Pure Pedantry

Archives for August, 2008

One of the problems brains must overcome to behave effectively is to discretely encode all the different responses that they can produce. Considering movement alone, you can move in a lot of different ways. Selecting which one is appropriate is troublesome in itself, but encoding all of them is a challenge. It is like trying…

Elsewhere on the Interweb (8/27/08)

I have been meaning to update about this, but Presh at Mind Your Decisions blog discusses another example of Game Theory in the movie the Dark Knight. He talks about the first scene where the robbers are let us say vigorously arguing about the division of the spoils from a bank heist: The robbers don’t…

There is a great review of anti-aging science in Nature by an Jan Vijg and Judith Campisi. Life extension has been in the news with compounds like resveratrol — a compound found in red wine — shown to increase the life span of nematodes, yeast and most recently mice (though the mice in that study…

I talked last week about the pros and cons of lowering the drinking age back to 18. One of the cons that I had assumed was that lowering the drinking age would increase the number of traffic fatalities in the 18-20 cohort. A study from NBER disputes this argument. Miron and Tetelbaum looked at the…

Effeminate Semicolons

This is funny. Andrew Sullivan has a discussion going on whether the use of semicolons is (ahem) gay. It references an article in the Boston Globe documenting a variety of semicolon-haters. But here is the best comment from Bryan Appleyard: Lately, with considerable effort, I have begin to use them with some frequency; they seem…

The Fit-Fat Fight Reignites

The fit-fat fight — whether someone can be obese but still healthy — has reignited (if it ever really stopped) with an article in the Archives of Internal Medicine that was reported in the NYTimes. Wildman et al. used data from the NHANES study and looked at the relationship between Body Mass Index (BMI) and…

I have talked a little before about alternative strategies to lowering college alcohol abuse — alternative meaning as opposed to outright bans like the 21 drinking age. Now a set of college presidents are circulating something called the Amethyst Initiative whose goal is to lower the drinking age back from 21 to 18. (For those…

Screening football player’s hearts

The University of Georgia has started doing health screens to check their football players for possible arrhythmias or heart abnormalities: Makiri Pugh is not your typical college freshman. At age 18, he knows more than most young adults about the structure and health of his heart, and it’s not because he’s sick. Pugh, of Charlotte,…

The Science of Magic

There is a fascinating review in Nature Reviews Neuroscience this month about the cognitive science of magic tricks — authored by both scientists and practicing magicians (sadly behind a subscription wall). The article attempts to list and describe in neuroscientific terms the techniques that magicians use to trick their audiences. The authors break down these…

I was distressed to hear that Bernie Mac died last Saturday of pneumonia at the age of 50. I always thought he was pretty funny, and I was a big fan of the Ocean’s Eleven movies where he played a prominent part. I also raised an eyebrow when I heard that he was only 50…