The Frontal Cortex

Archives for August, 2006

The Cold War Vs. The War on Terror

What’s scarier? Communists or Islamic Fundamentalists? Stalin or Osama? Although I’m too young to remember the U.S.S.R. – the crumbling Berlin Wall is a vague childhood memory, and my sense of the Soviets came from Rocky 4 – I tend to agree with this sentiment: Although I did duck-and-cover drills as a boy and served…

Talent and Practice

In response to my last post on Musical Geniuses, I was accused of being a simple minded nurturist, a proponent of environmental determinism. So I thought I would take a moment and elaborate on why people with extraordinary talent – like Mozart, or Michael Jordan, or this Jay Greenberg kid – aren’t testaments to genetics.…

Musical Geniuses

In a sidebar for my last Seed article, I argued that Mozart’s musical genius was the result of dedication and practice, and not some innate talent for symphonic composition. Well, here’s another musical savant trying to prove me wrong. On Tuesday, Sony Classical will release his 34-minute Symphony No. 5, recorded by the London Symphony…

Violence Detectors

The WSJ reports today that the Dept. of Homeland Security has begun testing biometric devices designed to weed out airplane passengers with “hostile intent”. The particular metrics are secret, of course, but they seem to be surprisingly crude. (They don’t go much beyond measuring your blood pressure and pulse in response to questions. In other…

How Democrats Can Win

They should put more polling places in schools. According to scientists at Stanford, voters were significantly more likely to support an increased sales tax for education if they voted in a school. (Their data set was voting patterns in the 2000 Arizona election.) Voters were also significantly more likely to oppose a stem cell initiative…

Wine Ratings Are For Suckers

Everytime I walk into a wine store, and see that collage of numerical stickers (This Chianti is a 91! This Pinot Grigio is an 88!), the neuroscientist in me wants to tear them all down an go on a long rant about unconscious biases. The idea that the human olfactory system can reliably decipher the…

The Psychology of Testosterone

In this otherwise excellent summary of the physiology of testosterone, the NY Times leaves out one crucial element: it’s psychological effect. And no, I’m not just talking about the placebo effect. As I mentioned earlier, testosterone is well known for producing a euphoric high. We already know Landis was drowning his stage 16 sorrows in…

Terrorism and Irrational Fear

Why is terrorism so frightening? After all, if you just look at the numbers, being blown-up on an airplane is far less likely than dying in a car crash on the way to the grocery store. A Cato report makes this abundantly clear: In almost all years, the total number of people worldwide who die…

G.M. and Ford Just Don’t Get It

The recent decisions of G.M. and Ford will soon be taught in business school as an example of how not to run a business. Despite gas hovering at $3 a gallon, both companies seem determined to sell the public precisely what it doesn’t want: big trucks, bigger SUV’s and lumbering V8 engines. Just yesterday, Ford…

Creationism and Dinosaurs

When my girlfriend told me that the Baptist church down the street was holding a dinosaur fair at its summer camp, I didn’t expect anything unusual. I assumed the kids might watch Jurassic Park, or learn about the teeth of T-Rex, or excavate some fake fossils. Alas, I was wrong. The poor campers were being…