March 1, 2015 |
"It's mental," said one of the bridesmaids in the wedding where The Dress was worn. Lindsay Maden, of Blackpool, England, was referring to the sheer nuttiness of the worldwide debate over the color of a piece of fabric. But she was also correct from a scientific perspective. It is all in the brain. The garment in question, in case you have not been near a smartphone or computer in a day or two, is a blue-and-black dress that, to many people, unquestionably appears white and gold in a photo posted on the social networking site Tumblr.
February 15, 2013 |
CLEARWATER, Fla. - The narrative might be the greatest hazard facing today's professional athlete. It is an unyielding, indiscriminate beast, devouring objectivity and skewing even the most empirical measures of performance. On Wednesday, the beast cornered Domonic Brown in the back of the Phillies' clubhouse at Bright House Field. The questions and their followups flew at him like he needed an alibi. How do you feel? Are you healthy? Do they think your defense is a problem? Do you think your defense is a problem?
September 10, 2012 |
Last week, in response to a media blitz promoting a $288 million DNA project called ENCODE, headlines announced that most of our DNA formerly known as "junk" was actually useful. A number of scientists both inside the study and out took issue with this claim - which centered on the 98 percent of our DNA that isn't officially part of any gene. Sorting the workers from the freeloaders in our DNA is crucial to understanding how our genetic code works, how it drives human evolution and influences our traits and health.
July 20, 2012 |
Several years ago, when the Franklin Institute began visualizing an expansion, planners became captivated by the lovely symmetry they could achieve if they only had a brain. The science museum's room-size heart - and, later, its transplant successor - not only connected to contemporary quantum leaps in understanding of the human body, but had also become a beloved landmark (if the term can be applied to a severely enlarged organ). The Giant Heart is reliably instructive in matters of blood transport.
April 16, 2012 |
Charles Darwin would surely have been mesmerized by a paper released last week showing that baboons can recognize written words and distinguish them from gibberish. This was more than a feat of memorization, since the baboons were able to do this even if they'd never seen the words or nonwords before. In a paper describing their findings, the scientists say perhaps the baboons are able to do some sort of unconscious statistical calculation involving the combinations of letters most likely to form words.
August 15, 2011 |
Silly as the movie gets, Rise of the Planet of the Apes explores big questions about human evolution. In the film, scientists use chimp subjects in a gene therapy experiment that triggers the growth of new brain cells. That makes some of the chimps act a lot like humans - adopting language, writing, and drawing. Which raises the question: If chimpanzees got brainier, would they start acting like humans? And if we tweaked a few chimp genes, could we endow them with the ability to speak, organize in groups, and seize the Golden Gate Bridge?
August 24, 2010
By Michael Silverstein Some people have a moment of enlightenment in a religious setting or during a strikingly beautiful sunrise. I had mine while leafing through the September issue of Discover magazine. Just as I look through the New Yorker for the cartoons, I usually scan Discover for articles about dinosaurs. I love dinosaurs. They seem a lot more interesting to me than the mammals who replaced them at the top of the food chain just because a bad-luck asteroid hit the Yucatan 65 million years ago. However, while I was looking for a dinosaur story in the September issue, a headline jumped out at me. "The Incredible Shrinking Brain," it read, with the subhead: "The human brain has been getting smaller and smaller since the Stone Age. " In the body of the article, a noted cognitive scientist opined that "idiocracy is where we are now. " Man, this explained everything.
August 19, 2010
The Ellen DeGeneres Show (3 p.m., NBC10) - Jon Hamm; Natasha Bedingfield performs; Ali Fedotowsky ( The Bachelorette ). The Insider (7:30 p.m., CBS3) - Comic Tina Fey; Oprah Winfrey. NFL Preseason Football (8 p.m., Fox29) - Two teams with postseason aspirations meet tonight at Atlanta's Georgia Dome when the Falcons take on the New England Patriots in preseason action. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (9 p.m., CBS3) - When Hodges and Wendy (Wallace Langham, Liz Vassey)
January 18, 2009
The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind By Gary Marcus Houghton Mifflin. 224 pp. $24 Reviewed by Steve Mirsky Furniture, self-confident, corner, adventuresome, chair, table, independent, television. Early in Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind , author Gary Marcus asks the reader to memorize that short list of words. He then notes, "What follows is more fun if you really do try to memorize the list. " So go ahead; it'll take only a few seconds.
July 28, 2008 |
The other day, Matthew Anderson held a small notebook in his right hand. Standing, he tended to put more weight on his left leg. He's right-handed. On the other side of a stone wall at the Philadelphia Zoo, 17 Caribbean flamingos were doing more or less the same thing. Some stood on their right legs, some on their left. Like Anderson, they were showing a side preference. All of which brings Anderson, a St. Joseph's University psychology professor and father of a flamingo-loving daughter, to contemplate what may be a universal question, if not the set-up for a joke: Why does the flamingo stand on one leg?