Wednesday, August 04, 2010

counting your bullets; sadness ≠ maths

i think of august, those final weeks of summertime, like the last remaining bullets in the gun of a movie gunfighter.

suddenly every shot has to count.


you have to ask yourself a question: you're working with
a sobοlev space that isn't necessarily reflexive. well ..
do you feel lucky, punk? (-:


for this and next week, there are also obstacles and innocents in the crossfire: my parents are currently visiting me, and on saturday i'm heading to a workshop in india for 10 days. i've never had much luck getting any math done, as either a host or a guest. [1]

suffice it to say that i've never been a terribly good host to non-mathematicians, including family and friends from home.

as an extreme case, my recent ex and i broke up after she visited me during the fall semester. \-:


on an unrelated note, i recently read steνen johnson's mind wide οpen, one of those books that popularises neuroscience to the public. like prοust was a neurοscientist by joηah lehrεr, it's a good read.

the following excerpt, however, reminds me of my own experiences with research.
Prefrontal cortical activity is a strong predictor of idea generation and overall liveliness of thought. When you're thinking on your feet, when you're full of ideas, your frontal lobes are firing on all cylinders. What Damasio found was that happiness elevated those firing rates, while sadness dampened them. In other words, one of the side effects of the way the brain creates the feeling of sadness is a reduction in the overall number of thoughts that the mind produces.

When I first read about Damasio's study, this finding struck me immediately as liberating. I thought of all the times over the years when I'd been feeling blue for some reason, and while wallowing in my mood, I'd note that I hadn't had an interesting idea in a disturbingly long time. My sadness would quickly deepen into a gloomy self-doubt: not only was I blue, but I was also becoming stupid! It was hard enough being sad, but now I had to deal with being dim-witted as well ...
[1] non-conference visits don't count, of course. i've had only a few of them -- most recently helsinki, cincinnati, and tampa -- but they have always been productive.

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