Daniel Lemire's blog

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Science and Technology links (April 7th, 2018)

  1. Mammals have a neocortex, some kind of upper layer on top of our ancestral brain. It is believed to be the key evolutionary trick that makes mammals smart. Yet birds have no cortex, but some of them (parrots and crows) are just as smart as monkeys. Thus some researchers conclude that

a specific cortical architecture cannot be a requirement for advanced cognitive skills. During the long parallel evolution of mammals and birds, several neural mechanisms for cognition and complex behaviors may have converged despite an overall forebrain organization that is otherwise vastly different.

That is, the specifics of how mammal brains work are maybe less important than it might appear in our quest to understand intelligence.

  1. Should you go see your doctor each year, just in case? Maybe not:

Regardless of which screenings and tests were administered, studies of annual health exams dating from 1963 to 1999 show that the annual physicals did not reduce mortality overall or for specific causes of death from cancer or heart disease.

  1. Aspirin is associated with reduced incidence of death from cancers of the colon, lung and prostate. But it increases your risk of bleeding to death.
  2. New neurons can integrate in the adult neocortex, which suggests that progressive cell replacement in the brain is possible.
  3. Up until recently, most laptops had general processors with at most 4 cores. Intel is bringing 6-core processors to some new high-end laptops.
  4. Human beings are unique in their ability to generate new neurons throughout their lifetime (that’s called neurogenesis). It is believed to be important in the process of generating new memories. A new study reports that healthy older people without cognitive impairment generate new neurons as much as younger individuals. In fancy terms, neurogenesis does not decline with aging.
  5. You may move faster when reacting out of instinct than when you are acting deliberately.
  6. Apple recruited John Giannandrea from Google. Giannandrea was responsible for “artificial intelligence” at Google, among other things. Giannandrea looks like a hands-on engineering type. He has repeatedly stated that computers are dumb. He believes that computers should augment human beings, not replace them. It is believed that Giannandrea might help Apple with Siri since it is felt that Siri has stagnated. Giannandrea has a degree in computer science from the University of Strathclyde.
  7. Childless unmarried young women in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego make 17%, 12% and 15% more than their male peers.