This is Your Brain On Awesome Thoughts on the world from a student of the mind


You eyeballin’ me?

Here is an article that talks about the importance of eye contact when dealing with other people.  The author went on a personal experiment to see whether or not locking eyeballs with another person really has the effect that we all assume throughout life.  I guess it's one of those things that everybody knows in an abstract sense, but never takes the time to prove to themselves in the real world.

Well, that's what this guy did - he made a point of looking directly into other people's eyes when he spoke to them, and the results were really interesting.  One might suspect that others would be angered by his looks, perhaps put off, but that didn't seem to be the case.  Instead, they became passive, subdominant, and self-conscious.  It wasn't a look of judgment but a look of power, one that said "I'm comfortable enough with myself to gaze into you, regardless of the consequence."

I suppose the obvious response to all of this is to try it ourselves.  We may be eye-holders subconsciously, or we may not, but I'm really curious to see whether or not this has an effect on other people myself, so why not give it a try?

vis Esquire


Medical Mumbo Jumbo

Check out this interesting article on the effects of acupuncture on patient satisfaction and health and decide for yourself whether or not this is a practice that actually works.

Researchers looked at a huge (>10,000) pool of patients who had undergone acupuncture therapy with the goal of determining whether or not more experienced clinicians were more effective at performing successful acupuncture treatments.

I'd say that there is a large body of evidence to suggest that acupuncture has a significant positive effect on people with numerous health problems, but that would be a bit misleading.  What we actually have is a large body of anecdotal and poorly-controlled knowledge that we've been using as justification for sticking needles into people for hundreds of years.

Naturally, the researchers found that there weren't any differences in outcome between experienced acupuncturers (?) and freshly-minted newbies straight out of school.  What they did find, however, was that patients did report a significant increase in effectiveness if they had preconceived beliefs in acupuncture or felt strongly that eastern medicine was a viable practice to treat sick people.

What does all of this tell us?  Unfortunately, I can't help but see a big fat "placebo effect" going on here, but does that mean we should shun acupuncture and all of its fancy shmancy eastern medicine cousins?  I think not.

Whether or not these practices have a physical effect in the body, they do have an effect on the mind, and while putting needles in your skin may not stop your back pain, it may convince your brain to stop telling you that you've got back pain.

Ultimately, our reality is constructed by our brains.  The real world is only real inasmuch as the mind has painted it that way.  Even if this acupuncture stuff doesn't actually do anything to our bodies, it manages to trick our minds pretty well.  Who can say what the difference is, really?




1) everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal;

2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it;

3) anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.

taken from an article by the amazing Douglas Adams


the eye of the beholder

Let me make a note here: I've got another "direction" that I want this blog to head in.

Thus far, I've talked about myself, about science, about all sorts of stuff.  But what I really want to talk about beautiful things.  Maybe it just so happens that all those things I just talked about have elements of beauty to them, but it never hurts to make sure you're aiming at the right target.  I'm not quite sure how this is changing things...I'm not even sure whether or not anyone is reading this.  Either way, I'll start with this:

I'm sitting on my porch in the beautiful city of New Orleans, Louisiana.  I just had one of the most enlightening experiences of my life with one of the most beautiful people in the world.  There are rats scampering across the street wondering why such a big monkey is still up at this time of night.

The only sound I hear is the thwack thwack of newspapers being thrown from passing cars onto the steps of unsuspecting houses.  That is beautiful.

Filed under: Actual Science 1 Comment