Science & Logic

Systems Neuroscience Highlights: March 2018

I’ll be posting summaries each month of high-quality, general-interest papers from the systems neuroscience literature (usually there are one to five such papers a month). I plan to post them in the middle of the following month (depending on what else is going on here at Brains). ¶  Efference copy: from saccadic suppression to eardrum guidance Straka, Simmers, and Chaugnaud (2018) A new perspective on predictive motor signaling. Current Biology 28: 232-243 [Pubmed] . ¶ This article provides an excellent overview of efference copy that is unique in its breadth. ¶ When brains send motor commands to the body to generate movements, these commands often have drastic auxiliary effects in the rest of the brain. These internally-directed motor signals are known in the literature either as efference copies or corollary discharge. ¶ Most people are probably familiar with the effects of corollary discharge in the eye movement system. When you softly poke your eye, the visual scene will shift with a dramatic blur. However, if you generate an identical movement via a saccade, your visual world will remain relatively stable and you will not perceive any blur. This is because the brain uses the motor command (the eye movement signal) to counteract the predicted sensory consequences of the saccade. Such saccadic suppression helps us stay sensitive to those stimuli generated by external sources such as flies and lions. ¶ FYI, in the literature, self-generated and externally generated sensory signals are known as reafferent and exafferent signals, respectively (see the... -

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When a Bigger Penis Means Swifter Extinction

Ed Yong in The Atlantic: The oldest penis ever found is 425 million years old, and belongs to an animal whose scientific name—Colymbosathon ecplecticos—means “astounding swimmer with a large penis.” Large is relative, though. The entire creature is just a fifth of an inch long, but for its size, its penis is still “large and stout,” according to its discoverers. That’s not unusual for the ostracods—the ancient group of crustaceans to which Colymbosathon belongs. From their origins almost half a billion years ago, these animals have diversified into some 70,000 species. At first glance, they look like little seeds. Look closer, and you’ll see what appear to be distorted shrimps, encased in hard, clam-like shells. Male shells tend to be longer than female ones, because they... -

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The Key to Everything

Freeman Dyson in the New York Review of Books: Geoffrey West spent most of his life as a research scientist and administrator at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, running programs concerned not with nuclear weapons but with peaceful physics. After retiring from Los Alamos, he became director of the... -

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Imaging technique captures 3D video of cells at work in unprecedented detail

Alex Fox in Nature: A microscope that combines two imaging techniques — including one used by astronomers — now allows researchers to capture 3D videos of living cells inside organisms. The approach addresses long-standing problems with imaging cells in living tissue. Because of how light interacts with different shapes and... -

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Natural Kinds Natural Kinds A large part of our exploration of the world consists in categorizing or classifying the objects and processes we encounter, both in scientific and everyday contexts. There are various, perhaps innumerable, ways to sort objects into different kinds or categories, but it is commonly assumed that, among the countless possible types of classifications, … Continue reading Natural Kinds → Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy -


The Key to Everything Freeman Dyson in the New York Review of Books: Geoffrey West spent most of his life as a research scientist and administrator at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, running programs concerned not with nuclear weapons but with peaceful physics. After retiring from Los Alamos, he became director of the nearby Santa Fe Institute, where he switched from physics to a broader interdisciplinary program known as complexity science. The Santa Fe Institute is leading the world... 3 Quarks Daily -


Imaging technique captures 3D video of cells at work in unprecedented detail Alex Fox in Nature: A microscope that combines two imaging techniques — including one used by astronomers — now allows researchers to capture 3D videos of living cells inside organisms. The approach addresses long-standing problems with imaging cells in living tissue. Because of how light interacts with different shapes and materials, trying to get a picture of a cell alongside its neighbours is like looking through a bag of marbles, says Eric Betzig, a physicist at... 3 Quarks Daily -


Jordan Peele Uses Machine Learning Tools to Make a Fake Obama Warn Us About 'Fucked-Up Dystopia'   More here. 3 Quarks Daily -


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Plato’s reading suggestions, episode 127 Here it is, our regular Friday diet of suggested readings for the weekend: The three things that justify a feeling of achievement. Is science hitting a wall? (part II here) Why Julian Baggini does not meditate. How to serve a... Read More › Footnotes to Plato -


Friday Poem Spring and AllBy the road to the contagious hospitalunder the surge of the bluemottled clouds driven from thenortheast—a cold wind. Beyond, thewaste of broad, muddy fieldsbrown with dried weeds, standing and fallenpatches of standing waterthe scattering of tall treesAll along the road the reddishpurplish, forked, upstanding, twiggystuff of bushes and small treeswith dead, brown leaves under themleafless vines—Lifeless in appearance, sluggishdazed spring approaches—They enter the new world naked,cold, uncertain of allsave that they enter. All... 3 Quarks Daily -


Systems Neuroscience Highlights: March 2018 I’ll be posting summaries each month of high-quality, general-interest papers from the systems neuroscience literature (usually there are one to five such papers a month). I plan to post them in the middle of the following month (depending on what else is going on here at Brains).  Efference copy: from saccadic suppression to eardrum guidance Straka, Simmers, and Chaugnaud (2018) A new perspective on predictive motor signaling. Current Biology 28: 232-243 [Pubmed] . This article... Brains Blog -


Why Whales Got So Big (it's probably not what you think) Ed Yong in The Atlantic: The first time I came face to face with a sea lion, I nearly screamed. I was snorkeling, and after a long time spent staring down at colorful corals, I looked up to see a gigantic bull, a couple of feet in front of my mask. Its eyes were opalescent. Its long canines hinted at its close evolutionary ties to land-based predators like bears and dogs. And most unnervingly of... 3 Quarks Daily -


Scientific Collaboration and Collaborative Knowledge: New Essays 2018.04.17 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Thomas Boyer-Kassem, Conor Mayo-Wilson, Michael Weisberg (eds.), Scientific Collaboration and Collaborative Knowledge: New Essays, Oxford University Press, 2018, 214 pp., $85.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780190680534. Reviewed by P.D. Magnus, University at Albany SUNY This is an aptly-titled volume of new essays in philosophy of science on the theme of scientific collaboration. Many of the papers provide formal models, some concern the details of science as... Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews -


Sex Sells, But Should It? | Episode 1 | What Money Can't Buy From INET: 3 Quarks Daily -


George Boole [Revised entry by Stanley Burris on April 18, 2018. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, examples.html] George Boole (1815 - 1864) was an English mathematician and a founder of the algebraic tradition in logic. He worked as a schoolmaster in England and from 1849 until his death as professor of mathematics at Queen's University, Cork, Ireland. He revolutionized logic by applying methods from the then-emerging field of symbolic algebra to logic. Where traditional (Aristotelian) logic relied... Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy -


“Gatemouth” Born on this day: the king of country-swing-blues-jazz. See The Guardian obit and AllMusic entry. It was good to see his longtime pianist Joe Krown on WWOZ yesterday. bluesClarence "Gatemouth" BrowncountryfiddleguitarJazzJoe KrownLouisianamusicSwing Man Without Qualities -


Why Is the Human Brain So Efficient? Liqun Luo in Nautilus: The brain is complex; in humans it consists of about 100 billion neurons, making on the order of 100 trillion connections. It is often compared with another complex system that has enormous problem-solving power: the digital computer. Both the brain and the computer contain a large number of elementary units—neurons and transistors, respectively—that are wired into complex circuits to process information conveyed by electrical signals. At a global level, the architectures of... 3 Quarks Daily -


The Esmé Quartet, at the Wigmore Hall String Quartet Competition The semi-finals and final of the Wigmore Hall String Competition were live streamed over the weekend.  Here is a recording of one of the semi-finals, well filmed with fine sound. From 37.45, there is a performance of Beethoven’s Op. 59, No. 2 by the Esmé Quartet (four young South Koreans, based in the Berlin —  and the eventual winners). It seems to me that this is quite  astonishingly good. In the final, the Quartet play... Logic Matters -


Statement on Gender and Insecure Work From the Australasian Association for Philosophy, here. Feminist Philosophers -


Men discussing Descartes Here. Why do we call attention to all-male conferences? Read about our campaign here. Feminist Philosophers -


When a Bigger Penis Means Swifter Extinction Ed Yong in The Atlantic: The oldest penis ever found is 425 million years old, and belongs to an animal whose scientific name—Colymbosathon ecplecticos—means “astounding swimmer with a large penis.” Large is relative, though. The entire creature is just a fifth of an inch long, but for its size, its penis is still “large and stout,” according to its discoverers. That’s not unusual for the ostracods—the ancient group of crustaceans to which Colymbosathon belongs. From their origins... 3 Quarks Daily -


Scientists accidentally create mutant enzyme that eats plastic bottles Damian Carrington in The Guardian: Scientists have created a mutant enzyme that breaks down plastic drinks bottles – by accident. The breakthrough could help solve the global plastic pollution crisis by enabling for the first time the full recycling of bottles. The new research was spurred by the discovery in 2016 of the first bacterium that had naturally evolved to eat plastic, at a waste dump in Japan. Scientists have now revealed the detailed structure of... 3 Quarks Daily -


i slipped into my first metamorphosis so quietly that no one noticed https://soundcloud.com/blackquantumfuture/metamorphosis Synthetic Zero -