The Frontal Cortex

Archives for July, 2008

Cheap Wine

Steven Levitt writes about the difficulty of judging wine: On Tuesday afternoons we had wine tastings. I asked if I could be allowed the opportunity to conduct one of these wine tastings “blind” to see what we could learn from sampling wines without first knowing what we were drinking. Everyone thought this was a great…

Darwinism

Olivia Judson believes that it’s time to jettison “Darwinism” from our vocabulary: Why is this [Darwinism] a problem? Because it’s all grossly misleading. It suggests that Darwin was the beginning and the end, the alpha and omega, of evolutionary biology, and that the subject hasn’t changed much in the 149 years since the publication of…

Radiohead and Consilience

This is a fourth culture I can believe in: Google has a lot more on how the video was made using 64 rotating lasers (no cameras!) and some cool data visualization programs. (They also released the raw data for the point clouds, so anybody can, at least in theory, create their own visual remix of…

Pretty Pictures

What you need is a distraction from the drip of bad economic news. (Just remember: the stock market is a random walk that, over the long-term, has an upward slope. Besides, investors who do nothing to their stock portfolio – they don’t buy or sell a single stock – outperform the average “active” investor by…

Music and Words

Hit songs are getting wordier: Average word count of top-ten songs during the 1960s: 176 Average last year: 436 That’s from the latest Harper’s Index, via Marginal Revolution. I think this trend is pretty clearly a result of hip-hop and rap. Compare some Phil Spector Wall of Sound single – say, “Be My Baby” by…

Bling

Why do poor people spend so much money on brand-name items and flashy status symbols? The answer is power. Those Calvin Klein boxers are a desperate attempt at compensation. Here’s Kevin Lewis of the Globe Ideas section: If people low on the socioeconomic ladder sometimes buy things beyond their means, it may be because of…

WALL-E and Darwin

I loved WALL-E. In my opinion, it’s the best Pixar movie yet, and I was a huge fan of Ratatouille. While the movie has an obvious environmental subtext – we are destroying the earth with our love of disposable things – I was most taken with its subtle endorsement of Darwin. And no, I’m not…

Music and Math

The latest Seed has a very interesting article on the complicated geometry underlying Western music, and the intuitive mathematical understanding demonstrated by composers: The shapes of the space of chords we have described also reveal deep connections between a wide range of musical genres. It turns out that superficially different styles–Renaissance music, classical and Romantic…

The Genetics of Mental Illness

Nature has a really interesting article on the sheer difficulty (impossibility?) of finding the genetic underpinnings of mental illness: Finding genes involved in psychiatric conditions is proving to be particularly intractable because it is still unclear whether the various diagnoses are actually separate diseases with distinct underlying genetics or whether, as the DISC1 [a gene…

X-Phi

From the new experimental philosophy reader, edited by Joshua Knobe and Shaun Nichols: It used to be commonplace that the discipline of philosophy was deeply concerned with questions about the human condition. Philosophers thought about human beings and how their minds worked. They took an interest in reason and passion, culture and innate ideas, the…