Tag Archives | Intelligence

Trace Amounts of Arsenic In Drinking Water Can Make You Stupid

PIC: Aramgutang (PD)

PIC: Aramgutang (PD)

According to researchers at Columbia University, even small amounts of arsenic in your drinking water can lower children’s IQ. If you’re wondering if your local water supply has arsenic in it, then wonder no more: Just about every water system – private or public – does. The study suggests that 5 or more parts per billion can impact children’s cognitive abilities. The EPA standard for acceptable arsenic levels is 10 parts per billion or less.

Via Press Herald:

Scientists from Columbia University and the University of New Hampshire recently completed a five-year study of 272 schoolchildren in Maine who had been exposed to arsenic in well water. They found that even at low levels, 5 or more parts per billion, the exposure could correlate to lower intelligence, as much as five to six points on IQ tests.

“Everyone was a little taken aback by that,” said professor Amy Schwartz of the University of New Hampshire, who coordinated the testing of Maine children.

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Interview With Mark Pilkington On UFO Documentary ‘Mirage Men’ And The Games Intel Agencies Play

Mirage_Men_posterMark Pilkington’s 2010 book Mirage Men is one of the more credible takes I’ve read on the topic of unidentified flying objects. Pilkington alleges that many of the stories we’ve heard about alien visitors and flying saucers are part of a deliberate campaign of disinformation created by intelligence agencies to cover up secret military technology and clandestine operations.  These “mirage men” have manipulated some UFO believers to the point of madness and beyond through the use of fabricated “evidence” and psychological warfare techniques, all in the name of national security.

Pilkington, along with directors John Lundberg, Roland Denning, and Kypros Kyprianou, just released a documentary based on the book. Also titled Mirage Men, the film expands on the premise of the book and feature interviews with some of the mirage men and their victims. It’s now available to rent online courtesy of Perception Management Productions, Random Media, and Yekra.… Read the rest

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Otis Pike, First Congressman to Battle NSA, Dies Unnoticed

Screen Shot 2014-02-06 at 12.55.10 PMAt possibly the most poignant time in the last 30 years,  the man who valiantly did battle with the US intelligence octopus in the 1970s, Otis Pike,  has died.  All liberty-minded Americans should be celebrating his character and accomplishments, but there is a pervasive and undeserved lull.   Mark Ames of Pando.com writes:

Pike asked questions never asked or answered since the start of the Cold War: What was America’s intelligence budget? What was the purpose of the CIA, NSA and other intelligence agencies and programs? Were they succeeding by their own standards? Were taxpayers getting their money’s worth? Were they making America safer?…The problem was that Pike asked the right questions—and that led him to some very wrong answers, as far as the powers that be were concerned.

…Today, there’s an underlying assumption that exposing dark government secrets is somehow transformative in itself, even without a wider politics to frame it.

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Epilepsy Drug Allows Adults To Learn Perfect Pitch And New Languages As If They Were Children

valproateEarly childhood-style learning abilities as a side effect? Via NPR:

Takao Hensch, professor of molecular and cellular biology at Harvard, is studying a drug which might allow adults to learn perfect pitch. Hensch says the drug, valprioc acid, allows the brain to absorb new information as easily as it did before age 7.

“It’s a mood-stabilizing drug, but we found that it also restores the plasticity of the brain to a juvenile state,” Hensch says.

Hensch gave the drug to a group of young men who had no musical training as children. They were asked to perform tasks to train their ears, and at the end of a two-week period, tested on their ability to discriminate tone.

The results were that those who took the valproate scored much higher on pitch tests than those who underwent similar training but only took the placebo. In other words, Hensch gave people a pill and then taught them to have perfect pitch.

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Chimps Easily Beat Humans In Complex Numeric Memory Tests

chimpsVia the Guardian, powerful mental abilities we ironically have lost through evolution:

In a landmark test of short-term memory conducted in public in 2007, the young chimp Ayumu demonstrated astonishing powers of recall, easily beating his human competitors, who had been in training for months.

“We’ve concluded through the cognitive tests that chimps have extraordinary memories,” Matsuzawa says. “They can grasp things at a glance. As a human, you will never be a match.”

Why do the latter have such vastly superior working memories? As humans evolved and acquired new skills – notably the ability to use language to communicate and collaborate –they lost others they once shared with their common simian ancestors.

The institute’s researchers are trying to find how far Ayumu can go before he falters. In the most recent tests, the number of digits [shown for a split second] has been increased from 1-9 to 1-19.

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Financial Insecurity Causes Temporary IQ Drop Of 13 Points

moneyHow poverty impacts people, via the Seattle Times:

People worrying about having enough money to pay bills tend to lose temporarily the equivalent of 13 IQ points, scientists found when they gave intelligence tests to shoppers at a New Jersey mall and farmers in India.

Dealing with financial strain consumes so much mental energy that people struggling to make ends meet often have little brainpower left for anything else, leaving them more susceptible to bad decisions that can perpetuate their situation, according to the new study.

Mullainathan and colleagues tested the same 464 farmers in the sugar-cane fields of India before and after the harvest and their IQ scores improved by 25 percent when their wallets fattened. Before the harvest, the farmers take out loans and pawn goods. After they sell their harvest, they are flush with cash.

In the New Jersey part of the study, the scientists tested about 400 shoppers at Quaker Bridge Mall, presenting them with scenarios that involved a large and a small car-repair bill.

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Human Cells Added To Their Brains Make Mice Smarter

human cells

Once someone lets them loose into a sewer and they breed freely, we’re in trouble. Scientific American writes:

In spring a band of brainy rodents made headlines for zipping through mazes with savvy navigation and mastering memory tricks. Scientists credited the impressive intellectual feats to human cells transplanted into their brains shortly after birth.

The mice benefited from human stem cells called glial progenitors, immature cells poised to become astrocytes and other glia cells, the supposed support cells of the brain.

Studies since then have revealed how extensively astrocytes interact with neurons, even coordinating their activity in some cases.

Our astrocytes are enormous compared with the astrocytes of other animals—20 times larger than rodent astrocytes—and they make contact with millions of neurons apiece. Neurons, on the other hand, are nearly identical in all mammals, from rodents to great apes like us. Such clues suggest astrocytes could be evolutionary contributors to our outsized intellect.

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A PRISM of Uncertainty: My Story And I’m Sticking To It.

From Modern Mythology

As anyone that hasn’t been under a rock for the past week knows, this “PRISM thing” has blown up all over the internet. Which is a good thing — privacy is something that people should be concerned about, and discuss.

Take a look at some of the other information that came to light in the past few days:

The fictional journalistic “this may or may not be true”:

The following article should be treated as strictly hypothetical. It has been editorialized to simplify the content in certain areas, while maintaining as much technical detail as we can offer. Companies named in this article have been publicly disclosed, or used in example only. This piece should not be taken necessarily as fact but as a working theory that portrays only one possible implementation of the U.S. National Security Agency’s PRISM program as it may exist today.

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The Threat And Promise Of Humans With Technologically-Boosted Superintelligence

radically amplified human intelligence

Via Sentient Developments, futurist and Singularity Summit co-organizer Michael Anissimov on radically amplified human intelligence (IA) as potentially even more powerful, and dangerous, than artificially intelligent machines:

The real objective of IA is to create “super-Einsteins”, persons qualitatively smarter than any human being that has ever lived. There will be a number of steps on the way there.

The first step will be to create a direct neural link to information. Think of it as a “telepathic Google.”

The next step will be to develop brain-computer interfaces that augment the visual cortex, the best-understood part of the brain. This would boost our spatial visualization and manipulation capabilities. Imagine being able to imagine a complex blueprint in high detail, or to learn new blueprints quickly.

The third step involves the genuine augmentation of pre-frontal cortex. This is the Holy Grail of IA research — enhancing the way we combine perceptual data to form concepts.

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“Causal Entropy” Linked to Intelligence

Picture: Mattes (PD)

Picture: Mattes (PD)

Jason Palmer reports for the BBC:

The idea of entropy is fundamentally an intuitive one – that the Universe tends in general to a more disordered state.

The classic example is a dropped cup: it will smash into pieces, but those pieces will never spontaneously recombine back into a cup. Analogously, a hot cup of coffee will always cool down if left – it will never draw warmth from a room to heat back up.

But the idea of “causal entropy” goes further, suggesting that a given physical system not only maximises the entropy within its current conditions, but that it reaches a state that will allow it more entropy – in a real sense, more options – in the future.

Alex Wissner-Gross of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US and Cameron Freer from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, have now put together a mathematical model that ties this causal entropy idea – evident in a range of recent studies – into a single framework.

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