All change

The only constant is change, isn’t it? Two days before I was due to zoom off around the world comes a change of plans. I’m postponing my visit to Beijing, and realigning my stay in Hyderabad so that I can participate in some additional meetings. Instead of Star Alliance round the world, it’s probably going to be BA out and back via LHR. (I looked at going LH through FRA, but for some reason, BA is about 25% cheaper than LH right now.) I’ll update with the details when I have them.
UPDATE: Here we are:
BA048 Dep: SEA 07:40PM Mar 16 Arr: LHR 12:00PM Mar 17
BA277 Dep: LHR 01:40PM Mar 17 Arr: HYD 04:40AM Mar 18
BA276 Dep: HYD 07:30AM Mar 25 Arr: LHR 12:55PM Mar 25
BA049 Dep: LHR 02:20PM Mar 25 Arr: SEA 05:01PM Mar 25

I’ll be in 744s between SEA and LHR and 777s between LHR and HYD, with window seats on every leg. I get to kill a couple of hours in T5 each way.

The brains of religious believers

Sciencedaily reports on a study of how the brains of believers and non-believers behave under stress:

We found that religious people or even people who simply believe in the existence of God show significantly less brain activity in relation to their own errors. They’re much less anxious and feel less stressed when they have made an error.

These correlations remained strong even after controlling for personality and cognitive ability, says Inzlicht, who also found that religious participants made fewer errors on the Stroop task than their non-believing counterparts. […]

Obviously, anxiety can be negative because if you have too much, you’re paralyzed with fear,” he says. “However, it also serves a very useful function in that it alerts us when we’re making mistakes. If you don’t experience anxiety when you make an error, what impetus do you have to change or improve your behaviour so you don’t make the same mistakes again and again?

[Via Sully; my emphasis.]

First Kindle 2, now Kindle on my iPhone

I’ve been enjoying my new Kindle 2. Several people have asked for my opinion of it, and have wondered when I was going to post a review. Instead of rushing to press, I’ve been taking the time to appreciate the difference between the original and the new model; I wanted to finish a complete book before committing myself. I’m in the middle of Jenet Conant’s wonderful The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington; I started reading it on my original Kindle, a couple of days before the new one arrived. Exactly as advertised, when I opened up my Kindle 2 and selected “The Irregulars”, it opened up just where I’d left off. Very nice!
So for the last few days I’ve been enjoying my new Kindle as well as a delightful book. And then, a few minutes ago, I was scanning my blog feeds and came across a piece by Marc Hedlund on the new Kindle app for the iPhone. I knew that it was in the works, but I had no idea when it was being released. (Our internal “need to know” is pretty good at Amazon.) So I fired up iTunes, found the app, downloaded it, sync’d my iPhone, ran the app, signed in, and picked “The Irregulars” from the Archived items list. A few seconds later I was reading the book, exactly where I’d left off earlier today.
Page turning is achieved with the kind of sideways sweeping gesture that is completely familiar and natural on the iPhone. It’s fairly easy to do this one-handed, using either hand. The default font was a bit too large for my taste, making each “page” uncomfortably short, but switching to the smallest font resulted in a beautifully crisp display. Just out of curiosity, I logged in to the “Manage your Kindle” page on the Amazon website, and it showed Geoff Arnold’s iPhone as a managed device.
So now I have another kind of Kindle to review….
UPDATE: Glenn Fleishman has some interesting comments over at TidBITS.

Souls, neuroscience, and daisies

Andrew Sullivan links (without comment – chicken!) to a letter in Science in which neuroscientist Martha Farah and theologian Nancey Murphy “worry about fundamentalists attacking neuroscience”. For some reason, Andrew illustrates the piece with some pretty flowers, which he usually does when he has no answer to the points just made except an appeal to the emotions.
The problem for mysterians like Andrew, who claim that they embrace doubt while at the same time being utterly enslaved by their faith, is that neuroscience isn’t just a threat to “fundamentalists”: it undercuts every religious view which assumes the existence of a soul that is distinct from (and can exist independently of) the physical body. We’re talking about all of Christianity, Islam, the dualist variants of Judaism, and any belief system which includes reincarnation. And we’re not just talking about naive, folk-theories about souls (being reunited with loved ones after death, or having out-of-body experiences); even the most subtle and sophisticated theological positions are pretty much threadbare. And that includes Andrew’s. Pretty pictures of daisies won’t make up for that.