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Neuroexistentialism: A Brain in Search of Meaning

[image from Huth et al., 2016] No, not “meaning ” in the semantic sense... “Neuroexistentialism” is the angst that some humans feel upon realizing that the mind and spirit have an entirely physical basis. At a personal level I don't understand all the hubbub, because I accepted that mind = brain when I entered graduate school to study neuroscience. Show More Summary

Soft Robots

Part of the reason I like science fiction is because it can be a thought-experiment about future technology and society. For this reason, like any self-respecting nerd, I often pay close attention to the details of how future technology is portrayed. Stepping out of the movie-as-entertainment and storytelling for minute, and focusing on the ideas […]

Decision-making: the Role of Neuronal Crowdsourcing

Decision-making, in most cases, is not a straightforward process. Facing contradictory facts and opinions, people often struggle to decide on the best way forward when a complicated problem needs to be solved. In human society, we eventually rely on two methods of decision-making: we can follow the will of the majority, or we can delegate […]

Update on Arctic Sea Ice

The extent of Arctic sea ice is an important marker for global climate change. In the last forty years it also has been unequivocally shrinking. NASA has been tracking Arctic sea ice extent at different times of the year, with the September minimum being an important point of comparison. Like any chaotic system there are […]

Scientific Papers Are Getting Less Readable

"The readability of scientific texts is decreasing over time", according to a new paper just out. Swedish researchers Pontus Plaven-Sigray and colleagues say that scientists today use longer and more complex words than those of the past, making their writing harder to read. Show More Summary

Environmental Factors in Development of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is one of those conditions where genetics is known to play a profound role but is not the sole factor in disease development and progression. The evidence is mounting that the environment has a great deal to do with the development of this neurodegenerative disorder. Moreover, it is now known that the right […]

Cassini’s Dramatic End

The Cassini probe to Saturn has been considered one of the most successful space missions in history. Today it will plunge into the upper atmosphere of Saturn. As the atmosphere gets thicker on its way down the probe will begin to tumble from the turbulence, until it is ripped apart by the violent forces and […]

India Opens Homeopathy Laboratory

As I continue my efforts to fight against pseudoscience in medicine, I often ask myself – how bad can it theoretically get? I have had this discussion with others as well, some of whom argue that we should not worry because science will win out in the long run. Science is self-corrective, and pseudoscience will […]

Update on the Journal of Stem Cells

In April, I called attention to what I saw as serious ethical and scientific problems with a biomedical journal, the Journal of Stem Cells. Now, this publication has been removed from a leading journal index. I wrote in April that: I have discovered evidence of plagiarism in two papers in the Journal... Show More Summary

The Mystery of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Almost 150 years have passed since Jean-Martin Charcot first described amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as motor neuron disease, an ailment that leads to the destruction of motor neurons. Medical sciences have progressed tremendously in the last century, resulting in serious improvements in health care and our ability to manage even the most serious […]

Should Research Funding Be Distributed Equally Among Scientists?

Instead of making scientists compete for grants based on project proposals, research funding could simply be divided equally among all 'qualified' researchers, according to a new paper. Authors Krist Vaesen and Joel Katzav argue that...Show More Summary

The Safety and Ethics of Self-Driving Cars

Germany just came out with their first regulations for self-driving cars that address how they will be programmed with respect to safety. Specifically – what should the programming do if harm cannot be completely avoided and it has to decide between the lesser of two bad outcomes? Germany is the first country to come out […]

Trans — From the Moment of Birth

The moment I was born, the doctor looked at my nether regions, saw a penis, and announced to my parents, “It’s a boy”. Along with that announcement came a long list of expectations about how a boy’s life should unfold in rural Nebraska in the 1940s and ’50s. No ambiguity. No nuance. Boys will be […]

PETA’s Counterproductive Attack on Young Researcher

In North America house sparrows are a menace. They are an invasive species introduced in the 19th century, and have established themselves as a large population. Unfortunately they do so by displacing many local species, such as blue birds. They are cavity nesters and will use up many of the prime nesting spots before migratory […]

Follow Me: Astrocytes in Spinal Cord Repair

You are standing in the middle of King’s Cross with a postcode in your hands, your feet trodden on by the busy crowd. So much has changed since you were last here 20 years ago, and every way you go seems to meet frowning faces set in their own path. By a lucky coincidence, somebody […]

How People Thrive

There is a science to happiness and to what we might call thriving (sometimes called flourishing) – not just surviving, but being happy and fulfilled. Obviously any such phenomenon is going to be very complex and variable, but some clear patterns are emerging in the psychological literature. A recent study by Brown et al reviews […]

Eliminating Personal Belief Exemptions for Vaccines

In the US routine childhood vaccination is required for entry into public school, and in some states even private school. This is a reasonable public health policy. Vaccination not only protects the individual against common infectious diseases, but when enough people get vaccinated this creates community immunity (often referred to as herd immunity) which protects […]

One In Four US Children Exposed To Weapon Violence: Helping Kids Cope with Trauma

An important study published in Pediatrics1 indicated that over 17.5 million (or 1 in 4) school-aged children in the United States have been exposed to weapon violence in their lifetime, as either witnesses or victims. The results also suggest that more than 2 million (1 in 33) children have been directly assaulted with lethal weapons, […]

Sustainably Using Space

It does seem that human civilization has grown to such a point that sustainability is becoming a significant issue in many domains. Prior to the last century or so the world was relatively large compared to human population. For most of human history it seemed as if resources were limitless – we could pull fish […]

Survival and Grief

There is no transcendent moment of growth or meaning in watching a childhood friend die of cancer. There is no learning experience that will somehow make me stronger. Only horror, helplessness, loss, and grief. I am deriving no spiritual uplift from this experience, only depression and despair. Show More Summary

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