Saturday, August 29, 2009

Madly in Love

Expressions like 'madly in love', 'crazy for you' and 'lovesick' may be more accurate than we think. When we fall in love, our brains experience an explosion of powerful chemicals. Some scientists compare the initial stages of love to mental illnesses like obsessive compulsive disorder and mania, the manic phase of manic depression.

Helen Fisher, believes we evolved three systems related to matters of the heart: the first deals with lust, the second with romantic love – also known as attraction, obsessive love or 'being in love' – and the third with attachment. Fisher's theory is that the three systems motivate us, respectively, to mate, focus our attention on a particular partner, and stick with that partner long enough to look after the children we may have.

Fisher discusses many of the feelings of intense romantic love, saying it begins as the beloved takes on "special meaning." Then you focus intensely on him or her. People can list what they don't like about a sweetheart, but they sweep these things aside and focus on what they adore. Intense energy, elation, mood swings, emotional dependence, separation anxiety, possessiveness, physical reactions including a pounding heart, shortness of breath, and craving, Fisher reports, are all central to this feeling. But the most important one is obsessive thinking.

She also think that romantic love is a very strong drive, stronger than lust, as people are more likely to commit suicide or homicide when rejected by someone they love than when their sexual overtures fail.

A good example of this kind of behavior can be found in Shakespeare´s Romeo and Juliet:
"Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet, of the houses of Montague and Capulet, were enemies. The story starts with members of the Capulet family, quarreling with members of the Montague. This turns into a big fight. That night, Romeo and Juliet meet at a party in the Capulet mansion, and instantly fell in love. Later that night they met in the Capulet's orchard, and plan to be married the next morning. Their union was made, but soon ruined, as Romeo was banished from Verona due to the dispute. After he leaves, Juliet learns she is to marry another man. She was devastated. The two lovers made a plan. But they both end up killing themselves because both thought that the other was already death"

But the main characteristics of romantic love is craving: an intense desire to be with a particular person, not just sexually, but emotionally. It would be nice to go to bed with them, but you would prefer them to call you on the telephone, to invite you out or to tell you that they love you. The other main characteristic is motivation. The motor in your brain begins to crank, and you want this person.

Love is a very powerful emotion, and some say that love drives you to do dumb things, some people say that love hurts and some time it does. Love causes odd tremendous feelings deep within us. It causes jealousy and hate, and drives even the most amazing people to do the craziest most unbelievable stuff.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Opinion Mining and Sentiment Analysis

Textual information in the world can be broadly categorized into two main types: facts and opinions. Facts are objective expressions about entities, events and their properties. Opinions are usually subjective expressions that describe people’s sentiments, oppinions or feelings toward entities, events and their properties.

This area has grown in part as a recation to a surge of interest in opinions as a first-class kind of object of analysis, along with the huge increase in the web textual content, mainly produced by social network users.

Subjective information analysis systems answer questions about feelings and opinions. A crucialstep towards this goal is identifying the words and phrases that express opinions in text. The simplest algorithms work by scanning keywords to categorize a statement as positive or negative, based on a simple binary analysis (“love” is good, “hate” is bad). But that approach fails to capture the subtleties that bring human language to life: irony, sarcasm, slang and other idiomatic expressions. Reliable sentiment analysis requires parsing many linguistic shades of gray.

More sofisticated analysis used include the following tools:

Part of speech taggers:
they identify whether a world that belongs to a sentence is a noun, verb, adverb, etc.. It was found in many researches that adjectives are important indicators of subjectivities and opinions. Thus, adjectives have been treated as special features.
Opinion words and phrases: Opinion words are words that are commonly used to express positive or negative sentiments. For example, beautiful and wonderful are positive opinion words, and negative opinion ones include horrible and terrible. Although many opinion words are adjectives and adverbs; some nouns (rubbish and junk) and verbs (hate and like) can also indicate opinion. Besides, there are also opinion phrases and idioms, like “cost someone a leg.”
Negation: They are important because their presentece often change the opinion orientation. For example, the sentence “I don’t like this camera” is negative. However, negation words must be handled with care because not all occurrences of such words mean negation. For example, “not” in “not only … but also” doesn't change the orientation.
Syntactic dependency: a tree is built from the analized sentence in order to represent it. here we can see "John hit the ball" as an example.
For casual web surfers, simpler incarnations of sentiment analysis are sprouting up in the form of lightweight tools like TweetSentiments and Twitteratr. These sites allow users to take the pulse of Twitter users about particular topics. But the accuracy of their results are not very comparer to the precission Opinion Mining researchers obtained so far (between 70% and 80% of correctly classified sentences of texts).

My favourite application of this kind was made many years ago, long before the hype, by Jonathan Harris, it was WeFeelFine. This application has a very simple opinion mining processing method, but I think, he was able to see what the future mainstream applications will be like before most of us did; he also realized the importance of a good and flexible data visiualization.

Some of the challenges sentiment ming presents include ansewring the following questions:

1. What makes an opinion positive or negative?
2. How can we rank opinions according to their strength?
3. Can we define an objective measure for ranking opinions?
4. How does the context change the polarity and strength of an opinion and how can we take it into consideration?

In order to keep exploring this topics I would recomend you to read Peter Turney's papers and blog and also Maite Taboada's papers and webpage.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Art and the brain according to Zeki

A work of art is a product of the brain, a work of literature is a product of the brain and one can learn a great deal about the limits and the possibilities of brain organisation by looking at these works. Professor Zeki thinks that neuroscientist have anything to teach the humanist or the artist, that Cezanne's drawing would improve by knowing how the brain works. Implying that neurscoientist have a great deal to learn from artist, but don't have that much to teach them.

One of the primordial functions of the brain is to acquire knowledge, but the making of sense of this world; of the impulses that we are getting all day long which are often in a chaotic state, is a primordial function of the brain. Let us say portrait painting, a great portrait is one which gives you knowledge of a certain character, of certain characteristics of that character, and hence becomes applicable not to just one person but applicable to many characters of that time. For example you could paint arrogance, or resigned resentment, in the late self portrait of Rembrandt there is this resigned resentment at failing powers, and this is applicable to many people. It is knowledge about the character that it gives you.

The characteristic of an efficient knowledge-acquiring system, faced with permanent change, is its capacity to abstract, to emphasize the general at the expense of the particular. Abstraction, which arguably is a characteristic of every one of the many different visual areas of the brain, frees the brain from enslavement to the particular and from the imperfections of the memory system.

An interesting thing Lichenstein said is that science is often considered to be for learning whereas art is for pleasure. And people don't realise that you learn a great deal from art as well. If you want to learn something about human nature, let us say about arrogance, would you be better off reading Corielanus by Shakespeare or studying textbooks of psychology? Probably you would benefit from both, enormously.

One way of looking at art history, in Zeki’s terms, is as the progression of the human brain’s understanding of its own capacity for visual perception. You can see this in artists work "When an artist says: ‘How can I make a great portrait?’" Zeki observes, "what they really mean is ‘how can I represent this particular face on canvas so that it allows the brain to generalize its concept of faces and therefore becomes a great portrait?’" This desire can be tested experimentally; some cells in the brain will only "fire" with excitement when presented with particular views of the face. The greatest portrait painters have, through experiment, intuition, and skill, discovered the rules of this visual grammar.

When we study, the capacity to evaluate something that's beautiful, you are actually interacting with the work of art. and you're deciding whether it's nice or not. Zeki emphasizes that they haven't located beauty, which is another common misapprehension, they just located the neural activity that corresponds with the appreciation of particular works of art. Meaning that beauty isn't strictly located in the brain; nevertheless the brain is an enabling system for you to appreciate beauty.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Generation dumb

Generation Dumb consists of anyone born roughly between 1978 and 1996. Numbering 70 million in the U.S. and due to surpass the boomers in sheer numbers by 2010, Gen Dumb is rapidly becoming a force to be reckoned with. And a lot of people are courageously trying. In the past year, on top of countless stories regarding the increased engagement of young people in this year’s presidential campaigns, major media outlets from the New York Times to Newsweek to 60 Minutes have put this generation under the microscope with unprecedented scientific scrutiny. A number of scholarly, stat-packed books have been published as well, and their authors have become the media’s favorite go-to persons to explain to bewildered parents, teachers, and employers what, exactly, is up with us.

Some have noticed an interesting trend: Observers tend to either love us or hate us. They’re either held aloft as the bright, tech-savvy, shining hope of humanity or dismissed as hopelessly narcissistic ignoramuses whose every posted YouTube comment should make them all bow their heads in shame. The truth, is more complicated than either extreme. They aren’t simply Gen Dumb, and they aren’t the messianic millennials either. They are Gen Y, a genuinely puzzling cultural variable, like Gen X before them, that has yet to be defined.

The way Bauerlein sees it, something new and disastrous has happened youth with the arrival of the instant gratification go-go-go digital age. The result is, essentially, a collective loss of context and history, a neglect of "enduring ideas and conflicts." Survey after painstakingly recounted survey reveals what most of us already suspect: that young people know virtually nothing about history and politics. And no wonder. They have developed a "brazen disregard of books and reading". Things were not supposed to be this way. After all, "never have the opportunities for education, learning, political action, and cultural activity been greater", But somehow the much-ballyhooed advances of this brave new world have not only failed to materialize -- they've actually made us dumber.

Friedman offered one of the most optimistic appraisals of this generation that I’d ever encountered. Describing it as an impressive and admirably “quiet” generation—due to both our silent determination to not let post-9/11 terrorism fears curtail our sense of freedom and our preference for keyboard-clicking internet activism over more vocal social engagements.

I don’t doubt the authenticity of Gen Y’s idealism and inspiration. Yet I do worry that as long as it remains circumscribed by the spheres of their narcissism, its real potential will never be revealed. The question is: Do they have what it takes to burst their bubbles? Can they finally get over themselves and start participating in life so fully, so unreservedly, that they remove any doubt as to where they really stand?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Meaning II

First, we need to examine “meaning” itself, and expose a mistake, a very basic mistake, in how many people think about it. To say that some event means something without at least some implicit understanding of who it means something to is to express an incomplete idea, no different than sentence fragments declaring that “Went to the bank” or “Exploded.” Without first specifying a particular subject and/or object, the very idea of meaning is incoherent.

Nature is concrete reality, we presume, something more real than abstraction. But if nature is more real than abstraction, what use is abstraction? Perhaps it is the case that abstraction is more real than "nature". Perhaps abstraction can be used to extend what is effortlessly given to us. Perhaps abstraction can be employed to usefully transform what is now presented to us without effort as the object. Maybe we can perceive with our (collectively-expanded) imagination levels of reality that are hidden, not so much from our senses, as by our senses.

We think we live in the "objective" world, but we do not. The objective world is something that has been conjured up for us recently - absurdly recently, from the perspective of evolutionary biology - by the processes of science operating over a span of five centuries (or, perhaps, to give the Greeks their due, over the last thirty centuries). This does not mean that the objective world is not real, even though theories about its nature are in constant flux. What it does mean is that the environment of human beings might well be regarded as "spiritual," as well as "material."

Now if we give a closer look at reading, because it may be fundamental, about how the brain gives meaning to letters on a page has been fundamentally a mystery. Two new studies fill in some details on how the brains of proficient readers handle words. One of the studies, suggests that a visual-processing area of the brain recognizes common words as whole units. Another study, reveals that the brain operates two fast parallel systems for reading, linking visual recognition of words to speech.

Chaging the angle if we look at it from the traditional targets of scientific inquiry that are available to sensory analysis, localized in time and space, and simultaneously accessible to the individual experience of multiple observers (at least under carefully controlled conditions). Meaning, which can vary dramatically between observers, does not reveal itself in any such straightforward manner. It is therefore not clear that it can be addressed scientifically, even in principle. At least this is the classical argument. But what if meaning could be construed as a stable emergent consequence of the interaction of subjects, objects, elements or situations, conceived of from a more abstract point of reference than that commonly utilized?

"We work to maintain and extend the boundaries of the stories which regulate our social existence, our individual goals, and our emotions, and to extend the boundaries of the stories which we embody and represent abstractly. Such stories have an integrity, at least in principle, which enables them to "make sense" of our past and present and to structure those actions that take us into the future. Our stories are "true" to the extent that they allow us to utilize the wisdom we have generated in the course of our experience" - Says Jordan Peterson.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Introduction to time and origin of the universe

Nature of time

Time is the most fundamental aspect of our experience, and yet it remains mysterious in many ways. A longstanding problem is time's arrow – the directionality displayed by most physical processes, for example, clocks run down, organisms age, stars burn out. Ultimately that leads to cosmology (is study of the Universe in its totality). Most physicists are convinced that the origin of time’s arrow can be traced to the initial conditions of the universe, but the details depend on the specific cosmological model, and there is no agreed solution.

Another problem is the psychological perception of time, the feeling we all have that time is flowing or passing. Yet no such phenomenon is apparent in physics. So how does this impression of a moving present arise? Is it linked in some way to memory, or is there a deeper link – for example, between quantum mechanics (the study of matter and radiation at atomic level) and the observer – that plays a role?

Origin of physical laws

Science works because the universe is ordered in an intelligible way. The most refined manifestation of this order is to be found in the laws of physics, the fundamental mathematical rules that govern all natural phenomena. One of the biggest of the big questions of existence concerns the origin of those laws. Where do they come from, and why do they have the form that that they do?

Until recently, this problem was considered off-limits to science. The job of the scientist, it was maintained, is to discover the laws and apply them, not inquire into their form or origin. Now things had change one reason for this is the thrust toward a final unified theory of physics, sometimes called a “theory of everything,” that would encapsulate a complete description of nature in a single mathematical scheme.

A distinctive feature of the laws of physics is that (with one minor exception) they are symmetric in time, that is, they make no distinction between past and future. Yet the world about us has a definite temporal directionality, manifested for example in the way that the sun and stars are slowly and irreversibly burning up their fuel. The one-way slide towards degeneration, decay and entropy (degradation of matter) is often expressed by the so-called second law of thermodynamics. Just how a temporally asymmetric world has emerged from time–symmetric laws is a very old and still unsolved problem.

Origin of the universe

Most of the Cosmologists agree that the universe began with a big bang 13.72 billion years ago, but they disagree about some pretty basic questions, like:
  • What happened before the big bang?
  • Did time begin with the big bang?
  • Are there other big bangs and other universes, and if so, will they be like ours or fundamentally different?
  • Is it a lucky fluke that our universe is so well suited to life?
These issues relate to the nature of the laws of physics. What are they? Where do they come from? Why are they mathematical? Why do they permit universes that are comprehensible to sentient beings such as homo sapiens. Which leads in turn to the biggest question of all: What is the place of human beings in the great cosmic scheme?