The Frontal Cortex

Archives for June, 2009

Market Analysis

There was a telling moment yesterday on the NYTimes.com website. It was just after 10:30 in the morning and the top of the site featured a breaking news article about the S&P 500 heading into higher territory. The article offered the usual litany of explanations, from better than expected news on housing starts to a…

Radiolab

There’s a new full-length podcast out from the world’s finest science radio show. It’s on “Stochasticity,” which is a great word because 1) it sounds really fancy but is actually a rather simple idea 2) it’s an essential concept when it comes to understanding lots of different stuff, from neural oscillations to quantum physics. I…

Processing Power

Tom Vanderbilt has a fascinating article on the infrastructure of data centers, those server farms that make Google, Facebook and World of Warcraft possible. Every keystroke on the internet (including this one) relies on shuttling electrons back and forth in a remote air-conditioned industrial hangar. These are the highway ribbons of the future, the grid…

Home Field Advantage

The Lakers-Magic game last night was quite the thrill-ride: it’s now the morning after, and my pulse has only begun to return to its resting rate. (Full disclosure: I’m a Lakers fan.) The game was played in Orlando and the big moment came when the Lakers’ Derek Fisher nailed a three-pointer at the end of…

Emotional Perception

Mo, over at Neurophilosophy, has a fantastic summary of a new paper from scientists at the University of Toronto investigating the link between affective mood and visual perception. The basic moral is this: If you want to improve your peripheral vision, or become better at noticing seemingly extraneous details, then do something to make yourself…

Social Contagions

A fascinating YouTube video, from the Sasquatch Music Festival: This reminds me of the classic Milgram study on social conformity. (No, I’m not talking about that Milgram experiment.) In this study, Milgram had “confederates” stop on a busy city street and look upwards at the sky. He demonstrated that when one person was looking up,…

ADHD

Here’s a question I get quite a bit, which usually goes something like this: Is ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) real? Or is it a made-up diagnosis for misbehaving kids? The short answer is that ADHD (and its precursor, ADD) are absolutely real disorders. They have real neurological underpinnings (including a large genetic component) and real,…

Daydreaming and Booze

What happens to the brain when we drink alcohol? In recent years, scientists have discovered that booze works by binding to and potentiating a specific GABA receptor subtype. (GABA is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the mammalian brain, which means it helps to regulate and quiet cellular activity.) While it remains unclear how, exactly, these…

The World

I’m answering a few questions from readers over at PRI’s The World. They’ve just started a new science forum, which aims to provide a sorely needed international perspective on science issues. Check it out.

Choice

Americans love alternatives. One of the benefits of modern capitalism, after all, is that we’re free to consume products that perfectly match our preferences – if you want to wear skinny jeans with a Black Sabbath t-shirt, flip flops and a fedora (I saw such a person yesterday – he looked very satisfied with himself)…