Monday, October 25, 2010

Sunspots and Earth’s weather patterns

Jack Dikian
Oct 2010

Sunspots are temporary phenomena on the surface of the Sun (the photosphere) that appear visibly as dark spots compared to surrounding regions. They are caused by intense magnetic activity, which inhibits convection, forming areas of reduced sun-surface temperature.

The solar cycle, or the solar magnetic activity cycle, is approximately an 11-year periodic solar variation (changing the level of irradiation experienced on Earth) which drives variations in space weather and to some degree weather on the ground and possibly climate change.

Correlations between the solar magnetic activity, (reflected in the sunspot frequency) and climate parameters on Earth have led some scientists to hypotheses that sunspot activity may be subtly linked to the Earth's weather. Suggestive correlations between solar activity, global temperature, and rainfall have been observed, and analysis of tree-ring data spanning centuries seems to show the presence of an 11–13 year cycle.

There is also geological evidence that the solar cycle may have been affecting terrestrial weather since Precambrian times. However, all these data have been disputed on statistical grounds, and there presently no consensus among scientists as to whether sunspots actually affect the earth's weather or not, or if so, how.

Europeans commenced observations of sunspots in the early 1600’s and continuous daily observations were started at the Zurich Observatory in 1849.

Early records of sunspots indicate that the Sun went through a period of inactivity in the late 17th century. Very few sunspots were seen on the Sun from about 1645 to 1715. This period of solar inactivity also corresponds to a climatic period called the "Little Ice Age" when rivers that are normally ice-free froze and snow fields remained year-round at lower altitudes. There is evidence that the Sun has had similar periods of inactivity in the more distant past. The connection between solar activity and terrestrial climate is an area of on-going research.
See also

Long-term Variations in Solar Activity and their Apparent Effect on the
Earth's Climate K.Lassen, Danish Meteorological Institute. Copenhagen

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Puzzle Habits of Men and Women

Jack Dikian
October 2010

Nintendo commissioned a recent study looking into the motivations, habits, and propensity of doing puzzles such as crosswords and Sudokus across gender with findings said to be somewhat surprising.

The study questioned 598 people, with equal numbers of men and women, on their puzzle habits finding that almost every adult (96 percent) has played a puzzle or brainteaser at some time.

According to this study, women were four (4) times more likely than men to admit to being compulsive puzzle players obsessed only with winning. On the other hand, more men than women said their motivation for completing puzzles was to keep themselves intellectually sharp.

Almost half that were surveyed described themselves as players who completed puzzles to keep themselves mentally active and exercise their brains.

  • · Some 14% confessed to being “Secret” puzzlers who played on the quiet.
  • · 12% percent were puzzlers who made a crossword last a week, often without finishing it.
  • · 11% are social players playing company.
  • · 7% would admit to being obsessed with winning.

Other studies have suggested that brainteasers and logic puzzles can help improve brain performance and retaining mental dexterity.

Women Give More to Charity

Jack Dikian

October 2010

A new study, called Women Give 2010, from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, found that women are more likely to give to charity than men.

According to the researcher’s Women Give 2010 is the first report to compare philanthropic giving between men and women across all income levels based on a nationally representative sample. Previous studies of gender and philanthropy have relied on data related to giving by households and married couples, making the effects of gender on giving difficult to identify.

The study found that in every income bracket except for one, women give more than men. The most dramatic differences being in the lowest, middle, and highest brackets where women give almost double the amount of men.

Charities (non-for-profits) may see this as a reminder to pay closer attention to the philanthropic power of women and the importance of developing fundraising strategies that will appeal to their priorities.

The full report is available at:

About the Women’s Philanthropy Institute The Women’s Philanthropy Institute furthers the understanding of women’s philanthropy through research, education, and knowledge dissemination.

About the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University is a leading academic center dedicated to increasing the understanding of philanthropy and improving its practice worldwide through research, teaching, training and public affairs programs in philanthropy, fundraising, and management of nonprofit organizations.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Language Of Happiness

Jack Dikian

October 2010

A new study has found that people match each other's language styles more during happier periods of their relationship than at other perhaps more uneasy times.

According to James Pennebaker and Molly Ireland from the University of Texas at Austin the speech patterns used between partners can be bellwethers of the state of the relationship.

As well as Linguistic style matching (LSM) algorithms being used to calculate verbal mimicry through automated textual analysis systems, LSM algorithms have also been applied to language generated during small group discussions and the analysis of tone and style of language in response to essay questions by students.

Automated approachs such as this is said to be an objective, efficient, and unobtrusive tool for predicting underlying social dynamics. The study demonstrates the effectiveness of using language to predict change in social psychological factors of interest.

Findings reveal that people match each other’s language styles more during happier periods of their relationship than at other times. "When two people start a conversation, they usually begin talking alike within a matter of seconds," says James Pennebaker, psychology professor and co-author of the study(1). "This also happens when people read a book or watch a movie. As soon as the credits roll, they find themselves talking like the author or the central characters."

As mentioned, the study also confirmed that language style matching extends to written material. When an essay question, for example, was written in a direct and confusing tone, students in the study responded with a similar direct and confusing answers. When the question took a flighty, casual tone, students responded similarly with the material peppered with words such as "like" and "sorta."

Style-matching scores can be calculated over material written by historical figures and are said to reveal the degree of closeness by well know partners. For example, LSM scores were calculated between poetry written by two pairs of spouses, Victorian poets Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning (How do I love thee? fame) and 20th century poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, which mapped major changes in their relationships.

Also, a similar analysis between Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, psychologists who corresponded almost weekly for seven years. Using style-matching statistics, the researchers were able to chart the two men's tempestuous relationship from their early days of joint admiration to their final days of mutual contempt.


  • Study published in the September issue of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

  • The language of happiness Oct 5th 2010, 20:14 by G.L. The Economist Blog

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Making Meaning Of Things

Jack dikian

October 2010

Very recently, I did what I have been doing a lot of lately and visited our good friend and neighbor Christina. It was a particularly warm night and she had the baloney slide doors open.

Before long, a swarm of what seemed like mosquitoes covered the ceilings inside her house.

Out came the can of Mortein and the ensuring smell forced us to go outside and finish off the very good bottle of wine.

I thought there was something odd about these [mozzies] – after all, they weren’t biting anyone and weren’t even buzzing near our ears. I thought, these aren’t mozzies at all – probably flying ants I offered in way of an explanation.

Christina was adamant however. We even put a bet on it - Pancakes.

My main thrust of argument was that they were simply not behaving like mozzies. Sure they looked like mozzies, notwithstanding the bad light and vision anything like years gone past – but it just didn’t seem right.

Later, I gave the matter a bit more thought. How do we go about making meaning of what we see, how do we recognize objects and ascribe labels.

Object recognition, we have come to learn is the ability to perceive an object’s physical properties (such as shape, colour and texture) and apply semantic attributes to the object, which includes the understanding of its use, previous experience with the object and how it relates to others.

Using a neuropsychological basis for object recognition provides us information that allows us to divide the process into four different stages. These steps are usually processed rapidly and with little or no effort in cognation.

Stage 1 Processing of basic object components, such as shape, color, size, depth, etc.

Stage 2 These basic components are then grouped on the basis of similarity, providing information on distinct edges to the visual form. For example, we make out the wings as distinct from the body, etc.

Stage 3 The visual representation is matched with structural descriptions in memory. We have mental models of things we have seen including mosquitoes.

Stage 4 Semantic attributes are applied to the visual representation, providing meaning, and thereby recognition.

This is where Christina and I parted ways. In step 4. The bulk of her recognition heuristic seemed to be around shape, size, etc, as well as other, I’m guessing, more subtle cues, including the weather and the way they seemed to gravitate towards light.

I couldn’t but help needing further evidence in the way of behavior. This could be because the bulk of my work in recent years has been around, and, in the use of applied behavior analysis. It’s not surprising that there are so many signals that go into making meaning of things. And not surprising therefore the challenges involved in both artificial intelligence and artificial recognition systems.