The Frontal Cortex

Archives for December, 2006

Tofu, Evangelicals and Homosexuality

Evangelicals are getting worried: all their pastors are turning gay. Who’s to blame? Well, some might argue that genes play a role, and that homosexuality is really a biological behavior. But that would be utterly foolish. It turns out that the real problem is soy. According to Jim Rutz, tofu turns you gay: There’s a…

Malcolm Gladwell vs. Steve Sailer

The fight is getting pretty entertaining. While I’ve got my problems with Gladwell, I think his main argument in this skuffle is exactly right: As I thought should have been obvious, I don’t think that the observation, or analysis, or discussion of racial differences is racist. The black-white achievement gap is real. The issue is…

Turtles

This article on turtles contains more bewildering facts than just about anything else I’ve read recently. Consider this: The liver, lungs and kidneys of a centenarian turtle are virtually indistinguishable from those of its teenage counterpart, a Ponce de Leonic quality that has inspired investigators to begin examining the turtle genome for novel longevity genes.…

You Always Get What You Pay For

John Strassburger, the president of Ursinus College, a small liberal arts institution here in the eastern Pennsylvania countryside, vividly remembers the day that the chairman of the board of trustees told him the college was losing applicants because of its tuition. It was too low. So early in 2000 the board voted to raise tuition…

The Evolution of Lactose-Tolerance

My favorite foods all seem to involve lactose. Whether it’s an aged goat cheese from the Loire Valley, or a stinky washed rind cheese, or a scoop of dark chocolate ice cream, I would probably starve if I was lactose intolerant. Now we know how lactose-tolerance evolved. Being able to digest milk is such a…

Shopping, Depression and Dopamine

The Christmas season is conspicuous consumption time. I recently made my annual trip to the mall, and couldn’t help but think that, somehow, the consumption gets more conspicuous every year. The antiqued jeans get more expensive, the televisions get higher definition, and the Starbucks in the food court keeps on inventing newfangled flavors to mix…

The Conservative NIH

The scientific process is famously conservative. On the one hand, this is a necessary flaw: empiricism requires reproduction, and it’s never fun when our view of reality is jolted by some revolutionary new fact. The reputation of science in large part depends upon not endorsing charlatans. On the other hand, it often seems as if…

Crying to the Radio

So I’m reading the newspaper this morning, with NPR on in the background. Next thing I know, a tear is trickling down my cheek.

Birds in Cities

The helter-skelter of urban life even affects birds. I swear my cockatiel is better behaved since I left London; now I know why: Rapid urbanisation around the world and the subsequent increase in ambient noise has proven problematic for animals which use sound to communicate. For birds in particular, city noises can mask the exchange…

The EPA and Politics

When will they learn? The Environmental Protection Agency has changed the way it sets standards to control dangerous air pollutants like lead, ozone and tiny particles of soot, enhancing the role of the agency’s political appointees in scientific assessments and postponing the required review by independent scientific experts. The change, which largely tracks the suggestions…