The Loom

Archives for March, 2004

The Accidental Tumor

For over two centuries, opponents of evolution have searched for examples of natural complexity that could have only been created by design. Reverend William Paley was fond of the eye, with its lens, retina, and other components all beautifully fine-tuned to work with one another. These days, the Intelligent Design camp tries to invoke blood…

The Wisdom of the Mailbox

I have been grievously mum in response to the many comments that readers have been sending to the Loom. My silence is not hostile–it is the result of way too much traveling, too much magazine writing, and the standard sleep deprivation that comes with life with two young daughters. In fact, reading comments is one…

Ohio Loses Its Way

Ohio’s Board of Education has taken a big step towards forcing its students to waste their time on creationist pseudo-objections to evolution. PZ Meyers has a good round-up of this sad situation.

Bioethics of–and in–the Brain

When George Bush quietly dismissed two members of his Council on Bioethics on the last Friday in February, he probably assumed the news would get buried under the weekend’s distractions. But ten days later, it’s still hot—see, for example, two articles in Slate, and an editorial in the Washington Post, as well as Chris Mooney’s…

Over on my web site I’ve posted an article I’ve just written for the Sunday Telegraph Magazine in England about an eerie brain disorder called musical hallucinosis. You’ve probably had a tune stuck in your head for an hour at least once in your life. Now imagine that the tune played all day and night–and…

The Loom In the News

The Austin Chronicle has an interesting piece today on blogs, which marks the first time anyone’s ever interviewed me about the Loom. Conclusion: no money, uncertain future, but much fun.

Secrets of the Teeth

Probing the origins of humanity is actually a lot like being a dentist. The bones of our hominid ancestors tend to fall apart, leaving behind a smattering of shards. But teeth, made of enamel, can do a better job of withstanding the ravages of time. And teeth–particularly those of mammals–are not just tough but interesting.…

I was puzzled by an article in today’s New York Times called “Researchers rewrite first chapter for the history of medicine.” William Honan, the reporter, announced that “an art historian and a medical researcher say they have pushed back by hundreds of years the earliest use of a medicinal plant.” Until now, he wrote, the…

If you want to hear about brain science at its birth and today, check out the public radio show Tech Nation, this week. In the first half of the show, I’ll be talking about Soul Made Flesh. In the second half, Steven Johnson will be talking about his excellent new book, Mind Wide Open. You…

The Creativity of Microbes

In my last post, I wrote about how our genes work in networks, much like circuits made of elements wired together in various ways. As genes are accidentally duplicated, mutated, and rewired, old networks can give rise to new ones. It’s pretty clear our ancestors could have never become particularly complex if not for this…