Weekly Newsletter

November 8, 2015

I’ve been reading more technical neuroscience / psychology papers recently, so the newsletter reflects that. I’m trying to better understand the variety and universality of mental imagery, and the only way to do that is to dive into the literature.

Mental Imagery

Representing Exact Numbers Visually
This journal article discusses mental abacus representations. Be forewarned, the paper is fairly technical and a bit dry. If you just want to get the take-aways of the paper, I recommend reading the Introduction until you feel like you’re in over your head and then skipping to page 13. I’m fascinated by the mental abacus phenomenon. I’m convinced that this human ability can be exploited in other ways beyond just for arithmetic, but I’m not sure how just yet.

Thinking in Pictures
Chapter 1 of Temple Grandin’s book. In this, Grandin discusses what it’s like to be inside her head. I found Grandin’s description of her entirely visual thinking process fascinating.

Philosophy

The Fable of the Dragon Tyrant
I’ve been saving this story for the newsletter for a while now and I decided to include it this week. This story, by Oxford Philosophy Professor Nick Bostrom, is a fable which Bostrom hopes will illustrate the nature of our relationship with death and aging. This story affected me a lot when I originally read it and I hope it will do the same for you.

Health

Everything you always wanted to know about fermented foods
Dives into the evidence surrounding fermented foods’ healthful effects. I enjoyed this piece both for the content and the author’s careful approach to drawing conclusions from evidence.

Other Contributions

Behind Rising Inequality: More Unequal Companies (David Wylie)
This article draws from two key recent papers, one of which by Peter Orszag and Jason Furman (Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers), that provide strong evidence that “the prime driver of wage inequality is the growing gap between the most- and least-profitable companies, not the gap between the highest- and lowest-paid workers within each company.” The research would indicate that individual-level policies may not be as efficacious as hoped, and that enhanced attention should be given to anticompetitive and rent-seeking firm behavior.

Discussion, links, and tweets

I'm a software developer currently working at UberEats. I keep a low social media presence, but, if you enjoy what I have to say or want to rant at me, you should email me at stephenmalina@gmail.com. If you're interested in what I'm currently programming, check out my Github. I occasionally rant on Twitter as well.