Archive for April, 2016

Factors that determine how much of your brain you use

April 23, 2016

I don’t think there is a single solution for maximizing how much of your brain you use. I think it’s a combination of many factors (there are many ways to influence the brain). Here are the key factors (I think) that determine how much of your brain you use:

  1. Exercise: how much exercise? What type of exercise? Frequency of exercise? Variability of exercise? Heavy or light? Endurance or strength? Balancing/coordination? Flexibility? Hormone-stimulating exercises? Walking? Running?
  2. Rest: how much sleep? Naps?
  3. Mental stimulation: reading? Writing? Debate? Games/puzzles?
  4. Food: fresh foods? Cooked or raw? Meat or no meat? Carbs or no carbs? Nutrient-dense? Fasting?
  5. Supplements: caffeine? Supplements that promote the flow of blood to the brain (e.g., Gingko Biloba)? Green tea? Black tea?
  6. Nature: how much time spent in a park? Frequency?
  7. Stress: no stress? Moderate amounts of stress? Massage? Foam roller? Body work?
  8. Music: how much? Classical or other?
  9. Social: lots of socializing? Lots of friends? A few close friends?
  10. Positive attitude: how to keep positive and motivated? Laughter? Smiling?
  11. Goals: short-term goals? Long-term goals?

One thing that I am fairly sure of is this: the body and brain adapt quickly. A strategy that works today for stimulating the brain will likely not work next week or next month. Constant change is crucial. Also, it seems that each human is unique. What works for me may not work for you.

A real engineer doesn’t want religion about how to solve a problem

April 20, 2016

A real engineer doesn’t want religion about how to solve a problem – like object-oriented or functional or imperative or logic programming. This piece of the problem wants to be object-oriented, this piece of the problem wants to be functional, this piece of the problem wants to be imperative, and this piece wants to be logic-based. And they all want to work together usefully. It would be awfully bad to write a device driver in a functional language. It would be awfully bad to write a symbolic manipulator in a language with a complex syntax.

— MIT Professor Gerry Sussman, author of the classic book on programming, Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs

The plank exercise as meditation

April 19, 2016

Over the years I’ve tried to meditate: sit still, note any tension in my body and let go of the tension, observe my breath and adopt a steady, slow breathing pattern. But I quickly get bored with that and soon stop meditating.

Recently I’ve been doing the plank exercise. For the first couple weeks, all I could think about while doing the plank was how unpleasant and hard it is. But then I decided to shift my focus to my breathing and on mentally observing the pull of gravity on my body. Wow! What a fantastic change in perspective. Now I love doing the plank. I love watching my breath and mentally observing the pull of gravity on my body as I perform the exercise. The plank has become meditation for me!

The power of a beautiful question

April 10, 2016

The thing about the past is it’s not the past. It’s right in this room, in this conversation.

As a child, I had powerful experiences with poetry, where I felt literally abducted (taken away) by poetry; just like a hawk had come down and taken me away in its claws and carried me off.

I remember reading poetry as a child and thinking: this is language written by adults who have not forgotten the primary visions and insights of childhood.

I left science (as a Naturalist in the Galapagos Islands) and went back into poetry because I felt like scientific language wasn’t precise enough to describe the experiences I had in Galapagos. Science rightly is always trying to remove the “I” but I was really interested in the way the “I” deepened the more you paid attention. In Galapagos I was in deeply attentive states, hour after hour watching animals and birds and landscapes. I began to realize that my identity depended not upon any beliefs I had – inherited beliefs or manufactured beliefs – but rather my identity actually depended on how much attention I paid to things other than myself. As my attention deepened, it broadened my own sense of presence. I began to realize that the only things that are real are at this frontier between what you think is you and what you think is not you. Whatever you desire of the world will not come to pass exactly as you like it. But at the same time, whatever the world desires of you will also not come to pass. What actually occurs is at this meeting, this frontier.

David Whyte (poet, philosopher)


Quote of the day

April 8, 2016

I learn slowly but permanently.

— Unknown

Quote of the day

April 7, 2016

Nothing clarifies your ideas like trying to write them down.

— Michel de Montaigne

Differences between a definition and an algorithm?

April 2, 2016

I am hoping that you can shed some light on the differences between a definition and an algorithm.

Let’s take an example. Consider the “absolute value” that you learned in elementary school. Is the following a definition of absolute value, or is it an algorithm for computing the absolute value?

|x| = (if x < 0 then –x else x)

If it’s a definition, what would an algorithm look like?

If it’s an algorithm, what would a definition look like?