The Frontal Cortex

Archives for April, 2008

Money and Happiness

For more than 30 years, it has been a truism of social science that, once our basic needs are met, money doesn’t buy happiness, or even upgrade despair. In one well-known survey, people on the Forbes 100 list of the richest Americans were only slightly happier than the American public as a whole; in an…

Monkeys in Abkhazia

It’s a joke I’ve heard many times from neuroscientists who use monkeys in their research: “There are all these regulations about the treatment of primates, but there are no regulations governing the treatment of post-docs”. (Of course, we don’t record from neurons in the post-doc brain, or at least I hope we don’t.) But the…

Over at Freakonomics, they invited several prominent thinkers to weigh in on a rather lofty question: How much progress have psychology and psychiatry really made? The answers are mostly interesting, with nearly everyone agreeing that the sciences of the mind and brain have made tremendous progress. That is, of course, the correct answer. When you…

Raymond Tallis recently launched a broadside against the nascent field of neuroaesthetics, especially as applied to literature: A generation of academic literary critics has now arisen who invoke “neuroscience” to assist them in their work of explication, interpretation and appreciation. Norman Bryson, once a leading exponent of Theory and a social constructivist, has described his…

Mariah Carey

When I mutter about the fourth culture, about the possibility of bridging the cultural chasms separating art and science, I should make it clear that I’m not talking about stuff like this. In fact, I think there’s something mildly offensive about turning one of the more profound equations of modern physics into a lame, self-aggrandizing…

Gorillas at the Zoo

A recent scene at the Bronx Zoo gorilla exhibit: On the left side of the enclosure, standing five feet away from the glass wall separating man and animal, is a big male gorilla. He crosses his arms as he gazes out at his adoring audience. The humans are thrilled – “He has such sensitive eyes!’…

The Collective Mind

A great comment by Joel Kahn, who argues that we need a new science of human interaction, able to study what Durkheim referred to as “the conscience collective”: Durkheim was obviously not the first to advance a notion of mind which transcended the individual. But while it may have been common for many nineteenth century…

Leonard Lopate

For those who might be interested (hi mom!): I’ll be on the Leonard Lopate show on WNYC show early this afternoon, around 1 pm. I’ll be talking about veal stock, glutamic acid and umami, so I suggest that you eat lunch before listening, or else the subject will make you even hungrier.

Art and Science

Here’s Junot Diaz, talking about his writing process: It was an incredibly difficult struggle. I tell a lot of young people I work with that nothing should be more inspirational than my dumb ass. It took me 11 years to struggle through one dumb book, and every day you just want to give up. But…

Eating Octopus

It seems that you can’t go to a chic restaurant nowadays without encountering octopus on the menu. Like its cephalopod cousins, octotpus is best cooked according to the “two-minute or two-hour” rule. You can either grill the octopus quickly, imbuing it with a meaty smoke flavor, or you can braise it for hours until its…