Wednesday, March 25, 2009

My sister's book

I thought that I would give a shameless plug for Melanie Mitchell, my sister, who has just published a book. My sister is a professor of computer science at Portland State University. I am reading her book now, still not quite finished with the book, I am about two-thirds of the way through it. I must confess it is somewhat technical and because of my disability and the generally difficult time I am going through I am having some trouble understanding all of it. I thought I would write about it in spite of this fact. Her book deals with the subject of complexity or how simple interactions among a myraid of individuals or indivual things can produce complex systems, such as how ants forage for food, how neurons in the brain interact to produce consciousness, etc. Scientists are very good at predicting simple things, like the velocity at which a bullet travels from a gun and the impact that it can have by simple equations. Other phenomena, such as weather prediction, the stock market, are much harder to predict because they involve the complex interactions of many entities. Melanie's book details how scientists study this phenomena.

Melanie also talks about research she has done in trying to teach computers how to be more human like by teaching them analogies, such as if abc___> abe what would fgh_____> be, things like that, except somewhat more complex type of analogies.

She also gives historical background on various physicists and mathematicians going back to the 17th century to near the present day, Isaac Newton to John Von Neuman.

What is especially interesting to me is the implications it could have for possibly studying the brain and maybe helping to find some real answers to autism and related neurologic conditions.

Another reason that I thought I would post about this is that two of the looniest looney tunes in the neurodiversity movement, Phil Gluyas and Clay Adams, have claimed that the reason that I long for a prevention and cure for autism is that I had a terrible mother who taught me to hate myself. They went on to say abusive and derogatory things about my mother in various forums. I realize that no rational person would take either of these two wingnuts seriously. However, after seeing what my sister accomplished and the book that she has written, if anything this should suggest my mother was exemplary in raising a child who has become the eminent scientist that my sister is.

Portland and Los Angeles are about a thousand miles away from each other so I don't get to see my sister and her family very often. My sister is married and has two sons. My brother-in-law is a ph.d. physicist, his younger brother is also a ph.d. physicist as is their father. Neither of my nephews has autism and I am fairly certain there is no family history of autism in my brother-in-law's family. This provides evidence against the absurd arguments of Temple Grandin and Simon Baron-Cohen that autism should not be eradicated because it is responsible for the genes that produce these scientists as well as their equally absurd claims that autism is necessary for invention and civilization. I discuss this in more detail in in an essay I wrote

1 comment:

SM69 said...

Hi Jonathan

I think your sister’s books looks absolutely fascinating, this is just the sort of subject I love to think about and since I have just been getting poetry from Amazon just a few minutes ago, something I highly recommend too, because of the incredible beauty and powerfulness of words in the event of war.

Brian Turner, Here Bullet, a book of poetry written whilst in Iraq.

Anyhow, I am now ordering your sister’s book too.

Regarding the other comment you made, it seems that Asperger and HFA traits runs often in the family but not at all with regard to regressive and more severe autism.