Blog Profile / NeuroLogica

Filed Under:Academics / Neuroscience
Posts on Regator:1198
Posts / Week:2.4
Archived Since:March 17, 2008

Blog Post Archive

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

40 Years of Voyager

On August 20th 1977 Voyager 2 was launched. On September 5th Voyager 1 followed. The reason 2 launched before 1 is because V1 was on a faster trajectory and would arrive at Jupiter several months before V2, and NASA felt it would be easier no to have to explain endlessly to the media why V2 […]

GMO and Dunning Kruger

Increasingly in modern society, with perpetual access to the internet, lack of information is far less of a problem than misleading or incorrect information. As Dunning (of Dunning-Kruger fame) noted: An ignorant mind is precisely not a spotless, empty vessel, but one that’s filled with the clutter of irrelevant or misleading life experiences, theories, facts, […]

John Oliver and the Nuclear Waste Hubbub

The most recent episode of John Oliver’s, Last Week Tonight, featured a discussion of how we handle (or don’t handle) nuclear waste in the US. This has spawned an interesting discussion among skeptics and scientists, including this response from a nuclear scientist on Forbes. My overall impression is that there are legitimate points on both sides, […]

Bacterial Solar Cells

Plants make energy from light – a neat trick we would like to harness for our own use. Specifically, plants can turn sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into sugars, which are molecules that contain a lot of energy. Sugars can be turned into ethanol, which can be burned as a fuel. This is the essence […]

Solar Eclipse and Coincidence

Today there will be a total solar eclipse making its way all across the continental US, from Oregon to South Carolina. Unfortunately I could not logistically travel to see it first hand. I’ll have to wait for 2024, when another total solar eclipse will hit America, making a trail from Texas through upstate New York. […]

A New Option for Grid Storage

Last year I wrote about the various grid energy storage options, adding a newly proposed option – chilled air. I am now writing to add another new option to the list – concrete gravity trains. But first, let me review the background. We need massive grid storage for two main reasons. The first is peak […]

Alternative Medicine Kills

I find it ironic that proponents of alternative medicine often accuse their critics (including yours truly) of not caring about patients. They try to take the moral high ground, claiming they are just trying to help people anyway they can. Of course, this entirely misses the point of the criticism (which is either deliberate or […]

More on the Backfire Effect

One critical question for the skeptical enterprise is the notion of a backfire effect – when someone is given factual information about a myth that they believe, do they update and correct their beliefs or do they dig in their heels and believe the myth even stronger? Some studies worryingly show that sometimes people dig […]

Tribal Epistemology

In the early days of my skeptical career I spent time investigating and deconstructing classic pseudosciences, like belief in Bigfoot, astrology, UFOs, and ghosts. I was often challenged as to why I even bothered – these are all silly but harmless beliefs. Is it really worth the time to dissect exactly why they are nonsense? […]

Alex Jones – Snake Oil Salesman

If Alex Jones lived 150 years ago he would have traveled around with a horse-drawn wagon selling his patent medicine with a medicine show featuring amazing stories about hacking his way through the jungle to find cures and sitting down with Indian medicine-men to learn their secrets. Today he has his own TV show where […]

Are Logical Fallacies Useful?

Understanding the nature of argument and specific logical fallacies is a cornerstone of critical thinking. I was therefore surprised when I read an article by a philosopher, Maarten Boudry, titled: “The Fallacy Fork: Why It’s Time to Get Rid of Fallacy Theory.” Boudry lays out what he feels is a critical weakness in using the […]

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