The Frontal Cortex

Archives for January, 2009

How We Decide

So the book is now shipping from Amazon, B&N, Powells, Borders, independent booksellers, etc. I thought I’d post an interview I conducted with myself a few months ago. (Once upon a time, I read these author Q&A’s that are used for publicity purposes and thought that someone else was asking the questions. Now I know…

Ironic Thoughts

I know, I know, you’re probably sick of me prattling on about metacognition. If so, then feel free to skip this post. I’ve got a new article in the latest Seed (it’s a particularly good issue, I think, although it’s not yet online) on the virtues and vices of thinking about thinking: The game only…

Politics and Research

Science exists in a cultural context. When the culture changes – and American culture has just a celebrated a rather massive change – the science is sure to follow. It’s a truism but it’s still true: our experiments don’t take place in a vacuum. Scientists are members of society, too. Sometimes, these cultural influences are…

Surgery Checklists

The brain is a careless beast. Mostly, I blame my carelessness on the limited capacity of working memory – it can hold seven discrete items, plus or minus two – which means that we’re constantly forcing ideas to exit the stage of awareness. And so thoughts come and go, as we try to juggle the…

Twitter

So I joined Twitter. I’m still not on Facebook, for intransigent reasons that I don’t fully understand and can’t begin to express. But consider Twitter my bold leap into the world of the social web. I guess what I enjoy about Twitter is the sheer banality of the tweets, which remind me of normal, intimate…

Capt. Sully and Deliberate Calm

I’ve got an op-ed today in the LA Times on how Captain Sullenberger managed to stay calm in the face of terrifying circumstances: We can all learn something from Capt. Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger III. After his US Airways plane lost power and the smell of smoke and jet fuel filled the cabin, he needed…

Consider the X

One of my recurring weaknesses as a writer is a reliance on the following two transitions: “Consider the X” and Look, for instance, at the X I use them all the time, even though I know they are lazy linguistic bridges, cheap transitions from idea to the next. Over at Language Log, Benjamin Zimmer has…

Trust and Fraud

Here’s James Surowiecki on the surprising link between easy credit and rampant fraud, as epitomized by the Madoff ponzi scheme: Fraud is a boom-time crime because it feeds on the faith of investors, and during bubbles that faith is overflowing. So while robbing a bank seems to be a demand-driven crime, robbing bank shareholders is…

The iPhone Mind

Here’s the philosopher David Chalmers, arguing that it’s time we expand our definition of the “mind”: “The key idea is that when bits of the environment are hooked up to your cognitive system in the right way, they are, in effect, part of the mind, part of the cognitive system. So, say I’m rearranging Scrabble…

Pinker on the Personal Genome

Steven Pinker has a very lucid and engaging summary of personal genomics in the latest Times Magazine. Pinker got his exons sequenced and is optimistic that large-scale genetic testing will soon reveal the snippets of DNA underlying our preferences, predilections and peccadillos: Dopamine is the molecular currency in several brain circuits associated with wanting, getting…