Thursday, 20 November 2014

Resurrection of Blog - Reason number 1 : Weather Forecasts

Three things have moved me to resurrect this blog today which has not been posted on since February this year. It's not that I have not been "moved" (insert as appropriate - shocked, angry, happy, joyful,thankful, grateful, upset, furious, insensed ) for the last 9 months because believe me, I have. But the rapidly diminishing brain cells have often prevented me writing it down. 
The other blogs / pages that I post are specific to a theme so that leaves me with Write-Place to, well, write other stuff. I have checked back to the original gumph of what I said in 2008 that I intended posting on it and am pleased to be reminded that I said almost anything was appropriate, so here we are. 

I was brought up in a family culture that listened to and discussed the weather forecasts on the radio and then television and "lighting up time" was noted faithfully. Not that we ever had a car but cycling was an important means of transport. By the time I was 5 years old I was well versed even in the shipping areas of Dogger, Forties, Fastnet and Fair Isle though I doubt I could place them accurately now. Living on the coast and my father being a draughtsman at the shipyard I suppose added to the relevance for us. 


Recently I've noticed that the weather reporters are talking a lot about what the weather "should be" for the time of year. I have to admit here that I have heard this often on the BBC weather forecasts, but also on ITV and Channel 4  (my admittance here is that yes, I do still watch the BBC even though I have stated a number of times that I am boycotting it. If I didn't watch then I would have less to complain about / discuss and that wouldn't be a good thing for blogging purposes)


I do like this smiley, friendly lady - Carol I think her name is - but I wish she would explain who it is that decides what the weather "should" be. In August it was colder than it should be for quite a few days and over the past couple of months we have been told that it has been much warmer than it should be for Autumn. It's not as if we can reasonably say when it's Spring or Summer with all the talk of climate change and global warming. I've heard people saying "we have four seasons in one day"and they are not far wrong. But what it should be like, surely isn't what can be said about weather, no matter what it is.

So I have got this matter openly aired. 
I started writing this post this morning then was sidetracked with other things. As I finish it at around 7pm, the news and forecasters are reporting on the snowdrifts and arctic temperatures in north east of United States. At least one newspaper is saying that these conditions will be with us in Britain by next week. 
Ice and snow in November. That's not what it should be like till next month, is it ? 





Monday, 10 February 2014

So, You Think You Remember Your Past ?

Is your memory bad ?  Well, it's actually worse than you think, it seems.
 A study by researchers at Northwestern University, Chicago shows that our memory is a poor way of recording events.

Maybe  a better way is to film and photograph every detail of every experience that we have over a lifetime so that we can check back that what we think happened, really did. 
Some of us are well on the way to that scenario already. There's hardly a holiday, birthday, day out with friends or visit to the supermarket that is not photographed, Instagramed and voice recorded to be then "shared" on social media sites to every corner of the globe, almost in real time. We have hardly had time to digest and internalise the event or our feelings about it before it's out there, a record in quite a lot of detail, for all time. Or for as long as we have the current equipment to watch and listen to it. I am as guilty as the next person for this of course and often wonder if there are some things that are better just remembered as best we can without the physical evidence to go with it.

But it seems not. The study has found that the mind rewrites the past with current information and updates recollections with new experiences. This editing happens in the hippocampus, working as the memory’s version of a film editor or special effects team. It does this to help us survive by adapting within constantly changing environments and to encourage us to focus on things that are important in the present.
I'm all for anything which helps me focus, so am pleased that this is apparently going on in my very own brain - without me even knowing. And in your's too.
The team also concluded from the results that this raises questions over the reliability of eyewitness court testimony.  I can see the importance here, but am beginning to wonder about the happy childhood I had in which it was either gloriously sunny and warm or thick snow in which it was a joy to roll about and get soaked in, with a perfectly controlled thermostat for comfort.




The researchers needed to look at the exact point in time when incorrectly recorded information was implanted into an existing memory 
Participants were asked to study objects located on a computer screen with different backgrounds, such as an underwater  scene or a view of countryside. They were then asked to place the object in the original location but on a new background screen. In each attempt it was noted they would always place it in an incorrect location. Then they were shown the same object but in three locations on the original screen and asked to choose the correct location from three options: the place they originally saw the object, the location they chose to place it in or a brand new location.
They always put the object in the location they choose during the second part of the task, which suggests that their memory had changed to reflect the location they recalled on the new background screen. 
(Are you still with me, here ?) 
Lead author of the report Donna Jo Bridge at Northwestern University explains it better -
"This shows their original memory of the location has changed to reflect the location they recalled on the new background screen. Their memory has updated the information by inserting the new information into the old memory.  Our memory is not like a video camera. Your memory reframes and edits events to create a story to fit your current world. It's built to be current.”
These findings have implications for the way we recall key events in our lives, she says.
"When you think back to when you met your current partner, you may recall this feeling of love and euphoria. You call it  'love at first sight' but you may be projecting your current feelings back to the original encounter with this person."

Now this would account for a lot of  my 'recollections' that are, as it turns out, probably more extreme than the original memory. It puts a whole new perspective on the 'looking through rose tinted spectacles' idea, too. Presumably it works both ways and the bad things perhaps weren't as bad as I remember, as well as the good not being quite so.  I'm keeping my phone, tablet, camera and anything else that records sound and images fully charged and at the ready at all times though. 
I wouldn't want to have a whole stock of memories that are nothing more than embellishments of my over active imagination. 

Study published in The Journal of Neuroscience