The Frontal Cortex

Archives for October, 2007

Writing Sentences

Taking advantage of a new Amazon feature, Steven Johnson does some literary data-mining: The two stats that I found totally fascinating were “Average Words Per Sentence” and “% Complex Words,” the latter defined as words with three or more syllables — words like “ameliorate”, “protoplasm” or “motherf***er.” I’ve always thought that sentence length is a…

Birth Order

A nice article on birth order in the latest Time. One of the interesting things about birth order effects is that, although they are statistically subtle, people have been noticing the consistent differences between first and last borns for a long time. It’s one of those examples of folk psychology where the folk turn out…

Proust in Wired

My book got a very nice little spread in the new Wired. There’s a picture of me at an uncomfortable zoom and a short Q&A: Q: Do you really think that we’ll find answers to science’s Big Questions in the arts? A: Virginia Woolf isn’t going to help you finish your lab experiment. What she…

Crime and Vending Machines

Sometimes, the amygdala makes us do stupid things.

Sin Dolor

The New Yorker recently had a cool short story by T.C. Boyle about a boy who couldn’t experience pain. The story is told from the perspective of a doctor who has trouble believing that the symptoms of the child are real. The mother pleads: “He’s not normal, doctor. He doesn’t feel pain the way others…

Exporting Depression

America is getting good at exporting our diseases. Everybody already talks about obesity and the way American eating habits are slowly fattening up the rest of the world. But that’s not the only disease we are sending abroad. Here’s VSL*: Americans are on pretty chummy terms with depression, chatting almost as easily about therapists and…

The Psychology of Los Angeles

Bldg blog writes an ode to LA: L.A. is the apocalypse: it’s you and a bunch of parking lots. No one’s going to save you; no one’s looking out for you. It’s the only city I know where that’s the explicit premise of living there – that’s the deal you make when you move to…

Save the Whales

Hendrick Hertzberg takes on the Navy sonar technology which is killing whales: Whales live in a world of sound. A large part of their brains, which in many species are larger than ours, is devoted to processing sound. We don’t know how they subjectively experience the processed sound, but it is reasonable to speculate that…

The Amygdaloids

Joseph LeDoux helped make the amygdala famous – his seminal studies of fear conditioning illuminated, among other things, the importance of unconscious processing – so it’s only fitting that he would be part of a rock band called The Amygdaloids. Imagine Jefferson Airplane, with perhaps a dash of the Eagles and a lot of a…

Membrane Vesicles

As heard recently on The Daily Show: Those guys don’t know membrane vesicles from their taint. It’s a funny line, but membrane vesicles are serious stuff. Just ask Jack Szostak: Our goal is generate a nucleic acid system that can replicate accurately and rapidly, without any enzymatic assistance. We have already developed a membrane vesicle…