20% of Scientists Admit to Taking NeuroEnhancers

Q: What can make you literally 'think faster?"

A: Neuroenhancers.

Nature Publishing, esteemed publisher of the British journal Nature, ran a survey and found that a surprising 20% of respondents, mostly in the U.S. reported using drugs to improve their concentration and focus.

A neuroenhancer is anything that provides greater focus, attentiveness...

Three drugs were commonly used...Ritalin, a trade name for methylphenidate, is a stimulant normally used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, especially in children. Modafinil -- marketed at Provigil -- is prescribed to treat sleep disorders, but is also effective against general fatigue and jet lag.

Both medications are common currency on college campuses, used as "study aids" to sharpen performance and wakefulness. The third category was beta blockers, often prescribed for cardiac arythmia - it has a side effect of improving feelings of well-being as an anti-anxiety treatment.

Of course, for thousands of years people have been altering consciousness with various naturally occurring substances, for reasons that are not completely understood. Perhaps this is simply a shared human trait.

-The vision-inducing ayahuasca in South America
-Peyote in the U.S.
-Snowdrop in Greece and Macdedonia (in Homer's Odyssey as a memory booster)
-Ancient Egyptians ingested blue lily, drank highly fermented porridge-like beer
-Qa'at chewing in Oman and the Arabian peninsula
-Coca leaf chewing in South America
-Others fasted to obtain superior focus and cosmic awareness, including Tibetan monks, Early desert fathers of the Christian church, the so-called anchorites, Hunnish shamans, Native Americans prior to deer and buffalo hunts (a common practice from coast to coast) and probably the Palaeolithic artists of Lascaux cave.

Modern neuroenhancement in an academic setting is carried out for the same reason as the fasting and sweat-lodge of the deer hunter - getting an 'edge' and increasing the chances of success. The hunter did not want to return to the village empty-handed.

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Stale Pizza Commands 7 figures

Years ago, Maryland geek Chris Clark bought the web domain pizza.com for around $20. Eschewing many lowball offers, he just sat on the domain, where it became one of those omnipresent 'parked' sites that relay a message such as "find out everything about pizza" along with 'get a new mortgage,' 'get a trip to vegas', etc. He just closed the sale for the name for $2.6 million. on top of March's sale of fund.com for $10 million.



Stanford Coach in Berkeley? Moooooo...

This post is mainly of interest to Stanford, Cal alums or people in the SF bay area, and to anybody else that wants to read it...

Mike Montgomery was a fixture at Stanford from the 1980's to mid-this decade. A cerebral coach, he looked like a B-school prof, appearing to have more in common with Michael Porter than Bob Knight. Rather than drawing a pick-and-roll on the blackboard during timeouts, he would chalk out stars, dogs and cash cows.

So now, he's going from collecting term sheets at 3000 Sand Hill to ambling down Telegraph, picking up a poster of Jimi or Green Day, a Tibetan prayer flag and maybe a wedge of pizza at Blondie's to fight off the munchies.

At Stanford he turned white guys who couldn't jump into NBA players. But in the NBA relating was tougher. As in...

"Yo Monty! What up?"
Stunned, Montgomery catches the keys.
"Park my Bentley behind the gym. Don't scratch it." (From a player who earns more per game than the coach does in a season)

Cal has been in a basketball no man's land since Todd Bozeman and Jason Kidd shocked Duke and Coach K to get to the sweet 16, hit the cover of SI...and then years of decline. Maybe Montgomery can Tivo out the mediocrity of the intervening decade-plus. Watch it on your slingbox.

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Painting a better picture for Alzheimer's

Art can be an effective therapy for the brain and even provide a useful outlet for people who have the disease, according to thie story.

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Charlton Heston Passes

Charlton Heston, who was known to be suffering from Alzheimer's Disease, has just passed away in Beverly Hills (the news just hit the wires).

Here's the story

Here's a look at the star in some of his best-known roles:

An Oscar in 1960 for Ben-Hur

Taylor - Planet of the Apes: Watch the film

The 10 Commandments

Heston as General Charles Gordon with Sir Laurence Olivier as the Mahdi

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Zen and the Art of...

Motorcycle Repair Coping with Alzheimer's Disease

According to Denise Grady at the NY Times, sometimes it's best to go with the flow, in terms of dealing with symptoms of the disease.
Of course, you can keep working the brain to build reserve.

In a slide show (starting with the above image) William Utermohlen’s self-portraits reveal his descent into dementia over the span of nearly four decades. A self-portrait from 1967. Click-through to see it...

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Reaction Time Slips...Here's What you Get

Watch out...if your reaction time slips too far, not only might that be a sign of impairment - if it happens too many times, you might see this at the end of a test

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in-n-out highway 101

Just think, if that group of travellers mentioned yesterday had stopped at King City or Salinas on Highway 101, they would surely have seen the signs for the Monterey Peninsula.

They missed out on getting a burger from In-n-Out, presumably, somewhat memorialized in this music video.

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hal silenced at the library

On the HAL series of games, we've made a change and added a link letting you turn off the noise of HAL's talking and astronaut Dave Bowman's labored breathing (really actor Keir Dullea through a scuba regulator---that's probably one of the authentic touches that influenced Darth Vader's noisy inhaling and exhaling in star wars) just in case you are in a library or something, open the page, and then HAL starts talking about human error or that he's sorry but he can't let you in through the airlock-right at your desktop or notebook and everybody stares at you.

We don't want that to happen too much, so each exercise has a 'silent' page version.

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Sadr: Mad Mullah gets more Juice

According to the LA Times, al-Sadr, the bearded, red-around-the-eyes firebrand cleric has won the latest round of poker against Maliki. Generally, we're not focused on politics - however, this might be an opportune time to talk about the history of "mad mullahs" in general. Skipping the Crusades, which featured a collection of 'crazed' holy men on both sides, the term first appears in the British press in the mid-19th century to characterize muslim leaders in India who were accused of causing the revolt of the Indian sepoys (Indian soldiers under British officers, in this case, those who were muslims). Thus, the reputation of mad mullahs as trouble-makers. The next mad mullah was the real mccoy, a figure known as the Mahdi, who incited the 'natives' of the upper reaches of the White and Blue Niles (they meet at Khartoum) to revolt and more importantly, divert the income that was typically received by grandees in southern Egypt from agriculture and the slave trade, under the noses of a weak Ottoman-leaning government and its protector, the British Mandate in Egypt, which was mainly interested in keeping the Suez Canal open for the tea trade with India. At this time, European bondholders formed a creditors council with essentially a controlling interest in the Bank of Egypt, under the suzerainty of Sir Evelyn Baring, who had veto power over uses of funds and awards of additional credit to the post-Ottoman regime.

Mohammed Ahmad, e.g., The Mahdi

The mahdi caused people to stop paying taxes and discouraged slaving. The grandees hired their own freelance general, Charles "Chinese" Gordon (have steely-blue eyes, Victorian moustache, and pith helmet, will travel) to stop the mahdi with an army of mercenaries and Egyptian conscripts.

The battles didn't go so well. The press in London immediately built up the 'mahdi' into a fearsome character who threatened Egypt, the British interests in Africa and the Near East, and the existing order, and the martyred Gordon into a romantic, chivalrous figure.

Field Marshal Sir H.H. Kitchener and a famous WWI British recruiting poster
An army of khaki clad British and Egyptian troops under Lord Kitchener, commander or sardir of the Anglo-Egyptian army eventually put down the revolt and avenged the martyr. Kitchener got an island estate complete with his own banana plantation in Egypt (i.e., Kitchener's Island adjacent to Elephantine island in the middle of the Nile at Aswan)and fame as the general who stared down the mad mullah (never mind the fact that he proved to be a terrible general on the Western front in WWI, responsible for decimating both his soldiers and also their aristocratic junior officers, who were mowed down by German machine gunners with futile frontal assaults and suicide attacks in the early days of the war.) Kitchener also was defeated by the Turks in other engagements, and was 'retired' before tragically meeting his end aboard an HMS ship that was torpedoed by a German submarine off Scotland. The machine gun and high-caliber artillery, by the end of the war, had created a scenario where each army was evenly matched, with the difference being leadership and logistics.

Other mad mullahs have popped up - most have been little known until Khomeini, who was reviled in the West and by Iraqi secular nationalists. Then there is OBL, who is a terrorist and not a mullah, who are by definition trained scholars.

Sadr is the next in the line of the media "mad mullahs" who threaten the order of things, but so far has proven able to play chess by the rules and simultaneously create new rules.

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