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Neurophilosophy

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BibliOdyssey: Must-have blog book

This brain map comes from The Book of Life: The Spiritual and Physical Constitution of Man (1912), by the obscure mystical philosopher Alesha Sivartha, who is sometimes referred to as a “grandfather of the new-age movement”. The map is of particular interest, as it approaches modern neurology but still retains a few elements of phrenology,…

Synaesthesia: The hidden sense

Synaesthesia is a condition in which stimuli of one type evoke sensations in another sensory modality. For example, hearing particular sounds might evoke strong sensations of colour or (more rarely) words might evoke strong tastes in the mouth. In The Hidden Sense, social scientist Cretien van Crampen investigates synaesthesia from an artisitic and scientific perspective.…

Proverbial psychology

Today’s Independent contains an extract from Taking the Proverbial, a book about the psychology of proverbs by Geoff Rolls. The extract includes sections from the book which discuss the proverbs “An elephant never forgets” and “Practice makes perfect”. The section about the first includes a nice summary of some animal cognition studies, and the second…

Does Craig Venter deserve a Nobel Prize?

And is James Watson in the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease? In this review of Craig Venter’s autobiography A Life Decoded and James Watson’s Avoid Boring People, Financial Times science editor Clive Cookson says that Venter’s Nobel Prize prize is overdue, perhaps because of “the outdated bad-boy image he retains among some sections of the…

A Century of Nature

Just published by University of Chicago Press is A Century of Nature: Twenty-One Discoveries that Changed Science and the World. The book contains seminal Nature papers published over the last 100 years, each of which is accompanied by commentary from a leading scientist in the field. Included in the book are the 1953 paper in…

Curiouser & curiouser

Vaughan has found a fascinating article about the many references to neurological syndromes in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. On the right is one of Sir John Tenniel’s original illustrations for the book. It accompanies the following passage: “Curiouser and curiouser!” cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite…

The birth of Frankenstein

Giovanni Aldini’s electrical experiments on executed criminals in Bologna, from Essai theorique et experimental sur le galvanisme, published in 1804. (Image from the Rare Book and Manuscript Collections at Cornell University Library.) The experiments of Italian physicist Giovanni Aldini (1762-1834) provided Mary Shelley with some of the inspiration for her classic gothic novel Frankenstein. Aldini…

Below are a few quotes from this interview with theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson, whose new book, A Many-colored Glass, is about to be published. On science, religion and Richard Dawkins: I think it’s only a small fraction of people who think that [science and religion are at odds]. Perhaps they have louder voices than the…

Spikes & maps in the brain

This week, I’ve received three books which I’ll be writing about in the near future: My Lobotomy, by Howard Dully and Charles Fleming. Dully was lobotomized at the age of 12 at the behest of his stepmother – that’s him on the right, holding an instrument identical to the one he was lobotomized with; this…

Call me old fashioned…

but I prefer holding a book in my hands to reading from a computer screen. We already have the technology that will enable us to carry whole libraries in our pockets. Next month, for example, Amazon will launch Kindle, an electronic book reader, and Google will begin charging users for full access to the digital…