The Autodidacts

Exploring the universe from the inside out

Autodidacts Newsletter #19

For the past year or more, one of the Autodidacts has been thinking way too much about the philosophy of profanity —  and has just finished a somewhat excessive exploration of the topic. Behold,  “Swearing is Dumb” (except when it isn’t):

Swearing is Dumb
A caveat before we get started: this essay will hopefully apply to people at least vaguely like me; it may not apply to people from different cultural backgrounds. These days swearing seems almost ubiquitous, especially among my generation, and especially on the internet. Let’s stop and ponder:…

And even more philosophical navel-gazing:

Thinking You Are a Genius is a Handicap
Thinking you’re a genius can be quite a handicap. People who believe they’re geniuses tend to be obnoxious to be around — especially if their belief is unfounded, which it often is. And having a negative impact on other people has a negative impact on oneself. The relational drawbacks

As promised, we have two extremely dull tech articles. I spend so much time trying to keep this blog running on the cheap, I have to share what I’ve learned to recoup the losses. Don’t worry, the Ghost on Fly tutorial infestation will be brought under control eventually…

We don’t have any new neuroscience content, and haven’t for some time. But we do have a neuroscience question.

Has anyone used EEG to study the differences between writing with your right hand, and writing with your left hand?

One of the Autodidacts (right-handed) has taught himself to scrawl cursive backwards with his non-dominant hand, which makes the brain hurt.

A few curious facts:

  1. The right hemisphere controls the left side of the body, and the left hemisphere controls the right side of the body. We think. Mostly?
  2. Pop science claims the right hemisphere of the brain tends to be more creative and visual, and the left hemisphere more verbal and logical. (This idea seems to derive from Roger W. Sperry’s research, and may well be fake news (Nielsen et al, 2013).)
  3. There are some bizarre experiments on people with severed corpus callosums.
  4. Leonardo da Vinci is believed to have been left-handed, and wrote from right to left. He is also generally considered to have been a creative genius.

So, was the fact he wrote and drew mainly with his left hand (though he was likely ambidextrous) a coincidence?

(More n=1 speculation by random bloggers... yay, just what we needed!)

I’m curious:

  1. Does any objective measure indicate that left-handed people are more creative?
  2. Can a right-handed person become more creative by using their left hand, and placing their work in their left visual field? Does that change the content or style of what is written?
  3. Finally, does ambidexterity have creative benefits?

For good measure, I’m typing the final paragraphs of this newsletter with my right eye closed. I’ll edit it with my left eye closed. (Edit: It isn’t the left eye that feeds into the right hemisphere; it’s the left half of the visual field of both eyes. No wonder this didn’t work…)

Cursory investigation surfaces a few not particularly stunning studies (C.W.N.F. Che Wan Fadzal et al, 2012; Sardesai et al, 2016) that show EEG changes between writing with the right and left hand; but the electrodes used were right over the motor cortex, so that’s not surprising. What about the rest of the brain? What about the difference between left-handed writing by right-handed people, and left-handed writing by left-handed people? Many questions remain unanswered. (Of course, if the whole left-brain right-brain dichotomy is bunk, all this thinking aloud is barrelling toward a dead end…)

If you have thoughts or research to share — hit reply! I don’t want to re-invent the wheel — or geocentrism.

That’s all for now.

The Autodidacts