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The Need for Critical Thinking

One of the (perhaps) good things to come out of the recent political climate in the US is a broader appreciation for the need to teach critical thinking skills. I hope we can capitalize on this new awareness to make some longstanding changes to our culture. For example, a recent NYT article is titled: “Why […]

Y2K and the Year 2038 Problem

I was recently asked about the year 2038 problem as it relates to the Y2K bug. Specifically, it seemed like the Y2K bug was a non-event, so should we similarly not worry about the year 2038 problem. Lessons from Y2K At this point some of you may not know what I am talking about, so […]

The Need for Publicly Funded Science

The American scientific community is in a bit of a panic over Trump’s first proposed budget. The budget calls for an 18% decrease ($5.8 billion) for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). There are deep cuts in energy research and Earth science as well. The reaction of the scientific community has been consistent – such […]

Unethical "Stem Cell" Therapy for Autism In India?

I just read a concerning paper about an experimental stem cell treatment for children with autism. The authors are Himanshu Bansal and colleagues of India. The senior author, Prasad S Koka, is the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Stem Cells where the paper appeared, which raises questions about whether the manuscript received a thorough peer review. Show More Summary

Microaggressions

I have to say, from the first time I heard the term “microaggression” I didn’t like it. Something deeply bothered me about the concept, but I kept an open mind as I tried to understand how it was being defined and used. A recent article by Scott Lilienfield (who is a friend of mine and […]

Does Glyphosate Cause Cancer?

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is the most popular herbicide used in the world. It has gained particular attention because several of the more commonly used GMOs are glyphosate tolerant, and therefore are intended to be used with the herbicide. Glyphosate is also manufactured by Monsanto (although it is off patent and there are […]

The Incredible Lesion-Proof Brain?

How much damage can the brain take and still function normally? In a new paper, A Lesion-Proof Brain?, Argentinian researchers Adolfo M. García et al. describe the striking case of a woman who shows no apparent deficits despite widespread...Show More Summary

Misleading systematic review of mindfulness studies used to promote Bensen Institute for Mind-Body Medicine services

A seriously flawed overview “systematic review “ of systematic reviews and meta-analyses of the effects of mindfulness on health and well-being alerts readers how they need to be skeptical of what they are told about

GM Corn To Prevent Deadly Toxin

Aflatoxin is a serious food contaminant that causes both acute and chronic illness in animals and humans. It was first discovered in 1960 when 100,000 turkeys in the UK died over the course of a few months. Their deaths were tracked to a nut-based feed that was contaminated with a newly discovered toxin, named aflatoxin. […]

Don't Blame Trump's Brain

The past year has seen the emergence of a new field of neuroscience: neuroTrumpology. Also known as Trumphrenology, this discipline seeks to diagnose and explain the behaviour of Donald Trump and his supporters through reference to the...Show More Summary

Reconsidering The Nudge

In 2008 Thaler and Sunstein published their book, Nudge, advocating for a more nuanced approach to changing public behavior. Since then nudge theory has been quite popular but hasn’t created the revolution optimists had hoped. Here is the core problem: people do not always act in their own best interest. Sometimes this affects only them, […]

The Ethics of Citation

Earlier this week, Jordan Anaya asked an interesting question on Twitter: Why do we blame the media for reporting on bad studies but we don't blame scientists for citing bad studies? — Omnes Res (@OmnesResNetwork) March 6, 2017 This got me thinking about what we might call the ethics of citation. Citation is a little-discussed subject in science. Show More Summary

A brain-enhancement amusement park mockumentary

“There was a level of undefined brain activity, about 30% higher, than the kids who stayed on the ground.” The Centrifuge Brain Project is an awesome short film by Till Nowak, featuring a deadpan performance by Leslie Barany.The fictitious website of the Institute for Centrifugal Research (ICR) is one of the best since LACUNA Inc. Show More Summary

Fast Radio Bursts and Alien Life

Fast radio bursts (FRBs) are brief, bright, and distant bursts of radio emissions that are of unknown origin. Recently they have been in the news because of a paper which explores the feasibility that FRBs have an alien origin. “Fast radio bursts are exceedingly bright given their short duration and origin at great distances, and […]

Getting High Off Snakebites?

In a curious case report, Indian psychiatrists Lekhansh Shukla and colleagues describe a young man who said he regularly got high by being bitten by a snake. The 21-year old patient sought treatment for his heavy drug abuse, which included heroin and marijuna. Show More Summary

Alzheimer’s and Stem Cells

A recent article in The Mercury News reports on the work of a neurosurgeon who is injecting fat-derived stem cells into the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. The reports is, unfortunately, typical. It revolves around a heart-wrenching anecdote, while giving the facts with the usual false balance. This is the perfect storm for dubious treatments – […]

Ben Carson and the Power of the Hippocampus

"I could take the oldest person here, make a little hole right here on the side of the head, and put some depth electrodes into their hippocampus and stimulate. And they would be able to recite back to you, verbatim, a book they read 60 years ago." So said Ben Carson, the U.S. Show More Summary

Phasing Out Coal

It seems clear that if we are going to make significant progress in reducing global CO2 emissions, we are going to need to phase out the burning of coal to generate electricity. The UK may serve as a demonstration of this fact. In recent years UK coal burning has plummeted – in 2016 the UK burned […]

Terraforming Mars

How high a priority should we have for sending people to Mars? This seems to be a big question these days. NASA is developing the Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion capsule specifically to have the capacity to send people to Mars. Elon Musk has stated that the real purpose of SpaceX is to […]

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