The Frontal Cortex

Archives for May, 2007

Probability and Chaos Theory

The physicist David Ruelle gives a convincing demonstration that suspending the gravitational effect on our atmosphere of one electron at the limit of the observable universe would take no more than two weeks to make a difference in Earth’s weather equivalent to having rain rather than sun during a picnic. That factoid is from Chances…

So there’s an interesting debate over at TPM Cafe about this article in the Nation, which argues that neoclassical economics (the mainstream) suppresses its heterodox alternatives. If true, this would be a classic case of a Kuhnian paradigm, in which the entrenched dogma resists any alternative explanation. The anomalies are ignored, until there are just…

Lou Dobbs and Leprosy

Lou Dobbs has repeatedly asserted on his CNN show that there have been 7,000 cases of leprosy in the US over the previous three years. If true, that statistic would represent a stunning increase. Dobbs’ insinuation, of course, was that illegal immigrants are responsible for bringing an influx of deadly diseases across the border. (He…

David Brooks uses neuroscience to criticize Al Gore’s latest book: [Gore’s argument] grows out of a bizarre view of human nature. Gore seems to have come up with a theory that the upper, logical mind sits on top of, and should master, the primitive and more emotional mind below. He thinks this can be done…

Here’s a great L.A. Times editorial on the various policy options that we can use to combat climate change. The editorial comes out firmly against regulation (simply ordering polluters to clean up), and mounts a reasoned criticism of cap-and-trade schemes (the EU trading scheme has been a bust). So what should we do instead? The…

Fearmongering

It works. Dick Cheney shows how to do it: These are events [9/11] we can never forget. And they are scenes the enemy would like to see played out in this country over and over again, on a larger and larger scale. Al Qaeda’s leadership has said they have the right to “kill four million…

Investing in Preschool

A new study by economists James Heckman and Dimitriy Masterov argues that investing in the education of young children (pre-K) provides the greatest return on investment. In contrast, trying to educate the brains of adolescents, the economists say, is largely a waste of resources. Here’s Joel Waldfogel: The early investment [in education] is needed, the…

Forecasting Hurricane Seasons

We are surprisingly bad at it: Although last year was quieter than anticipated and the storms of 2005 caused the Weather Service to raise its prediction, the number of tropical storms predicted in May was within the expected range in 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2004. The forecast was low in 2001 and 2003. Got that?…

So the Yankees aren’t quite as bad as we’ve been led to believe. (At least, until Petite also pulls his hamstring.) They’ve taken two of the last three from the Red Sox. That said, it’s still obvious that the Yankees are one of the most least productive baseball teams when looked at through the prism…

Sleep and Heat

From the March 31 issue of The Lancet: The ease of getting to sleep and staying asleep depends not only on previous wake time, but also on associations with the circadian rhythm of core temperature. Sleep is easiest to initiate when core temperature is falling rapidly or is at its lowest, and most difficult when…