The Frontal Cortex

Archives for July, 2009

The Greatest Show on Earth

In the latest edition of Publisher’s Weekly, I have a short review of The Greatest Show on Earth, the forthcoming book from Richard Dawkins: Richard Dawkins begins The Greatest Show on Earth with a short history of his writing career. He explains that all of his previous books have na├»vely assumed “the fact of evolution,”…

You Are Here

I had a review of Colin Ellard’s new book in the NY Times Book Review on Sunday: Let’s begin with a quick geography quiz: Which city is farther west, Los Angeles or Reno? If you’re like most people, you carefully reasoned your way to the wrong answer. Because Los Angeles is on the coast, and…

Swoopo

Over at The Big Money, Mark Gimein has a fascinating article on Swoopo.com. Gimein calls Swoopo “the crack cocaine of auction sites” and says it’s “the evil bastard child of game theory and behavioral economics.” The site works like this: Consider the MacBook Pro that Swoopo sold on Sunday for that $35.86. Swoopo lists its…

The Runner

John Branch has an absolutely fascinating and beautifully told article in the Times today on Diane Van Deren, one of the premier ultra-runners in the world. Last year, she won the Yukon Arctic Ultra 300, which follows the treacherous trail of the Yukon sled dog race for hundreds of miles. (She was the first woman…

Schizophrenia and Smoking

Why are schizophrenics three to four times more likely to smoke cigarettes than the general population? Over at Brainblogger, Dirk Hanson has a fascinating summary of a few recent papers that tried to understand this saga of self-medication. Nicotine, it turns out, can significantly reduce the sensory symptoms associated with the mental illness. And given…

Trust

It is now abundantly clear that the global economy remains mired in a dismal slump. Consumer confidence is still hurting; the unemployment is still rising; home prices are still falling. Despite the best efforts of Congress and the Treasury Department, nobody knows where the bottom is, or when it will arrive. Obviously, there are no…

Population Density

What led to the birth of human civilization? How did a naked ape manage to invent complex cultural forms such as language and art? One possibility is that something happened inside the mind, that a cortical switch was flipped and homo sapiens was suddenly able to paint on cave walls. But that doesn’t seem to…

Self-Esteem

In the latest issue of In Character, UPenn psychologist Angela Duckworth criticizes the systematic attempt to improve self-esteem in children: Q: Educators for some time now have put a premium on self-esteem. Schools strive to help kids develop self-esteem on the theory that other good things such as achievement will flow from increased self-esteem. Which…

Sweet and Salty

I’ve got a thing for things that are sweet and salty. Caramels with sea salt. French fries with plenty of ketchup. Peanut butter and strawberry jelly. Melon with prosciutto. Is there anything better to eat on a hot summer day than a ripe cantaloupe dressed with some cured meat, thinly sliced? I think not. But…