The Frontal Cortex

Archives for December, 2006

100 Things We’ve Learned This Year

The annual list from the BBC. Here’s a semi-random sampling: More than 90% of plane crashes have survivors. The Mona Lisa used to hang on the wall of Napoleon’s bedroom. Eating a packet of crisps a day is equivalent to drinking five litres of cooking oil a year. A common American poplar has twice as…

Iraq and Loss Aversion

It sounds as if Bush has decided to “escalate” the war in Iraq by sending a “surge” of 20,000 more troops. I’m no military expert, but this certainly seems like a terrible idea, especially considering that the previous attempts to pacify Baghdad earlier this summer were so ineffective. So what is Bush thinking? Why is…

Cheap Heroin

Wait, I thought the war on drugs was supposed to make heroin more expensive: Grams of highly pure Afghan heroin are now trading at $90 in LA. That’s about a dime per pure milligram, compared with $2.50 a pure milligram in New York during the “French Connection” days. For a naive user, 5mg of heroin…

Old Professors

Ever since 1994, when universities were no longer allowed to require professors to retire at a certain age, the average age of academics has been steadily rising. Here’s the Boston Globe: This year, 9.2 percent of tenured professors in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences are 70 or older, compared with none in 1992. Other…

What is the What

I’ve been reading Dave Eggers new book, What is the What. It’s a beautifully told story of a boy’s flight from Southern Sudan to a refugee camp in Ethiopia to the slums of Atlanta. Based on a true story – the novel’s subtitle is “The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng” – Eggers recounts, in searing…

Exercise Your Brain

The Times has a story today on the recent boom in “brain health” programs: From “brain gyms” on the Internet to “brain-healthy” foods and activities at assisted living centers, the programs are aimed at baby boomers anxious about entering their golden years and at their parents trying to stave off memory loss or dementia. The…

Talking About Death

Talking about death is hard, and many doctors aren’t very good at it: Researchers who in the mid-1990s observed more than 9,000 seriously ill patients in five American teaching hospitals found substantial shortcomings in the care of the dying. More than a third spent at least 10 of their last days in intensive care. Among…

Scott Adams on Free Will

Here is Scott Adams (the creator of Dilbert) weighing in on neuroscience and free will (a topic that has been heatedly discussed on this blog recently): It seems to me that free will can be easily tested. The next time someone is getting brain surgery, just take a few minutes to perform the test. Sometimes…

The Obama Surge

The latest poll from my state of New Hampshire: If the Democratic primary were held today, Obama would be in a statistical dead heat with New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, according to a new Monitor poll. Last month, a Monitor poll showed Clinton trouncing her opponents, with Obama lagging 23 points behind. Although Clinton commands…

Santa Claus and Coca-Cola

Tis the season of Santa Claus, and my neighborhood is full of these awful blow up Santa dioramas. The grinch in me hopes that some other grinch comes along with a sharp scissors and pokes a hole in all this inflatable lawn plastic. Don’t these people realize that there’s nothing vaguely Christian or religious or…