Archive for the ‘week 7 memory and consciousness’ Category

Week 8_Space Frenzy (plus final proposal plus extra credit)_by Cheng-Kuang Liu

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

An infinite expanse, space has been an exhaustless source of imaginations and dreams. Man seems to have been programmed with curiosity to explore the unknown. Before Columbus found the new world, there are many fantasies concerning the shape of the earth. After the mystery of the earth was solved, mankind seemed to have turned to exploring the space. Actually the fantasies concerning the heavenly expanse are just as old as the ones concerning the earth. The sky is the source of kind sunshine and rain, which are critical to survival. The sky is also the source of fearsome thunder and hail, which could be life-threatening. To sailors and travelers, the stars of the sky provide guidance and direction. Therefore even since a long time ago people have worshipped the sky as the dwelling place of some superior being. In modern days, with telescopes and satellites, there may not be as much superstition concerning the heaven, but the fantasies for the space never waned.

Please see this clever log-scale depiction of “height” (For parallelism, please also see this comical log-scale depiction of “depth” Finally, you’ve gotta see this one

Space means endless possibilities. In the grand scheme, earth is but a speck of dust in the universe. There may very well be another planet that resembles the earth and that bears life. Therefore there always have been tremendous efforts in space exploration. Recall the space race between USSR and the United States. The universal unspoken rule is that he who arrives at a place first has the right to claim ownership of that place, and in this case, ownership of the space spells “power” and “prestige.” The Soviets had a head-start by sending up the Sputnik, but the Americans surpassed them by sending the first man to the moon. Yet to this day there are skeptics who believe that the Americans staged the whole moon-landing story and fabricated all the footages and pictures in order to convince the world of America’s power. Whether or not this is true, it would be a more compelling story if the Americans really did fake it—it shows how much space exploration means to the two rival countries and to the rest of the world. It was important enough such that America is willing to put up a big lie to deceive the world.

The space frenzy is most evident in popular culture. To name a few of the movies: E.T., Independence Day, Man In Black, Alien, Predator, Alien vs. Predator, Wall-E, Apollo 13, Planet of the Apes, and Signs. In the United States, the most prominent space-related science-fiction series are perhaps “Star Trek” and “Star Wars”.  The craze is so intense that it practically becomes a religion to these die-hard fans. These disciples are often labeled “geeks,” and their devotion to the space stories marks their “geek-hood.” Just count the Star Trek reference in this video: Please also see,,,,,, . By the way, if you understood all the references, you must be a geek too.


As for final project proposal:

My midterm was a video project of simultaneous split screens. I’d like to expand on the idea: An exhibit wall of split screens. There will be many cameras in the area, recording the actions of the viewers of thie exhibit. Each split screen may show something different and here are a few ideas: 1. slow-motion play back on demand (so the visitor could act out something in front of a camera, and when he or she pushes a certain button, a screen plays back the actions in slo-mo, just like in movies), 2. fast play back (same idea), 3. bullet-time style (multiple cameras for the same location, each with a different angle), 4. delayed time play back, 5. multi-time play back (one screen would overlay several video clips taken at different times). However, I don’t yet know how to incorporate the themes presented in class and the social context.


Extra credit blog: Greener Nanotechnology

I attended Jim Hutchison’s lecture on greener nanotechnology, and it was quite interesting. Nanotechnology is so appealing because it is so versatile. The same nano molecule, with the correct “attachments,” could perform different functions, whether in pharmaceutical, material, or electronic applications. The implication is immense. It could mean highly specific targeted medicine delivery, extraordinary strength and lightness of materials, and unprecedented compactness of electronic devices. However, the process does generate hazardous wastes. Currently, the amount of waste may seem quite insignificant, but it could be quite significant once the production is scaled up to industrial level. The traditional approach is to properly contain and control the waste that is generated, but Hutchison, being a green chemist, endeavors to minimize the generation of waste in the first place. For this purpose, scientists like him devise better reaction pathways: cheaper, faster, and less side products. I myself study Chemical Engineering, and I admire Hutchison’s efforts. Engineers’ and scientists’ works have profound impacts on humanity. It is one thing to fix and contain the side products of civilization, and it is another to eliminate such side products in the first place. Hutchison’s chose the latter. It may be the more difficult way, but it is the sustainable way that will benefit the future generations. It is important especially for engineers to have such attitude—the basic engineering ethics.

Friday, February 27th, 2009

Also, Please post your extra credit assignments to the category entitled “Extra Credit Blogs”

The Tom Cruise Video & Adderal

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Basically to sum things up about this video; Tom Cruise is out of his mind.  Although agree electro-shocking is kind of weird for psychiatry.  However I strongly disagree when he talks about parents drugging their children without knowing.  A good friend of mine was diagnosed with ADHD, dyslexia, and auditory processing when we were twelve years old.  I remember the day he told me about the medication he took in the morning.  He said, “for some reason my mom is coming in my room in the morning with a spoon full of ice cream with something called adderal on it.”  Being twelve i did really know what adderal was.  However when we were older my friend learn what it did and he told me about how adderal was able to make someone with his ailments completely vanish.  In this circumstance i feel that parents had the right to give their child some help.  These days many of the top schools are extremely competitive so its only fair to give everyone a fair chance.

In response to Tom Cruise’s comment that ridelin is street drug;  This is probably a true fact.  After two quarters hear at UCLA i’ve heard a lot of talk about adderal.  If someone needs to get a paper done fast, adderal.  Intensive studying, adderal.   Students take adderal.  So technically according to Tom Cruise’s logic adderal is a street drug too;  But Again, this is probably true.  I believe that although it may be wrong that people with prescriptions just sell pills to others, the consumption of adderal for a good purpose with good intentions is not wrong.  if Adderal can make person with ADHD, Dyslexia and Auditory Processing focus at a normal level, imagine what it could do for someone was already at a socalled, “normal” level.  It could have the potential to unlock more advanced thinking and thusly bring society as a whole to new technological levels.  For students to be taking the drug with good intentions its not really all that bad.  Is it so wrong these days to do whatever it take succeed?  It shouldn’t be, although one could argue that this is similar to the steroids controversy.  Steroids effect the body physically, Adderal on the other hand effects the body mentally.  thats like comparing three hundred pound gourilla to kitten.  Students should be aloud to take adderal with good intentions.

The real bottom line here is this, Tom Cruise is a crazy Scientologist / Actor / Someone who probably did a lot of drugs to get that crazy.  Scientology was invented by a guy who wrote sci-fi novels.  Doesn’t that sound just a tiny bit crazy?  My last thoughts on this video are this, it is totally irrelevant video.  This video literally should have got no attention but it did anyway.  I don’t understand why anyone would believe the garbage coming out of his mouth in the video.  There is no reason to do anything because Tom Cruise told you to do it.  Its that simple.

Week 7: Are We Really Conscious? by Selenni Cisneros

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Professor Vesna presented the definition of consciousness in her power point. Consciousness– a) the quality or state of being aware especially of something within oneself, b) the state or fact of being conscious of an external object, state, or fact, c) awareness. Also, Consciousness is a type of mental state, a way of perceiving, particularly the perception of a relationship between self and other. The overall idea of consciousness caught my eye and I decided to Google the question “What is Consciousness?” Exactly 33,700,000 results were found on the search engine. Beginning my quest to learn more about “consciousness,” I stumbled upon a few websites on the subject of consciousness and autism. These websites stated that people with autism lack self-consciousness compared to “normal” people. Self-consciousness is being aware of one-self, such as whom you are, your characteristics, your emotions, etc. This study was done with 18 adults with high-functioning autism and 18 normal adults. The subjects were asked three different types of questions– phonological, semantic, and self-referent. For example, they could have been asked, “Does the word (blank) describe you?,” while using adjective and self-describing words. The website claims that “behaviors that seem to indicate deficits of self-consciousness, such as talking about oneself as if speaking of others, are often observed in people with autism.” In other words, it has been noticed that people with autism tend to talk about themselves as if they were not themselves; they do not say “I went to…” when talking about what they did, for example. Studies have also been made on children with autism; it was found that they have impairment on self-consciousness. All of these studies talk about people with autism and how they have less self-consciousness than “normal” people. Well, the thing I’m thinking is… “normal” people can have a low self-consciousness as well. Who really and truly knows who they are? Usually everyone goes through a period where they’ve lost themselves, where they are finding out who they really are, where they change and become different. The definition of consciousness says “the quality or state of being aware especially of something within oneself.” But, I myself am not “aware” of some of the things I do. Or what does the word “aware” really mean? There have been times I’ve said cruel things, without realizing they were cruel, without being aware that they were cruel. Does that mean that I wasn’t conscious of my actions then? Because I wasn’t aware the words were cruel, until someone who was not me told me they were cruel. I wasn’t conscious about my actions until an outside source shone the light on it. On another note, many people live their life unconsciously. To me, being completely conscious means being aware of life. So many people go on living, without really living. So is one unconscious even when we appear to be conscious? If consciousness is a mental state, then compared to autistic beings, other “normal” people are in the same boat– they also lack the “normal” self-consciousness. But then what really is normal? There must not be a normal, because at one point or many points, we walk around oblivious or like robots and do not live and walk around unconscious in our conscious times.

by selenni cisneros


Week 7: Memory & Consciousness - by Adam Parker

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Memory is a curious subject, mainly because we don’t know enough about it. The human brain is extremely complicated and we might never understand its full potential. Talking about memory always reminds me of one of my favorite movies - Total Recall.

Total Recall - Trailer

This 1990 film is based on the story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” by Philip K. Dick (whose other stories were adapted into movies such as Blade Runner, Imposter, Minority Report, Paycheck, and A Scanner Darkly). Total Recall toys with the idea of memory implants and memory removals. In the movie, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the main character, must decides to buy a “vacation memory” from a company called Rekall. This company implants fake memories into your brain to fool you into thinking the events actually occurred.

Now I don’t want to ruin the movie for those who haven’t seen it so I won’t elaborate, but definitely put it on your list. The reason I bring up this movie is because of the hypotheticals that arise from the idea of memory implants. Think about it: as long as you have the memory of an event (and you don’t remember getting the implant) does it really matter whether the event actually occurred? To put it in simpler terms, would it be necessary to spend a couple thousand on that Hawaiian vacation when you could have the vacation implanted in your head for 1/100 the cost? This is a hard question to think about because it is difficult to imagine messing with our brains like that.

If you’ve seen the movie The Island, which you should have, memory implants also take place. In the scene which we viewed in class that one day, Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson end up in a humongous room deticated to placing memories in the clones’ minds. This procedure gives the clones an entirely fake past, but a past nonetheless. The clones obviously did not have these experiences, but they can’t tell the difference. And neither would we.

If we dig further into this possible world of memory implants, we also come across the idea of memory alterations and memory removal. Now I know experiences make us who we are and we all learn from the past and so on, but what if science had the power to erase a horrible event from someone’s life? If a 12 year old girl was raped, and we had the medical ability to erase that memory from her mind, should we do it? This terrible event could scar her for life and change her for the worse. On the other hand, removing the event entirely could change her back to “normal”. She could be the person she was supposed to be.

Anyway, we probably don’t have to worry about all these questions because it will be a while until we figure out how to mess with our brains like this. And even if we did figure it out, there would be way too many problems and ethical questions to make it legal. For instance, if you did buy that Hawaiian vacation and legitimitely thought you bought the plane tickets and the whole shindig, what would happen when you looked at you bank statement and the tickets were never purchased? Your head would probably explode from the inconsistencies. Well, until science catches up with our imagination, I guess we’ll have to leave it to the cinema to portray these wild ideas.

Week 7_Little ants are conscious too_by Cheng-Kuang Liu

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

I am fascinated with the animal examples that Dr. Ramakrishnan brought up when he talks about consciousness. It is amazing how an elephant is able to recognize its mirror image as a reflection of itself. I have seen video clips or heard stories of how other kinds of animals behave when they see a mirror—they either get ready to “fight” the mirror image as a competitor, or they show affection for the reflection as another one of its own kind. None of them realize that the mirror images are actually themselves. It is interesting how the elephant is able to recognize it.

I am inspired to think of other animals. Ants, for example. Ants are stereotypically thought to be a “two-dimensional” animal—because they crawl around on a plane, and since they are so small, they must not have much perception of height. When mathematicians explain what a 2-D world would be like, they often use ants as examples. Indeed, if the observer is small enough, any surface is locally approximately two-dimensional. Yet look at the ant nests they build—so three-dimensional and so complex ( It is as if there is a mastermind behind the entire construction, having a complete blueprint in mind when the nest was built, but this is not the case. The nest is built by small ants who are not supposed to know what is happening anywhere else other than the very location that it currently is. They are not even supposed to be able to perceive a third dimension beyond the plane that they crawl on. Or, at least that what we humans think. The sheer grandeur of the ant nest’s construction shows that there must be some kind of consciousness among these ants—a consciousness for the rest of the colony, for the rest of the nest construction, and so on. What a fascinating fact! Ants are so small, and their brains are even smaller, yet there is such unity among them all. Furthermore, how does each ant know its own duty? If each ant simply acts on its own accord or simply respond to needs as they arise, with the massive number of ants in a colony, there would be utter chaos. On the contrary, their tasks are very finely broken down, and each ant has its specific duty. At the proper times, a proper number gather food, a proper number build, a proper number fight, and a proper number reproduce. There is such intricate coordination among the ants, even though an ant does not even cross paths with most other ants in the colony. Scientists now know that ants could communicate chemically with pheromone, but still it is mind-blowing what complexity there is in an ant society.

The ant society resembles the human society. To a certain extent, each human acts on his own accord. Yet on the other hand, each person has a very specific set of duties outlined, in the context of the society. And whether or not we are aware it, the fact is that we are constantly conscious of one another and our actions mutually affect one another. If one could zoom out and look at the human society as we look at an ant colony, one would too exclaim how intricate the fabric of society is. Even though a person may only cross paths with finite individuals in a day, there is nevertheless an intangible coordination that links all our lives in harmony.

Week_7 Conscious by Braxton Little

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

As I was watching the full length Tom Cruise interview, and taking to mind all his arguments against the use of medications to alleviate certain problems among humans, many things came to mind. First, that there could be someone so naive to the world of pharmaceuticals, and how they have helped millions of people live better lives. Second, that he did make a valid point about why they should not be used, but presented it in an immature manner that was hard to comprehend, and easy to refute.
I support the use of pharmaceuticals. I believe that they make both the taker, and the people around the taker’s lives better. Growing up, I had many friends that never could listen in school, would always get in trouble, and were just overall oblivious to how a person is supposed to act. However, when on certain medications, my friends were focused, and almost became new people. I understand that making the decision to take medications is one that a minor cannot make on their own, but growing up the right way can make or break ones future. People who get started off on the wrong track many times stay on that track. Likewise, people who are well taught, and groomed for the real world become successful. It should be in a parents best interest that their child gets a chance to grow up correctly, and not shunned because of a chemical imbalance in the brain.
I was extremely distraught over the fact that Cruise tried to say that there is no such thing as a chemical imbalance. While there is still a large amount of research that must be done before scientists can figure out why people are plagued with brain disorders, it has been proven that certain parts of the brain either do not function, or lack in chemicals that cause it to work properly. This website explains more on the subject.

For Cruise to dismiss the fact that some people are born with this disorder is entirely wrong. His extremist ideals got in the way of a civilized interview that could have been used to bring up two strong sides dealing with brain disorders. What I think Cruise was trying to say, and what is a very good point, is that people who are given these medicines are not cured. Their problem stays, but the medications eradicate it for an amount of time that varies. So in perspective, they are not cured at all, but become addicted to the medication that helps them function properly. Also, some people are diagnosed too quickly, and when they get a bad grade, or act out of places, they are immediately deemed “ADD.” When it is a kid, who is not mature enough to make the decision of whether to take medications or not, the parent is very likely to promote the use of a medication, to make their job easier, and they child fit in. This is what Cruise is against in a very brief summary, and he does deeper in these points in his interview. There will always be supporters on both sides, who could arguer for years about who is right and never reach a conclusion.

For Cruise to dismiss the fact that some people are born with this disorder is entirely wrong. His extremist ideals got in the way of a civilized interview that could have been used to bring up two strong sides dealing with brain disorders. What I think Cruise was trying to say, and what is a very good point, is that people who are given these medicines are not cured. Their problem stays, but the medications eradicate it for an amount of time that varies. So in perspective, they are not cured at all, but become addicted to the medication that helps them function properly. Also, some people are diagnosed too quickly, and when they get a bad grade, or act out of places, they are immediately deemed “ADD.” When it is a kid, who is not mature enough to make the decision of whether to take medications or not, the parent is very likely to promote the use of a medication, to make their job easier, and they child fit in. This is what Cruise is against in a very brief summary, and he does deeper in these points in his interview. There will always be supporters on both sides, who could arguer for years about who is right and never reach a conclusion.
Switching to V.S Ramachandran’s power point, I was already very interested in the way that an animal’s conscious works, but was never confronted with direct information. It seems as though every living organism has a conscious with respect to its own realm of existence. While it may be suitable for humans to say that an ant has no conscious, an ant may say the same thing about the giant creatures (humans) that surround it. The same is said for most animals on earth. They exist within their own spheres, which humans have no knowledge of. Our studies show that they do know about their surroundings, and it is only a matter of time until we can fully understand their living habits.

Drugs for a better future by Brendan Ryan

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Tom cruise said that pharmaceutical drugs only mask the problem, and that’s what’s wrong with them. I have to ask, why is that not just as good? Treating the symptoms effectively is just as good as taking out the cause really? If I had a cold (I do) and the symptoms of it were that I felt totally regular all the time (they aren’t) then I really wouldn’t mind getting sick. In the same way that If I can get so depressed that I just want to do all the same things I normally do that’s also fine. I don’t really get Tom’s argument against pharmaceuticals because masked problems are not really problems.

I have heard about a drug called piracetam which is over the counter, and is used to increase memory and pretty much make people smarter. You can read the Wikipedia article about it here:

It is impossible to compete at the professional level in spelling bees without the aid of this drug (not a joke). Pretty much every contestant you see, meaning children, will be on piracetam. Also a friend of mine is trying the drug as an experiment to see if it is really the wonder drug it is supposed to be. Because of its widespread popularity among spelling bee contestants and boggle players (also not a joke) the drug shows, to me, great promise. Very opposite to Tom Cruise’s cautionary remark “We don’t want to end up in a Brave New World” to try and keep people away from drugs, I think drugs like piracetam could play a role in a better brighter future. It is very recently that the technology to make drugs like these developed but now I think it could create a kind of snowball effect where making things that make people smarter could be the way of the future. Piracetam could be just the beginning soon we could increase our brainpower ten fold! Tom Cruise sees the Brave New World side of drugs, whereas I see the Men Like Gods side.

Anyways, so the drug piracetam increases your memory and cognitive functions, but did you know that there is a man out there with no memory at all? His name is Clive Wearing and this is what it is like:

The man with no memory

Memory and Consciousness by Sagar Mehta 1C

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

In the realm of the mind there is nothing so convoluted and complex than memory. Our brain is just a conglomeration of billions of nerve cells that fire impulses of electricity and chemical signals and yet it has the capacity to memorize and retain an entire lifetime of memoirs, knowledge, and history. It is an incredible thing that has puzzled many in the past and continues to do so even today where we can monitor the brain using fMRI imaging technology. Even René Descartes who was very confident in the other areas of science and mathematics in which he proposed ideas which area are still used today was not sure of the location of the memories in our mind. He erroneously tied the immaterial mind to the physical pituitary gland. Current researchers however are getting closer and closer to the truth and have realized that the new imaging technology has determined that those who are in a persistent vegetative state do respond to verbal cues from researchers and the parts of their brain deemed “dead” at one point may not be.

V.S. Ramachandran’s lecture on consciousness also opened my eyes to how many creatures are actually aware of their surroundings and themselves. The ability of an elephant to recognize something is on its face or of an octopus to communicate using intricate patterns of coloration on its body show that the animals are aware, that they are conscious of their own environment. Mr. Ramachandran was keen to point this out as well, that the animal may not be conscious to us but it is so to its own environment, an idea I had not thought of in regards to animals. The following link explains how that the increase in complexity of an animal the higher the tendency of it to be conscious and goes on to say that the typical frozen deer in the headlights is not because the deer is simply frightened but that the animal switches from an instinctive grazing to a conscious states which allows its brain to analyze the situation.

In response to the drugs that affect consciousness, I am certainly for the use of controlled drugs in order to restore someone back to sanity or calm someone who is very excited, aggressive, or depressed etc. The majority of problems I find occur when those very prescriptions are used as substitutes for effort and for time. There are certain points to Mr. Cruise’s argument in that children are often misdiagnosed and treated with medications they do not need. This ties back to the fact that we have become lazy as a society and that our lives are too fast paced for our families to be properly care for them. However if we continue to treat every child as if they have attention deficit disorder we will have bigger problems in the future.

Sagar Mehta 1C,9171,1580394,00.html

Week 7_Memory and Consciousness by Dalton Abbott

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

I’d like to preface my argument by saying that I am a very tolerant person. I’m completely accepting of any religions, approaches toward life, and schools of thought. However, I must say, that although my I can understand the basis for many of the claims of Scientologists, I’m not more completely opposed to any single school of thought than I am to Scientology. Though I can understand many aspects of the religion, even the presence of the all powerful

I find the fact that Scientologists such as Cruise broadcast certain facets of the religion that serve virtually no purpose rather than to belittle and discriminate. I know this may sound like a cliche reaction, but I assure you my point in using this example is valid. My mother is an extremely intelligent, strong-willed person. In her lifetime, she’s managed to combat and overcome a multitude of obstacles, including alcoholism and drug addiction. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when she was in her twenties, and although she always assumes complete and total responsibility for her past actions, as one should, the impact of this disorder on her life is immeasurable. I grew up seeing two distinct personalities within my mother, each appearing and eventually retreating, giving way to a seemingly different self. She refused medication for over twenty years, subscribing to the same philosophy that many do, which suggests that willpower and discipline can overcome supposed mental deficiencies or imbalances. Eventually she gave in, and spent 5 years trying out a variety of anti-depressants. Eventually, she found one that worked for her and has continued to use it to this day. I’m not attempting to simply provide a story of my mother’s rise to mental stability, but rather show the difference that successfully handling her disorder has made in her life. Her incredibly difficult, unpredictable, and essentially unmanageable personality ruined her relationship with my father and most of her surrounding family. She has been on her current medication for the last ten years or so, and everything in her life has returned to a more normal, natural state, from her relationships with her family to her career to her overall attitude toward life in general.

I’ve had the displeasure of meeting Tom Cruise on a few different occasions, and to say that he lacks authenticity is a complete understatement. His entire demeanor, at least from my experience, is painfully forced and I think that my experiences with him may have caused me to develop a slight dislike for Cruise even before hearing the message he is trying to send. That may contribute to my frustration with him conveying his beliefs to a public audience, but it does by no means affect my feeling about the message he’s trying to send. I still find it difficult to believe that certain people have the audacity, having no knowledge whatsoever of specific cases, to assume that medication isn’t required for a massive range of medical conditions. I’m not suggesting that certain ailments and conditions can be combated without the use of a certain medication, but one of the many concepts discussed in DESMA is the absolute complexity of the human genetic system, for one to state that there are no potential conditions or specific cases that require something other than sunlight, a positive outlook, and a large amount of willpower is completely ignorant. I understand that I may view this situation in a biased light, but it by no means changes my outlook regarding the teachings of Scientology. I greatly enjoyed the lectures from last week, because a lot of it covered exciting information that I’ve researched extensively on my own time. DESMA has led me to appreciate the the complexity of the human mind, not only through learning about the incredible ways in which art and technology are intertwined, but also through an excess of information on the adaptive, responsive nature of the mind. Through the information I’ve learned, I’ve come to the conclusion that the use of medication is a highly personal decision, as each person, and more importantly each mind, is highly unique.
- Dalton Abbott