The Frontal Cortex

Archives for October, 2006

Airbags Make You Less Safe

When cars are stocked with airbags in every possible direction – are there ceiling airbags yet? – drivers become more aggressive: A Purdue University research team that studied five years of motor vehicle accidents in Washington State concludes antilock brakes and airbags don’t minimize accidents or injuries because those systems may encourage riskier driving. Fred…

Novels and Empathy

George Eliot famously declared that “If Art does not enlarge men’s sympathies, then it does nothing.” Eliot would be glad to know that she was right: reading novels really does make us nicer. As the British Psychological Society Digest notes: The more fiction a person reads, the more empathy they have and the better they…

Wikipedia Wants To Know

Jimmy Wales has a question for you: Imagine there existed a budget of $100 million to purchase copyrights to be made available under a free license. What would you like to see purchased and released under a free license? Hmmm…I’d start with a good newspaper archive, like The New York Times. I’d make every article…

Obama

I’ve got a serious man-crush on Obama. I swooned during his Meet the Press interview – my girlfriend was getting jealous – and couldn’t help but yelp when he announced that he is considering a run for president. (Given his candid non-denial, I’d be surprised if he didn’t run. You don’t flirt with Tim Russert…

The Cost of Iraq

With so many dead and dying in Iraq, it seems crass to complain about the financial cost of the war. But the price tag is enormous, and will burden us for decades to come. Here’s Nick Kristof (Times $elect): For every additional second we stay in Iraq, we taxpayers will end up paying an additional…

Do Violent Movies Increase Crime?

Apparently not. If you believe these economists, a bloody blockbuster might actually reduce crime, at least temporarily: Laboratory experiments in psychology find that exposure to media violence increases aggression. In this paper, we provide field evidence on this question. We exploit variation in violence of blockbuster movies between 1995 and 2002, and study the effect…

Water Facts

From Michael Specter’s article in the New Yorker (not online): Nearly half the people in the world don’t have the kind of clean water and sanitation that were available two thousand years ago to the citizens of ancient Rome. More than a billion people lack access to drinking water, and at least that many have…

Stem Cells and Plastic Surgery

From Alex Kuczynski’s new book, Beauty Junkies: Inside Our $15 Billion Obsession With Cosmetic Surgery: The synthetic collagen called Cosmoplast is manufactured from fetal foreskin stem cells harvested from a single baby boy, who would now be a teenager. (It’s probably a good thing that he doesn’t know that cells from his penis are filling…

Shakespeare Goes Multiplayer

I’ve been hankering for Hamlet: The Game for a long time now. Imagine the possibilities: a first-person-shooter (FPS) that lets you inhabit some of the most famous characters of all time. I’d be Hamlet, but I wouldn’t stab Polonius. Or mabye I’d be King Lear, and decide that Cordelia isn’t so bad after all: Three-dimensional…

Via Joel Waldfogel: James Feyrer and Bruce Sacerdote, both of Dartmouth College, consider the effect of a particular aspect of history–the length of European colonization–on the current standard of living of a group of 80 tiny, isolated islands that have not previously been used in cross-country comparisons. Their question: Are the islands that experienced European…