“No Brain? No Problem!”

November 19th, 2012 in Uncategorized 0 comments


 

 

 

 

 

 

…Says the slime mold before the zombie ate its brain centuries ago, forcing the whole species to adapt into its present state: brainless yet smart.

Slime molds avoid bright light. In A, there was none, so molds grew to food (yellow puncta) freely while in B and C there were differing shades of light to influence its growth, which is surprisingly comparable to the real Tokyo rail network in D. E and F show minimum spanning trees (see third source below).

Okay, the zombie part isn’t entirely accurate, BUT, these slime molds (the gelatinous amoebae also known as the protist, Physarum polycephalum) do seem to have no problem functioning without a brain. They can navigate complex mazes for food, choose healthy over less nutritious food, and determine the shortest route between points of interest – a feat that takes humans years when designing complex transportation systems. How could this be? More

Fire and the Evolution of the Brain

November 15th, 2012 in Uncategorized 0 comments


Behold – our recent ancestor, the gorilla, and ourselves, the human:

There are many characteristics that separate us from our monkey fathers. Most notably, factors that mark the evolution are the use of fire, use of tools, and a bigger brain. A recent study suggests that it is actually the onset of the use of fire that explains the ability to begin to grow a larger brain. According to a timeline of human history, the earliest Homo Sapiens appeared shortly after beginning to use fire to cook food:

More

Tagged , , , , ,

Out of Madness Comes Life: Are The Arts Crazy?

November 12th, 2012 in Article, News, Opinion, Uncategorized 0 comments


Sometimes, writing is tough. The passion isn’t there, and every word is a struggle. We’ve all had those moments when forced to do something artistic or creative, whether it be writing or drawing or playing an instrument (or anything really). We’re just not into it, we don’t feel the pulse of the art pounding in our blood. Yet at other times, it’s like our blood rushes in a massive torrential pour, as if it had been held back by a massive dam for a thousand years. Whether its a subject that makes you jump for joy, a song you can head-bang to, or some other Picasso, some things just burst forth in a sudden and fervent explosion of productivity and creativity.

Fox Art

A Tongue Twister: Are Artists' Artistry Artful?

I think we’ve all had those moments when the pieces all click together, and a piece of work flows from us as easily as a hot knife through butter. During those moments, we feel alive, throbbing with a vibrant energy as our whole being is focused onto a single task. It’s an exhilarating feeling, yet at the same time, when you finally come down out of this strange natural high, it feels as though there was something slightly wrong about that, as if those who are capable of reaching that level often must have something wrong with them.
More

Tagged , ,

Defending Plato's Renunciation of Art

November 12th, 2012 in Article, Arts + Media, Opinion, Pop Culture 0 comments


This is in reference to a 2011 lecture entitled “Plato’s Philosophy of Art”, given by Dr. James Grant of the University of London, Birkbeck. An audio recording of the lecture can be found at the bottom.

Today, Plato is probably known best for his work Republic, an outline of a highly idealistic and just city-state. Many remember bits and pieces from their Intro to Philosophy classes, but a criticism that is generally brushed over in discussion of the Republic is Plato’s flat-out renunciation of art. A prerequisite in understanding Plato’s position is realizing the role that art, and specifically poetry, played in Greek culture.

Poetry in the time of Plato played a similar role to the Bible in early American culture. Sections were recited at schools, in homes, and children were expected to memorize various passages for later recitation. Much like the Bible, these poems formed early moral backbones in young Greeks and were very much responsible for the development of certain cultural norms. It wasn’t so much a problem for Plato that art had such a grip on the cultural norms and moral fibers of a society, but rather that the artists themselves had no understanding of what they were representing, and thus inspired corrupt and destructive morals. In the eyes of Plato, the artist or poet was typically not the ideal moral character in any society, and thus should not have been in charge of dictating moral grounds or developing cultural norms. A second complaint Plato had about the role of the artist was that even if they were generally a moral and civilized human being, they were falsely representing reality through their art, something which Plato very much opposed to and which undermined a central theory in Platonism. More

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Chocolate Curiosity

November 9th, 2012 in Article 2 comments


It is certainly satisfying to see scientific evidence that your favorite foods are really good for you.  And I’m not just talking about chocolate. That’s next, I promise. But check out all of these delicious things that can improve your cardiovascular health and as a result, cognitive function! Miracle blackberries, anyone?

(Circulation. 2009;119:1433-1441)

All of these wonderful things contain flavanols (a group of plant-derived flavanoids that exist as either one of the monomers catechin or epicatechin that go on to form polymers). This class of molecules appears to improve circulation by increasing nitric oxide (NO) -induced vasodilation (NO is released in response to stress, and works within cells to trigger an intracellular increase in cGMP which in turn relaxes smooth muscle) in both healthy patients and patients at risk for cardiovascular disease. More

Tagged , , ,

We Are Who We Are…Or Are We?

November 7th, 2012 in Opinion 1 comment

One of the things people have not been able to understand, both morally and biologically, is what drives criminal behavior. When people hear about shootings on the news, such as the one in Colorado at the movie premier of The Dark Night Rises, a question that commonly runs through people’s minds, is “Why on earth would someone do that?”  People seem to ask this question with the assumption that the person is at fault for what they have done. However, can we certainly blame the individual for what they did? David Eagleman, author of Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain and neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine, attempts to unveil the mysteries that surround this question. More

Tagged , , ,

How Should a Person Vote?

November 5th, 2012 in Uncategorized 0 comments



Election Day is almost here! Many people will have their minds already made up when they walk into their local voting station on Tuesday, confident in their choice for President. This is exciting, even if simply that Election Season will finally be over and we can all move on with our lives, as this disgruntled 4-year old girl so desperately wants.

History in the making, for realsies

And yet, there will still be some undecided voters who will make their choice on the way to the voting booth. I’m willing to bet that some of these people, especially those who will cast those critical swing-state votes, will enter their preferred candidate’s name with seemingly no sense of the democratic responsibility and power their vote yields, as evidenced by this political cartoon.
More

Tagged , , , , ,

The Present State of Brain-Machine Interfaces

November 3rd, 2012 in Arts + Media, News, Uncategorized 0 comments

We live in an era where the rapid advances in technology are constantly changing how we perceive and interact with the world around us. The question on everyone’s mind is always “what’s next?” The answer: brain-machine interfaces. For the average consumer, brain-computer interfaces are becoming increasingly available on the mass market and their current uses offer a wide range of fascinating opportunities.

A company that’s been in the news a lot lately is NeuroVigil. Their product known as the iBrain has been used to help world-renowned astrophysicist Steven Hawking communicate with a computer simply by thinking. Hawking, who suffers from Lou Gehrig’s disease, developed his own solution to allow him to speak by twitching his cheek to select words from a computer. In its current state, the iBrain is still slower than Hawking’s solution, but NeuroVigil’s founder MD Philip Low hopes that it will eventually be possible to read thoughts aloud. NeuroVigil also made the news by signing a contract with Roche, a major Swiss pharmaceutical company, to use the iBrain in clinical studies for evaluating drugs for neurological diseases.

Philip Low with the iBrain

More

Tagged , , ,