The Frontal Cortex

Archives for May, 2007

Chickens in Pain

Daniel Zwerdling has an excellent article on the chicken slaughter industry in the latest Gourmet. I had no idea that Americans consumed more than 9 billion broiler chickens every year. Or that, thanks to newfangled forms of feed, it only takes a broiler chicken six weeks to reach market weight. (In the 1950’s, it took…

New Theories of Synesthesia

I’ve got an article in New Scientist on changing scientific perceptions of synesthesia, and how synesthetic experiences are helping scientists understand how language is processed inside the brain. The article is behind a subscription wall, but here’s the link: For the woman known as AP, everyday language is like a soap opera. Every letter of…

Life as Music

At first glance, it sounds like a cheesy third-culture gimmick: UCLA molecular biologists have turned protein sequences into original compositions of classical music. “We converted the sequence of proteins into music and can get an auditory signal for every protein,” said Jeffrey H. Miller, distinguished professor of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics, and a member…

Campaign Songs

Help Hillary pick her campaign song. The music fan in me would vote for U2’s “City of Blinding Lights” or The Staple Singers “I’ll Take You There”. The political strategist in me would vote for The Dixie Chicks “Ready to Run,” since they give you credibility with the anti-Bush, anti-war bloc and have that charming…

Instant Love

It’s not the usual version of love at first sight: it’s much better. Elizabeth Fitzsimons was adopting a Chinese baby. The girl was a year old, but she already suffered from a long list of medical ailments. She’d had a tumor removed from her back, and suffered nerve damage during the surgery. She had a…

Nudges and Decision-Making

David Leonhardt has an interesting column on the importance of using subtle environmental cues – Leonhardt calls them “nudges” – to encourage good decision-making. He begins with a fascinating anecdote about patients in hospital beds: For more than a decade, it turns out, medical researchers have known that people on ventilators should generally have their…

A Review of the Fortwo

Dan Neil, the finest car critic around, drives the Fortwo, aka the Smart car. He likes the car just fine – “it’s a minor hoot to drive” – but worries about his safety on American streets: So, the first question potential buyers must consider is a cosmic version of: Do I feel lucky? The Fortwo…

Richard Dawkins and David Hume

Anthony Gottlieb has an excellent review of several recent books on atheism in the New Yorker. I especially enjoyed his comparison of David Hume and some of the more polemical atheists currently atop the bestseller lists: In 1779, a year after Voltaire died, that idea was attacked by David Hume, a cheerful Scottish historian and…

Here’s the Pope, speaking on his recent trip to Brazil: Where God is absent — God with the human face of Jesus Christ — these [moral] values fail to show themselves with their full force: nor does a consensus arise concerning them. I do not mean that nonbelievers cannot live a lofty and exemplary morality;…

One day, I want to compile a collection of all the metaphors that have shaped modern science. The sciences of the mind, perhaps because we know so little about the mind, have been particularly vulnerable to the lure of facile analogy. There’s the classic “mind-as-computer” metaphor which, although useful, is certainly imperfect. Before computers, the…