Category Archives: Science

What should we call science?

The term for science – scientia (knowledge) is terrible. Science is not knowledge. It is simply not (just) a bunch of facts. The German term “Wissenschaft” is slightly better, as it implies a knowledge creation engine. Something that creates knowledge, … Continue reading

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Predicting movie taste

There is a fundamental tension between how movie critics conceive of their role and how their reviews are utilized by the moviegoing public. Movie critics by and large see their job as educating the public as to what is a good movie and explaining … Continue reading

Posted in In eigener Sache, Journal club, Psychology, Science | Leave a comment

Revisiting the dress: Lessons for the study of qualia and science

When #thedress first came out in February 2015, vision scientists had plenty of ideas why some people might be seeing it differently than others, but no one knew for sure. Now we have some evidence as to what might be going on. … Continue reading

Posted in Journal club, Neuroscience, Psychology, Science | 5 Comments

Autism and the microbiome

The incidence of autism has been on the rise for 40 years. We don’t know why, but the terrible burden of suffering has spurred people to urgently look for a cause. As there are all kinds of secular trends over … Continue reading

Posted in Neuroscience, Nutrition, Psychology, Science | 1 Comment

A primer on the science of sleep

I’ve written about sleep and the need to sleep and how sleep is measured before, but in order to foster our #citizenscience efforts at NYU, I want to bring accessible and actionable pieces on the science of sleep together in one place, here. 1. How … Continue reading

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Explaining color constancy

The brain is using spectral information of light waves (their wavelength mix) to aid in the identification of objects. This works because any given object will absorb some wavelengths of the light source (the illuminant) and reflect others. For instance, plants … Continue reading

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The neuroscience of violent rage

Violent rage results from the activation of dedicated neural circuitry that is on the lookout for existential threats to prehistoric lifestyles. Life in civilization is largely devoid of these threats, but this system is still in place, triggering what largely … Continue reading

Posted in Neuroscience, Psychology, Science | 1 Comment

Brighter than the sun: Introducing Powerscape

Statistical power needs are often counterintuitive and underestimated. This has deleterious consequences for a number of scientific fields. Most science practitioners cannot reasonably be expected to make power calculations themselves. So we did it for them and visualized this as … Continue reading

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Tracking the diversity of popular music since 1940

This is a rather straightforward post. Our lab is doing research on music taste and one of our projects involves sampling songs from the Billboard Hot 100. It tracks the singles that made it to the #1 in the charts in … Continue reading

Posted in Science, Social commentary | 4 Comments

Did a 6th century Hebrew fortuneteller accidentally do the first documented experiment?

Who did the first experiment? 13th century scholastics like Roger Bacon are usually credited with the invention of the modern scientific method – in particular with regard to doing experiments. Bacon expanded on the work of Robert Grosseteste, who revived … Continue reading

Posted in History, Philosophy, Science | 1 Comment

Why “dressgate”* matters

At this point, we have probably all reached “peak dress”, been oversaturated by all matters dress and are ready to move on. But there is more. There is no question that “the dress” is the most viral image relevant to … Continue reading

Posted in Neuroscience, Psychology, Science, Social commentary | 9 Comments

Lessons from the dress: The fundamental ambiguity of visual perception

The brain lives in a bony shell. The completely light-tight nature of the skull renders this home a place of complete darkness. So the brain relies on the eyes to supply an image of the outside world, but there are … Continue reading

Posted in Neuroscience, Psychology, Science | 4 Comments

Shadowy but present danger: A primer on psychopathy

In the age of social media, it is hard to avoid exposure to popular culture. This is a problem because most of the bugbears that are popular in this culture – like zombies or vampires – do not actually exist. … Continue reading

Posted in Psychology, Science | 15 Comments

Positive thinking about positive thinking might just be wishful thinking

Bringing about positive changes in your life is hard. Everyone knows this. But everyone also desires them. So it is seductive to believe – particularly if you have no credible way to actually bring them about – that merely wishing … Continue reading

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On “Kardashians” in science and the general relationship between achievement and fame

I am not in the habit of commenting on ephemeral events, but this was brought to my attention by interested parties in a decidedly snarky fashion which obliges me to respond. Briefly, Neil Hall introduced the “Kardashian index” to quantify the … Continue reading

Posted in Pet peeve, Science, Social commentary | 2 Comments

What should we call simulated data?

Data is not made. Data is born as a result of a measurement process. Taking measurements (in conjunction with a measurement theory) creates data. But then, what should we call – in contrast – the results of simulations, the output of … Continue reading

Posted in Pet peeve, Philosophy, Science | 1 Comment

The relative scale of early visual areas

The visual system of primates comprises a large number of distinct cortical areas containing neurons that modulate their activity in response to a visual stimulus and are believed to represent different aspects of the visual scene. It has been recognized … Continue reading

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The social mission of perceptual research

Our perception corresponds to an idiosyncratic model of reality, not reality itself. This is easy to forget, as we all share a common outside environment in the form of external reality and process it with a cognitive apparatus that has … Continue reading

Posted in Neuroscience, Philosophy, Psychology, Science, Social commentary | 3 Comments

SfN 2013 in San Diego

This post will document my annual pilgrimage to SfN. This year (as in 2004, 2007 and 2010), it will take place in San Diego. See here how I prepare for the event and what I recommend how to go about … Continue reading

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You really do need to sleep right

Two years ago, I wrote extensively why getting sufficient sleep is crucial to a good life and how to go about getting establishing sufficient levels of quality and quantity. Since then,  the situation has – if anything – gotten even … Continue reading

Posted in Neuroscience, Optimization, Science, Social commentary | 2 Comments