Endless Forms – Nature Network

National Geographic has an interesting report on predator-prey issues in national parks: apparently pregnant moose in Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park tend to shift their activity closer to roads before giving birth, in order to avoid predation by grizzly bears.

via network.nature.com

More blogging goodness encountered in my Research Blogging Awards judging.

Posted via web from David Dobbs’s Somatic Marker

Miss Atomic Bomb likes snowflakes

I have the pleasure of judging some of the entries to the Research Blogging Awards this year. I can’t tell you who the winners will be, because I don’t know. But for the fun of it, I’m going to throw a few bits and pieces of some of the entries here.

I will say this: The science blogosphere is even richer than I thought. I’m delighted with the variety and surprise I’m finding out here.

via missatomicbomb.blogspot.com

It snowed today, interspersed with a beautiful, pale bone sunlight. Sometimes it was gravitous, sticky flakes, as on my walk home tonight. The wind swirled and the cold, wet projectiles pelted my face, but I loved it. I was immensely happy. I

Posted via web from David Dobbs’s Somatic Marker

Kandel on camera

I profiled neuroscientist Eric Kandel for Scientific American Mind a while back; a huge pleasure. Two things stand out.

 First, Kandel’s work makes a wonderful foundation for an understanding of neuroscience, as his mid-20th-century insights into the dynamics of memory underlie much of the discipline.

Second, Kandel  is a gas — gracious, funny, and stunningly brilliant. When I interviewed him for about 90 minutes in his office at Columbia, he was 73. As he described to me the history of his work, and of modern neuroscience, he seemed to have complete and effortless recall about everything. If he talked about a finding, he would remember everyone who worked on the paper, when the paper was published and where — and where it was in his vast file cabinets. The master of memory has MEMORY.

And his talk flowed effortlessly. At one point we were interrupted by an assistant who came in to review an illustration that was being prepared for Kandel’s memoir, “In Search of Memory,” which he was then finishing. Kandel answered the questions clearly, telling the assistant where to find the information needed and so on. Took about 5 minutes. The assistant left. As he closed the door, Kandel turned back to me, said, “Excuse me. As I was saying …” and then, to my astonishment (I was glancing at my notes to see where we’d left off) resumed talking by returning to the beginning of the sentence he’d been in the midst of when the assistant entered the room. (Later, when I was telling my wife about this, I said, “The man is smart.” She said, “That would explain the Nobel Prize.”

I highly recommend http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0393329372?ie=UTF8&tag=daviddobbs-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0393329372, which is a splendid picture of a rich life devoted to science — and a great review of much of 20th-century neuroscience. If the film catches even a fraction of his accomplishment and charm, it should be a real treat. From the Times:

It’s not often that you are invited to spend an hour or two in the presence of a Nobel Prize winner, and “In Search of Memory: The Neuroscientist Eric Kandel,” Petra Seeger’s new documentary, offers an especially gratifying opportunity.

via movies.nytimes.com

image: Icarus Films

Posted via web from David Dobbs’s Somatic Marker

How to pay for good journalism

Sources of subsidy in the production of news: a list

I was asked to speak recently at a conference organized by Yale University with the title “Journalism & The New Media Ecology: Who Will Pay The Messenger?”  This irritated me. The question should have been “who will subsidize news production?” because news production has always been subsidized by someone or something.  Very rarely have users paid directly the costs of editorial production.

via jayrosen.tumblr.com

At the recent Rebooting Science Journalism talk at ScienceOnline 2010 (and in posts here) I expressed optimism that alternative means of financing good reporting are emerging and will continue to do so. Jay Rosen did the good service of listing some here.

Posted via web from David Dobbs’s Somatic Marker

Ezra Klein – Democrats win the Super Bowl?

According to a poll (pdf) conducted in the days before the Super Bowl, “Democrats strongly prefer the Saints, by a 36-21 margin, but Republicans are narrowly going for the Colts, 26-25. Independents lean toward the Saints as well, 33-20.” Hopefully, Democrats take some lessons from their favored team, too.

Early in the game, the Saints failed to score when they had the ball on their opponent’s three-yard line. Big setback, and eerily reminiscent of the metaphors many are using for health care. But then the Saints decided against walking off the field and throwing the game to the Colts. Instead, they ran their plays again and came back to win.

via voices.washingtonpost.com

NB, healthcare advocates

Posted via web from David Dobbs’s Somatic Marker

Shackleton’s whiskey; Powell’s coffee

From Physorg

Five crates of Scotch whisky and two of brandy have been recovered by a team restoring an Antarctic hut used more than 100 years ago by famed polar explorer Ernest Shackleton.

Five cases of Scotch and two of brandy, and all of it heavy. You can see the importance Shackleton put on a good nightcap

This puts me in mind of John Wesley Powell’s Grand Canyon expedition, as described in his classic account of same. Powell had nearly as trying an adventure as Shackleton did — an 8, I would say, to Shackleton’s 10 — and when he and his party finally emerged from the canyon into the world of relative safety and food, he took account of their remaining food supplies. The list, published in the book, provided pretty thin gruel. As I remember, there was a bit of flour, perhaps some corn meal and salt — hardly enough to make anything. They had clearly exhausted virtually all food supplies, save what they could catch, gather, or shoot, some time before.

There was only one thing the party (of a dozen or so, if I remember) still had in good supply. They still had 80 pounds of coffee.

I love that. I too would hate to run out of coffee, especially in a stressful envrironment. So when I think of that 80 pounds, I like to imagine the conversation as Powell and his team assembled and packed their provisions before setting out and leaving all stores behind:

“Think that’s enough coffee?”

“Should be. That’s a lot of coffee.”

“But …”


“What if we run out? We can’t get more.”

A silence.

“You’re right. Buy another two hundred pounds.”

Posted via web from David Dobbs’s Somatic Marker

Eureka! Neuron Culture goes Sally Field

I was thrilled this morning to learn that this humble, erratic blog was named one of Top 30 Science Blogs by Eureka, the new monthly science magazine recently launched by the Times of London. I find myself among some most admirable company, including giants, longtime favorites of my own, and a few blogs new-to-me-but-presumably-really-good-anyway.
Given my history of ambivalence about blogging, my sporadic rhythm, my not-best-practice of ranging far and wide, and my generally low traffic, I find this recognition a surprise, but a happy one. I feel a bit like I’ve been upgraded (possible in this one context) from Sean Penn to Sally Field.
It’s also gratifying in two other ways. As I make most of my living writing for print, I find it heartening as well to get this recognition from a wonder of wonders — a print monthly that just launched, despite much noise about (and evidence for) the demise of serious print journalism. That it comes from the UK, where I’ll likely be moving later this year to work on my new book for a while, makes it that much sweeter.
So thanks, Eureka, and thanks especially to regular readers — and welcome to new ones.

Top 5 Neuron Culture hits from January – plus Neil Young

PTSD, pharma, adjuvants, bad movies — these are a few of my favorite things, and readers’ too.
What’s Neil doing here? He wasn’t on Neuron Culture; I posted his clip on my catch-all, David Dobbs’s Somatic Marker, because I love him. So he comes first. From 1986. Looks as if he’s having a particularly good time here.

Neuron Culture’s Top Five from Jan 2010
NEJM study finds post-event morphine cuts combat PTSD rates in half

“This is a pretty big deal if it holds up in future trials. One caveat I’ve not had time to check out is whether the morphine was often applied as part of an more robust medical response in general, which itself might reduce later PTSD symptoms. I hope the DOD soon follows up with another, larger study, for as Ben Carey notes, the has some substantial implications if indeed it holds up.”

Avatar smackdown!

I talk movie smack down to my buddy Jonah Lehrer. He hasn’t spoken to me since. I think he’s just busy selling way more books than I am.

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