The Frontal Cortex

Archives for May, 2008

Pasadena

In case you find yourself in Pasadena, CA tomorrow evening, and want to hear me prattle on about art, science, veal stock and Stravinsky, I’ll be speaking at the Art Center College of Design at 7:30.

TMS

There’s something a little scary to me about TMS. (I should note, though, that my fear is irrational: the technology is now extremely safe. Seizures are a very, very rare side-effect of TMS. Unless, that is, you already have a brain lesion.) But this video shows just how easy it is to short-circuit a particular…

The Hidden Cost of Smart Drugs

Johann Hari decides to take Provigil (aka viagra for the brain) and reports back on the results: I sat down and took one 200mg tablet with a glass of water. Then I pottered about the flat for an hour, listening to music and tidying up, before sitting down on the settee. I picked up a…

Tomatoes

Haven’t we done enough to the poor tomato? We’ve turned the voluptuous fruit into a pale imitation of itself: the average supermarket tomato, turned red with ethylene, tastes like, well, nothing. And now we have to genetically modify it for the sake of ketchup? At a research farm in California, scientists for H.J. Heinz Co.…

Space Anomalies

How would science ever progress without anomalies? Theories are useful things, but they are most useful when they’re wrong, when their Newtonian predictions are off, as in the case of the Pioneer space probes, by a hundred-millionths of an inch per second for every second of spaceflight. Robert Lee Hotz has the fascinating story: Beyond…

Home Court Advantage

The secret to winning in the NBA playoffs this year is to play on your own court: teams at home are 20-1. At first glance, this makes little sense. It’s much easier to understand why football teams (the noise can disrupt play calling) and baseball teams (each field is unique) might benefit from playing at…

Recovering Taste

D.T. Max has an absolutely fascinating article in a recent New Yorker on the molecular gastronomist and chef Grant Achatz and his battle with tongue cancer. While Achatz’s doctors initially insisted that he get his tongue surgically removed, the chef opted for an experimental treatment of radiation and chemo. The treatment appears to have worked,…

False Memory

One of the delicious ironies of memory is that, even when our recollections are utterly false, they still feel true. Consider this wonderful tale from the upcoming season of This American Life (I’ve loved the first two episodes, by the way): Or as Proust put it: “How paradoxical it is to seek in reality for…

Neural Buddhism?

I admire David Brooks for trying to expand the list of topics written about by Times columnists. (To be honest, I’m a little tired of reading about presidential politics.) His latest column, on “The Neural Buddhists,” tries to interject modern neuroscience into the current debate over New Atheists and religion. Lo and behold, over the…

Understanding Tragedy

The tragedies are so vast they are incomprehensible: thousands are dead after a powerful earthquake in China while up to half a million people in Myanmar may die as a result of post-cyclone epidemics. How does the mind grapple with such nightmarish statistics? The answer is simple: it doesn’t. Paul Slovic, a psychologist at the…