Updated: 1/1/2006; 9:01:51 AM.
Bruce Landon's Weblog for Students
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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Finding Open options An Open Source software evaluation model with a case study on Course Management Systems
Master Thesis by Karin van den Berg ... "In order to test this model on real Open Source software, a case study was performed on Course Management Systems. In this case study the model is applied on a candidate list of 36 systems, and evaluation is performed on the top two systems found in the selection step. This evaluation led to a clear conclusion. The best system in this evaluation is the Course Management System called Moodle. The results of the case study are consistent with real life performance of the Course Management Systems." thanks to Scott Leslie for the link to this interesting evaluation model -- BL

5:46:21 PM    comment

Brain structures 'tune in' to rhythms to coordinate activity.

Different brain regions working together may coordinate by locking into an oscillation frequency the way a radio tuner locks into a station, report researchers from the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT in the Nov. 15 issue of the journal PLoS (Public Library of Science) Biology. The brain's electrical activity is displayed in the form of brain waves. When we are focused attentively on a speaker, for instance, brain waves called theta rhythms oscillate in sync throughout our brains. Other rhythms are prominent when we are resting or involved in intense mental activity.

[Science Blog -]
12:10:26 PM    comment

Hooked on the Web: Help Is on the Way. Specialists estimate that 6 percent to 10 percent of the approximately 189 million Internet users in this country have Internet addictions. By SARAH KERSHAW. [NYT > Technology]
8:34:54 AM    comment

Lectures in the palm of your hand - Laura Heinauer, American Statesman. Think those college kids jogging around with white iPod wires hanging out of their ears are listening to music? Think again. In this age of podcasting, there's just as good a chance that the kid you assumed was jamming to Coldplay is actually catching up [Online Learning Update]
8:31:58 AM    comment

Science Makes Sex Obsolete. One of the most primal human activities -- making babies -- moves from the bedroom to the petri dish and beyond. Brian Alexander reports on the future of reproductive technologies. Part three of a three-part series. [Wired News]
8:30:27 AM    comment

Learning to identify musical style.

Listen to these two short music clips.

Music Clip 1
Music Clip 2

Now, can you identify the musical style of each clip?

If you said “Classical,” you’re technically only correct for the first clip. The second clip is actually in the Romantic style (bonus points for identifying the works and composers in the comments!). While both are examples of the classical genre, classical music is also divided into styles corresponding roughly to historical periods: Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Post-Romantic. Traditionally, only trained musicians have been regarded as being able to easily distinguish between these styles.

But is that ability merely due to musicians’ familiarity with individual musical compositions, or is there something about the underlying structure of the music that enables musicians to tell the difference more readily than non-musicians? If the musical structure accounts for the difference, then can non-musicians easily be trained to recognize it, or is extensive musical training required?

Simone Dalla Bella and Isabelle Peretz found an innovative way to address those questions. Simply playing clips like the ones above gives trained musicians an unfair advantage, because they are more likely to be familiar with the specific musical composition. Instead, the researchers had a professional composer write four new compositions in each of the four major styles of classical music. They analyzed each piece for musical similarities and differences, and then played them for three different groups of volunteers: non-musicians familiar with Western music (Canadian college students); trained musicians familiar with Western music (music students at the University of Montreal); and non-musicians unfamiliar with Western music (exchange students from China who had spent less than two years in Canada).

They played the clips, about 30 seconds long each, in pairs. Participants were asked to rate each pair on a scale for similarity, with 1 being “very different” and 7 being “very similar.” If training offered a special advantage, then Western musicians should more be able to more readily observe the differences between different musical styles. Further, they should rate music that comes from more distant historical periods as more different than non-musicians. Here are the results:

As you can see, Western musicians did identify the most differences between styles, but even non-Western non-musicians were able to successfully see larger differences between styles that were more historically distant.

A deeper analysis of the data found that all participants were using the same musical criterion to distinguish between styles: the variation in duration of notes, which was measured in two ways. First, the researchers measured the length of each note in a composition and then calculated the standard deviation of this length (a range around the average note length in which most notes fell) — the larger this measure, the more variation in note length occurred. Next, they measured the variability of the difference in length between neighboring notes. Again, the larger this measure, the more variability between notes. The similarity ratings of experts and novices alike correlated strongly to these two measures.

Western musicians with extensive musical training did rely to a certain extent on tonal differences, but even without this training, non-musicians can easily identify different musical styles. So it appears that everyone can discern the differences between musical styles with a minimum of training.

Dalla Bella, S., & Peretz, I. (2005). Differentiation of classical music requires little learning but rhythm. Cognition, 96, B65-B78.

[Cognitive Daily]
8:24:16 AM    comment

Judge Voids BlackBerry Settlement. The maker of the BlackBerry handheld thought it had settled a patent-infringement suit for about $450 million. A court ruling Wednesday may end up costing Research in Motion closer to a cool billion. [Wired News]
8:08:17 AM    comment

Specialized neurons allow the brain to focus on novel sounds.

A team of Spanish and American neuroscientists has discovered neurons in the mammalian brainstem that focus exclusively on new, novel sounds, helping humans and other animals ignore ongoing, predictable sounds. These "novelty detector neurons" quickly stop firing if a sound or sound pattern is repeated, but will briefly resume firing whenever some aspect of the sound changes, according to Ellen Covey, one of the authors of the study and a psychology professor at the University of Washington. The neurons can detect changes in the pitch, loudness or duration of a single sound and can even detect changes in the pattern of a complex series of sounds, she said.

[Science Blog -]
8:06:24 AM    comment

Skype 2.0 Adds Video. [Slashdot] on the way to 2-way TV

8:04:42 AM    comment

"A great deal has been written online about the Moodle software, much in the form of advocacy and more in the form of case studies. Readers wanting an overview may want to view Mira Vogel's slide presentation Using VLEs effectively: Goldsmiths' Experience or the Imperial County Office of Education's Moodle Overview. In a nutshell, what attracts educators to Moodle is not merely that it is free, but that Moodle's design is explicitly informed by a social constructionist pedagogy, an approach that emphasizes interaction over content." by Stephen Downes -- good overview with links  -- BL

8:00:25 AM    comment

© Copyright 2006 Bruce Landon.
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