The Frontal Cortex

Archives for September, 2006

The Neuroscience of Porn

Porn is a big business. Every year, Americans spend $4 billion on video pornography, which makes the industry larger than the N.F.L., the N.B.A. or Major League Baseball. When you include Internet Web sites, porn networks and pay-per-view movies on cable and satellite, phone sex, and magazines, the porn business is estimated to total between…

Skinny Pictures

Looks like even the camera – that tool of verisimilitude – is leaving the reality based community. HP just introduced a digitical camera capable of “slimming photos”. After all, who needs to diet when you can just admire pictures of your skinny self? The company says that the technology can take off 10 pounds. Look…

The Danger of Cheap Sugar

Thomas Friedman’s take on energy policy grows more urgent by the day. In his latest column (Times $elect), he aims at American agricultural subsidies for sugar farmers. If I could eliminate one government subsidy or tariff – here the effect is equivalent – this would be it. Not only are we paying farmers to make…

Krulwich on Darwin

One of the more unfortunate side-effects of the endless creationist controversy is that it dehumanizes Darwin: he either becomes a biological prophet – the Newton of life – or a Faustian devil, a thinker who sold his soul to discredit god. What gets lost is Darwin’s astonishing scientific process, the stubborn way he solved the…

Saving Wild Salmon

I was raised on Costco farmed salmon, those mealy slabs of pinkish fish protein. My first bite of wild salmon was a revelation. It was a different species of taste, so rich and oily and strong. You could practically taste the swim upstream. So I was interested in this WSJ article on the billions of…

Save the World With A Tax Cut

One of the few accurate criticisms of An Inconvenient Truth was the way it deliberately avoided difficult policy prescriptions. For one thing, there was no mention of a high carbon tax, one thing our country (and atmosphere) desperately need. (And liberals aren’t the only ones endorsing a carbon tax. See this list of Pigou club…

Judith Rich Harris Was Right

Peers matter. According to two recent economics papers, the behavior of our peers determines our own. Alexandre Mas and Enrico Moretti looked at worker productivity: A 10% increase in average co-worker permanent productivity is associated with 1.7% increase in a worker’s effort. Most of this peer effect arises from low productivity workers benefiting from the…

Breakfast is Bad For You

Is nothing sacred? I’m starting to wonder if nutrionists are the scientific version of fashion designers, and make sure to contradict their claims every few years or so, just to stay cutting edge. Anyways, I like breakfast. Noting gets me going like a nice bowl of sugary Cinnamon Life. Whatever you do, don’t skip breakfast.…

Bill Clinton is a Neuroscientist

From David Remnick’s outstanding profile of Bill Clinton in The New Yorker (not online): “‘I keep reading that Bush is incurious, but when he talks to me he asks a lot of questions,’ Clinton went on. ‘So I can’t give him a bad grade on curiousity. I think both he and his father, because they…

In Defense of Buller

David Buller’s book, Adapting Minds, is in the news again. I agree with Mixing Memory that many of Buller’s specific debunkings – such as his full-throated attack on the cheater module – seem flimsy. (And trust me, I was prepared to believe…In my humble opinion, too much evolutionary psychology seems unrigorous , unempirical, and designed…