Science


How easy is it to falsify memory? As individuals, each and every one of us creates a narrative of our life,  but is it necessarily true?

Recent research by the Weizmann Institute “shows that a bit of social pressure may be all that is needed.”  The study,  being published  in Science, shows a false memory formulates  a unique pattern of brain activity when the false memories are formed. They argue that this research shows the correlation between our social  self and our memory, and the  co-active correlation between the amygdala and the hippocamus in the process.

The article is very interesting for its neurobiology, and the approach they took to looking at memory.  But it’s not news that we as human beings can be  highly responsive to those around us, and it’s this social conscious that formulates much of who we are as social people. It would be interesting to see this work duplicated in a different setting, such as the typical schoolroom,  so that we can formulate what it is that helps students remember correctly, and why they remember something incorrectly,  and if there is a cognitive technique that would help the struggling student.  The brain is a machine and  repetition is the default setting so in that respect it’s understandable why people repeat their mistakes including false memory.  But, I also think that as social humans,  we are individuals with a lot of personal context and over time  attach more meaning to the memory that we do keep, and eventually discard altogether false memory or any memory we consider unimportant, in the  same way that we discard  so much of the daily bombardment from the world around us.

UPDATED:

In class I referred to the idea of false memory- which is included in the memory used for dream-making. What this means is that our dreams are created from a fountain of images and emotions, and sometimes the dream process links them together, either accidentally or intentionally, and sometimes in a way that shocks us even while we’re in deep sleep- so much that it literally makes us sit up and ask why. Why did I dream that? What does it mean?  And as Hobson writes, we then try to attach meaning to something that may only be an accidental link and without meaning.  At which point a student reminded me of the psychologists who do regression work, and sometimes the recalled memories (from dreams or the therapy sessions) are used as testimony in trials.  Is this reasonable, considering what’s at stake in a court?

Another valid point is how easy it is to plant “a seed” or a false memory into a person’s fountain of images, memory and emotions.  Now that I’ve seen this research at the   Weizmann Institute I wonder how many of the repressed memories that have been recovered by psychologists, replicate in full honesty the original event. Wouldn’t that be impossible? I’m curious now about  devices used by the police department, such as lie detectors,( which are not always accurate either) and whether or  not they can root out the false memory or does it only find that the person truly believes the memory is true even if it might indeed be false; which basically would back up the Weizmann research?

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Israel to be the  next to land on the moon? Wow.  I hope so!
There is something wonderfully poetic that a tiny “start-up nation,”  and within 65 years, might just be the nation to land a spacecraft on the moon and win Google’s Lunar X Prize. And then turn around and sink that prize money into education? Wow!   I sure agree with them, that it has to be more than just studying science, engineering and math; critical and creative thinking when combined are a powerful source of innovation. It will be exactly that kind of expansive thinking that gets the spacecraft to the moon. The ages of these three young men? 30, 28 and 24.
Haaretz has a full article but my favorite quote is “Will they make it? Will they realize their ambition? Winetraub says Yes. He seems confident that come the year 2012, if you have a really sharp telescope, you’ll be able to see that Israeli flag on the moon.”
Mar. 30 2011 – 6:01 am
By DANIEL FREEDMAN
If all goes according to plan, by December 2012 a team of three young Israeli scientists will have landed a tiny spacecraft on the moon, explored the lunar surface, and transmitted live video back to earth, thereby scooping up a $20 million prize (the Google Lunar X Prize), revolutionizing space exploration, and making the Jewish State the third nation (after the U.S. and Russia) to land a probe on the moon. And they’re doing it in their spare time.

The three engineers – Yariv Bash (electronics and computers), Kfir Damari (communication systems), and Yonatan Winetraub (satellite systems) all have high-level day jobs in the Israeli science and technology world, and also both teach and study. They all had heard of the Google Lunar X Prize independently, before being introduced by mutual friends who, as Yonatan puts it “thought we were all crazy enough to do it, so we should meet each other.”

By the end of November 2010 they had sketched together a novel plan to win the prize and submitted it to organizers. Only on December 21 (10 days before the December 31 deadline) did they set about raising the $50,000 entry fee. “Like good Israelis we left it to the last minute,” Yonatan laughs.

Since then they’ve recruited around 50 volunteers from across the Israeli science and technology community and have gained support from academic institutions, including the prestigious Weizmann Institute of Science (founded in 1933 by Chaim Weizmann, himself a successful chemist who went on to become Israel’s first president). They’re operating as a non-profit (“we’re looking for stakeholders,” says Project Coordinator Ronna Rubinstein), and any winnings will be invested in promoting science among Israeli youth.

(more…)

I’m teaching Jung’s synchronicity and the collective unconscious this week. I was trying to find a way to explain it in simple every day terms when my daughter provided the perfect example:  she conveniently “forgets” her speech at home, decides not to go back for it, gets to class and they have Reiki – turns out she doesn’t need the speech she decided she didn’t need. ??? Pretty funny. As for Pauli’s Effect which I’ve decided to introduce under the umbrella of synchronicity,  in my class of mostly will-be-scientists,  the Pauli Principle will be known but as to the “Pauli Effect’ (instruments breaking when he’s around, and so on) will be quickly discounted, along with the synchronicity.  But it should be an interesting day!

Update:

Yes, a few in class did know Pauli’s Principle, – I didn’t even try to explain quantum mechanics or what the connections are to  the argument of a collective unconscious, but the class understood the concepts and how they could have commonalities.  As for Pauli’s Effect- oh my- once I explained the ATM wouldn’t work and my daughter pushed me away and said, “Mom, step away from the machine,” and then it worked, – the students gave one example after another of seeing or experiencing similar glitches! I think, and I have unwittingly maybe convinced or at least opened the subject to this class, that as humans we have a wave length and it is connected to a greater system; we (our brain) are the filtering  devices that decode, analyze  and process the data from that greater system, which Jung called the collective unconscious, new-agers call ‘energy’ and I call the glue of the universe: EM.

Inasmuch as the Indians were deeply connected to the  earth, nature and the circle of life, this generation, whether or not we like it, knows/accepts that we as human beings are connected to the energy that surrounds us. We’ll continue to progress in ways that we make this energy network ‘work for us,’  and with us rather than live in denial that we’re connected to it. The difference is that for the Indians, it was not just a way of life but part their identity; and at this point, knowing we are connected to an energy of countless wavelengths and purposes has not yet transformed into a worship or a  respect that resembles a religion of some kind -or even an Indian kind of balanced circle of life.  I call this energy God, Intelligence and the Source of Creation, but I think  at this point of mankind’s  evolution it’s simply seen as science and progress.