Culture

The Frontal Cortex

Category archives for Culture

Chat Rooms

Context is everything: Sana Klaric and husband Adnan, who used the names “Sweetie” and “Prince of Joy” in an online chatroom, spent hours telling each other about their marriage troubles, Metro.co.uk reported. The truth emerged when the two turned up for a date. Now the pair, from Zenica in central Bosnia, are divorcing after accusing…

Market Bubbles and Human Nature

Alan Greenspan seems to have discovered the irrationality of human nature. In his recent appearance on the Daily Show, he lamented the stubborn persistence of financial bubbles, from junk bonds to dot-com stocks to real estate. (For a thorough history of bubbles, from tulips to today, check out this book.) John Stewart confessed that Greenspan’s…

Sucky Hybrids

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the vast majority of hybrid cars aren’t worth the surcharge. You’d get much better mileage with a smaller engine, especially if it was a clean diesel. What worries me about hybrids is that they seem to satisfy this bourgeois lust for environmentally friendly brands – nothing…

Religion Without God (Judaism Version)

So it’s the High Holy Day season again – the pious two weeks in the Jewish calendar connecting Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur – and that means that many American Jews are going to shul. For most of these religious observers, this will be their only trip to temple during the year (unless, of course,…

Music and Amnesia

There’s a really wonderful article by Oliver Sacks in the New Yorker this week, excerpted from his forthcoming Musicophilia. I’ve got a profile of Sacks in the next issue of Seed (hitting newsstands soon), which was a real thrill to write, since he’s always been one of my intellectual heroes. Here’s how I describe Clive…

Why Do We Need the Humanities?

Rachel Donadio, over at the Times Book Review, had an interesting little essay on the canon wars, Allan Bloom and the fate of the humanities. But what caught my eye was this melancholy paragraph: All this reflects what the philosopher Martha Nussbaum today describes as a “loss of respect for the humanities as essential ingredients…

Birds and FoxP2

One of the more fascinating bits of research I couldn’t cram into my recent article on the bird brain concerned some work out Erich Jarvis’ lab. In 2004, Jarvis and colleagues found that songbirds have a nearly identical version of a gene known as FoxP2 that has been linked to inherited language deficits in humans.…

Synthetic Memory

One day, your iPod will be made out of biological flesh. Just kidding. In general, I’m a pretty staunch skeptic of The Singularity, but I’ve got to admit that experiments like this are pretty rad: A team in Silver’s HMS lab led by Caroline Ajo-Franklin, now at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and postdoctoral scientist David…

Split-Brain Video

I’ve always thought someone could make a great television show by featuring some of the more bizarre and enlightening neurological syndromes that afflict the human brain. What is it like, for example, to not have an amygdala, or OFC, or insula? Or to be suffering from Capgras syndrome? Or to have a severed corpus callosum?…

Birds Are Smart

I’ve got an article in yesterday’s Boston Globe on the acute intelligence of birds, which is a by-product of their sociality: There is a growing scientific recognition of the genius of birds. Scientists are now studying various birds to explore everything from spatial memory to the grammatical structure of human language. This research is helping…