Date: Wed, Jan 16, 2013 at 3:34 AM
most people are familiar with the phenomenon of savants (once referred to as idiot savants), individuals with significant brain dysfunction who are nevertheless able to do amazing things such as play complex piano pieces without any training after hearing them once, or count the exact number of matches in a pile in a single glance, or recall what day of the week a given date fell on from hundreds of years ago. However, we may all have the capacity for these kinds of things. Researchers have uncovered that this savant ability relates to two things. First, constraints placed on the right hemisphere of the brain by the patterns of learning and perception of the left hemisphere, so that the impairment of left hemisphere liberates certain aspects of the right hemisphere. Second, compensatory development of the right hemisphere because the left hemisphere has dysfunction. Interestingly, researchers have also discovered that they can induce heightened problem solving skills in individuals with normal function by temporarily quieting neural activity in the left hemisphere:
Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States
by Michael Lind by Harper
In today's excerpt - in the 1700s, British merchants made fortunes smuggling opium into China over the objections of Chinese leaders the resulting opium addition epidemic devastated Chinese society. Profits proved too tempting and by the 1800s American merchants had joined in the trade, earning vast sums including the fortune inherited by Franklin Roosevelt:
Date: Tue, May 15, 2012 at 3:35 AM
Subject: delanceyplace.com 5/15/12 - unconventional education
In today's excerpt - an unconventional approach to education:
"In 1999 the Indian physicist Sugata Mitra got interested in education. He knew there were places in the world without schools and places in the world where good teachers didn't want to teach. What could be done for kids living in those spots was his question. Self-directed learning was one possible solution, but were kids living in slums capable of all that much self-direction?
In today's excerpt - each decision we make, however rational we believe it to be, is an emotional, neurochemical tug-of-war inside our brain:
"Consider this clever experiment designed by Brian Knutson and George Loewenstein. The scientists wanted to investigate what happens inside the brain when a person makes typical consumer choices, such as buying an item in a retail store or choosing a cereal. A few dozen lucky undergraduates were recruited as experimental subjects and given a generous amount of spending money. Each subject was then offered the chance to buy dozens of different objects, from a digital voice recorder to gourmet chocolates to the latest Harry Potter book. After the student stared at each object for a few seconds, he was shown the price tag. If he chose to buy the item, its cost was deducted from the original pile of cash. The experiment was designed to realistically simulate the experience of a shopper.
Delanceyplace is a brief daily email with an excerpt or quote we view as interesting or noteworthy, offered with commentary to provide context. There is no theme, except that most excerpts will come from a non-fiction work, mainly works of history, and we hope will have a more universal relevance than simply the subject of the book from which they came
In today's encore excerpt - Jonah Lehrer proposes that morality is a form of decision-making, and is based on emotions, not logic: