The Frontal Cortex

Archives for July, 2008

Physics and McSweeney’s

Funny stuff from McSweeney’s: General relativity is your high-school girlfriend all grown up. Man, she is amazing. You sort of regret not keeping in touch. She hates quantum mechanics for obscure reasons. Cosmology is the girl that doesn’t really date, but has lots of hot friends. Some people date cosmology just to hang out with…

Choosing is Hard

Over at Mind Matters, the expert blog I curate at Scientific American, we’re currently featuring a really interesting article by On Amir on the cognitive cost of making decisions: For instance, it’s long been recognized that strenuous cognitive tasks–such as taking the SAT–can make it harder to focus later on. But recent results suggests that…

The Number Four

Look up charming in a dictionary and I’m pretty sure you’ll see this video: Because we like to link everything to the brain over here at the Frontal Cortex, it’s worth mentioning that the number four also represents the outer limits of our numerical brain. Here’s Stanislas Dehaene, a leading researcher on the neuroscience of…

Deliberate Practice

This kid is a poster child for deliberate practice: Marc Yu, a 9-year-old piano prodigy from Pasadena, Calif., recently played at a benefit for victims of the earthquake in Sichuan, China. And he didn’t play “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” He played a piece that Chopin wrote for victims of the Polish-Russian war, the composer’s…

The Neuroscience of Insight

I’ve got an article in the latest New Yorker (not online) on the neuroscience of insight. I begin the article with the harrowing story of Wag Dodge and the Mann Gulch fire, before describing the research of Mark Jung Beeman, John Kounios and Earl Miller: There is something inherently mysterious about moments of insight. Wag…

Memory and Addiction

David Carr, a media columnist for the New York Times, was addicted to crack for several years in the late 1980’s. In the Times Magazine (and in his new book) he tells the story of his own investigation into his junkie years, as he tries to understand how he let a chemical nearly ruin his…

Rational Voters?

Whenever I happen to watch some talking heads on a cable news channel – usually while stuck in an airport – I’m always impressed by how mistaken the basic premise of the conversation is. The pundits will waste lots of words on how Obama’s pivot on FISA might turn off his liberal base, or how…

Me at Google

I visited the Cambridge Google offices last month and talked about Escoffier, umami, Kanye West and the plasticity of dopamine neurons:

Data Visualization

Speaking of data visualization, a reader sent along this link to some fabulous examples. Each of these images, according to artist and creator Jason Salavon, is composed of “100 unique commemorative photographs culled from the internet. The final compositions are arrived at using both the mean and the median, splitting the difference between a specific…

Buying the Wrong House

One way to understand the collapse of the real estate bubble (and our current financial mess) is as a massive case of bad decision-making. The mistakes, of course, were made by many different people and organizations: the investment banks who bought subprime debt, the credit rating agencies who gave that debt high ratings, the mortgage…