Friday, September 18, 2009

Lazy Linking

"The Dark Matter of the Human Brain"
  • Carl Zimmer on how the neuron doctrine -- basically, that neurons do the computational heavy lifting in the brain -- might be wrong, or at least radically incomplete. Glial cells, it turns out, may be far more important than previously thought.
  • "If astrocytes [a type of glial cell] really do process information, that would be a major addition to the brain’s computing power. After all, there are many more astrocytes in the brain than there are neurons. Perhaps, some scientists have speculated, astrocytes carry out their own computing. Instead of the digital code of voltage spikes that neurons use, astrocytes may act more like an analog network, encoding information in slowly rising and falling waves of calcium. In his new book, The Root of Thought, neuroscientist Andrew Koob suggests that conversations among astrocytes may be responsible for 'our creative and imaginative existence as human beings.'"
  • Olivia Judson over at the NY Times on the horrendous way in which Simon Singh has been treated. Good news: the US senate is putting pressure on the English parliament to change their libel laws. Hopefully freedom of speech will prevail. 
"The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution"
  • PZ's review of Dawkins' latest book.
  • "The enemy of ignorance is education, and the creationists know that; it's why there is so much effort by the religious conservatives to destroy public education. These are books that provide an end-run around the current deficiencies in science education in this one area, and what they ought to do is help people question the wanna-be theocrats. If they lie about evolution, if they are so transparently wrong about this one subject, maybe more people will wake up to the anti-science agenda so many are peddling in this country."
"Can I Take Your Son to Church?"
  • Religious people try to get children young... even if their parents are atheists. C.f. Dawkins' "Good and Bad Reasons for Believing": religious people were "told to believe [crazy claims] when they were young enough to believe anything."
"Publish Less, Perish More"
  • "What if we did a little more thinking and a little less sharing? What if a publication was thoroughly peer reviewed? But there’s no time for this, right? Everyone is too busy, right? There’s the rub. We’d have the time to check our research if we stop shotgunning our whims at every conference with two legs and a skimpy dress. Suddenly, we’d see the ridiculous page limit requirements relax. We’d no longer have to fit complex talks into 12.225 minutes. Most importantly, we might start to understand what the hell other people are talking about. Fancy that, a presentation outside your narrow niche that you can follow?"
"The Courthouse Ring: Atticus Finch and the limits of Southern liberalism"
  • Malcolm Gladwell's most recent piece. I can't say I like it very much, but here it is anyway.

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