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The Frontal Cortex

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The Shallows

I’ve got a review of The Shallows, a new book by Nicholas Carr on the internet and the brain, in the NY Times: Socrates started what may have been the first technology scare. In the “Phaedrus,” he lamented the invention of books, which “create forgetfulness” in the soul. Instead of remembering for themselves, Socrates warned,…

Memory is Fiction

Over at Slate, William Saletan has finished a wonderful series on the distortions and dishonesties of memory. Although our memories always feel true, they’re extremely vulnerable to errant suggestions, clever manipulations and the old fashioned needs of storytelling. (The mind, it turns out, cares more about crafting a good narrative than staying close to the…

Jet Lag

Jet lag is an annoyance of modern life for which our pleistocene brain is completely unprepared. This ability to zip around the globe, to trapeze from time zone to time zone, is an invention of the late 20th century. Unfortunately, the brain is an organ of routine, equipped with a stubborn circadian clock. We are…

High Stakes Innovation

This oil spill sure is getting depressing. We’ve become extremely talented at hiding away the ill effects of our consumption decisions. We don’t see the inhumane chicken farms behind our chicken McNuggets, or the Chinese factories that produce our shoes, or the offshore oil rigs that extract our oil from the center of the earth.…

Anchoring

In the last few months, the globalized world has endured two very different crises. First, there was the ash cloud over Europe, which paralyzed air travel for millions of passengers. Then, there is the leaking oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, which continues to spew somewhere between 5000 and 60,000 barrels of crude into…

Mapping the Human Brain

The Allen Brain Atlas just launched their first set of gene expression maps in the adult human brain, based on microarray data from over 700 different anatomical locations. It promises to be an invaluable resource for scientists trying to figure out how a text of base pairs constructs the most complicated machine in the known…

Pixar

I’ve got a short feature on the Pixar creative process in the latest issue of Wired. This is one of those magazine spreads that really benefits from a glossy paper layout, so I’d recommend not following this hyperlink, and instead picking up the dead paper edition. (It’s a really great issue.) As a huge fan…

Family Life

Benedict Carey summarizes a new UCLA study that documented the life of middle-class families, videotaping their dinners, conversations and leisure activities: The U.C.L.A. project was an effort to capture a relatively new sociological species: the dual-earner, multiple-child, middle-class American household. The investigators have just finished working through the 1,540 hours of videotape, coding and categorizing…

The Near Miss

Mo over at Neurophilosophy has an excellent summary of a new paper on near misses and addictive gambling: Henry Chase and Luke Clark of the Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute in Cambridge have previously found that the brain responds to near miss gambling outcomes in much the same way it does to as winning. In…

Travel

Since I’ve been traveling in a foreign country for the last week – I was sipping sugary tea all over Turkey – I thought this article, published last year in McSweeney’s Panorama newspaper, was slightly relevant. If nothing else, it’s my personal attempt to justify both the annoying burdens of travel (especially foreign travel) and…