Category Archives: Science

The Choke: Skill, Action, and Attention

NeuroThursday has been scarce lately, but I haven’t lost the rhythm: this week we look at what happens when you “choke,” and how you can fail so badly at precisely the thing you normally do best!

Thread Reader version:

https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/961785016790417408.html

Original on Twitter:

Social & Conceptual Issues in Astrobiology Notes (2016)

As part of Storify’s shutdown, I now want to use my website to archive important Twitter threads. So here are some awesome threads from the first Social and Conceptual Issues in Astrobiology (SoCIA) conference. These are incomplete, and sometimes abbreviated, but there’s still a lot of fascinating science, philosophy, and theory in here!

If you think these topics look awesome, keep an eye out for SoCIA 2018 this coming April!

“Is talking to aliens like talking to your cats?”, Sara Waller

“Cosmic complexity,” Kelly Smith

“Impossible Friendships: human-alien relationships,” Jonathan Trerise

“The role of worldview in predicting societal impact of discovering ET life,” Connie Bertka

“Anthropocentrism, exoplanets, and the cosmic perspective,” Neil Manson

“The life bias in planetary protection,” Jim Schwartz

Keynote: “Homo Astronauticus: cultural implications of space colonization,” Sheyna Gifford

“Astrobiology research & policy dilemmas in public decision making,” Margaret Race

“Astrobiology education via interactive alien construction,” Randall Hayes

“Astrobiology, ET, and ETI: science & speculation,” Linda Billings

“Replicator Theory: testing evolutionary theories of life,” Lucas Mix

“Toward a Family Resemblance definition of life,” Erik Persson

“Extending the Idea of Wilderness Beyond Earth,” Alan Johnson.

“Human life and ethics in outer space,” Koji Tachibana

“Astrobiology and the precautionary principle,” Mark Lupisella

“Convergences in the ethics of space exploration,” Brian Green

“Ethical obligations between us and extraterrestrial life,” Adam Potthast

Solstice Detection (Slow Vision)

A special solstice edition of NeuroThursday this week: the eye’s special mechanism to detect the slow light changes of day and night, winter and spring.

Threadreader version:

https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/944026526890196992.html

Twitter thread:

Learning Styles

NeuroThursday is back in action with a discussion of learning styles in the classroom – particularly the now-classic split between visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners. How meaningful is the whole idea?

Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation

NeuroThursday returns from last week’s internet outage with a primer on transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS): brain stimulation you could do at home, and why you probably shouldn’t.

Right Hand, Human Brain

My latest neuroscience essay, “Right Hand, Human Brain” is up today at the Baen website! This one uses science fiction and fantasy to guide a deep dive into my personal favorite bit of neuroscience, part of my current research topics: handedness, and how it arises in the brain.

Hand dominance is much more complex than most people realize. It’s built from asymmetries atop asymmetries, a stack of lateralized functions in the brain, independent from each other in varying degrees. To understand these, you need to get to the root of the human condition: how we move, how we talk.

The complexity of this answer is why I love studying handedness. It’s prosaic and universal, so ordinary that it can affect your every waking hour without you needing to notice or care. Yet for all its silent ubiquity, to understand handedness, you need to understand everything about the organization of the brain.

For following here to the website, I offer you a bonus bit of trivia: late in the essay when I discussed ways to alter handedness, I mention “all four lobes of the brain.” This is a lie.

The traditional, textbook image of the brain shows four lobes: frontal (motor and executive), parietal (touch and sensorimotor integration), occipital (basic vision), and temporal (hearing, complex vision, memory formation).

The modern conception of the brain shows at least five lobes, maybe six. I’m used to the 5-lobe version, where you find another one by unfolding the crevasse between the frontal and temporal lobes.1 On the inner walls of that space, you will find the insular lobe, which seems to play roles in emotion, homeostasis, and consciousness.

Some people count a “limbic lobe” as the sixth, but if lobes are going to be anything other than an arbitrary distinction, they need to be anatomically & spatially separate, which the limbic lobe isn’t (though it is functionally distinct).