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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Do computers reduce brain power, Corrupt Officials and benefits of running after bride

Writer and journalist Nicholas Carr has built a career covering the economy, culture and technology in numerous articles and books such as "The Big Switch: Rewiring the World from Edison to Google." Carr's latest book is titled, "The Shallows" and it's raising eyebrows - and in some cases, voices. The reason can be found in the book's sub-heading: "What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains," and from Carr's point of view, the answer isn't reassuring.

"What the 'net does, by being such a distraction machine, is it emphasizes that skimming, rapid fire approach to collecting and processing information," Carr says. "But what it de-emphasizes is all the ways of thinking that require attentiveness, concentration."

Carr says, the Internet is like a machine that does one thing very well: it pumps out information in all sorts of forms and in ever-growing volume, encouraging users to skip and skim among it for bits of information. In modern parlance, multi-tasking.

There are two problems with such multi-tasking, says Carr. The first is the quality of work: researchers he quotes suggest the brain is simply not able to handle several different tasks at the same time, so with every flip from task to task, it has to recall the problem, remember where it was, and try to finish the problem. All those flips take time and energy, and may result in poorer overall performance than if each task were finished before moving on.

The second problem is deeper: the quality of thought. "The brain is adaptable...very plastic," Carr says, meaning that it's able to adapt to a wide variety of demands and situations. But the Internet, with all its hyperlinks, widgets and multimedia interruptions, demands people to have shorter and shorter attention spans.

Carr's book is generating a great deal of debate and dissension. Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker is one of many who argue Carr makes too much of the dangers of multi-tasking, and also overlooks the many benefits the Internet provides, such as cataloging, storing and retrieving almost any bit of information instantaneously.

"Knowledge is increasing exponentially," Pinker wrote recently in the New York Times. "The Internet and information technologies are helping us manage, search, and retrieve our collective intellectual output at different scales, from Twitter and previews to e-books and online encyclopedias. Far from making us stupid, these technologies are the only things that will keep us smart."

In India, <1500 Corrupt Officials Under Prosecution!


A total of 1,483 central and state government officers were charged with corruption from 2008 till now, with those from the finance ministry heading the list, parliament was told Wednesday.

A total of 586 officers were charged under the Prevention of Corruption Act in 2008, 645 in 2009 and 252 till June this year, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Prithviraj Chavan said in the Lok Sabha.

The minister was answering Bhoopendra Singh who wanted details of chargesheets filed against government officials before the courts after seeking sanction under the 1988 legislation.

Details of chargesheet for the three years saw departments in the finance ministry head the table.

In 2008, charges were filed against 89 officers of the Customs and Central Excise in the finance ministry followed by Government of National Capital (NCT) Region (66) and ministry of railways (53).

Officials from the finance ministry's banking, income tax, insurance and revenue and others accounted for 76 more chargesheet.

In 2009, 138 officers from the banking division of the finance ministry were charged under the Prevention of Corruption Act, followed by ministry of railways (60) and Customs and Central Excuse (44).

The ministry of communications also accounted for 44 cases, followed by income tax (35), Govt of NCT (32), revenue (29) and insurance (28).

The figures for banking department in the finance ministry again topscored in 2010 with 59 chargesheets followed by ministry of railways (27) as well as ministry of communications and customs and central excise at 15 each.

Running After Brides? May You Live Longer!


Men who face plenty of competition to find a mate have slightly shorter lives than those who don't. New research shows that gender imbalance, when men outnumber women, affects male longevity by an average of about three months.

The study is published in the journal . "If you're having a hard time finding a mate, it winds up affecting your body and how long you live," said Professor Nicholas Christakis, of Harvard Medical School. Three months may not seem like much, he added, but it is comparable to the effects of taking a daily aspirin, or engaging in moderate exercise. "A 65-year-old man is typically expected to live another 15.4 years. Removing three months from this block of time is significant," he explained.

Christakis and scientists from Northwestern University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Chinese University of Hong Kong found that the more imbalanced the ratio of men to women, the more pronounced the effect was.

The researchers studied data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, which tracked the long-term health of 4,183 men who graduated from Wisconsin high schools in 1957, and information about more than 7 million men enrolled in Medicare, the government medical program for the elderly.

After calculating the gender ratios for each high school class they noticed that 50 years later men from classes with more boys than girls did not live as long as those from more balanced classes. Although they do not know what could explain the discrepancy, the researchers suspect it is due to social and biological factors, including the stress of finding a partner in a competitive environment.

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