The Frontal Cortex

Archives for April, 2007

Harry Reid and Admitting Defeat

So Harry Reid announced that the Iraq war is lost, that there is no military solution to the crisis. He’s being denounced, of course, by lots of right wing pundits, who are clamoring for his resignation. Regardless of whether or not you think the war is lost, I have trouble understanding how saying the war…

Quality and Popularity

When I discover a new band* I follow a set routine. I go to the Itunes store and start sampling the songs that are most often downloaded. I tacitly trust in the wisdom of crowds and assume that more popular songs are better, or at least catchier. It turns out that I’m wrong. Here’s Duncan…

The Diesel Engine

I’m excited by Nissan’s announcement that the next generation Maxima will come up with a cleaner burning diesel engine: Nissan Motor will offer its flagship Maxima sedan with a cleaner-burning diesel engine in the United States by 2010, the company’s chief executive, Carlos Ghosn, said on Wednesday, offering new details of a plan intended to…

How Many Kids Should You Have?

From Psychology Today: Conventional wisdom dictates that people become parents because children bring joy. But do they really? For scientists studying the subject, simply correlating parenthood and happiness can’t answer this question, since happy people might be more likely to have kids to begin with. But a recent study that compared happiness levels in adult…

Impressionism and Blindness

It’s long been noted that the impressionists steadily grew more abstract as the 19th century came to a close. One only has to compare an early Monet from the 1870′s to a late Monet landscape to understand the importance of this transition. The pretty pastels and dappling light gave way to thick impasto paints and…

Evolution and the Generation Gap

Keep hope alive. The future is coming:

Mass Delusions

I’m fascinated by these sorts of mass delusions. They seem almost laughably strange – hundreds of people convince themselves they are sick – until you realize that collective hysteria is only the flip-side of the placebo effect. We are all capable of talking ourselves into feeling better so it only makes sense that we are…

The Psychology of Genocide

Stalin famously said that “A single death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic.” Sadly, it turns out that Stalin’s observation is psychologically accurate. That, at least, is the conclusion of Paul Slovic, a scientist at the University of Oregon. Slovic set out to answer a tragically simple question: Why do good people…

Character Memory

So I’m sitting in the movie theater the other day (I went to see The Lives of Others – go see it), and as soon as the first scene begins, the elderly lady sitting next to me says to herself: “Gosh darnit! I’ve already seen this movie! But it sounded so different when I read…

More Oysters

I always assumed that all aquaculture was created equal. Fish farms produced massive algae blooms and fecal waste, polluted the coast and corrupted wild fish stock. (Of course, I’m still not sure that aquaculture isn’t preferable to massive overfishing of the Cod-in-Newfoundland variety. What do you think?) Anyways, it never occurred to me that some…