Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Ultimate Idiot Filter Fails

Non-BCI, but odd. hey, I made it through one post and stayed on topic. I'm only human!

During my parents' time, college was a great idiot filter. If you made it through your run-of-the-mill undergraduate education, or, Hell, even got an Associates degree, you were pretty much assumed to be respectably smart. Then there was a glut of institutions and financial aid, a confusing landscape of prep schools, junior colleges, accredited/non-accredited schools and so on. So, now, my friends, what is the ultimate idiot filter? Many would say the Nobel Prize. I mean, come on. You have to be smart, to get that, right? Smart, perhaps, but sane, not necessarily!

A Nobel Laureate in Physics has, in an exclusive study released only to a web 'news' site, claimed that he has conclusive proof that people can sense the future. Yes, in this piece (piece of whaaat?), we hear about how the planes on 9/11 weren't full, and people that knew pilots of other crashed planes had foreboding feelings prior to the event. He (not even gonna bother with a name here) claims that we receive feelings from the future. How this could possibly be turned down by Nature or Science is beyond me!

While this is near total quackery (it would negate the idea of free will, as everyone would always operate in a manner that benefits themselves most - we'd never lose a poker hand), we do know that the brain is constantly operating based on probability calculations (probably). In order to interact with the physical world in real time, we have to project the most likely configuration of the world at some future point.

Say you want to catch a baseball. The ball is flying through the air at you... but how do you know? Light hits the retina, photoreceptors respond, bipolar cells modulate their glutamate output, ganglion cells fire (not to mention all the lateral crosstalk), action potentials travel through the optic nerve/tract, synapse at the LGN, then back to V1 and branch into the dorsal and ventral streams, where more information is gleamed on the visual scenery. The information is then integrated with intrinsic models of the body to create a motor program that correctly intercepts the ball, taking into account the velocity and acceleration profiles of the arm. But that is all going on while the ball is still moving toward your head. The information is already useless by the time you need to react.

Some have suggested that the native language of the neuron is Bayesian probability, and there's plenty to suggest that is the case. But, foreboding feelings about a loved one flying a tank of highly combustible liquid at mach speeds doesn't sound like solid evidence for future-sight to me. Repeat after me: The plural of anecdote is not data!

All that being said, suspend disbelief and tune in to Coast to Coast AM with Art Bell or George Noorey for more fun lunacy. They're on from 1am-5am EST, and syndicated all over the world. Everything from Chupacabra to Shadow People. You thought people were nuts? listen to hear just how nuts during open lines.

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