The Frontal Cortex

Archives for November, 2007

The Faith of Scientists

Paul Davies dares to utter the f-word in the context of science: The problem with this neat separation into “non-overlapping magisteria,” as Stephen Jay Gould described science and religion, is that science has its own faith-based belief system. All science proceeds on the assumption that nature is ordered in a rational and intelligible way. You…

Studio 360

One of my favorite parts of this whole book publication process has been getting to meet the people behind the voices on NPR. I spend so much time tuned to my local public radio station that I feel this intimate conversational bond with the anchors and reporters on the air. So it was a special…

Frozen Food

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. My own holiday meal was the subject of a simple food experiment. I made two versions of the same dish: brussels sprout gratin with chestnuts, bacon and Comte. (Yes, it’s as delicious as it sounds, even if you don’t like baby cabbages.) One version was made with fresh…

I’m Not There

I’ve been trying really hard not to get excited about I’m Not There, in case it turned out to be a self-indulgent disaster. But early reviews suggest that it’s actually rather compelling. That’s great news, because I already love the soundtrack. In no particular order, my favorite tracks include: Ring Them Bells, by Sufjan Stevens…

Taking Art Seriously

Earlier this week, the National Endowment for the Arts came out with a disturbing report: Americans — particularly young Americans — appear to be reading less for fun, and as that happens, their reading test scores are declining. At the same time, performance in other academic disciplines like math and science is dipping for students…

Two Cultures

Ouch. I got my first nasty review today. (For some nice reviews, check out the NY Times, LA Times, NY Post, Amazon, etc.) In Salon, Jonathan Keats takes issue with the basic premise of the book, which is that meaningful connections can be drawn between science and art: Lehrer’s book is worth discussing for this…

Smoking and Mental Illness

The statistics are troubling: Almost half of all cigarettes sold in the United States (44 percent) are consumed by people with mental illness. This is because so many people who have mental illnesses smoke (50 to 80 percent, compared with less than 20 percent of the general population) and because they smoke so many cigarettes…

Science Critics

In response to my call for science critics, a position analogous to a music critic or art critic except that they review the latest science papers, a commenter wrote the following: “Why don’t we have science critics?” We do. It’s called peer review. My response is that peer review is necessary but not sufficient. (I’ve…

Bad Political Science

Daniel Engber should become a full time science critic.* Over at Slate, he eviscerates the latest sloppy fMRI study of the political brain, which was published in the Times on Sunday: To liken these neurological pundits to snake-oil salesmen would be far too generous. Their imaging study has not been published in any science journal,…

The Tour

It’s nice to be back home. I had a really wonderful time on the book tour, but it’s nice to return to my boring routine. I’d like to thank everyone who came out to hear me talk. To be honest, I expected to be speaking to empty rooms. After all, why would anyone want to…