnzimmer als Klassenraum, nur ihre Geschwister als Mitschüler. Ausgerechnet diese jungen Leute wollen in die Politik, wollen einen Beruf ergreifen, der mit sozialer Verantwortung zu tun hat, wollen Entscheidungen treffen, die das Leben von Millionen Menschen bestimmen.
English translation:
'Could these students really govern America one day?' I ask myself after a few hours and  discussions on campus. Most of them only know their living room as a classroom, only their siblings than classmates. Ironically, these young people want to take a job in politics, one that has to do with social responsibility, and will make decisions that affect the lives of millions of people.

Students from this school DO get internships with the Federal Government, CIA, and FBI. If you listened to the NPR interview, or read the Die Zeit article you will know that these students are charismatic and professional. Teresa Scanlan, Miss America 2011, is a student at PSC and she states that she plans to be a 2028 presidential candidate. Is it a far stretch? Arnold Schwarzenegger won California on the republican ticket. Do you think Miss America could be our first female president even if she was homophobic, republican, anti-choice, and an Evangelical Christian who believed the revisionist history that American was founded on Christian values? Maybe if the Republican party keeps up their "anti-woman" rhetoric, there will be only several positions Scanlan will ever get to presume in their party:

Censorship on Campus

A recent post just bumped off of the front page was about Liberty University's restrictive policies. A couple of days ago an anonymous reader sent me a Slashdot article entitled How Free Speech Died on Campus. It links to The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education's website, an organization founded by Alan Kors designed to help protect first amendment rights at universities and colleges. The website also contains a database of campuses, listing what 'speech code rating' they have been assigned (red, yellow, or green).

My host institution received a red light. Interesting, because one would believe that the flagship university of Massachusetts would receive a better "free speech" rating. However when looking at other schools, it became apparent that I could not find a single school with a GREEN light. The WSJ suggests that The Fire is really trying to stop is censorship though political correctness. Almost the radical opposite of what is going on at a school like Liberty, in some cases schools are so vague in their guidelines they actually legislate political correctness. (There is of course more to the issue of censorship than that.) At UMASS another problem is that 'conservitive' ideas do not receive as warm of a welcoming by students. I am ashamed that some of my fellow students consider being liberal as some sort of team, rather than a philosophy. Then again I wounder what an individual's definitions of the word 'liberal' would be?

When I spent time at Nazareth College, political correctness and diversity was an issue they really liked to push. Of course, this was really to hide the facade that about eighty percent of the student population was Caucasian. Issues that needed support from groups like FIRE never really arose because of how apolitical the students were; that is just AS scary as schools limiting your first amendment rights.

In an example of campus censorship not provided in the WSJ article, it is illegal in the state of California to criticise the state of Israel on college campuses, within certain vague contexts:
   WHEREAS, The United States Department of State, the United Kingdom'
s All-Party Parliamentary Group Against  Anti-semitism
  Antisemitism  , and the Organization for Security
and Co-operation in Europe have adopted or endorsed the European
Union Agency for Fundamental Rights' working definition of
anti-Semitism, which notes that in context certain language or
behavior demonizes and delegitimizes Israel or attacks Israel with
classic anti-Semitic stereotypes, such as denying the Jewish people
their right to self-determination, applying double standards by
requiring of Israel a behavior not expected or demanded of any other
democratic nation, drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli police
to that of the Nazis, and accusing the Jewish people, or Israel, of
inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust...

During a time when this certain country is engaged in a military conflict, it is illegal to "delegitimize" them. Now what is the definition of THAT word in a legal context? Also, is it not a double standard to make certain inclusions for a certain group of people. Does this mean that it is legal to burn an American flag in protest, but not one from the state of Israel, because it is a delegitimising act? It is easy to see where The Fire is coming from, and what the implications of such campus and state policies could be.

On one hand there are religious schools, and on the other liberal ones that restrict their students on ideological grounds. The religious schools do tend to be more strict, Liberty students claim that their school monitors on-campus Internet usage. I suppose that the real question lies within the domain of political correctness. In that the system that was created to fight intolerance is itself intolerant because it restricts freedom of speech. Which is in strong contrast of a principle of free speech: "
I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it".

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Civilization Music

Two things in this world I have soft spots for are the Civilization franchise, and study music. Incidentally the two cross over really well. The Civ series incorporates classical music, and as a result makes great background noise for studying. A few months ago I created a very incomplete Spotify playlist of music from Civilization V and it has picked up a number of subscribers, so maybe it is worth sharing? The fourth game's music is just as worthwhile, and includes Jonh Adam's Shaker Loops.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of in-house music that is missing from this playlist. Field of Poppies is a stand out piece all on its own, as the title suggests, it invokes the imagery of a serene field of poppies waving in the wind. You can't find this music on Spotify, but if you buy the games you can extract them uncompressed no problem. A few years ago I got the game complete with expansions on Steam for $19.99, and it is possible that you can get it for even cheaper now, especially during a sale season. Then all you have to do is go to the music directory, which is located (if you bought the game on Steam, and installed it into the default path) in: C:\Program Files\Steam\steamapps\common\sid meier's civilization iv beyond the sword\Assets\Sounds :

Civilization IV Music Directory


Friday, November 16, 2012

Coursea To Offer 'Drugs and the Brain' Course

On December first, a free (as always) Drugs and the Brain course will be starting on Coursea. It is being taught by Cal Tech professor, Dr. Henry Lester and lasts for five weeks. It might be a good way to keep your brain fresh over the long winter break. You won't receive any college credit upon completion, but you do receive a certificate stating that you satisfactorily completed the course.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Bees & Bombs

If only this was an animated .gif  (Bridget Riley, Cataract 3)

Bees & Bombs is what happens when Bridget Riley smokes meth and reads Holyloly. Go there nowCooljava is also related and is ran by Reed Silverstein (though it could use less indie band albums).

Bypassing Craigslist Phone Verification

As a preface to this post I would like to say that Craiglist's phone verification system is fascinating to me. Phone phreaking is a topic I have a lot of interest in even if it has now more or less become an artifact of the past. I figured it would be interesting to discuss the various ways one can approach the problem, I do not intend any harm by providing any of this information. If you have any other insights into the verification system, please contact me.

If you do not have a valid US number, and you are trying to post on Craigslist... well you're probably reading this now. There are a few avenues you can try to take to get past the verification step, but all of them are probably going to result in you getting a US number somehow. You can not get past verification without providing the code they give you.

My would-be go-to answer, a 711 pre-paid phone won't work... unfortunately. Craigslist does have guidelines, you will need to keep them in mind:
  • You may only try to call a phone number once every five minutes.
  • You may only enter the code five times.
  • You may only try three phone numbers per account every twelve hours.
  • You may only receive three calls per account every twelve hours.
Disallowed numbers:
Some phone numbers are not usable for phone verification, including the following:
  • phone numbers from outside the U.S. or Canada
  • pre-paid mobile numbers
  • toll-free numbers (area codes 800, 877)
  • some Voice over IP (VOIP) phone numbers (including Cricket, MetroPCS)
About a year ago I tried verification through Skype, and it did not work, so I would not recommend wasting money trying this step unless something has changed since this article was last posted (11/14/12). Getting a 800 number is a hastle in itself anyways. Perhaps a mailbox on a non-800 number phone system would work though. Maybe getting the verification to dial in to a conference call? Once again if you know anything about this, email me from one of the links above.

A method which used to work was using Virgin mobile phones, because you could change your number online for free. They now charge $10 each time you want to do this. However if you post on Craiglist often this could be worthwhile to you as it is likely that making multiple posts within 48 hours of each other will end up with your ad not getting published, even if they tell you otherwise. Services like Textplus has been suggested to me in the past but I have never used it. Use at your own discretion, for all I know it's a terrible virus that texts all the pictures on your phone to the "Mom" contact in your phonebook.

If you do have a problem with your ad not showing up, you can try calling Craigslist here:

Phone: 415-566-6394 
Phone: (408) 988-6395
FAX: 415-504-6394 
Toll Free: 800-664-0633

...however it will be impossible to get in touch with a human.

Another simple option is to ask your American friend to register using their phone, after all most people still have landlines laying around anyways. Alternatively there are suppliers out there that will try to sell you verified numbers. I would recommends against this as Craigslist now has you reverify your number repeatedly if need be. This method also counters the Virgin Mobile method as well. If you are still interested in purchasing a number, you can try googling "PVA accounts". Ironically, asking an American is probably your best bet. If you live near a pay phone that still exists, you could try getting the verification code through it too.

Let me know if ANYTHING here was helpful at all.