Category: Links

Sounds and smells can help reinforce learning while you sleep

Apparently, the idea of learning while you sleep is actually bollocks, at least the way we have come to believe it works:

It wasn’t until the 1950s that researchers discovered the touted effects of hypnopaedia were actually not due to sleep at all. Instead these contraptions were actually awakening people. The debunkers could tell by using a relatively established technique called electroencephalography (EEG), which records the brain’s electrical signals through electrodes placed on the scalp. Using EEG on their participants, researchers could tell that the sleep-learners were actually awake (something we still do in research today), and this all but ended research into sleep as a cognitive tool. 50 years later, we now know it is possible to alter memory during sleep, just in a different way than previously expected.

However, and fascinatingly, sounds (not words) and smells can reinforce learning:

In 2007, the neuroscientist Björn Rasch at Lübeck University and colleagues reported that smells, which were associated with previously learned material, could be used to cue the sleeping brain. The study authors had taught participants the locations of objects on a grid, just like in the game Concentration, and exposed them to the odour of roses as they did so. Next, participants slept in the lab, and the experimenters waited until the deepest stage of sleep (slow-wave sleep) to once again expose them to the odour. Then when they were awake, the participants were significantly better at remembering where the objects were located. This worked only if they had been exposed to the rose odour during learning, and had smelled it during slow-wave sleep. If they were exposed to the odour only while awake or during REM sleep, the cue didn’t work.

Pretty awesome. There are some things still to research:

Outstanding questions that we have yet to address include: does this work for foreign-language learning (ie, grammar learning), or just learning foreign vocabulary? Could it be used to help maintain memory performance in an ageing population? Does reactivating some memories mean that others are wiped away even more quickly?

Worth trying!

Source: Aeon

Where did ‘Å’ come from?

I’m (sadly) pretty monolingual, but as an historian by training find things like this fascinating:

Regardless of who originally penned the idea, the new letter resulted from an unusual convergence: the Swedish Å owes its existence to a major religious reformation, a groundbreaking technological invention, the founding of a brand new nation, and the ever-flowing tide of phonetic evolution and language modernisation.

The post continues with a discussion of ‘diacritical marks’ used in other languages such as German and Czech. The author, who is also a type designer, has promised a follow-up post on uses of the letter ‘Å’ in contemporary typefaces.

Source: Frode Helland

Fred Wilson’s predictions for 2018

Fred Wilson is author of the incredibly popular blog AVC. He prefaces his first post of the year in the following way:

This is a post that I am struggling to write. I really have no idea what is going to happen in 2018.

He does, however, go on to answer ten questions, the most interesting of which are those he answers in the affirmative:

  • Will the tech backlash that I wrote about yesterday continue to escalate? Yes.
  • Will we see more gender and racial diversity in tech? Yes.
  • Will Trump be President at the end of 2018. Yes.

I picked up a copy of WIRED magazine at the airport yesterday for the flight home. (I used to subscribe, but it annoyed me too much.) It is useful, though, for taking the temperature of the tech sector. Given there were sections on re-distributing the Internet, the backlash against the big four tech companies, and diversity in tech, I think they’re likely to be amongst the big trends for the (ever-widening) tech sector 2018.

Source: AVC

Albert Wenger’s reading list

Albert Wenger, a venture capitalist and author of World After Capital, invited his (sizeable) blog readership to suggest some books he should read over his Christmas and New Year’s break. The results are interesting, as there’s a mix of technical, business, and more discursive writing.

The ones that stood out for me were:

Former Mozilla colleague John O’Duinn has just sent out Update #14 of his Leading Distributed Teams ebook, so I’m looking forward to reading that soon, too!

Source: Continuations

The best album covers of 2017

It was only last week that I was telling my children how they’d missed out on the joy of exploring CD inserts to find detailed information on tracks and random artwork.

This post gives 20 examples of great artwork from albums that came out in 2017. I do like Beck’s album, and not just because it’s got a badge-shaped cover:

Speaking of his creation, album cover artist Jimmy Turrell said that Beck commissioned both him and Steve Stacey to create the entire visual representation of his latest album. Packed full of bold colour, Turrell says he and Stacey looked back to their youth for inspiration, considering what stimulated them visually as kids. The Deluxe Vinyl edition allows fans to remove and change pieces to create their own bespoke cover.

My favourite from 2017? Morrissey’s Low in High School, which I’ve used as the featured image for this post.

Source: Creative Bloq