The pitfalls of getting insufficient shut-eye

Why we sleep — Book Cover
Why we sleep — Book Cover
Why We Sleep — Matthew Walker, PhD

Back as an undergraduate student, I took great pride in getting by with only five or six hours of sleep per night. Staying up late studying, waking up early to get a head start on that lab report… Some of these practices have stayed with me up to this day. However, while reading Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep, that attitude of getting more done by sacrificing sleep was quickly vanishing. And it doesn’t stop there. Evidently, insufficient sleep does not only impair your creativity and productivity at work, but also negatively impacts your cardiovascular system, immune system, reproductive system, metabolism…


A brief review

My first encounter with The Stranger was in high school. It was part of a literature project that entailed books by Albert Camus, Nigel Barley, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and other writers who devoted their careers to the untrodden and unorthodox, not only philosophically, but also culturally and geographically. Back then, in my late teens and primarily concerned with finishing the book on time, I ploughed through it without absorbing the deeper philosophical concepts that this novel so beautifully portrays. …


A brief summary on the evolution and neuroscience of music processing

Artistic image of the brain, headphones, and musical notes.
Artistic image of the brain, headphones, and musical notes.
Source: LogIQ3

In his book “This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession”, Daniel Levitin, a sound engineer turned neuroscientist, delivers fascinating insights into the neural, emotional, and cognitive processes of making and listening to music. His goal with this book was to make music and the science behind it more accessible to the general public, using a cognitive neuroscience perspective throughout.

Cultural Background

Before diving in, it is worth pointing out that music, as we know it today, where the band or orchestra performs on stage and the audience is listening to it, is a very unusual arrangement given…


A short guide on the building blocks of songs

Headphones and musical notes
Headphones and musical notes
Source: PC Magazine

Music comes in all shapes and forms and enriches our lives in a variety of ways. It intensifies our emotions, helps us focus, accompanies us on road trips, and motivates us for workouts. But what exactly is it comprised of?

Definition

Due to its subjective nature, a multitude of definitions of music have been put forward. However, the composer Edgard Varèse most famously defined it as “organized sound”. In The Liberation of Sound, he writes:

… I decided to call my music “organized sound” and myself, not a musician, but “a worker in rhythms, frequencies, and intensities.”

The basic elements

The fundamental building blocks…


Human augmentation as a path to a benevolent future

Communication between laptop and brain
Communication between laptop and brain
Source: Nature Biotechnology

The implications of artificial intelligence (AI) are being fiercely debated by technologists, economists, politicians, and philosophers alike. AI now threatens workers whose jobs had previously seemed impossible to automate, from financial analysts and lawyers to journalists. How are societies going to react? And how will the primary purposes in life change over time?

Even if we do not necessarily agree on what the future of work has in store for us, one thing is for sure: its character and meaning will change considerably, offering new opportunities and perspectives. …


Utilizing matplotlib and double-ended queues in Python

Dynamic plot of Fp2 and C3 channels
Dynamic plot of Fp2 and C3 channels
Dynamic plot of EEG channels Fp2 and C3.

Statically plotting large time-series data in their entirety can result in extremely compact plots that yield little information about any interesting effects they may contain on a shorter time scale. In order to identify these effects, it can be useful to play the data back with adjustable speed rates. The following code, written in Python 3, does exactly that by utilizing matplotlib's interactive mode as well as double-ended queues, or deques, which are list-like containers that enable fast appends and pops on either end.

For the following demonstration, I will use electroencephalography (EEG) data obtained from an approximately 8min resting-state…


Illustrated with an example from the neurosciences

Time-series data is often contaminated with unwanted signal artefacts that have the potential to considerably distort any further analysis. Independent component analysis, or ICA, is a powerful method to get around this very problem. Here, I will give a brief introduction to ICA followed by a demonstration of how to implement it to remove signal artefacts. Throughout this article, I will be using time-series data obtained through electroencephalography (EEG)— a technique from the neurosciences that measures electrical activity of the cerebral cortex of the brain.

Note: I only present crucial code snippets here. The full code, written in Python 3…


Insights into the universal scaling laws that underlie organisms, cities, economies, and companies

Source: Design Swan (Fractal Art)

Why can we live for up to 120 years but not longer? Why do mice only live 2–3 years but elephants up to 75? Why do we stop growing once we reach maturity? Is there a maximum or optimum size of cities? And why do companies die but cities don’t? These are some of the mysteries that Geoffrey West elucidates in his 2017 book “Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies”.

Scaling of organisms

Scaling refers to how a system responds when its size changes. Research has abundantly demonstrated the predominance…

Thomas A Dorfer

Data scientist with neuroscience background. Passionate about all things data, books, and music. I write about science, philosophy, and AI.

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