The Frontal Cortex

Archives for June, 2007

Knocked Up on Life

A comic discussion on the origins of life, the moral status of sperm, abortion and a few other not-safe-for-work topics. (It’s a deleted scene from Knocked Up, which everybody should see, right after they see Ratatouille.) Judd Apatow, by the way, is a genius. Update: the embedded video link was causing some problems, so watch…

The Living City

I’ve got an article in the latest Seed on some research that applies metabolic theory to the metropolis: Cities have always been compared to organisms – Plato talked about the city as a corporeal body – but being underneath the street makes the metaphor literal. These are the guts of the city, the metal intestines…

Glass Flowers

This is glass: If you’ve never been to the glass flowers exhibit at the Harvard Museum of Natural History then you are missing out on a truly spectacular fusion of art and science. Here’s NPR: Back in the late 19th century, botanical teaching models were mostly made of wax or papier maché. Or they were…

Richard Powers

This interview with the novelist from The Believer is a few months old, but it’s well worth a read: Something truly interesting is happening in many basic sciences, a real revolution in human knowing. For a long time–centuries–empiricism has tried to understand the whole in terms of its isolated parts, and then to write out…

Are Babies Extra-Conscious?

An intriguing hypothesis: Gopnik argues that babies are not only conscious, they are more conscious than adults. Her argument for this view begins with the idea that people in general — adults, that is — have more conscious experience of what they attend to than of what they disregard. We have either no experience, or…

Yesterday, Chris had an interesting post describing an experimental situation in which selective brain damage leads to improved performance. It’s an cool paradigm, since it helps to illuminate the innate constraints of the (intact) brain. Look, for example, at this experiment, led by Baba Shiv, Antonio Damasio and George Loewenstein. The scientists invented a simple…

According to a new study, conservative Muslim dress codes might be causing serious health problems for Muslim women: In certain Middle Eastern and other countries where conservative dress curtails exposure to sunlight, high levels of vitamin D supplementation may be needed to raise serum levels sufficiently in women, investigators report. “When sunlight exposure — the…

Engineering a New Third Culture

I’ve discovered my new favorite example of artists and scientists working together. It features Cecil Balmond, an engineer for Arup, and Anish Kapoor, the Turner-Prize winning sculptor. They collaborated on Marsyas, the spectacular 2003 installation inside the Tate Modern. David Owen describes their collaboration in The New Yorker: Kapoor came to feel an unusual imaginative…

David Brooks makes a good point: A little while ago, a national study authorized by Congress found that abstinence education programs don’t work. That gave liberals a chance to feel superior because it turns out that preaching traditional morality to students doesn’t change behavior. But in this realm, nobody has the right to feel smug.…

Supertasters and Wine Critics

This is what happens when a wine critic decides to scientifically test his sense of taste: She first handed me a cotton swab and instructed me to rub it vigorously against the inside of one of my cheeks. This was the genotype test; as soon as I was done, Reed’s assistant, Fujiko Duke, whisked the…