The Frontal Cortex

Archives for September, 2006

Art and Nudity

Sometimes I’m amazed at the pockets of ignorance lurking in our midst. This is the sad story of a Texas art teacher who got suspended for taking her class to the museum. Her crime? Letting her innocent pupils glimpse some 16th century paintings that – gasp! – revealed a nipple or two. If the mirror…

The Pretense of Journalistic Objectivity

It’s Michael Kinsley day here at the Frontal Cortex. Over at the Guardian, Kinsley has another stupendous piece lamenting the sharp division that American newspapers (especially the NY Times) try to draw between fact and opinion. According to a column by its “public editor” (aka ombudsman, or official busybody), the New York Times has been…

Tooth Decay and Drugs

No, I’m not talking crystal meth, and that much hyped syndrome, methmouth. I’m talking about your cholesterol medication, or your blood pressure pills, or your Prozac. From Steven Dubner: Dr. Reiss [Dubner's dentist] told me that tooth decay in general, even among wealthy patients, is getting worse and worse, particularly for people in middle age…

Bush on Life

It’s not particularly difficult to expose the incoherence of current Republican policy. But few do it with the wit and brio of Michael Kinsley: It was, I believe, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) who first made the excellent, bitter and terribly unfair joke about conservatives who believe in a right to life that begins at conception…

The Folly of Electronic Voting

It’s one of the grandest experiments in American democracy since the invention of the paper ballot, and nobody seems to care. Many municipalities are now moving towards electronic voting, and the results are starting to trickle in. So far, things have not gone well. (In fact, things went so badly that Senate Democrats are trying…

Special K and Depression

Special K – active ingredient ketamine – is an illegal club drug that was originally used as a medical anesthetic. But now scientists are reporting that it might be a useful ally in the fight against depression: Researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health announced a study recently in which 18 chronically depressed patients…

Stocks and Names

When it comes to stocks, ticker symbols seem to be extremely important. Instead of evaluating a company’s financial fundamentals, investors get seduced by cute abbreviations. As the WSJ notes: For at least two years, Harley-Davidson Inc.’s investor-relations folks had thought about it: Their ticker symbol, HDI, wasn’t exactly evocative of the motorcycle maker’s image. And…

The Reality of Mental Illness

I’m fascinated by the fashions of mental illness. Every few decades, there is an epidemic of a new brain affliction, while an old disease quietly fades away. Mother’s Little Helper (aka Valium) is replaced by the polite contentment of SSRI’s. (I’m afraid we are still in the era of Prozac and Ritalin. In other words,…

Mutants

Sorry for the absence. I was giving a talk in NYC, where I had the pleasure of meeting PZ, Chris Mooney and Lisa Randall. (I was talking about how Walt Whitman anticipated the neuroscience of today.) I also had the pleasure of spending time with my beautiful new niece (aka my sister’s Mexican hairless):

How to Save $40,000 A Year

Go to Yale for free. Yale University said on Wednesday it will offer digital videos of some courses on the Internet for free, along with transcripts in several languages, in an effort to make the elite private school more accessible. While Princeton University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and others already offer course material online without…