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Solving (my) Sleeping Problems

(picture: CC BY-SA 2.0)

Disclaimer: In this post I am not indending to solve most of the sleeping problems, nor am I qualified to do so. I merely describe what worked for me to solve some of my, very particular, problem.

I have never had sleeping problems in the classical sense:  I fall asleep when I lie down in the bed and I don’t wake up until I have slept enough. But for a long time I couldn’t make myself wake up when I wanted:

  • I would almost never wake up earlier than an hour after I had decided to wake up,
  • If I had to be somewhere in the morning I would never wake up before it is too late: I would come late and never have time for breakfast, let alone do anything else that I would plan.
  • I couldn’t predict when I am going to wake up even if I didn’t have to wake up at any particular time.

Needless to say this greatly reduced my productivity and control over my timeRead more

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From Mathematics to Art: an interview with Tuomas Tuomiranta

Mathematicians know that mathematics is beautiful, but they have hard time explaining to others why is it so. In fact, most of the time they give up on this task. My friend Tuomas Tuomiranta hasn’t. I met Tuomas at the University of Helsinki when we both studied mathematics around 10 years ago. Several years later it came to me as a surprise to find out that he became a visual artist! In 2010 Tuomas had created simulations of liquid dynamics based on the Navier-Stoke’s and turned them into artistic animations. Another one was based on the theory of conformal mappings in the complex plane – a common topic at the University of Helsinki. Some links:

Tuomas Tuomiranta was Read more

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What is artificial intelligence today?

I was invited to give a presentation to a group of politicians, some of which are members of Finnish Parliament, today, at the Finnish Parliament Annex building (Pikkuparlamentti). Here is my visitor’s batch:

Visitor’s batch to the Finnish Parliament

My job was to inform them about what artificial intelligence Read more

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Mathemat-ART-ical Fract-ART Augumented with Deep Learning

I am fascinated by the combinations of mathematics and art for several reasons; one reason is that it is so difficult to show the beauty of mathematics to non-experts. As a mathematician I am often frustrated that my work cannot be understood by many people that are important to me. Using mathematics to create Read more

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Not enough time? Use these 9 tips today to generate hours of extra time.

What would you do, if you had 20 to 30 extra hours a week? What would you do if you could save an extra 30 hours this week? Time is often like money. We wish to have a lot of it, but once we do, we don’t know what to do with it, get bored and […]

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On the Freedom to Do What We (Truly) Want [Guest-post]

A guest post by Dom from Mindcoolness

When I studied cognitive science in Vienna I met Dom. A bodybuilder, power lifter, fighter, philosopher, a blogger and now a cognitive scientist (a cool combination, huh?) he has been an inspiration for me ever since. I am truly happy we became friends. In his blog and podcast at www.mindcoolness.com he explores discipline and will power. Ever had troubles keeping a routine? Losing weight? Can’t control impulsive behaviour? Or don’t know what you truly want? Then Dom’s blog is definitely worth checking out. I also sincerely recommend reading his book Will Power Condenced which I had the honour to proof read before publishing. If you like his stuff, also follow him on twitter (@mindcoolnessTHIS is a guest post by Dom. I asked him to explain the paradox: Why does freedom sometimes involve doing things we do not want to do? Read more

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On Fractal Music, Fourier Analysis and Fat Cantor Sets.

Two weeks ago Adam Neely published a mind blowing video where he introduces fractal music. This is a perfect topic for my blog as well, because it is a mixture between science and art, and this is what Bats and Seahorses is mainly after (apart from the related topic of how to lead a creative life whether in science or art). Before jumping into mathematcs, first of all, here is the video:

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Knot ornaments out of Penrose tiling

Knots generated out of the Penrose tiling

(Scroll down for more pics!)

I played around a little bit with generating the Penrose tiling and especially how to get knot ornaments out of it. I used algorithm explained at preshing.com as a basis. It generates the Penrose tiling by subdividing triangles. It has two types of triangles which are labeled red and blue and they are subdivided like this:

Image from preshing.com

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The Easiest Way to Increase Your Reading Speed

What gets measured gets managed. Tim Ferriss tells in his book 4-hour-body about a guy who lost a significant part of weight by only measuring his weight. If there is a single thing in which our brains are notoriously outstanding, it is optimisation. Namely finding ways to increase (or decrease) a given parameter. Instead of trying to consciously make lists of things that may or may not help you read faster (posture?, light?, elimination of distractions?, Googling unknown words – yes or no?, door – closed or open?, tea?, how do I put my PDF-reader into full-screen mode?…)…. instead just measure the parameter you want to optimise: time. When I need to read an article fast, I take time with a stopwatch how much time it takes to read each page. The more I do it, the faster and more focused I read. I use my phone’s Read more

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The Power of Isolation

Last week I was sick. I had stomach pain so that I couldn’t eat or move much, but I was not prevented from thinking or writing. This meant that I isolated myself for several days from my day-to-day work: seminars, lectures and research-related meetings and was able to concentrate on a handful of thought-requiring projects. I believe this is how Stephen Hawking feels at the best of his times. What happened is that one of the projects that I have long considered to be one of my main ones progressed more than for a long time. It is paradoxical, because I have engaged in the project once in a while, even engaging other people with it. But it required a thorough thinking session on my side in order to get momentum. That’s not surprising given that I am a mathematician and this project is partly a mathematical one (partly cognitive science), but I believe that most big projects require a period of isolation. When you isolate yourself in order to work on a particular project, you go deep into the state of mind in which you think only about it. You get into a state of flow which is ‘flowing’ within the context of that project. If you do it once, say for a week, then it will be easier later to get back to the same state whenever you want and you will be able to focus even for short periods of time on the same thing.  In the modern world, taking such breaks is a dozen times more important, because we live in the state of an informational overflow. Another benefit is that you are not allowed to do anything else. Professor Wolf Singer told me, that he has Read more

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An Interactive Animation Visualising a Group Isomorphism

An interactive animation programmed in JavaScript illustrating the isomorphism from the quotient of the additive groups of reals by intergers Latex formula to the unit circle on the complex plane Latex formula defined by the formula:

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How to Tackle the Difficulty to Start

The difficulty to start may be one of the biggest setbacks in achieving almost anything in life. You sit down to write the first chapter of your book. You are bothered by some items on your desk, so you clean that first. Then you put some music on. No, but you can’t concentrate with this music, so you change the music. You adjust the brightness of your screen and then you check social media just in case. Then you think that maybe you should do something else instead, because writing a book may not pay off. You decide to stick to your plan, however, and write, but then you check how much time has passed and realise that you are actually thirsty….

Does this sound familiar? In my case it sometimes gets even worse. I used to start feeling guilt about Read more

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Ozora lecture submission

I submitted a proposal for a lecture to the Ozora festival. The lecture is supposed to cover the ways in which the contemporary cognitive science is able to tackle age old questions in the philosophy of mind. The exact content of the lecture is not yet fixed, but the range of topics includes:

  • What does cognitive science have to say about the Platonism/non-Platonism debate, i.e. do abstract concepts, such as mathematical ones, posses existence independent of humans or cognitive systems in general?
  • What can neuroscience tell us about the nature of experience, meaning and consciousness? Is having a powerful enough fMRI brain scanning techniques enough to understand the relationship between the mind and the body? Even if not, how can it help?
  • What is the enactivist-representationalist debate in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science, and how is it related to meditation, embodiment, even Buddhism and spirituality?
  • How can artificial intelligence, in particular artificial neural networks illuminate our understanding of meaning, emergence and consciousness? What are the limitations and the possibilities of the present day AI systems? What is the moral and ethical side of developing thinking (and feeling?) machines?

An inspirational animation with text from Rosch, E., Varela, F., & Thompson, E. (1991). The embodied mind. Cognitive Science and Human Experience:

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More on my Algebra teaching

What tricks do you use in your teaching or have found useful while studying? Comment below!

A couple of months ago I wrote about my eccentric first algebra lecture. I am lecturing Algebra I in this semester which is in fact split into two parts. The teaching methodology this course is being taught in (and has been taught a couple years before me) is already of interest to people outside of our department. I have additionally experimented with some extra stuff such as magic tricks and YouTube videos and below I summarise all that.

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Cognitive Science of Philosophy of Mathematics – workshop

Short motivation

What is mathematics? How is mathematics produced, understood and learned by the human brain? Do infinities exist or are they a product of our minds? Whether or not they exist, mathematicians’ minds can conceptualise infinity. What does this mean and how is this possible? Is mathematics limited and shaped by human brain and body or is it completely independent of the agent doing it? Would extraterrestrial aliens have the same mathematics as we do?

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The Forthcoming Movie Beauty and the Beast Sucks

UPDATE AFTER I SAW THE MOVIE: Are you kidding me? The beast has a six-pack and stuff. He is a hot macho who can jump from a roof-top to roof-top. In fact, when he transforms to the prince, he becomes less attractive. Even the beauty says: “you could grow a beard”! She says it to the prince after the transformation!!!!!! She misses the way the BEAST looked.  And that’s natural! Because he was cool and handsome. OKAY, his mouth was kind of ugly. I give them that. But hey… ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

The translation of the original story by  Madame de Villeneuve does not contain precise description of the Beast, but it tells so much that the beauty  “made a great effort to hide her horror” upon saluting him. The Russian version of the story Аленький цветочек contains the following description:

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The Kick-ass Value of Expert Advice

New: Don’t have time to read? Scroll down to watch a 1-minute summarising video instead.

Last Tuesday I was, as regularly, practising acrobatics in Sirkus Huima’s free exercise shift. Osmo Tammisalo who is, among other things, an expert acrobat happened to be there and he came to watch my back flip. He started giving me some advice and in the first ten minutes my back flip improved more than in the previous two months. After these ten minutes he said “perhaps it will help if you learn flic-flac first”. I was horrified. Flic-flac? I always thought it was extremely difficult, and considered it much more difficult and scarier than the back flip. But he insisted that I try to jump backwards… even if landing on my head (don’t worry, into a sea of pillows). And so I did. After 15 minutes of practice under his supervision, this was the result (video):

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Work as if there is no tomorrow

When I remember the projects which I got done relatively quickly and in which I succeeded “no matter what” one thing in common is that I constantly had the feeling that “I am almost there”. For example, it was December 2014 when I came up with the idea for the proof in my knot classification TAMSpaper. It felt as if the proof was complete in my head and the only thing I had to do was just to sit and write it down. So that’s what I did. I sat. And three months later it was done. Three months? Yes, three months. But every single day it felt like I am going to be done this evening. Read more

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Algebra Lectures and Motivation

This semester I am lecturing an introductory course to abstract algebra at the University of Helsinki where I work. For me this is an exercise in mathematics education and public speaking. This is the biggest audience I have ever had in a course: a little short of 200 students. In order to give an exciting first impression of the lectures and maximise future attendance I decided to give a somewhat flashy first lecture. I dressed up in a white suit a hat and a bright red scarf. I dedicated the first lecture to “intuition pumps” which were:

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Why Don’t I Eat For 3 Days?

Empty lunch (CC 3.0)

Empty lunch (CC 3.0)

I am in the middle of a three-day fast now. I haven’t eaten for more than 36 hours and there is a bit less than 36 hours to go. I am doing it together with a person whose identity will remain a mystery throughout this blog-post. The rules are: no calorie intake except for vitamin pills and exogenous ketones. So we can drink water and tea (without sugar). The main reason for me to start fasting is that I want to go on a ketogenic diet. Fasting is the easiest and fastest way to transition into nutritional ketosis.

  • Freedom from sugar addiction and a will power or a discipline challenge. These are what Dom highlights as the main benefits of the ketogenic diet. Same applies to fasting. Fasting requires even more discipline and will power than any diet, at least the first one or two days. To me quitting eating is comparable to quitting smoking which I experienced 16 months ago.

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