The Frontal Cortex

Archives for November, 2006

Acidic Oceans

This is the most depressing story I’ve read in a while. I normally don’t worry about the fate of my future grandchildren, but Elizabeth Kolbert’s new New Yorker article kept me up late last night, fretting about their dismal world. The article isn’t on-line, but here’s an excerpt: Since the start of the industrial revolution,…

The Echo Maker

Richard Powers just won the National Book Award for his new novel, The Echo Maker. Powers writes science fiction at its most literal and important level: he interweaves scientific sub-plots (the nature of consciousness, the genetic code, the curvature of space-time, the logic of computer programming) with a deep concern for the inner life of…

How long before professional cyclists start swallowing concentrated resveratrol? And will we ban red wine as an illegal performance enhancing substance? An ordinary lab mouse will run about one kilometer — five-eights of a mile — on a treadmill before collapsing from exhaustion. But mice given resveratrol, a minor component of red wine and other…

When Al Gore started to run for the presidency in 2000, he was thin. By the time the race was over, he had gained a lot of weight (like Clinton in 1992), and then he kept on gaining weight in the months after the election. (Who could blame him?) He also grew a beard. However,…

Top 40 Bands in America

Have I mentioned that I love lists? They bring order to an inchoate world. Anyways, here’s a rather arbitary list of the Top 40 Bands of the year, as chosen by some music bloggers. There’s a lot I agree with here, and a lot I just don’t know. (One of the saddest parts of leaving…

Larry Summers was wrong. It’s not about innate cognitive differences, it’s about fertility: Many studies have shown that women are under-represented in tenured ranks in the sciences. We evaluate whether gender differences in the likelihood of obtaining a tenure track job, promotion to tenure, and promotion to full professor explain these facts using the 1973-2001…

Abortion and Biology

Now that we’ve got a sizable number of Democrats in Congress who aren’t pro-choice, people have begun to wonder what sort of rhetorical and philosophical position the Democratic party should take on abortion. Some argue that Democrats should resort to the Clintonian mantra that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare“. But others, like Julian…

Stalin Was A Bad Man

In the 1920s, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin sent an animal-breeding expert to Africa in hopes of creating an army of half-man, half-monkey soldiers. Attempts both to inseminate women with monkey sperm and impregnate female chimpanzees with human sperm failed. That’s from Slate. Read more about Stalin’s horrifying attempts at cross-breeding here. I don’t even think…

The Cost of Bargaining With Big Pharm

I think the Democrats should insist on revampling the Medicare drug bill. It’s just plain silly that the government can’t negotiate directly with the drug companies for lower prices. After all, the government negotiates big discounts for drugs for Medicaid and the VA administration, and Medicare is a much bigger entitlement. As every Costco shopper…

Phantom Limbs and Moby Dick

Phantom limbs are one of the strangest phenomenon you’ll ever hear about. As far as I can tell, phantom limbs were first described by Herman Melville, who gave Ahab, the gnarly sea captain of Moby Dick, a “sensory ghost”. Ahab is missing a leg (Moby Dick ate it), and in Chapter 108, he summons a…