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Mark ChangiziRSS Feed of this column.

Mark Changizi is Director of Human Cognition at 2AI, and the author of The Vision Revolution (Benbella 2009) and Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed... Read More »


There are currently two ambitious projects straddling artificial intelligence and neuroscience, each with the aim of building big brains that work. One is The Blue Brain Project, and it describes its aim in the following one-liner:

A generation ago it was only a brave eclectic minority of psychologists and neuroscientists who dared to address the arts. Things have changed considerably since then. “Art and brain” is now a legitimate and respected target of study, and is approached from a variety of viewpoints, from reductionistic neurophysiology to evolutionary approaches.

Things have changed so quickly that late 20th century conversations about how to create stronger art-science collaborations and connections are dated only a decade later – everyone’s already doing it! And the new generation of students being trained are at home in both the arts and sciences in a way that was rare before.
Migraine sufferers have long complained about how their headaches worsen with bright light, and in case you ever doubted their complaints, Rami Burstein and other researchers from Harvard Medical School and the Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah recently made a giant step in understanding the light-to-headache mechanism in Nature Neuroscience. They found neurons in the rat thalamus sensitive to both light and to the dura (the membrane surrounding the brain).

For those who have not entered the world of Twitter, it is hard to fathom why people feel compelled to stream their lives to strangers 140 characters at a time. And such non-Twitter folk are also unlikely to fathom the purpose of blogging, especially in a world with more than 170 million blogs. Imagine the non-tweeting non-blogger’s disbelief, then, when they read story after story about how Twitter, Facebook, Wordpress, Posterous and the other “Social Web 2.0” heavyweights are changing the world as we know it.

Markets work well when there’s a chain from wholesaler to retailer to customer…and back. If none of the customer payments makes it back to the wholesaler, soon there may be few to no wholesalers producing anything worth buying. That’s bad for wholesalers, bad for retailers, and bad for customers. That’s why, for example, Napster, Youtube and torrents upset the system. 

Now let’s consider the analog for science journalism, which aims to bring science to the public.
It’s Valentine Day, and children everywhere celebrated friendship and love by giving cards and candy to their friends. In what alien observers must consider one of the most bizarre human customs, these same children were asked to draw lewd pictures of human private parts. You don’t think you or your children participated in this custom? Take a look a the figure below…

valentines heart as human rump