Throwback Thursday: The ER and the Stroke

When I quit the day job, nine years ago now, I inquired to volunteer at a local hospital, and was processed through a formal application and selection drill: application with references and background check; tuberculosis test and booster shots; orientation that included a grand tour of the byzantine hospital bowels; attend specialty departmental training; get…

Flashing Lights and Random Noise in the City of the Brain

The ophthalmologist asked if I was still seeing the flashing lights. Rarely, but hard to predict. So the brain has gotten used to them, and is ignoring them, she said, and I immediately wondered why that same brain couldn’t ignore the tinnitus sounds also. Sophisticated sound systems increase chances of distraction from random noise. If…

The Phrenological Slope of the Post

Do some blog-brains have a pronounced proclivity propelling profuse postings, and can the inclination be felt in the shape of their skulls? A blogger has fallen from grace with the blogging sea. I’ve been meaning to post on the phenom, and even though it’s old news in today’s Blogger Ocean, where tides rise and fall…

David Brooks and The Plaque of Alienation; or, the Consciousness Bubble

Are we making progress? And is the progress good? Have humans improved over time? Are we better than our ancestors? What makes us human, and whatever that is, have we been improving upon it? The universe may be expanding; our consciousness is not. Something seems to be blocking our arteries: the plaque of alienation. Yet…

Theo Jansen and Advanced “Avatar”

Caleb Crain, we learned yesterday, prefers movies that are true to nature, acoustic. He’s more interested in the Carny than the ride, while David Denby prefers the roller coaster, ignoring the Carny, and if he doesn’t have to leave the theatre for the ride, even better. Johnny Meah’s act wouldn’t make much of a movie…

Theodore Dreiser and Flannery O’Connor were Neuroscientists, too

Over at The Frontal Cortex, Jonah Lehrer has posted his Wall Street Journal article in which he takes the pow out of will power, arguing the busy brain is to blame for human frailties. It’s a classic defense of the human condition (Dreiser used it in An American Tragedy), and a blow to the motivational-speaker…

Where readers eSurface but authors lose control

One advantage of the eBook is lightness. And library books “just disappear” from the little light box on the due date – so no overdue notices, an article in this week’s Christian Science Monitor (print edition) illustrates (we’ve noticed our print books disappearing occasionally, reminding us of bumbling Polonius’s advice, “Neither a borrower nor a lender…

Rap Phonics Rhapsody: Eating the Alphabet and Spitting it Out

If the vowels decide to strike, we can probably keep the machines running, but if we lose the consonants, we’ll have to shut down. How should we learn to read? The beginning reader, trying to make soundsense from the smell of ink of the “…miseffectual whyacinthinous riot of blots and blurs and bars and balls and…

A Different Brain: Reinventing Neuroscience from the Bottom Down

We saw Robert B. Laughlin lecture in Portland in 2005. It was Eric’s idea. He was taking a high school physics class, and there was a free ticket and extra credit in the wings, so we tagged along, always interested in what the physicists are up to. The hall was packed. On the stage was…

Neuroscepticism: Exploring the Dark Matter of the Brain

The neuroscientists exploring the brain are like the physicists exploring the universe. We are reminded of Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle: no cat, lots of string. We enjoyed The Frontal Cortex’s answer to our question on the distinction between brain and mind: “The mind is really just a piece of meat.” Still, that’s more than some physicists…