The Frontal Cortex

Archives for February, 2007

Outsourcing Sex Ed

When sexual education classes in the Montgomery County public schools were outsourced to the Rockville Pregnancy Center, an “evangelical, antiabortion clinic,” the education part of the class took a dramatic turn for the worse. Instead of actually learning about birth control or STD’s, Rockville high schoolers played edifying games like the “gum game,” where the…

The Amazing Feats of Asperger’s

I have trouble remembering my own telephone number, so feats like this are totally incomprehensible: When he [Daniel Tammet] gets nervous, he said, he sometimes reverts to a coping strategy he employed as a child: he multiplies two over and over again, each result emitting in his head bright silvery sparks until he is enveloped…

Valentine’s Day Reading

It seems wrong to connect this memoir – which is so sincere, honest and lovely – to Valentine’s Day, which is little more than a marketing conspiracy put together by Hallmark, the neighborhood florist and Tiffany’s. But if you’re looking for a little romantic reading, and don’t mind a tragic ending, then pick up a…

Randy Newman Defends America

Irony and wit can be very patriotic, although my patriotism has never felt this sad:

The Genetics of Capitalism

Greg Clark, an economist at UC Davis, has come out with a new paper arguing that natural selection accounts for the rise of “capitalist” attitudes. Simply put, the rich capitalists had more offspring than the poor serfs, so humans evolved a “set of preferences that were consistent with capitalism.” Here’s the abstract: Before 1800 all…

Political Experts

Since the 2008 election appears to be in full swing, and the political prognosticators have started peddling their predictions, I thought it was worthwhile to remind everybody that political experts are not to be trusted. The psychologist Philip Tetlock has spent decades following the predictions of these so-called “experts,” and seeing if their predictions are…

The Churchlands on Consciousness

Here’s Pat Churchland, from a recent New Yorker profile (not online): Paul and Pat believe that the mind-body problem will be solved not by philosophers but by neuroscientists, and that our present knowledge is so paltry that we would not understand the solution even if it were suddently to present itself. “Suppose you’re a medieval…

Biological Computers

What biological organ does this machine resemble? In leaping beyond the two- and four-core microprocessors that are being manufactured by Intel and its chief PC industry competitor, Advanced Micro Devices, Intel is following a design trend that is sweeping the computing world. Already, computer networking companies and the makers of PC graphics cards are moving…

Intelligence and Insanity

It’s a fine line separating intelligence and insanity. According to a new study, the same gene that makes you smarter also makes you more likely to go crazy: Most people inherit a version of a gene that optimizes their brain’s thinking circuitry, yet also appears to increase risk for schizophrenia, a severe mental illness marked…

Hillary’s Here

So Hillary Clinton came to my town today. She packed the local high school gym and brought with her a phalanx of television cameras, hordes of reporters and a hefty dose of political celebrity. (The doors opened at 1:15, and the gym was filled to capacity by 1:30.) What did she say? Nothing particularly revelatory,…