October 30, 2012

October 29, 2012

In what sense is it true that, had the past been in some way different, an aspect of the present would be more substantial?

Counterfactual history is a literary genre, not a mode of scientific argument, so it was a (pleasant) surprise to come upon the following in a thoughtful and provocative article entitled "Default positions: how neuroscience's historical legacy has hampered investigation of the resting mind" by F. Callard, J. Smallwood, and D.S. Margulies, which appears in Frontiers in Psychology:
"... a compelling body of literature – largely unknown or disregarded ... – ... documents various methods to investigate the processes characterizing activities pursued during so-called “idle time” ... what we now refer to as self-generated mental activity including daydreaming, fantasy, mind-wandering, and dissociation. It is not difficult to see that if these research domains had flourished ... rather than been neglected, our vocabulary for describing self-generated thought would have been richer; our methods to investigate such thought more creative; and hence our capacities to interpret the psychological meaning of different forms of spontaneous neural activity in different systems, including the mental life and associated neural systems of the [Default Mode Network], more substantial."

October 28, 2012

Proofreading Is Important, Part XHYXHYXHYX

An article on Andras Schiff's Bach Project appears in today's Washington Post, starting on the front page of the Arts section; here is the headline on the jump page:

October 27, 2012

"Then the machine turned on and began to let out a very annoying array of loud, high-pitched tones that then repeated, like a car alarm cycle."

At a recent conference in Sonoma, California, I met the novelist Reif Larsen.

Most of the conference attendees were architects and designers, but the speakers were from very varied fields. I showed how magnetic resonance imaging can reveal the functional organization of our brains, even when we are simply resting; he read from his amazing debut novel, "The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet."

I thought I saw a twinkle in his eye when Reif told me that he had learned about functional MRI for his novel. And, a few days later, I read this in Chapter 14, wherein the novel's 12 year old protagonist undergoes an MRI scan, the sounds of which remind him of a car alarm:
Then she told me to just lie there and think of nothing, although I of course thought of car alarms. I hope this did not screw up her data sets: she would unknowingly show an MRI of "Boy Contemplating Nothing" to her colleagues at a big conference when in fact it was actually an MRI of "Boy Contemplating the Terrible Nature of Car Alarms."

October 15, 2012

"Back out of all this now too much for us ..."

At a recent conference in Sonoma, California, I met the poet Jill McDonough. 

Most of the conference attendees were architects and designers. I'd flown in from Maryland to show how magnetic resonance imaging can reveal the functional organization of the human brain; she'd flown in from Boston to read poetry at the closing dinner.

Please may I suggest, dear NeuroCooking friends, that you read this poem, then wipe your tears, and buy this book?

[Note regarding post title: The opening of Robert Frost's Directive is repurposed as a line in "Blackwater" from the book "Where You Live."]

October 14, 2012

October 5, 2012

"Ideas flee the prison of the mind ..."

Escapism? I think escapism is healthy. Every time you cast a thought forward or look to the sky, you're escaping. I don't think of escapism as something outside of yourself; it's something natural and fundamental, like breathing. Everything we have was "escaped" into creation, right? Ideas flee the prison of the mind, become real. I believe in it as much as I believe in riding my bike or lying in the grass or digging in the dirt or eating bread or drinking water or skinning your knee. It's key.
- from the interview with Brian Chippendale in the July/August 2012 issue of the Believer.

October 1, 2012


What little we have ever understood
is like an offering we make beside the sea.
It is pure worship when pursued
as its own end, to find out. Mystery,
the undiminishable silent flood,
stretches on out from where we pray
round the clear altar flame. The god
accepts the sacrifice and turns away.

"Science" by Ursula K. Le Guin, from Finding My Elegy: New and Selected Poems 1960-2010.

h/t: The Writer's Almanac


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