The Frontal Cortex

Archives for December, 2006

Inflation is Good For You

Is inflation really so bad? The great scourge of the American economy – and the economic phenomenon that gives Greenspan and Bernanke nightmares – turns out to have some pretty progressive side-effects. This paper is from the December 2006 issue of the Journal of Political Economy: This study quantitatively assesses the effects of inflation through…

Vegetarians Are Smarter

There are so many confounding variables here I don’t know where to begin, so I’ll just post the study, in the hope that it convinces somebody to eat some tofu or cheese instead of some ethically dubious meat: Children with high IQs are more likely to be vegetarians when they grow up, according to research…

Don’t Worry About Global Warming

Just when I thought we are all doomed to inhabit a planet of acidic oceans and infernal heat, I learn that the Pentagon’s top weaponeer – nicknamed Dr. Evil – will save us all from global warming. PS. Did you know that the the army can create rain? I sure didn’t.

Expensive Medicine

In December 1992, the FDA approved a new cancer drug called Taxol. The active ingredient was paclitaxel, a toxic chemical taken from the bark of the Oregon yew tree. Hailed as a treatment for metastasized tumors – the cancer had already spread – Bristol-Meyers Squib proudly announced that the pill reduced tumor size by at…

When Wants Become Needs

A few days ago, I lamented the rise of conspicuous consumption, and wondered whether all our luxuries were actually making us depressed. My logic was simple: we adapt to what we have – it stops making us happy – but we are constantly being barraged with all sorts of new needs, like HDTV’s, and blu-ray…

Circumcision and Luck

As everybody knows by now, having a circumcised penis cuts a man’s risk of contacting AIDS from heterosexual sex by half. Those ancient Israelites were some astute scientists: Uncircumcised men are thought to be more susceptible because the underside of the foreskin is rich in Langerhans cells, sentinel cells of the immune system, which attach…

Blood Type, Fate and Myth

Apparently, the Japanese believe that blood type is destiny. It’s their version of the zodiac: In Japan, using blood type to predict a person’s character is as common as going to McDonald’s and ordering a teriyaki burger. The association is akin to the equally unscientific use of astrological signs by Americans to predict behavior, only…

Tenure and Last Names

Well, no meritocracy is perfect. The economists Liran Einav and Leeat Yariv analyzed the faculty in the top 35 U.S. economics departments. Their conclusions were startling, especially if your last name begins with the letter Z: Faculty with earlier surname initials are significantly more likely to receive tenure at top ten economics departments, are significantly…

Bill Gates Dreams of Robots

If I was a smart man, I’d go out and invest in the stock of some robot companies. Bill Gates (yes, that one) is convinced that the 21st century will be the age of the robot: Imagine being present at the birth of a new industry. It is an industry based on groundbreaking new technologies……

Prisons and the Brain

What are the psychological effects of “doing time”? Do harsher prison conditions create harder criminals? These are the questions that the economists M. Keith Chen and Jesse Schapiro were determined to answer. Their conclusions are sobering: Some two million Americans are currently incarcerated, with roughly six hundred thousand to be released this year. Despite this,…