The Frontal Cortex

Archives for December, 2007

LA Times Best Books

I’m honored/flattered/thrilled/etc. to have Proust Was A Neuroscientist listed as one of the 25 best non-fiction books of the year by the LA Times. Other science-themed* books included on the list are The Atomic Bazaar, by William Langewiesche and Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America by Eric Jay Dolin. *I know these aren’t straight…

Shakespeare and Syntax

Shakespeare bent language in peculiar ways. He had a habit of violating our conventional grammatical categories, so that nouns became verbs and adjectives were turned into nouns. (This is known as a functional shift.) Here’s Phillip Davis: Thus in “Lear” for example, Edgar comparing himself to the king: “He childed as I fathered” (nouns shifted…

Fractals and Literature

Jason Kottke, a consistent fount of great links, finds a revealing interview with David Foster Wallace about Infinite Jest. Here is DFW answering a question about whether or not his novel actually follows a fractal form*: David Foster Wallace: That’s one of the things, structurally, that’s going on [in the novel]. It’s actually structured like…

Experimental Philosophy

No, it’s not an oxymoron: philosophers have discovered the virtue of experimentation. Now a restive contingent of our tribe is convinced that it can shed light on traditional philosophical problems by going out and gathering information about what people actually think and say about our thought experiments. The newborn movement (“x-phi” to its younger practitioners)…

The Honda FCX

The Times takes the FCX for a spin. The good news is that it drives like an ordinary car, even though it runs on hydrogen: Normalcy is a recurring, and intentional, theme of the FCX Clarity. It is refueled using a high-pressure connector tucked behind a typical gas-cap door on the rear fender. It has…

Who is the Dorkiest?

So I was out to dinner recently with some friends and the conversation eventually degenerated into a dork competition. The rules of the game are simple (and extremely dorky). Each person confesses the single dorkiest thing about them. The winner gets a beer. Competing entries ranged from a friend who had pictures of western blots…

The Future of Science is Art?

So the new Seed is now on the newstands. I’ve got a longish essay sketching out possible future interactions between science and art: The current constraints of science make it clear that the breach between our two cultures is not merely an academic problem that stifles conversation at cocktail parties. Rather, it is a practical…

Dyslexia and Business Acumen

The data is hard to believe: It has long been known that dyslexics are drawn to running their own businesses, where they can get around their weaknesses in reading and writing and play on their strengths. But a new study of entrepreneurs in the United States suggests that dyslexia is much more common among small-business…

Country Music and Suicide

From VSL comes this list of truly weird scientific studies. My favorite was this one, which “assesses the link between country music and metropolitan suicide rates”: Country music is hypothesized to nurture a suicidal mood through its concerns with problems common in the suicidal population, such as marital discord, alcohol abuse, and alienation from work.…

Darwin and Cheese

From the great Harold McGee comes an investigation into raw milk, bacteria and cultural evolution: On our journey up to the Stichelton Dairy last September, Mr. Hodgson [a cheesemaker] explained how cheese quality progressed for centuries, then declined in the age of mass production and supermarkets. “I think of it as a Darwinian process,” he…