Saturday, November 29, 2008

Carnival of the Africans #4

The 4th Carnival of the Africans is out over at Effortless Incitement. Highlights: 01 and the Universe on the tokoloshe and Prometheus Unbound on censorship at the CSRI.

Check it out and send some link love its way!!

Video: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams

Many of you have no doubt already seen Carnegie Mellon computer scientist Randy Pausch's wildly popular 'last lecture', "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams". For those of you who haven't, watch it, seriously (it's embedded below, or click here. You can also download the lecture via iTunes). The back story, briefly, is that Pausch was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September 2006 and later given only a couple of months to live. He gave this lecture in September of 2007 and he died in July, 2008.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Call for Submissions: Carnival of the Africans #4

Dr. Spurt of Effortless Incitement, recently awoken from a deep bloggy-slumber, will host the next edition of the Carnival of the Africans on November 28th. If you're an African blogger or you've blogged on an African topic, gather up your best three or four posts from the last month and email the Doctor at doctor[dot]spurt{at}gmail[dot]com. (Also check out his call for submissions).

As I've said many times, participating in carnivals is an excellent way to promote your blog - it not only drives traffic directly, but also indirectly by increasing your Technorati authority. So get to it guys!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Encephalon #59

Welcome to the 59th edition of Encephalon, the blog carnival to read if you're at all into (vertebrate) brains...

First up is GrrlScientist, our next host and author of Living the Scientific Life, with a report on a fascinating study that combines refrigeration and neuroscience in songbirds. No, really.

Vaughn of the venerable Mind Hacks submitted a particularly interesting post highlighting a recent Cortex special issue (viewable here via Science Direct) on the neuropsychology of paranormal beliefs and experiences. I do hope that a lot more research like this gets done...

Next is posts by two of the Neuroanthropology authors, Greg and Daniel. The latter briefly discusses internet communities of delusional or psychotic individuals, while the former writes at length about a new paper by Michael Wheeler and Andy Clark on embodied cognition and cultural evolution.

Walter Jessen of Highlight Health reports on important developments in the genetics of autism: researchers have identified several SNPs likely partially responsible for the disease.

The mighty Neurocritic submitted a very interesting post on the finding that there isn't global cognitive decline in Huntington's Disease, on the contrary, certain cognitive functions might even be enhanced. Another very nice illustration that things are always more complicated than they seem...

Sandy Guatam of The Mouse Trap sketches the goals of personality psychology and the thinks-through the neurological correlates of poverty.

Nicky Penttila and Ben Mauk at the relatively new Dana Press Blog have worthy articles on the big business potential of neurotechnology and dancing for Parkinson's patients.

Finally, two posts from Sharp Brains: Dr. Joshua Steinerman polls readers on their feelings about cognitive mental status assessments and Alvaro updates us on physical fitness and brain fitness.

That's it! The next edition will be hosted by GrrlScientist on December 8th. If you would like to contribute, please send an email to encephalon{dot}host{at}gmail{dot}com.

Google bomb

Ignore this, I'm just helping out with my Google Juice...

Sylvia Browne

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Light posting apology

Apologies for the recent lack of entries - I've been rather busy in the meatspace recently. There should, however, be some action over the next couple of days.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Malcolm Gladwell times two...

As I've said several times before, Malcolm Gladwell is my favorite science journalist. So I was happy to discover (via Mind Hacks) that New York Magazine has published a lengthy profile of Gladwell which focuses on his upcoming book Outliers.

Also, Gladwell has a new article, entitled "The Uses of Adversity", out in the New Yorker. As usual, fascinating and highly recommended.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Evolutionary Perspectives on War

New Scientist magazine has a report on a very interesting-looking recent University of Oregon conference entitled "Evolutionary Perspectives on War: An Interdisciplinary Conference" (pdf). I must say, I'm deeply sorry to have missed it - several of the papers presented looks fascinating:
  • Steve Frost ("Evidence for coalitional aggression in the hominid fossil record"),
  • Steven LeBlanc ("Recent hunter-gatherer warfare as a model for our evolutionary past"),
  • Samuel Bowles ("Was Warfare among Ancestral Foragers Sufficiently Common to Affect the Course of Human Evolution?"),
  • Joshua Duntley ("Evolutionary psychology of war"), and
  • Napoleon Chagnon ("Human conflicts and warfare in history: An evolutionary assessment").
Some of the most interesting bits from the New Scientist piece:

Now a new theory is emerging that challenges the prevailing view that warfare is a product of human culture and thus a relatively recent phenomenon. For the first time, anthropologists, archaeologists, primatologists, psychologists and political scientists are approaching a consensus. Not only is war as ancient as humankind, they say, but it has played an integral role in our evolution.

The theory helps explain the evolution of familiar aspects of warlike behaviour such as gang warfare. And even suggests the cooperative skills we've had to develop to be effective warriors have turned into the modern ability to work towards a common goal.


If group violence has been around for a long time in human society then we ought to have evolved psychological adaptations to a warlike lifestyle. Several participants presented the strongest evidence yet that males - whose larger and more muscular bodies make them better suited for fighting - have evolved a tendency towards aggression outside the group but cooperation within it. "There is something ineluctably male about coalitional aggression - men bonding with men to engage in aggression against other men," says Rose McDermott, a political scientist at Stanford University in California.

Civil rights for atheists

Some people, apparently, think that civil rights don't extend to atheist Americans. Incredible and depressing. (Click for a higher-res version).

Science is awesome

So I blogged about an unconfirmed direct picture of a planet around a sun-like star a while ago, but now it seems we have the real deal. The image is below and, as usual, Phil Plait has the details. Wow.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Skeptics' Circle #99

The 99th edition of the Skeptics' Circle is out at Ferret's Cage. Highlights: Pooflingers Anonymous on Kent Hovind's son's silliness, Greta Christina on religious faith, The Bronze Blog on the definition of woo, and Happy Jihad's House of Pancakes on yet more silliness from Answers in Genesis.

A great edition, check it out!

2008 Bad Faith Awards

The New Humanist is running a poll in its 2008 Bad Faith Award. You get to vote on who you think is the "most scurrilous enemy of reason". The contenders include Sarah Palin, Rowan Williams, Ann Coulter and Adnan Oktar (who I discussed here). I think it's a pretty close call between Oktar and Palin but I ended up voting for the latter. Go have your say...


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Encephalon #58

The 58th edition of Encephalon is out at Highlight Health. Posts to check out: Sajid Surve at Brain Blogger on Hitler and propaganda; The Mouse Trap on religion and intelligence; Mind Hacks on psychopathy and The Neurocritic on empathy in boys with aggressive conduct disorder.

Oh, and I'm hosting the next edition - so please email your contributions to{at}

Monday, November 3, 2008

My Blogaversary

Today, November 3rd is my first blogaversary! My very first post, "Welcome...", now makes for rather odd reading - things didn't turn out how I expected at all. After starting, I soon realized that I'm powerless in the face of my wide interests, so my blog didn't become the narrowly-focused academic-fest I had envisaged. And, honestly, I think that's for the better... Anyway, I've learned a tremendous amount, had a tremendous amount of fun and, despite a few hiccups along the way, it's been a great year. Thanks to all my readers for, well, reading - I doubt I'd keep it up without at least something of an audience (small as it is)...