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Natural brain state is primed to learn - life - 19 August 2011 - New Scientist - 0 views

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    Apply the electrodes...
    Externally modulating the brain's activity can boost its performance.

    The easiest way to manipulate the brain is through transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), which involves applying electrodes directly to the head to influence neuron activity with an electric current.

    Roi Cohen Kadosh's team at the University of Oxford showed last year that targeting tDCS at the brain's right parietal lobe can boost a person's arithmetic ability - the effects were still apparent six months after the tDCS session (newscientist.com/article/dn19679).

    More recently, Richard Chi and Allan Snyder at the University of Sydney, Australia, demonstrated that tDCS can improve a person's insight. The pair applied tDCS to volunteers' anterior frontal lobes - regions known to play a role in how we perceive the world - and found the participants were three times as likely as normal to complete a problem-solving task (newscientist.com/article/dn20080).

    Brain stimulation can also boost a person's learning abilities, according to Agnes Flöel's team at the University of Münster in Germany. Twenty minutes of tDCS to a part of the brain called the left perisylvian area was enough to speed up and improve language learning in a group of 19 volunteers (Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, DOI: 10.1162/jocn.2008.20098).

    Using the same technique to stimulate the brain's motor cortex, meanwhile, can enhance a person's ability to learn a movement-based skill (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0805413106).
thinkahol *

Quantum magic trick shows reality is what you make it - physics-math - 22 June 2011 - N... - 2 views

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    In 1967, Simon Kochen and Ernst Specker proved mathematically that even for a single quantum object, where entanglement is not possible, the values that you obtain when you measure its properties depend on the context. So the value of property A, say, depends on whether you chose to measure it with property B, or with property C. In other words, there is no reality independent of the choice of measurement.

    It wasn't until 2008, however, that Alexander Klyachko of Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey, and colleagues devised a feasible test for this prediction. They calculated that if you repeatedly measured five different pairs of properties of a quantum particle that was in a superposition of three states, the results would differ for the quantum system compared with a classical system with hidden variables.

    That's because quantum properties are not fixed, but vary depending on the choice of measurements, which skews the statistics. "This was a very clever idea," says Anton Zeilinger of the Institute for Quantum Optics, Quantum Nanophysics and Quantum Information in Vienna, Austria. "The question was how to realise this in an experiment."

    Now he, Radek Lapkiewicz and colleagues have realised the idea experimentally. They used photons, each in a superposition in which they simultaneously took three paths. Then they repeated a sequence of five pairs of measurements on various properties of the photons, such as their polarisations, tens of thousands of times.

    A beautiful experiment

    They found that the resulting statistics could only be explained if the combination of properties that was tested was affecting the value of the property being measured. "There is no sense in assuming that what we do not measure about a system has [an independent] reality," Zeilinger concludes.

thinkahol *

Curious mathematical law is rife in nature - physics-math - 14 October 2010 - New Scien... - 0 views

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    WHAT do earthquakes, spinning stellar remnants, bright space objects and a host of other natural phenomena have in common? Some of their properties conform to a curious and little known mathematical law, which could now find new uses.
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