The Frontal Cortex

Archives for January, 2007

Bush’s Silly CAFE Proposal

Over at Slate, Gregg Easterbrook argues that the President’s recent proposal to increase the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard by 4 percent a year is a brilliant and bold policy that will “reverse [oil] consumption trends”. He blames the liberal media for not giving Bush the credit he deserves. I’m skeptical. While I’m glad…

The Wii and William James

The epic battle between video game consoles seems to have a clear winner: the Nintendo Wii. The Wii, which uses an innovative wireless controller to translate the players’ motions onto the screen, has upset the order of the video game world. In electronics stores and elsewhere, there are growing signs that the Wii has taken…

The McDonald’s Diet

In the 2004 documentary Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock decided to eat nothing but McDonald’s for 30 days. He ended up gaining lots of weight, suffering liver damage, and enduring intense mood swings. But now Spurlock’s movie has been repeated under experimental conditions. The results are good news for McDonald’s: A Swedish researcher put 18…

Barbaro, Cruelty and Horse Racing

For some reason, I find the death of Barbaro rather upsetting. The first two horse races I’ve ever watched on television were his victory at the Kentucky Derby and his injury at the Preakness. I’ve since followed his medical travails with baited breath, rooting for his left foot, then his right foot, and then his…

Einstein Before Relativity

There’s a new collection of Einstein’s personal letters that are about to be published. They give us a portrait of the young scientist before he revolutionized science. At the time these letters were written, Einstein was insecure, poor and struggling to publish. In other words, he was just like every other post-doc: In 1915, as…

Paul Krugman’s analysis of Milton Friedman’s intellectual legacy is one of the best articles I’ve read recently. Krugman not only paints a balanced portrait of Friedman’s accomplishments – great economist, bad popularizer – but ably summarizes the rival tensions in 20th century economics. It’s all fascinating stuff, but I was particularly interested in this section…

Why is Nutritional Science So Bad?

It almost seems as if the faddish claims of nutritional science have an inverse relationship with reality. If a nutrient is supposed to be good for us, chances are that later research will contradict the claim. Here’s Michael Pollan in the Times Magazine: Last winter came the news that a low-fat diet, long believed to…

It’s an astonishingly robust finding: Smokers with damaged insulas were 136 times more likely to have their addictions erased than smokers with damage in other parts of their brains. What makes this paper so interesting is that it actually makes sense. The insula has been recognized for more than a decade as a crucial substrate…

Subliminal Advertising?

Or just a mix-up with the cable feed? Hat Tip: Kottke

Steven Pinker is a New Mysterian

Is the Hard Problem of consciousness solvable by science? Will we ever come up with a meaningful explanation as to how squirts of neurotransmitter and minor jolts of electricity create subjective experience? As far as I’m concerned, this is the major philosophical question hovering over neuroscience. If the new Mysterians are right, and we will…