The Frontal Cortex

Archives for March, 2008

Britain, America and God

The Economist has compiled a really interesting chart on the ideological differences between the American and British electorates. (I’ve been kind of obsessed with all things Anglo-American since the start of the John Adams miniseries on HBO.) The article focuses on the large gap between the two publics, but I was actually impressed by how,…

Borges’ Brain Injury

This is from The Paris Review Interviews, Volume 1: Q: I would like to ask about your having said that you were very timid about beginning to write stories. Borges: Yes, I was very timid because when I was young I thought of myself as a poet. Then I had an accident. You can feel…

The Illusion of Streaks

Someone should really tell the NCAA tournament television commentators that “the hot hand” doesn’t exist. I’ve gotten pretty tired of hearing these tired cliches about Texas going cold, or Stephen Curry catching fire yet again. Never has a cognitive illusion gotten so much play. The illusory nature of basketball shooting streaks was first demonstrated by…

Virginia Book Festival

If you happen to be in the Charlottesville area, I’ll be at the Virginia Book Festival tomorrow afternoon, on a panel entitled: “The Creative Mind: How Artists and Writers Invent the World.”

Religion and Tribal Cooperation

A commenter asked an astute question in response to my post on religion and dietary laws: What are your thoughts on kashrut primarily as a means of group indentity reinforcement, ritual, and control? In pre-literate times or in unstable social settings, wouldn’t dietary habits be a useful means of tracking who is and is not…

Craving and Denial

I was raised in a kosher household, which meant that I grew up convinced that bacon, lobster, pepperoni pizza and cheeseburgers were the promised land of food. (I assumed the banning of trafe was part of God’s punishment for Eve and the apple.) I’m no longer kosher, which means that I’ve since learned that I…

The Night-Shift and Naps

I had no idea this many Americans were nocturnal: Twenty percent of American workers are night-shift workers, and the number is growing by about 3% per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While the rest of society sleeps, police officers, security guards, truck drivers, office cleaning crews, hotel desk clerks, nurses, pilots and…

The Elastic Mind

If you’re into art, science and the brain, or enjoyed the recent MoMA show on design, then be sure to check out this Seed/MoMA/Parsons event on April 4th. The guest list is pretty fantastic, and includes everyone from Benoit Mandelbrot to Henry Markram to Chandler Burr to Erik Demaine to Greg Lynn. The timing of…

My bracket is a disaster: I seem to have an uncanny talent for picking all the wrong upsets. But perhaps I should find solace in the fact that the NCAA tournament is inherently unpredictable. That, at least, was the conclusion of a 2001 paper by the economists Edward Kaplan and Stanley Garstka. They mined every…

Over at Mixing Memory, there’s an excellent and fierce critique of a recent fMRI paper on linguistic relativity. Although the post is shot through with overly broad insults – he or she complains about “how much cognitive neuroscience sucks” – it still manages to carefully dissect the data. In short, the author concludes that the…