Everyone Agrees With Us On Climate Change — Especially When We're Wrong

John Timmer at Ars Technica looks at what a survey of Australians about their beliefs regarding climate change can tell us about our perceptions of popular opinion:

The false consensus effect became obvious when the researchers looked at what these people thought that everyone else believed. Here, the false consensus effect was obvious: every single group believed that their opinion represented the plurality view of the population. This was most dramatic among those who don’t think that the climate is changing; even though they represent far less than 10 percent of the population, they believed that over 40 percent of Australians shared their views. Those who profess ignorance also believed they had lots of company, estimating that their view was shared by a quarter of the populace. […]
But there was also evidence of pluralistic ignorance. Every single group grossly overestimated the number of people who were unsure about climate change or convinced it wasn’t occurring. Even those who were convinced that humans were changing the climate put 20 percent of Australians into each of these two groups.
In the end, the false consensus effect is swamped by this pluralistic ignorance. Even though everybody tends to think their own position is the plurality, those who accept climate change is real still underestimate how many people share their views. Meanwhile, everyone overestimates the self-labelled “skeptic” population.

Full Story: Ars Technica: Everyone agrees with us on climate change—especially when we’re wrong

Buddhism and DMT

Someone recently asked on Reddit: Reddit: Has a monk ever taken DMT and the results been recorded?
I like this response:

Fascinating mental states can be attained through meditation, but Buddhists don’t really go for an attitude of exploring trippy phenomena. The purpose is to get over the endless craving for pleasurable mind states. So adding more uncontrollable stimulation is basically just adding more confusion. Of course, you can turn any situation into a practice, so if you find yourself dosed with DMT, don’t panic – just actualize great prajna wisdom and stay grounded in the hara!

Scientists Plan To Upload Bee Consciousness To Robots

A bee
George Dvorsky writes:

A new project has been announced in which scientists at the Universities of Sheffield and Sussex are hoping to create the first accurate computer simulation of a honey bee brain — and then upload it into an autonomous flying robot.
This is obviously a huge win for science — but it could also save the world. The researchers hope a robotic insect could supplement or replace the shrinking population of honey bees that pollinate essential plant life.

io9: New project aims to upload a honey bee’s brain into a flying insectobot by 2015
Previously: Can You Imagine a Future Where London Police Bees Conduct Genetic Surveillance?
Photo by Steve Jurvetson / CC

Hardwired to Nurture: What the New Testosterone Study Really Says About Men

Still playing catchup:

An intriguing new long-term study of Filipino men has discovered that becoming a father lowers a man’s testosterone level. More specifically, what really drops male testosterone is the amount of time spent caring for children; men who spent three hours or more per day caring for a child had significantly less testosterone than those dads who were less involved with their children. It’s not that men with lower testosterone were “naturally” more inclined to be caregivers in the first place; based on the voluminous longitudinal data, it’s the act of caring itself that reduced testosterone significantly.
An otherwise reasonable New York Times piece on the study begins with the somber warning, “This is probably not the news most fathers want to hear.” But as several researchers in the article point out, this is actually great news for dads—and for all men. One of our great enduring myths about males is that we are biologically hardwired for violence and promiscuity, and that any attempt to encourage us to take on a nurturing, tender role is destined to end in failure. The “Caveman Cult” crowd, which includes a great many popular writers on gender, suggests that female physiology is optimized for caregiving while male physiology is optimized for conquest. And when pressed to cite the chief factor in this supposed male inability to care for children, these defenders of traditional gender roles almost invariably cite the overarching influence of testosterone.

Full Story: The Good Men Project: Hardwired to Nurture: What the New Testosterone Study Really Says About Men

Researchers Hack Brainwaves to Reveal PINs, Other Personal Data

Yeah, I know this is really old by internet time, but I’ve been really busy with work and I’m still catching up:

A team of security researchers from Oxford, UC Berkeley, and the University of Geneva say that they were able to deduce digits of PIN numbers, birth months, areas of residence and other personal information by presenting 30 headset-wearing subjects with images of ATM machines, debit cards, maps, people, and random numbers in a series of experiments. The paper, titled “On the Feasibility of Side-Channel Attacks with Brain Computer Interfaces,” represents the first major attempt to uncover potential security risks in the use of the headsets. […]
Emotiv and NeuroSky both have “app stores,” where users of the devices can download third-party applications. The applications use a common API for access to the EEG device. […]
“We simulated a scenario where someone writes a malicious app, the user downloads it and trusts the app, and actively supports all the calibration steps of the device to make the software work,” said Frank. In these seemingly innocuous calibration steps, which are standard for most games and other applications using the headsets, there could be the potential to harvest personal information.

Full Story: Wired: Researchers Hack Brainwaves to Reveal PINs, Other Personal Data
The paper is available on Scribd.
I wonder if this could be used to determine passwords that users don’t consciously remember?
I’ve said before: steganograph your brain before it’s too late!

U.S. Military Funding Research On "Spidey Sense"

The Office of Naval research wants to fund more research on intuition:

esearch in human pattern recognition and decision-making suggest that there is a “sixth sense” through which humans can detect and act on unique patterns without consciously and intentionally analyzing them. Evidence is accumulating that this capability, known as intuition or intuitive decision making, enables the rapid detection of patterns in ambiguous, uncertain and time restricted information contexts, that it informs the decision making process and, most importantly, that it may not require domain expertise to be effective. These properties make intuition a strong candidate for further exploration as the basis for developing a new set of decision support training technologies. The proposed topic will lead to new insights into intuitive decision making, and develop new approaches for enhancing this process.

General Services Office: OFFICE OF NAVAL RESEARCH BASIC RESEARCH CHALLENGE – ENHANCING INTUITIVE DECISION MAKING THROUGH IMPLICIT LEARNING
(via Adam Flynn)
See also: The Weaponizatoin Of Neuroscience and DARPA combines human brains and 120-megapixel cameras to create the ultimate military threat detection system

Technoccult Interview: Open Source Buddhism with Al Jigong Billings

Al Billings
Many Technoccult readers have probably seen Hermetic.com. Maybe you even got your first taste of Aleister Crowley, Austin Osman Spare or Hakim Bey there. What you might not know is that the site’s founder, Al Jigong Billings has given up the site to focus on what he calls “Open Source Buddhism.” I recently talked with Al about what Open Source Buddhism is, how it differs from other contemporary the Pragmatic Dharma movement and the secular mindfulness movement, and how he gravitated from Neopaganism to Buddhism.
Continue reading “Technoccult Interview: Open Source Buddhism with Al Jigong Billings”

Finding the Right Type of Meditation for You Might be Key to Meditation Success

Did you give meditation a chance and decide it’s not your cup of tea? New research suggests you could be missing out on all the health benefits of meditation by simply starting out with a technique not well matched to your personal tastes. […]
Burke and colleagues recently conducted a study of college students new to meditation and their preferences among four meditation techniques — mantra, mindfulness, zen, and qigong visualization. […]
Published on July 7 in the journal Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, the findings reveal that by finding a form of meditation that works for you, you are less likely to quit. The result of sticking with it? Research-backed benefits of reduced stress, lower blood pressure, and help with addiction problems.

Full Story: NY Daily News: The right kind of meditation for you; Mantra, mindfulness, zen, and qigong visualization are different ways to relax
The paper is
here, behind a paywall.

The Weaponization of Neuroscience

Jon Bardin wrote for The Chronicle of Higher Education on how science can be weaponized, even decades after it’s conducted. For example, this DARPA project is based on unrelated research from the 1960s:

In a small, anonymous office in the Trump Tower, 28 floors above Wall Street, a man sits in front of a computer screen sifting through satellite images of a foreign desert. The images depict a vast, sandy emptiness, marked every so often by dunes and hills. He is searching for man-made structures: houses, compounds, airfields, any sign of civilization that might be visible from the sky. The images flash at a rate of 20 per second, so fast that before he can truly perceive the details of each landscape, it is gone. He pushes no buttons, takes no notes. His performance is near perfect.
Or rather, his brain’s performance is near perfect. The man has a machine strapped to his head, an array of electrodes called an electroencephalogram, or EEG, which is recording his brain activity as each image skips by. It then sends the brain-activity data wirelessly to a large computer. The computer has learned what the man’s brain activity looks like when he sees one of the visual targets, and, based on that information, it quickly reshuffles the images. When the man sorts back through the hundreds of images—most without structures, but some with—almost all the ones with buildings in them pop to the front of the pack. His brain and the computer have done good work.

Chronicles of Higher Education: From Bench to Bunker
(Thanks Justin!)

Synesthesia May Explain Aura Reading

From Science Daily:

In basic neurological terms, synesthesia is thought to be due to cross-wiring in the brain of some people (synesthetes); in other words, synesthetes present more synaptic connections than “normal” people. “These extra connections cause them to automatically establish associations between brain areas that are not normally interconnected,” professor Gómez Milán explains. New research suggests that many healers claiming to see the aura of people might have this condition. […]
Many local people attribute “paranormal powers” to El Santón, because of his supposed ability to see the aura of people “but, in fact, it is a clear case of synesthesia,” the researchers explained. According to the researchers, El Santón has face-color synesthesia (the brain region responsible for face recognition is associated with the color-processing region); touch-mirror synesthesia (when the synesthete observes a person who is being touched or is experiencing pain, s/he experiences the same); high empathy (the ability to feel what other person is feeling), and schizotypy (certain personality traits in healthy people involving slight paranoia and delusions). “These capacities make synesthetes have the ability to make people feel understood, and provide them with special emotion and pain reading skills,” the researchers explain.

Full Story: Science Daily: Synesthesia May Explain Healers Claims of Seeing People’s ‘Aura’
(via Matt Staggs)
I’ve long suspected this to be true. I’ve met a couple of people who claimed to be able to see auras and didn’t seem to be liars or crazy.