The Frontal Cortex

Archives for September, 2009

Love and Creativity

Over at Mind Matters, we’ve got a wonderful new column on the cognitive benefits of falling in love by Nira Liberman and Oren Shapira. It turns out that serious romance – but not short-sighted lust – leads us to think in a more abstract manner, attuned to the subtle connections that we often overlook. (Of…

Fasting

Yesterday was Yom Kippur, the Jewish holiday of atonement. It’s traditional to fast on Yom Kippur for all the usual religious reasons – not eating is a way to elevate the spirit and purify the mind (or so says the Talmud). It makes the sacred day feel a little less ordinary. I have to confess:…

Social Determinism

In my essay on social networks and research of Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, I describe a few of the striking medical effects produced by social networks: By studying Framingham as an interconnected network rather than a mass of individuals, Christakis and Fowler made a remarkable discovery: Obesity spread like a virus. Weight gain had…

Girl Talk, Working Memory and Creativity

Over at GQ, the excellent Paul Tough* profiles Gregg Gillis, the madcap mixer behind Girl Talk. For those of you who aren’t cool enough to know – and I’m only cool enough because my younger sister is cool enough – Girl Talk is a mash-up artist par excellence. He’s taken the concept of sampling –…

Empiricism, Economics and Mystery

I finally got around to reading Paul Krugman’s takedown of modern economics, which is a lucid dissection of his own field. His core argument is that economists made the old Keatsian error, mistaking a beautiful theory for the truth: As I see it, the economics profession went astray because economists, as a group, mistook beauty,…

Jung and Dreams

There’s a fascinating article in the NY Times Magazine by Sara Corbett on the publication of Jung’s infamous Red Book, in which he attempted (often in vain) to map the infinite labyrinth of his unconscious: Some people feel that nobody should read the book, and some feel that everybody should read it. The truth is,…

Monetizing Networks

There’s one other angle to the social network story that I wasn’t able to mention in my Wired essay. Right now, retail companies are investing a pretty penny in consumer preference algorithms, that AI software which suggests books to buy on Amazon, and DVD’s to rent on Netflix, and songs to purchase on iTunes. The…

Cultural Plasticity

Clearly, what the world needs is another blogger weighing in on the Kanye West/Taylor Swift controversy. But I have no interest in castigating Kanye – I don’t pick my music based on the politesse of the artists. Instead, what struck me about this peculiar celebrity moment was the fact that I really enjoy both Kanye…

Social Networks

I’ve got a new essay on social networks and the research of Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler in the latest issue of Wired: There’s something strange about watching life unfold as a social network. It’s easy to forget that every link is a human relationship and every circle a waistline. The messy melodrama of life–all…

Efficiency

The human brain, it turns out, is even more efficient than previous estimates: Fifty-seven years ago, Nobel laureates Alan Hodgkin and Andrew Huxley came up with a model to calculate the power behind electrochemical currents in neurons–a great step forward in understanding how the brain worked and how it divvied up resources. The only problem…