Monthly Archives: October 2010

Need a study break to refresh? Maybe not, say Stanford researchers

“If you think of willpower as something that’s biologically limited, you’re more likely to be tired when you perform a difficult task,” said Veronika Job, the paper’s lead author. “But if you think of willpower as something that is not easily depleted, you can go on and on.”

Job, who conducted her research at Stanford and is now a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Zurich, co-authored the paper with Stanford psychology Professor Carol Dweck and Assistant Professor Greg Walton.

The researchers designed a series of four experiments to test and manipulate Stanford students’ beliefs about willpower. After a tiring task, those who believed or were led to believe that willpower is a limited resource performed worse on standard concentration tests than those who thought of willpower as something they had more control over.

They also found that leading up to final exam week, students who bought into the limited resource theory ate junk food 24 percent more often than those who believed they had more control in resisting temptation. The limited resource believers also procrastinated 35 percent more than the other group.

“The theory that willpower is a limited resource is interesting, but it has had unintended consequences,”

Guess I’ve got to start working harder…


Bumblebees on UK pollination ‘rescue mission’ die in hibernation

An “international rescue mission” to tackle Britain’s pollination crisis has suffered a setback after a shipment of bees due to be imported into the country died just days before their release.

Natural England, the government’s countryside agency, chose the short-haired bumblebees from New Zealand because they were originally from the UK, but have since become extinct in their homeland.

But less than two weeks before the selected bees were due to be flown over and released on Friday, scientists say they have died in hibernation.

This seems odd. The bees are originally from England. The only reason they’re in New Zealand is because people managed to transport the bees there back in the 19th century. If we can’t do today what our ancestors managed over a hundred years ago, what does that say about us?

Bees’ tiny brains beat computers, study finds

Bees can solve complex mathematical problems

The article is short on details, but the general claim is that bees can solve the traveling salesman problem, which basically says, given a set of destinations, find the shortest route that visits each of them. For bees the destinations are flowers, and researchers were apparently surprised at how fast the bees could solve the problem. Beyond that we’ll have to wait for the original paper; the Guardian article’s details stop there. Specifically, it doesn’t exactly say that the bees solve the problem faster than computers do (or which computers they’re talking about, or how many bees, or… scholarly writing it ain’t)

A puzzle variant

Ricochet Robot is a great game by Alex Randolph. In it you move robots around, bouncing them off each other to reach various goals. Lunar Lockout and Pete’s Pike are two puzzles with similar gameplay created by Hiroshi Yamamoto. The only difference between them is that Ricochet Robot has a wall surrounding the outside edge of the board and internal barriers. 

This puzzle is similar to both, but the pieces are bigger relative to the grid they travel on (2×2). The goal is to get one of them to cover the center square, marked in orange. Here is a simple puzzle:


For those who haven’t tried the previous puzzle/games, the green pieces can only move left-right/up-down, and once they start moving they can’t stop until they hit another piece. You are disallowed from losing any pieces off the edge of the board. So for example, the piece in the lower left can’t start by moving up; he would go straight up and off the board. Likewise the piece overlapping the goal can’t move at all initially; left, right, up or down, there is nothing to block him. 

Here is a slightly more difficult puzzle:


Here’s another medium one:


I think perhaps the board needs to be larger to create really difficult puzzles, but I just read that Lunar Lockout started with a much larger board, but they eventually figured out how to create much more difficult puzzles on just a 5×5 board, so I’m going to keep trying with this board size for a bit. I’d appreciate any feedback on how hard these three are.

Wisconsin GOP lieutenant governor candidate declares, “I am a dumbass.”

Wisconsin Republican lieutenant governor candidate Rebecca Kleefisch, diagnosed with cancer a month ago, touts the treatments she received under her state-subsidized insurance plan at the same time she rails against government-run health care in a new television ad.

Not taking a side in the socialized vs. private health care debate but this is just stupid. If you are receiving medical care due to a government-run program — medicare, medicaid, or other programs — then don’t be stupid enough to criticize the very program you depend on. If you think it shouldn’t exist, then do the honorable thing, the ethical thing, and pay your own medical expenses. In short, don’t be a twit.