J002E3

For about a month in 2002, J002E was discovered and thought to be an asteroid. It was found to be orbiting Earth, which was unusual because the only large object to do that is, well, the Moon.

Then NASA did some measurements and concluded that it was a man-made object. J002E3, it turned out, was the third stage of the Saturn V rocket from November 1969. The rocket helped launch Pete Conrad, Alan Bean, and Richard Gordon on the Moon landing mission of Apollo 12. When he reached the Moon’s surface, Conrad famously said: “Whoopie! Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but that’s a long one for me.”

Read more about the history of J002E3 here.

Multitasking Considered Harmful?

Psychology professor Anthony Wagner:

In about half of the studies, the heavy media multitaskers are significantly underperforming on tasks of working memory and sustained attention. The other half are null results; there’s no significant difference. It strikes me as pretty clear that there is a negative relationship between media multitasking and memory performance – that high media multitasking is associated with poor performance on cognitive memory tasks. There’s not a single published paper that shows a significant positive relationship between working memory capacity and multitasking.

Study Arabic Sometime

From “Why Arabic Is Terrific”:

Nearly all Arabic words consist of a three-consonant root slotted into a pattern of vowels and helper consonants. The root gives the word its base meaning, while the pattern modifies this meaning in a systematic and predictable way. This idea is so cool that you’d think it came from a constructed language, and yet Arabic has actual native speakers who live completely normal lives and will not try to talk to you about Runescape.

For example, the pattern ma--a-, where the hyphens are placeholders for three root consonants, is nearly always a place name in Arabic. The pattern  i-a-a-a generates a verb meaning “to cause someone to do X”, where the meaning of X is determined by that three-consonant root.

Apple Store Cotai Central Macau Grand Opening Video Tour

A few days ago, on July 29th, 2018, we happened to be around the city of Macau. By chance, a new Apple Store was to be opened right next door to our hotel.

The doors were opened by 6 PM, and it was quite surprising to see the long queue and the huge crowds at the entrance. I had visited a different Apple Store about 30 minutes of walk from this one the previous day, and the difference in vibe and noise were glaring.

Fortunately, it didn’t take long before the queue shortened, and we eagerly joined. Here’s my video of the event:

The store features a 1 mm thick marble layer on the outside of the second floor, as well as bamboo plants outside and outside.

In all honesty the event feels kind of awkward to me, with all the cheering and excitement even during the queue before entering. It feels a bit funny to see people getting excited about all the products here in such a crowded place, while there’s a better option just 30 minutes away. Still, it is a one-of-a-kind event and I’m happy to be able to experience it.

The video was taken with an iPhone 8 with the DJI Osmo Mobile 2 gimbal.

Can’t Pass Down the Cloud

The leather notebook is a combo of a lot of things. It’s lyrics from songs, and it’s turned into a weird kind of diary for me, and I keep my to-do list in it. My sister gave it to me as a gift. She makes fun of me because I’m on my phone all the time. She said when I’m writing songs I should write them in a book, because when I’m older I won’t want to go back and look at my notes on the cloud, I’ll want a physical thing. That resonated with me. You’re not going to want to pass down your cloud to your kids. It’s just nice to have something physical to write in.

B-Roc, from electronic duo The Knocks.

Getting out of the Dopamine Seeking-Reward Loop

Continuing the theme of reducing smartphone usage, I came across an article that explains about the dopamine seeking-reward loop. What it is saying, in essence, is that dopamine is the neurotransmitter that’s responsible in causing us to want, seek out, and search out for something. The thing is that the dopamine wanting system does not come with a sort of satiation criteria, so it’s possible to get trapped in the continuous cycle of seeking for new things, smartphone addiction for example.

This system apparently is also specifically sensitive to cues about incoming rewards: so things like new notification pings or comments icon. I’d say that seeing new content peeking from the bottom while scrolling through my Instagram feed is a type of cue, too. This is probably an area where setting a phone to grayscale might help, to reduce the amount of sensory attraction these cues are creating for our mind, so while the notification dot will still be there, at least it’s now a muted gray instead of screaming “read-me-now” red.

The end of the article comes with a suggestion on how to break the loop:

Can you get out of the loop? —  The combination of dopamine release in the brain plus a conditioned response with motor movement (the swipe with finger or thumb), makes this dopamine loop hard to stop. One way you can get some control is to create a counter-movement — a physical movement you do that becomes its own conditioned response. For example, my counter movement conditioned response is that when I realize I’m in a dopamine loop I immediately press the home button and place the phone face side down. If you can come up with a physical movement that becomes a conditioned response you can at least break the dopamine seeking-reward loop once it has started.

 

Grayscale Phone

I recently read something about using the accessibility feature on a phone to turn everything grayscale, in an effort to combat addiction:

I’ve been gray for a couple days, and it’s remarkable how well it has eased my twitchy phone checking, suggesting that one way to break phone attachment may be to, essentially, make my phone a little worse. We’re simple animals, excited by bright colors, it turns out.

Silicon Valley companies like Facebook and Google know this, and they have increasingly been turning to the field of applied neuroscience to see how exactly brains respond to color in the apps, what brings pleasure and what keeps the eye. New research shows how important color is to our understanding of priorities and emotion.

I use my phone a lot, so this idea is interesting to me. Today’s the second day I’m setting my phone to grayscale (it’s a Samsung S7 Edge, and the option is in Settings > Accessibility > Vision, then toggle the “Grayscale” option).

I’m planning to do this for a month to see how it goes. Some quick impressions:

  • This makes my phone feels more minimalist, and I somehow like it,
  • Things are less enticing to buy when you see a catalog on the phone in grayscale,
  • Most of what I do on phone is reading, and text being in grayscale doesn’t really change much,
  • It makes it harder to upload pictures to Instagram because I don’t know if the picture will look good on it.

So far I haven’t really noticed a decrease of usage because of the color setting; I do consciously do other things to reduce phone usage, but I don’t know if this hack is helping or not yet.