What happens in the mind stays in the mind? New evidence on video games and violence

A study by a team around Dr Gregor Szycik from the Hannover Medical School in Germany analyzed possible long term effects of playing violent video games regarding the desensitization hypothesis (mainly based on observes short time effects).

The money quote of the paper is: “We interpret our results as evidence against the desensitization hypothesis and suggest that the impact of violent media on emotional processing may be rather acute and short-lived.”

The original paper: Gregor R. Szycik, Bahram Mohammadi, Thomas F. Münte and Bert T. te Wildt: Lack of Evidence That Neural Empathic Responses Are Blunted in Excessive Users of Violent Video Games: An fMRI Study

And an article on the topic: iflscience: Study Finds No Long-Term Effects Of Violent Video Games On Empathy


Image: By Nick Stirling - "IF 12: Cultivate"

Beautiful Atari Box Art

I was trying to write a story about my first days of gaming and our low level graphic quality discussions as children ("Mario has a MOUSTACHE and DOTS IN THE EYES, it IS BETTER") but the text went nowhere. So, here is just the link I originally wanted to share: An article with a beautiful gallery of Atari box cover art. 


AVClub: How fantastical Atari box art taught the world what makes video games special


Image: By Mark Hillary - Atari Flashback 5

How many Jedi is or are the last Jedi

On behalf of the German language, I dare to say to my favourite all things sci fi blog io9: You are welcome. 

[...] another Star Wars: Episode VIII mystery has been answered—namely, whether The Last Jedi refers to a single Jedi or a group of Jedi, since both the singular and the plural form are “Jedi.” The solution comes to us via the release of several foreign-language titles for the film.


StarWars: Die letzten Jedi


Thank you, other languages who modify their adjectives to distinguish the quantity (and gender) of the nouns they’re modifying!

Indeed: Otherwise it would be: "Star Wars: Der letzte Jedi", or, if female: "Die letzte Jedi"; unfortunately we do not further separate male and female in groups, so "die letzten Jedi" may be a group of only men, only women or a mixed one. Spanish is e.g. helpful here, as the correct title would be "Las últimas Jedi" in the case there would be only women-Jedi left. As in other european languages, the male form is used as a generic form aswell, so they may only be men but also a mixed group according to the Spanish title. But this, I think, we knew already after seeing Rey and Luke in Episode VII.

Neurosciencing a microprocessor

Now this is a topic that is rather fascinating to me: The scientists Eric Jonas and Konrad Paul Kording are applying the methods of neuroscience to a simulated microprocessor (a MOS-6502-Chip similar to the one used in the Commodore C64) in order to describe the observed behavior. Is it possible to get an idea of functionality? Apperantly, in 2002 there was a former study "Can a biologist fix a radio" (by Juri Lazebnik) with a very similar topic.

Here we will examine three different “behaviors”, that is, three different games: Donkey Kong (1981), Space Invaders (1978), and Pitfall (1981). Obviously these “behaviors” are qualitatively different from those of animals and may seem more complicated. However, even the simple behaviors that are studied in neuroscience still involve a plethora of components, typically including the allocation of attention, cognitive processing, and multiple modalities of inputs and outputs. As such, the breadth of ongoing computation in the processor may actually be simpler than those in the brain.

As it turns out in both cases: No, the methods of neuroscience/biology are not sufficient to understand or describe the behavior of the respective system. Does this mean anything? Yes and no. They are not designed to understand technology. Vice versa, an expert in reverse engineering probably would not understand a specified lifeform by the application of his methods aswell. But on the other hand the study reveals that we do not know for sure if the methods and the results they generate are useful for the purpose of understanding e.g. the brain. Do we have language centers in the brain or is this comparable to the misconception of space invaders centers in the micro processor?

Eric Jonas, Konrad Paul Kording: Could a Neuroscientist Understand a Microprocessor?

Golem: Könnten Hirnforscher einen C64 verstehen?


Image: Image of the circuit board of a Commodore 64 showing some important MOS Technology circuits: the 6510 CPU (long chip, lower left) and the 6581 SID (right). The production week/year (WWYY) of each chip is given below its name. Found on Wikipedia by Jef-Infojef

DeepMind can play it hard aswell

Googles AI DeepMind is an impressive system that was able to master hard tasks as playing Go or generating humand language in the recent time. In a new article, Google scientists describe the way, DeepMind reacts on challenges as competing or cooperating with another player for success in computer games. DeepMind plays those games and learns by doing so. In the end, it shows that it plays aggressive when competing and cooperative when cooperating. This is no surprise and the term aggressive is only used as the game describes colored pixels that are competing for green pixels (apples) that appear randomly on the screen. In order to prevent the other player from reaching an apple, they are able to "fire" "laser beams" to let them skip a round - which could also be dubbed as "send" "love messages" but whatever. I am still in awe about DeepMind and its abilities and long for every new detail - but after playing the apple gathering game it is a bit early for the Terminator references.

Business Insider: Google's new AI has learned to become 'highly aggressive' in stressful situations

Teamplayer, Ego Shooter, First Person Shooter

In German, the word "Ego Shooter" is often used for "first person shooter". This may be due to the fact that "Erste Person" (first person) is not a common forms to describe perspective. Instead, we say "Ego Perspektive" for "first person" and so developed the term "Ego Shooter". Unfortunatley, the word ego may also refer to egoism and it was just a matter of time until "Ego Shooter" is used as a dysphemism, for example here as an opposition to team player:

„Wer wird zum Teamplayer, wer zum Ego-Shooter, wer überwindet seine Ängste, wer wird der neue Dauerpatient von Dr. Bob und wer wird 2017 König oder Königin des Dschungels?“ (TV channel RTL in an announcement)

"Who will become team player [and] who will become Ego Shooter [...]"

Verband für Deutschlands Video- und Computerspieler: Als Dysphemismus verselbständigt


The brain is no computer

Right with its development, the comparision of the computer and our brain started and it goes on till today. If I remember correctly, in the times before, the comparision was between complex mechanical systems as steam machines and the brain as you may see in idioms as "letting of steam". But todays allegories go further - people not only compare the brain with a computer but also think it would indeed work likewise. In the Machine Translation discursus sometimes there would be the argument, that a human brain would not use language e.g. like a statistics based system (and here comes Chomsky who claims it would work with a lexicon and a grammar which is also wrong). The answer often is the comparision with a plane which does not fly as a bird does - but it flies. The attempts to let planes fly like birds were not as successfull as those that used the internal rules (i.e. the laws of thermodynamics) but adapted them to large objects made of steel. So: It does not matter if the brain works like a computer, it matters if we do the right things with brains/computers to make them intelligent. Ok, not quite the discussion I started with. Here is a very interesting article about the brain and how it works and why it is not a computer at all:

Senses, reflexes and learning mechanisms – this is what we start with, and it is quite a lot, when you think about it. If we lacked any of these capabilities at birth, we would probably have trouble surviving.

But here is what we are not born with: information, data, rules, software, knowledge, lexicons, representations, algorithms, programs, models, memories, images, processors, subroutines, encoders, decoders, symbols, or buffers – design elements that allow digital computers to behave somewhat intelligently. Not only are we not born with such things, we also don’t develop them – ever.

aeon: The empty brain

Der In Der In Der In Der In

Recently I stumbled upon my own blog article on linguistic repetition plays. As I write most of my blog posts mainly to remind myself of things, it was a quite interesting read ;-) In the meantime I have found another German repetition play I really like. It is presented in the form of a riddle: "Bilden Sie mal einen Satz mit viermal 'der in'" ("Build a German sentence that uses four times 'der in'?") The solution ist as easy as it is surprising:

Der Inder in der Inderin.

Translation: The male Indian inside of the female Indian. 

Those "Can you say a sentence" jokes have been pretty popular when my parents were younger so there is quite a number of them:

Sag mal einen Satz mit...

  • Dresden -> Steckst nen Finger in die Nase und dresden (i.e. drehst ihn)
  • Weihnachtsfest -> Der Hirsch hält sein Geweih nachts fest
  • Weihnachtsstern -> Mich würd so ein Geweih nachts stern (störn)

On this page by Michael Schreiner are a lot of other examples

Jennifer Weist: Tattoos of the last Unicorn and Alchemy

As you may remember, I posted an article on a Rilke quote tattoed on Lady Gaga some time ago. (And there is another interesting post on Rilke and the series "The Magicians" as well). But the other day I stumbled upon the fact that the heavy tattooed German singer Jennifer Weist from the band Jennifer Rostock has a literary tattoo on her leg aswell, see photo. In this case, it is not Rilke, but a slightly modified quote from the movie "The Last Unicorn" or may be the book by Peter S. Beagle

In German, it goes like this:

Du kannst die anderen
finden, wenn Du Mut hast.
Sie verschwanden von allen
Straßen vor langer Zeit.
Er rannte dicht hinter ihnen
und verwischte ihre Spuren.
Als Kalb schon war er
gewaltig wie ein König und
seine Hörner sind riesige
Flammenspeere. Mit ihnen
wird er sie jagen, sie alle,
bis ans Ende der Welt.

The full version is interrupted by the butterfly and resolutes the pronous "Er" and "Sie" with "der rote Stier" (the red bull) and "Die Einhörner" (the unicorns) and you can listen to the text, which is told by the singing butterfly right at the beginning of the movie, in this gruesome edited clip (at 3:30):

The English transcription is, according to scifiscripts as follows:

BUTTERFLY: (strange voice) No, no, listen.  Don't listen to me, listen.  You 
can find the others if you are brave.
(Shows unicorns running down a path, and a great red mass chasing them.)
BUTTERFLY (voice only) They passed down all the roads long ago, and the 
Red Bull ran close behind them and covered their footsteps.
UNICORN: Red Bull?  What is the Red Bull?
BUTTERFLY: Hold tight.  Hold tight.  Hold tight, hold tight.  ...(same strange 
voice) His firstling bull has majesty, and his horns are the horns of a wild 
ox.  With them, he shall push the unicorns, all of them, to the ends of the 
earth.  Listen, listen, listen quickly!

So the tattoo would be in English:

You can find the others
if you are brave.
They passed down all the roads
long ago.
He ran close behind them
and covered their footsteps.
His firstling bull has majesty,
and his horns are the horns
of a wild ox. With them,
he shall push them, all of them,
to the ends of the earth.

I really love the movie and think that Jennifer took an impressive choice with this quote - I would have never ever even come to the idea to chose this quote as a tattoo - but now as I see it I really adore it and its message, style and tone.

There are two other tattoos by Jennifer Weist I have been interested in. The one is a songtext right down at her ankle of the other leg. It's "Comin' home" by City and Color, a really beautiful song about someone travelling the world by always longing to come home. 

The other one is a combination of four obviously meaningful symbols on her side (take a look here at Jennifers Instagram account) . Although I spent quite a lot of time on it, I was not able to decode them satisfactorily. One idea I came up with is that the symbols are alchemical symbols for the four elements, although one has to change alphabets to read them (i.e. there is no single alphabet of alchemical symbols that contains all four of them). Another idea would be planets, but I haven't found them neither. 

  1. A circled dot represents the sun or fire or gold in classic alchemy
  2. A small delta δ - following my theory of the four elements, this would be "air". Unfortunaltey, I don't find a reference for this. Except the Delta Airline, of course. ...
  3. A cut triangle pyramid on the top represents earth in classic alchemy
  4. The letter upsilon Ʊ represents life according to this list of basic alchemy symbols; as it looks like a goblet it may also refer to water

So, this remains mysterious for me. The four elements, btw., are generally represented symbologically like this: 

Feuer = fire

Erde = earth

Luft = air

Wasser = water

So, after all this discussion on tattoos on Jennifers body, I want to get you an impression of Jennifer Weists art: she is one of the best German writers and has a very impressive voice. This is my favorite song by Jennifer Rostock, "Schlaflos": 

And the lyrics with translation:

SCHLAFLOS (by Jennifer Rostock)

Straßenbahnfahrpläne, altbekannte Landkarten,
Schädel voller Schandtaten, Taschen voller Pfandmarken
Geh' nach Haus, schlaf' dich aus, es ist schon spät.
Schrecksekunde, Sperrstunde, noch die letzte Runde schmeißen,
bis mich die Hunde beißen. Altbekannte Wunden reißen auf,
geh' nach Haus, schlaf' dich aus, so gut es geht.

Ich bin der letzte Schatten, der noch durch die Gassen irrt,
In meiner Hand ein Licht, das mit der Zeit verblassen wird,
Lass' das Streicholz brennen, solang' es geht.
Ich nehm' die letzte Bahn, wieder diese Strecke fahr'n
Zuhause Decke über'n Kopf und an die Decke starr'n
Der Schlüssel steckt, ich sperr dich aus, doch es ist zu spät.

Du bist so laut in meinem Kopf und alles dreht sich,
Ich versuch' dich zu vergessen, doch es geht nicht,
Ich lieg' wach und bleib' ratlos,
Was soll ich tun? Du machst mich schlaflos.
Die Stille liegt mir in den Ohren und es zerreißt mich,
Ich zähl' die Stunden bis zum Morgen und ich weiß nicht,
Was muss passieren? Ich bleib ratlos.
Was soll ich tun? Du machst mich schlaflos.

Schlaflos, schlaflos, schlaflos...

Mitternacht, Kopfkino, Super-Acht-Projektion,
Ach, die Gedanken sind in Bild und Ton unsynchron,
Ein Projektor der nur stottert, nur funktioniert.
Die Tapete in den Zimmern hört nicht auf sich zu errinern,
Deine Schatten sind noch immer hier und flimmern
Wie durch unsichtbare Blender an den Wänden projeziert.
Der Filmstreifen hängt in immergleichen Schleifen fest,
Die Bilder springen wie ein Insekt, das sich nicht greifen lässt,
Das Geschwirre macht mich irre und es hält mich wach.

Wie unter Fieber werden Glieder heiß, Atem kalt,
Was sich mit Wiederhaken dann in meine Laken krallt,
Ist die Angst vor der Nacht und was sie mit mir macht.

Du bist so laut in meinem Kopf und alles dreht sich,
Ich versuch dich zu vergessen doch es geht nicht,
Ich lieg' wach und bleib' ratlos,
Was soll ich tun? Du machst mich schlaflos.
Die Stille liegt mir in den Ohren, es zerreißt mich,
Ich zähl' die Stunden bis zum Morgen und ich weiß nicht,
Was muss passieren? Ich bleib ratlos.
Was soll ich tun? Du machst mich schlaflos.

Schlaflos, schlaflos, schlaflos...
Was soll ich tun? Du machst mich schlaflos.

Straßenbahnfahrpläne, alt bekannte Landkarten,
Schädel voller Schandtaten, Taschen voller Pfandmarken
Geh' nach Haus, schlaf' dich aus, es ist schon spät...

Evidence of beginning relationships in Facebook

Talking about personal data: Did you ever wonder what exactly Facebook is seeing in your data? This article describes an interesting example in Detail:

“During the 100 days before the relationship starts, we observe a slow but steady increase in the number of timeline posts shared between the future couple.”

The Atlantic: When You Fall in Love, This Is What Facebook Sees