The Frontal Cortex

Archives for June, 2006

Peer Effects in the Classroom

The National Bureau of Economic Resarch just released a new study on peer effects in the classroom: The marginal effect of a one percent increase in the quality of peers on student achievement is equivalent to between 8−15% of a one percent increase in one’s own earlier achievement…We find that peer effects operate in a…

A Public Service Announcement

Please forgive this post, but as the proud parent of a cockatiel with an inverted beak (a common birth defect), it has long upset me that there is very little information available on the web about birds with this “problem”. What little information Google provides generally consists of advice telling people to avoid purchasing cockatiels…

Gladwell: The New Freud?

In my post on Blink, I argued that Gladwell’s book was a wee bit incoherent, and that this incoherence stemmed from his reliance on spiffy anecdotes instead of nitty-gritty scientific details. Katherine made an excellent comment: I thought the problem with Blink was that he never really made a point. He basically said our first…

Bird Flu Deaths

The Wall Street Journal just posted a very interesting list which analyzes all the known bird flu deaths so far. It makes for strangely engrossing reading.

Are Jews Smarter?

In the new The New Republic, Steven Pinker does a fair and thorough assesment of the recent study asserting that Ashkenazi Jews have a genetic advantage in intelligence. According to the researchers (Gregory Cochran, Jason Hardy, and Henry Harpending), this selection took place from about 800 A.D. to 1600 A.D, when Jews in Northern Europe…

Coulter, Quine and Evolution

PZ Myers dissects Ann Coulter’s ridiculous claim that “There is no physical evidence for evolution” with his usual panache and wit. Of course, he is entirely right: Darwinian evolution is a sacrosant biological fact. Without the theory of evolution, life makes no sense. But I do think that Myers misinterprets Coulter’s claim. While Coulter says…

Race, Genetics and Science

The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating article on Bruce Lahn today. Last September, Lahn announced in Science that he had isolated two brain genes in humans which had undergone recent evolution, but only in certain populations. His paper contained maps which showed that the genetic changes had taken hold and spread widely in Europe,…

PZ vs. Roughgarden

As a writer, there are few nicer things than reading a lucid and thought provoking response to an article you’ve written. PZ Myers, in responding to my article on the controversial theories of Joan Roughgarden, has written a gem of a blog post. Much of his post is devoted to scrutinizing and criticizing Roughgarden’s theories.…

The DNA Age?

These kinds of articles annoy me, especially when they appear on the front page of The New York Times. Where to begin? Well, there is the utterly banal thesis, neatly summarized by Steven Pinker (in case you didn’t want to wade through The Blank Slate): “We now have real evidence that some of the variation…

Bird Mimicry

As the proud owner of an African Grey Timneh who is preening herself on my shoulder right now, I thought my bird was adept at impersonations. Her name is Junebug (June to her friends), and she does a spot on imitation of the percolator, Windows startup jingle, blender (not so pleasant), and our cockatiel’s morning…