Where regret lives

The role of the frontal lobes in the regulation of emotion-motivated behavior has long been known. Lobotomies are designed to cut off the forebrain, and the behavior change is dramatic (see One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). A recent study published in the latest issue of Science used a gambling scenario to compare the behavior of normal people vs. those who had lesions in the orbitofrontal cortex.

Regret is an emotion related to “what if” – missed opportunities, mistakes. It is primarily associated with past events over which we had some level of control. The study compared “normal” people vs. those with lesions in the pre-frontal cortex in a gambling scenario. In one case, the subjects could choose the wager, and in the other, they could not. If normal subjects “lost” in a random gambling situation where they had no control, they felt no regret (nor much elation when they “won”). Where they had control, they reported experiencing negative and positive emotions associated with losing and winning, and changed their behavior to successfully promote winning.

People with lesions in the orbitofrontal cortex felt no different winning or losing in either scenario. They did not change their behavior, but placed the bets they could control without learning from past losses. They continued to lose. They had no sense of regret.

If wonder why some people never learn from their mistakes, there may be a wiring issue.

Camille et al., The Involvement of the Orbitofrontal Cortex in the Experience of Regret, Science 2004 304: 1167-1170

Here’s the abstract.

seeing red

I often get chain letters about things like wearing yellow ribbons and not buying gas on a particular Sunday. I sympathize with many, though I doubt if I ever passed any on. But I sure like the idea that I can.

At one point do I actually participate? At what point do I feel I must take action including either passing the communications or doing what the letter asks? Am I moved to action more by anger or love or fear?

Here’s one to which I’m particular drawn, which I have edited and posted for reference.

Unlicensed Spectrum in TV

The FCC has released its eagerly anticipated (or dreaded) Notice of Proposed Rule Making which would authorize the use of unlicensed spectrum access in the television bands. (Word, PDF, and Text). This is one of the real important proceedings before the FCC on unlicensed. You can be sure that major companies on both the pro-unlicensed and the anti-unlicensed side will file? But will you? Are you content to let Microsoft or Intel cut a deal with Viacom, News Corp and the rest of the media conglomerates for you? Or would you rather participate yourself and help define your own rights?

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President Bush is no Hitler.

I have a number of friends and relations that have supported George W. Bush in the past. It’s pretty hard to admit you’re wrong, and these folks still support him. So I’m going to write this out in one burst, for fear that I won’t have the balls to click “submit” if I bother to make this a coherent argument.

I feel that if we return George W. Bush to office, we’re a bad people. While what the Bush administration is doing is not as bad as what the Nazis did, folks who work to keep Bush in power are doing the same thing in their turn as those who supported the Nazis when they knew what they were doing was wrong. This includes folks who have given a record $200 million dollars directly to Bush’s re-election cause and the untold more to soft money. If you honestly and thoughtfully disagree with me, ok. But failing that, support for Bush’s re-election is equivalent to support for keeping Hitler in power.

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Draft Progressive Principles for Spectrum Management

I was recently asked by another organization to take a stab at my vision of progressive principles of spectrum management. My goal is to provide a set of guiding principles that go beyond mere economic efficiency or even freedom to innovate. While I feel these are important elements of any policy, the overarching goal of spectrum management should be, in the words of the Communications Act, “to make available to all the people of the United States, without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin or sex” the benefits of our communications system.

These are my own thoughts, and I am very curious to receive wider feedback from the Community at large. Please also keep in mind that these are a draft and represent my own best efforts and opinions. They do not represent any official position of any organization, and are certainly not the position of Media Access Project.

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AofA Technology: Monster Cells

As many of y’all know, I wrote Acts of the Apostles, (a nanotech thriller about (among other things) Iraqi bioweapons programs)during the years 1995-99.

As the book was science fiction, it contains a lot of stuff that I just made up. Since then it’s been fun to collect instances where the real world has caught up with Acts.

Here’s a link to an article in the Washington Post that describes an effort by Craig Venter(!!) to create an artificial cell that’s in many ways similar to the “monster cell” of AofA.

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Disney stifles dissent

Evidently Disney wants to prevent distribution of Michael Moore’s film Farenheit 911, which is about Bush family ties to Saudi families, including, Ooops!, the Bin Ladins.

I expect that as this little imbroglio develops we may see a Sausage Factory story or two from Harold about it. In the meantime, I invite you to contemplate the irony of this film’s title — with its echoes of Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451, about the necessity of government censorship to keep people from being confused by the truth.

taking quantum theory to the bank

Nature magazine has an article on the first secure money transfer using entangled protons for quantum cryptography.

In last week’s trial, the entangled photons were created in a branch of the Bank of Austria in Vienna. One was sent to the city hall through a 1,450-metre-long fibreglass cable. The transfer took 90 seconds to complete; the money was then donated to Zeilinger’s lab.

That’s scary-cool.