January 31, 2011


NeuroCooking friends in the market for a new bicycle will no doubt be happy to learn that Serenity Bikes achieve their "unique and sexy styling" using "... designs based on a cyclist’s neuro-biomechanics; something no other cycling company can claim."


[Quotes excerpted from the Serenity Bikes homepage as of today.]

January 30, 2011

GREAT Question!

Every public speaking coach I've known advises presenters not to respond to a question from the audience with "That's a good question." The fear is that as inquiries progress, when you do not respond affirmatively, the questioner will feel badly, as if he or she asked a less-than-stellar question.

Well, maybe they did. Maybe the question is irrelevant, or less-than-focused. Maybe it completely distracts from your main point.

A good presentation invites good questions; as a speaker, you are taking time to highlight your main points. Why not also highlight the questions that frame your important responses?

Also, a good presentation is a shared and equitable experience between the presenter and the audience. You are inviting conversation. As a partner in the conversation, you have the right to respond honestly, and to passionately build the discussion.

Responding, "Great question!" is not about passing judgment on your audience; it's about you and your interests, and the information you are excitedly sharing. Don't tamp down your enthusiasm. Great questions service the delivery of great content.

January 29, 2011

You want the last word? It's "zyxt".

Looking up "zymurgy" in the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary, we found it, in the last column of the last page of the last volume ["zymurgy" refers to the practical science of making wine & beer by "zymosis", an old word for fermentation by yeast, much as "metallurgy" refers to the practical science of metals], and we came upon, just a few inches down, the very last word in the OED; we are happy to share with you today the entry, in its entirety:
zyxt, obs. (Kentish) 2nd sing. ind. pres. of SEE v.

January 28, 2011

"A man's got to know his limitations."

As you may have heard, on Wednesday we got some extraordinarily heavy wet snow here in the National Capital Area. Only about half a foot of snow, mind you, but much much heavier than any half-foot snow-fall ought to be, because it was really sopping wet. As a result, our area suffered from extraordinary levels of tree damage and power outages (because so much electricity here runs in overhead power lines).

At home, one of our street trees dropped a big limb, blocking the street in front of our house. So, I went out – wearing lug-soled boots & winter layers – to try to move the limb. I determined that it was far too heavy for me to move.

What about snow plows? Would the next plow to come along just push the limb out of the way? Hard to tell – to me, the limb was neither clearly so small that it could easily be moved by a plow, nor clearly so large that it could not.

What would the plow driver decide? Might different plow drivers make different decisions? Well then, a probability distribution would be required to compute the likelihood of the street remaining blocked over time.

I was wondering how big an error would be made by using a Gaussian, as opposed to a Poisson distribution, when a van drove up, and stopped. Two men wearing sneakers, sweatshirts, and jeans got out, moved the fallen limb aside, and got back in. The van drove through, and away.

I went out with a rake, to clear the many smaller broken branches from the snowy street, and I thought: Some problems are best solved by persons who are not scientists.

[Post title refers to this.]

4-5 yrs; 36-46".

NeuroCooking friends with small children in the National Capital Area may be interested in the Washington National Opera's "Trouble auditions" which will take place early evening next Tuesday; they are looking for children ages 4 to 5, between 36 and 46 inches tall, to play the role of "Trouble" in Madame Butterfly.

January 26, 2011

"Integrated brain activity forms the neural basis for the unity of mind and experience."

Just one sentence (another titles this post) from the first paragraph of the twelfth chapter ("Dynamics: Stability and Diversity") of Prof. Olaf Sporn's book "Networks of the Brain":
"The brain's ability to self-organize and undergo transient state dynamics is crucial for its capability to simultaneously satisfy momentary demands posed by the environment and integrate these exogenous signals with the endogenous activity of brain and body."

January 25, 2011

Most surprising standing ovation of the night?

From President Obama's 2011 State of the Union Address, just a few moments ago:
"It's not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair."

"Pick two."

"Strong. Light. Cheap. Pick two."

January 24, 2011

A really big head.

Our brain's neurons are connected up in "small world" networks, with many local connections, and relatively few long-range connections that mostly connect "hubs". What if that were not the case? What if every neuron were connected to every other neuron? How big would our head have to be then? Well, “...a rough calculation shows that if cortical neurons were arranged on the surface of a sphere and fully connected by connections 0.1 μm in diameter, the sphere would have to be 20 km in diameter.”

January 21, 2011


It is rare to see a daily newspaper's front page plainly call an important failure a failure, because doing so tends to offend readers, in direct proportion to the failure's importance.

‎"In what amounts to a rescue operation, the Kennedy Center announced Thursday that it is taking over the Washington National Opera, a company that has been floundering artistically and financially for years..."

"Imaging Approaches to Brain Networks"

As I write this, there are no hits on a google search for "Imaging Approaches to Brain Networks"; as you read this, there oughtta be.

January 19, 2011

"... beyond neural reductionism and cognitive functionalism ..."

Today we share another chapter ending from Olaf Sporn's great book "Networks of the Brain".

Here is the closing of chapter 9, "Networks for Cognition":
"Perhaps network thinking will eventually allow us to move beyond neural reductionism and cognitive functionalism and formulate a theoretical framework for cognition that is firmly grounded in the biology of the brain."

January 18, 2011

"... naturally promote ..."

Another beautiful sentence, this one from the closing section ("Cognition: Pattern Formation in Networks") of the ninth chapter ("Networks for Cognition") of Prof. Olaf Sporn's book "Networks of the Brain":
"The small-world attributes of large-scale structural and functional networks, as well as their hierarchical and modular arrangement, naturally promote functional segregation and integration across the brain."

January 17, 2011

Word we weren't expecting...

A sentence (with emphasis added) from the second paragraph of the "Methods" section of the 2010 paper "Multiplexed Echo Planar Imaging for Sub-Second Whole Brain FMRI and Fast Diffusion Imaging" by Dr. David A. Feinberg & others:
"A plethora of different 7×7 regions are selected from the sum of the slices, and each is matched to a single point."

January 16, 2011

Sunday Noon list-blogging.

The steps in homebrewing:
  • Brew
  • Cool
  • Pitch
  • Ferment
  • Rack
  • Ferment
  • Rack
  • Prime
  • Bottle
  • Condition
  • Age

[photo: one bottle of each our first four batches]

Mid-Winter weekend indoor forced-bulb photo-blogging!

[Amaryllis in the kitchen, yesterday.]

January 13, 2011

Nice way to end a chapter.

The closing of Chapter 7, "Economy, Efficiency, and Evolution", of Olaf Sporn's book "Networks of the Brain":
"Fortunately, the fundamental demands of wiring economy and processing efficiency can be reconciled. Had they turned out to be incompatible, I would not be writing this sentence and you would not be reading it."

"I'm fixing a hole where the rain gets in and stops my mind from wandering..."

"Brain science helps fill the hole left by the atrophy of theology and philosophy."

[Post title refers to this.]

January 11, 2011

"Second Amendment remedies"

"Only our surprise that the unforeseen was fated allows the arbitrary to disappear."
-Philip Guston (1913 – 1980)

Because NeuroCooking is read in 70 countries, we would like to try to put recent tragic events here into context, especially for our friends outside the USA.

The Second Amendment to the US Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights, introduced in 1789 and approved in 1791. The amendment says:
"A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."
Here "arms" means guns.

Ms. Sharron Angle, recently the Republican candidate in the general election for a US Senate Senate seat in the State of Nevada, said:
"... if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness what can we do to turn this country around? I'll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out."
Now, this call for the assassination of an incumbent US Senator came from a major-party general-election nominee. Similarly, it was Republican US Representative from Minnesota Michele Bachmann, not some random nut-job in a dirty anorak, who said:
"I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back."

Former half-term Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin (who was the Republican Vice-Presidential candidate in 2008) distributed widely this graphic, featuring rifle cross-hairs, under the heading "Don't retreat – instead, reload!":

Here is the Hon. Gabrielle Giffords commenting, presciently, on that map:

Thank you, NeuroCooking friends, for letting us take a moment this morning to share with you these recent examples of the rhetoric of violence. It's not a pleasant topic – but, as recent events have shown, it is important.

January 10, 2011

"I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. De Mille."

For those who requested a tighter shot of the bike jewelry:

[That bolt takes a 3 mm allen wrench.]

January 7, 2011

From Japan, via Walnut Creek.

"So," she asked, "that's bike jewelry, right?"

"Yes," I admitted, "and I got them in red, to go with the bar tape."

January 5, 2011

Bark is a bark is a bark is a bark.

In case English's "woof, woof" isn't enough for you, Wikipedia provides representations of the dog's bark in 58 other languages, from "blaf, blaf" in Afrikaans, through "guk, guk" in Indonesian, to "wff, wff" in Welsh.

A sartorial observation.

Consistent with Roland Barthes's observation that "clothes are machines that communicate", we have noticed that on days when we wear a pink shirt, we get more smiles.

January 4, 2011

"See the Moon!"

A brief allegory, NeuroCooking friends, on the importance of specificity in science:
"If the Moon were made of green cheese, it would be visible to the naked eye."

"See the Moon!"

"In conclusion, we have proved that the Moon is made of green cheese."

January 2, 2011

Fueling the fire of genius.

Just one sentence (emphasis in original) from George Will's Op-Ed in today's Washington Post:
Annual federal spending on mathematics, the physical sciences and engineering now equals only the increase in health-care costs every nine weeks.

Inversion as a good.

In the 1940's, Jerry Cornfield & Wassily Leontief invented econometrics. In one of their first studies on the "sectors" of the American economy, they used economic data to arrive at a 24 x 24 matrix that they then needed to invert. Inverting that 24 x 24 matrix by hand, would, they calculated, take several centuries.

Harvard University's IBM "Mark I" electro-mechanical computer, developed for the war effort, was in principle available to perform this calculation, but the work would have to be paid for, and Cornfield & Leontif's bosses at the Bureau of Labor Statistics refused to approve such an expenditure, because, according to policy, the government would pay for goods, but not for services – after all, so many experts were on the government payroll that they saw no need to pay for services.

In the end, the bureau issued a purchase order, for "one matrix, inverted" from Harvard.

January 1, 2011

New Year's Day Cat-Blogging.

[South Range, Wisconsin, 12/25/2010]

New Year's Day Dog-Blogging.


NeuroCooking: Still safe in 2011!

Reading this on a USA m i l i t a r y computer? You may continue to do so, because, to our knowledge, NeuroCooking is free of classified information (unlike the New York Times). However, it appears likely that you will soon be barred from watching the CBS television network.

[Please note: While we remain unaware of any classified material on NeuroCooking, the potential availability of steganographic methods means that we cannot absolutely guarantee the absence of classified material in NeuroCooking comments; we will continue to monitor this situation closely. NeuroCooking cannot be a source of legal advice; persons seeking such should consult a member of their state Bar Association.]

"But, if you want the best person, ..."

In 1940, Frank Graham, President of the University of North Carolina, asked George Snedecor, a leader in statistics whom he had recently happened to meet on a train, for a favor. Could Snedecore recommend a man to lead the new statistics department in North Carolina? Snedecore responded with a letter that listed ten men, and then stated:
"These are the ten best men I can think of. But, if you want the best person, I would recommend Gertrude Cox."
Cox got the job.



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