Don’t Take Notes With A Laptop – from @andymcnally

Original Scientific American article.


Far transfer through music? This longitudinal study suggests it works!

A post on the potential “far transfer” of music education – ie the longer term impact on cognitive ability. I like the way that Pedro restrains his enthusiasm here! “Far transfer” is tricky to study, but also is a factor in education that needs to be considered when subjects/disciplines are accused of lacking “relevance”

From experience to meaning...

I’m a musician as some of you might know and very much in favor of music and music lessons, but I’m a bit hesitant about this new study. It sounds like great news: cognitive skills developed from music lessons appear to transfer to unrelated subjects, leading to improved academic performance.

Why I’m not so sure? Well, this kind of far transfer is not something easy to achieve and I don’t want to get my hopes up too high. So, let’s have a look at the press release:

Structured music lessons significantly enhance children’s cognitive abilities — including language-based reasoning, short-term memory, planning and inhibition — which lead to improved academic performance. Published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, the research is the first large-scale, longitudinal study to be adapted into the regular school curriculum. Visual arts lessons were also found to significantly improve children’s visual and spatial memory.

Music education has…

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“#Sleeping, as we all know, is the most secret of our acts.”- #Borges and #sleep in #literature

I have blogged both here and on my other blog quite a few quotes from novels and other literature on sleep. I have found these passages capture a sort of phenomenology of sleep as effectively as any clinical text. In this post I use a quote from Jorge Luis Borges as the starting point for a more general, although ultimately quite personal, discussion of literature and sleep and other altered states of consciousness.

Séamus Sweeney

Sleeping, as we all know, is the most secret of our acts. We devote a third of our lives to it, and yet do not understand it. For some, it is no more than an eclipse of wakefulness, for others, a more complex state spanning at one and the same time past, present, and future,; for still others, an uninterrupted series of dreams. To say that Mrs Jáuregui spent ten years in a quiet chaos is perhaps mistaken; each moment of those ten years may have been a pure present, without a before or after. There is no reason to marvel at such a present, which we count by days and nights and by the hundreds of leaves of many calendars and by anxieties and events; it is what we go through each morning before waking up and every night before falling asleep. Twice each day, we are the elder…

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Anthony Burgess on decimalisation, the cashless society, and cognitive reserve

This quote made me wonder about the cognitive impact of decimalisation. There seems to be a consensus that cognitive challenging activities help to reduce and/or delay dementia, and I wonder, aside from the poetic and cultural losses Burgess enumerates, could the change from the rich arithmetic complexity of l. s. d. to the simplicity of the decimal system have had some kind of epidemiological effect? And now, with the abolition of cash openly mooted , the corresponding loss of the calculation of change – which I assume is one of the commonest conscious arithmetic calculations we make – well, who know what will happen?

Probably not all that much. Or possibly a lot. I haven’t been able to find solid empirical research or much theoretical discussion of the topic.

Anyhow, here is Anthony Burgess from his 1990 autobiography, You’ve Had Your Time  on decimalisation:


“Before the shameful liquidation of the British penny into a p, there had been an ancient and eminently rational coinage, with twelve pence to the shilling and twenty shillings to the pound. This meant divisibility of the shilling by all the even integers up to twelve. Time and money went together: only in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis is there a ten-hour clock. Money could be divided according to time, and for the seven-day week it was only necessary to add a shilling to a pound and create a guinea. A guinea was not only divisible by seven, it could be split ninefold and produce a Straits dollar. By brutal government fiat, at a time when computer engineers were protesting that decimal system was out of date and the octal principle was the only valid one for cybernetics, this beautiful and venerable monetary complex was abolished in favour of a demented abstraction that was a remnant of the French revolutionary nightmare. The first unit to go was the half-crown or tosheroon, the loveliest and most rational coin of all. It was a piece of eight, a genuine dollar though termed a half one (the dollar sign was originally an eight with a bar through it). It does not even survive as an American bit or an East Coast Malayan kupang. Britain’s troubles began with this jettisoning of a traditional solidity, rendering Falstaff’s tavern bill and ‘Sing a song of sixpence’ unintelligible. I have never been able to forgive this.”

Entertainingly enough, while searching for this quote online to save me having to type it out, I came across this page on the Royal Mint Museum’s website  – which quotes the “beautiful and venerable monetary complex” and nothing else!