Blog Profile / Neuron Culture

Filed Under:Academics / General Science
Posts on Regator:272
Posts / Week:0.8
Archived Since:July 11, 2011

Blog Post Archive

How Culture Shapes Madness, my latest at Pacific Standard

“The Touch of Madness,” published online today in Pacific Standard magazine, is probably the most important article I’ve ever written. In the fall of 2007, an incandescently brilliant young scholar named Nev Jones — a force and intellect such as few of us ever encounter — arrived at DePaul University to begin her PhD program...

A Sane Person’s Privacy Nightmare

At Slate today I examine the potential privacy nightmare posed by the emerging healthcare sector that wants to use data gathered from smartphone use to spot mental-health crises early and intervene before they get bad. The idea has huge potential for good — and for privacy disasters that could make the recent Equifax leaks look...

Should fitness share the stage with beauty? My review of Prum’s “Evolution of Beauty”

The Times Sunday Book Review, six days ahead of the Sunday paper, published today my review of Richard Prum’s “The Evolution of Beauty” (and a few other titles). I found Prum’s book “a delicious read, both seductive and mutinous” — mutinous in particular against those he feels have entrapped evolutionary biology in an “impoverished, even […]

Does autism happen the way we think it does?

My latest story, about how autism starts, starts like this: One of the oldest ideas in autism — as old as the naming of the condition itself — is that it comes in two forms: one present from birth, and one that abruptly emerges in toddlerhood. The latter type, or so the idea goes, announces itself […]

On John McCain’s False Heroism

My latest at Slate went up a couple days ago, after John McCain performed a weeklong drama in which he first revived the Kill Obamacare movement and then, telling reporters, “Watch the show,”  helped bring it to a halt. It was a hero script, but I found it cruel and self-indulgent. I have another script […]

What My Fighter-Jock Uncle Might Have Thought of John McCain’s Melodrama

I have mixed feelings about John McCain’s vote to kill the “skinny repeal” last night and put an end to this round of attacks on Obamacare. Yes, it was dramatic; but I would argue too much so, and cruelly so, for it took a toll on people who were less interested in whether McCain would […]

Smartphone psychiatry? How NIMH director Tom Insel turned from brain scanners to social tech

Around this time, Insel told me recently, he’d just finished a talk describing the wonderful things the NIMH was discovering about the brain when a man in the audience said, “You don’t get it.” “Excuse me?,” Insel said. “I don’t get what?” “Our house is on fire,” the man said, “and you’re telling us about […]

Did the gene-drug revolution just arrive?

Did the genomic revolution arrive last week, or was that just the snowstorm? The answer depends on whom you listened to and what they thought of a study published on March 17 that showed a gene-based drug called Repatha reduced cardiovascular risk by 15%. Some called the study a triumph because it showed a drug developed […]

John Berger and Susan Sontag’s delicious shoptalk and big hair

What a fabulous conversation this is, between two giants we’ve lost. You see here, in this quiet, quietly intense, intensely curious conversation — in which (a true rarity) the act of listening is every bit as concentrated as the wonderful talk — why these two have long been touchstones for so many people who came […]

How Trump’s lies are like Putin’s, and how the press should deal

Masha Gessen shows again why she’s invaluable right now. Lying is the message. It’s not just that both Putin and Trump lie, it is that they lie in the same way and for the same purpose: blatantly, to assert power over truth itself. Take, for example, Putin’s statements on Ukraine. In March 2014 he claimed […]

How anger creates a false feeling of power – and thus Trump

How was Trump able to harness so much anger, even though he had proposed no solutions and offered no way to build anything new? Martha Nussbaum offers that he could do this because anger, and the desire to damage the object of  your anger, gives a false feeling of strength and agency. The anger feels like strength; the […]

On Ending Blindness

I spent much of last winter working on a story about what it might take to end global blindness. I’m tickled to see the result now on and inside the cover of September’s National Geographic. The four-section story is about determination in the face of tough odds. Here’s a snip from the first section, about gene therapy fashioned by a group led by […]

The most terrifying childhood condition you’ve never heard of | Spectrum

I’m honored to have written this story of a rare, severely debilitating disorder; the researchers trying to crack it; and the uncommon love between a father and his 24-year-old daughter. You should read it here. For those who like teasers: The first sign, at least in retrospect, was a reticence, he recalls in the memoir, that […]

“He Thinks He’s Untouchable”. Buzzfeed outs another serial harasser. 

Accountability journalism ain’t quite dead yet. Azeen Ghorayshi with another great scoop on horrid behavior. One of the employees was an administrator whom Katze had hired, at an unusually high salary, on the implicit condition that she submit to his sexual demands. He personally rewarded this woman, known as Mary Roe in some court documents, with […]

My Four Months as a Private Prison Guard: A Mother Jones Investigation | Mother Jones

A MoJo reporter gets a job as a prison guard at a private prison. The orientation was a bit disorienting. The human resources director comes in and scolds Reynolds for napping. He perks up when she tells us that if we recruit a friend to work here, we’ll get 500 bucks. She gives us an assortment […]

Andre Fenton, comeback memory player of the year

Carl Zimmer on memory researcher Andre Fenton, comeback researcher of the year. In an age when we get a lot of our medical news in click-baity headlines and hasty tweets, it’s easy to believe that scientific research is constantly barreling forward like a jet. The saga of PKMzeta shows just how contorted the true path of science […]

Felix Salmon: Peter Thiel’s campaign against Gawker is a template for crushing media

Salmon makes a strong and highly unsettling argument: The next step, after the Hogan verdict, was for Thiel to go public. After the enormous damages were announced and the long appeals process creaked into action, it started to become obvious that Gawker would need to raise more capital in order to continue to be able […]

Forget Zika for a moment. The future is in Africa’s yellow fever outbreak. 

From Maryn McKenna at NatGeo: Zika virus has been earning all the headlines, because it is already affecting Americans—including 300 pregnant women, according to a new CDC estimate—and is expected to move into U.S. mosquitoes as the summer bug season starts. But outside the United States, another mosquito-borne disease is attracting the world’s attention, and […]

The Selfish Gene is a static meme, and that ain’t science

Richard Dawkins’s “The Selfish Gene,” book and meme, is now 40 years old. Has it served its purpose? And how do we talk about whether it has? When I argued not long ago that his ‘selfish-gene’ model obscures richer emerging views of genetics and evolution, the responses ranged from enthusiastic agreement to objections both civil and savage. I naturally […]

Is the gene still selfish after all these years?

  Philip Ball on the strange, often savage defense of a 40-year-old meme past its prime: The fact is that genes can only propagate with the help of other genes. John Maynard Smith recognized this in the 1970s, and so did Dawkins. He chose the wrong title, and the wrong metaphor, and wrote a superb […]

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