The Frontal Cortex

Archives for July, 2008

Mosquitoes

Is it just me or are the mosquitoes extra bad this year? I have a feeling that people would care even more about climate change if, instead of talking about rising sea levels, environmentalists started talking about swarms of mosquitoes. A warmer earth will be an itchier place. On a related note, a small experimental…

Prozac Pets

I don’t know how I feel about this new trend of giving household pets human anti-depressants. Here’s James Vlahos in the Times Magazine: The practice of prescribing medications designed for humans to animals has grown substantially over the past decade and a half, and pharmaceutical companies have recently begun experimenting with a more direct strategy:…

Protecting Pandas

I’ve got a profile of ecologist Jianguo Liu in the latest Conservation Magazine: When the Wolong Nature Reserve was established in Southwestern China in 1975, it was hailed as a landmark achievement of the environmental movement. The reserve, which covers more than 200,000 hectares, contains more than 10 percent of the wild giant panda population…

Primate Violence and Culture

One of the biggest misconceptions of natural selection is that it mandates nastiness, that the pressure to survive and multiply requires a ruthless sort of amorality. In other words, we are all Hobbesian brutes, driven to survive by selfish genes. Fortunately, our psychological reality is much less bleak. We aren’t fallen angels, but we also…

Kids and Happiness

Some new evidence suggesting that children aren’t such bundles of joy: Sociologists are discovering that children may not make parents happier and that childless adults, contrary to popular stereotypes, may often be more contented than people with kids. Parents “definitely experienced more depression,” says Robin Simon, a sociologist at Florida State University who has studied…

Chesterton, Madness, Reason

Adam Gopnik has a great New Yorker article (not online) on the genius and wickedness of G.K. Chesterton. Although he wrote some masterful books – my favorites are The Man Who Was Thursday and the Father Brown detective stories – Chesterton was also a consistent antisemitic, prone to tedious defenses of Catholic orthodoxy. To be…

Scientific Virtue

Steve Shapin, a historian of science at Harvard, argues that the romantic notion of scientists lusting after truth and not worldly riches is a wee bit oversimplified: IDEAS: Are we wrong to think of scientists as academics engaged in the noble pursuit of knowledge? SHAPIN: Well, I wouldn’t deny that there are scientists, just like…

Broken Dogs

This is a heartwarming story about the power of kindness to change behavior and rewire instinct. Michael Vick, the imprisoned QB, trained his dogs to be cruel, nasty and brutish. (The dogs that didn’t take to fighting were beaten, tortured and killed.) Most animal experts assumed that Vick’s pit bulls would need to be euthanized,…

How Prozac Really Works

I’ve got an article in the Boston Globe Ideas section on the new science of depression: Prozac is one of the most successful drugs of all time. Since its introduction as an antidepressant more than 20 years ago, Prozac has been prescribed to more than 54 million people around the world, and prevented untold amounts…

Pride and Progress

You know what makes me proud to be an American? The fact that the black presidential candidate with the funny African-Muslim name is leading in the polls against the white aviator war hero married to a beer heiress. And I’m not just saying that because I want universal health care and a progressive tax policy…