The Loom

Archives for June, 2004

Machiavellian Monkeys

Our brains are huge, particularly if you take into consideration the relative size of our bodies. Generally, the proportion of brain to body is pretty tight among mammals. But the human brain is seven times bigger than what you’d predict from the size of our body. Six million years ago, hominid brains were about a…

Taking the Plunge

We like to think of boundaries as being clear-cut borders, but at least in the biological world they generally turn out to be fuzzy zones of change. The line between land and sea is my own favorite example. Last summer my wife and I would sometimes take our oldest daughter Charlotte to the beach. At…

Love Is A Virus

Love demands an explanation. Less than 5% of mammal species live monogamously, with males and females staying together beyond mating, and fathers helping mothers care for babies. We humans aren’t the most monogamous species of the bunch, but we’re closer to that end of the spectrum than the other end, where mating is little more…

In the New York Times this morning, the poet Diane Ackerman has written an essay about the brain, in which she waxes eloquent about its ability to discern patterns in the world. The essay is distilled from her new book, An Alchemy of the Mind, which I’ve just reviewed for the Washington Post. I didn’t…

No Press Releases, Please

A press release turned up in the comments for a couple of my posts. While that’s not as bad as Viagra-ad spam, it’s not in the spirit of blogosphere. If you post a press release, it will be deleted. Post a comment in your own words, and it will stay.

Battle of the Hole Punchers

One of the most exciting lines of research in evolution today is how parasites have become so good at making us sick. A case in point appears in the latest issue of Genome Biology (full text of paper here). It appears that parasites have stolen one of our best lines of defense and now use…

From Souls to Genes

I always like book reviews that combine books that might not at first seem to have that much in common. In the new issue of Natural History, the neuroscientist Williams Calvin reviews Soul Made Flesh along with The Birth of the Mind, a fascinating book by Gary Marcus of NYU. If you haven’t heard of…

Mister Adaptation

Do you know who George Williams is? If you don’t, let me introduce you to one of the most influential evolutionary biologists ever to ponder natural selection. If you do know who he is, you may still be interested in my article in this week’s Science about a symposium that was recently held in Williams’s…

All in the Australian Mind

It’s strange enough hearing yourself talking on the radio. It’s stranger still to see a transcript someone makes of you talking on the radio. Recently I was interviewed about Soul Made Flesh on Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s show "All in the Mind." Instead of an audio archive, ABC has posted a transcript of the show. While…

The Wi-Fi Within

I was asked a couple weeks ago to contribute a piece to a special series of articles in Newsweek about the future of Wi-Fi. I must admit that a fair amount of the stuff that’s on the Wi-Fi horizon seems a little banal to me. It’s nice to know that I will be able to…