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Visual cortex training: coming to a baseball team near you


This is fun. Some neuroscience researchers at UC Riverside had the UCR Highlanders baseball team take part in an experiment aimed at sharpening the way their visual cortex processes stimuli. Specifically, they looked at patterns on cards called Gabor patches, designed to increase vision and perception. The results were dramatic. From the research abstract, published in Current Biology:

We applied this training program to the University of California Riverside (UCR) Baseball Team and assessed benefits using standard eye-charts and batting statistics. Trained players showed improved vision after training, had decreased strike-outs, and created more runs; and even accounting for maturational gains, these additional runs may have led to an additional four to five team wins. These results demonstrate real world transferable benefits of a vision-training program based on perceptual learning principles.

The study is explained more generally at the L.A. Times.

The big caveat to all of this: the measurement of how much the team improved was based on sabermetric analysis of the team’s performance compared to performance from the previous year, with researchers finding that “the Highlanders’ improvements exceeded what would be expected from simply maturing and playing additional games.” My suspicion is that variation and uncertainty in any projection/prediction of how a baseball team does — especially a college team, which has way less of a body of data behind it than big league teams — is pretty great. Maybe there was marked and significant improvement. But how much is probably extremely wide open given how inexact a science baseball projections represent compared to your average neurological research data.

Still: intriguing. If time with some pattern recognition exercises is truly effective, might time in the batting cage be cut a few minutes each day?

Curt Schilling is already getting clobbered by Elizabeth Warren in the 2018 senate race

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 27:  Former ESPN Analyst Curt Schilling talks about his ESPN dismissal and politics during SiriusXM's Breitbart News Patriot Forum hosted by Stephen K. Bannon and co-host Alex Marlow at the SiriusXM Studio on April 27, 2016 in New York, New York.  (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

I realize it’s early. I realize that we have one big election coming up in less than two weeks and that 2018 may as well be 2218 as far as the election is concerned. But it’s probably worth mentioning that, at the moment, Curt Schilling isn’t doing too well in the Massachusetts Senate race.

To be fair, he hasn’t officially declared himself a candidate yet. He said he has to get the OK from his wife first. But as a famous Massachusetts resident, it’s not like he needs to spend a lot of time working on the stuff just-declared candidates do. He’s got name recognition bleeding out of his socks. Which makes this somewhat sobering:

It’s been many, many years since I worked on a political campaign, but I feel qualified to give Schilling some advice: more memes. Post as many political memes on Facebook as Twitter as you can. It doesn’t even matter if they’re true as long as they feel true to you. Right now the important thing is to mobilize the base.

Yep, fire everyone up. They’ll certainly flock to you then. Good luck, Curt.

Max Scherzer should clean his own dang house

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 11:  Max Scherzer #31 of the Washington Nationals looks on against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the second inning during game four of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 11, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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I work from home, so I end up doing a lot more stuff around my house than the other three people who live here. I do all the laundry. I do most of the cooking. I’ve increasingly delegated chores to the kids, but they don’t do a great job of it and I end up going after them and doing it again. That’s probably a bad long term plan, really, for them and for me, but it’s just how it goes.

However that all cuts, the fact remains: if you leave your crap laying around, it’s going to get washed or tossed, depending on what it is. Don’t get all mad telling me that you were going to wear that shirt that’s currently in the washing machine. If it was clean, it shouldn’t have been wadded up on your floor. If other stuff gets put away or disposed of, well, tough. Your things have places, so put your things in their places.

I mention all of this simply to head off sympathy for Nationals starter Max Scherzer, who almost lost a precious keepsake:

You don’t want your second no-hitter shirt thrown out? Get it put up in a frame or whatever it is you want to do with it. You leave it wadded up someplace, don’t expect it to stay there forever.

Not you go sleep on the couch. Mrs. Scherzer doesn’t work hard all day to take guff from you.