The Frontal Cortex

Archives for March, 2009

F-16

An inspired metaphor for the inherent instability of the brain by Moshe Bar: The fighter plane F-16 is the first aeroplane intentionally designed to have an aerodynamically unstable platform. This design was chosen to enhance the aircraft’s manoeuvrability. Most aeroplanes are designed to be stable such that they strive to return to their original attitude…

Industrialized Science

Wired has now put more photos from my article on the Allen Brain Atlas online. They’re grotesquely gorgeous: While the Allen Atlas of gene expression has already proven itself to be a valuable research tool, I think the project’s most profound long-term impact will come from its methodological innovations. For the most part, modern science…

Breast-Feeding v2

My short post on breast-feeding from a few days ago (inspired by this article by Hanna Rosin) has inspired a lot of dissenting email. Since comments are still disabled – I hope to have them back soon, though – I want to post a selection of the criticism. Just to reiterate and clarify: I don’t…

Dartmouth

A quick note: I’ll be giving my stump speech at the Dartmouth Bookstore in Hanover, NH tomorrow (3/29) at 3 PM.

Breast-Feeding

In the latest Atlantic, Hanna Rosin has a very interesting article/manifesto that rails against the “cult of breast-feeding”: The medical literature [on breast-feeding] shows that breast-feeding is probably, maybe, a little better; but it is far from the stampede of evidence that Sears describes. More like tiny, unsure baby steps: two forward, two back, with…

Phony Experts

Nicholas Kristof has a great column today on Philip Tetlock and political experts, who turn out to be astonishingly bad at making accurate predictions: The expert on experts is Philip Tetlock, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. His 2005 book, “Expert Political Judgment,” is based on two decades of tracking some 82,000 predictions…

Beyond the Skull

Over at Salon, there’s a quite interesting interview with UC-Berkeley philosopher Alva Noe, author of Out of Our Heads. (I reviewed the book in the SF Chronicle last month.) Q: Maybe I’m naive but it seems kind of obvious that the brain is the mechanism that — in the context of a person’s life and…

Men Vs. Women

Here’s another common question I get at my book talks: “Is there a difference between the male and female brain when it comes to decision-making? Are women really more intuitive? Which sex is the better decider?” While there are certainly relevant differences between the male and female brain – that wash of sex hormones in…

Boredom

Here’s Joseph Brodsky (via Kottke), praising boredom: A substantial part of what lies ahead of you is going to be claimed by boredom. The reason I’d like to talk to you about it today, on this lofty occasion, is that I believe no liberal arts college prepares you for that eventuality. Neither the humanities nor…

Mapping the Brain

I’ve got a new feature in Wired Magazine on the Allen Brain Institute and their heroic attempts to construct a gene expression map of the human brain. I was most impressed by the way the Institute has “industrialized” the scientific process, as it transforms the artisan model of lab benchwork – post docs playing with…