Category Archives: Social commentary

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

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

On the insinuation of bad intentions

Intentions matter. When assessing the merit or moral value of an action, we do not do so solely based on their outcomes, but take intentions into account. For instance, we consider it worse if someone breaks one cup in an attempt to … Continue reading

Posted in Pet peeve, Psychology, Social commentary, Technology | 1 Comment

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

Ideological opportunity cost (IOC)

Ideology interferes with an unbiased appraisal of reality. This – in itself – would be detrimental enough, but ideology is far more insidious than that. By nature, ideology is designed to be extremely self-serving and inherently creating in- and an out-groups. … Continue reading

Posted in Pet peeve, Philosophy, Social commentary | 3 Comments

Ideology poisons everything, as it rotates perceptions of reality

It is obvious where ideology comes from. It solves a lot of problems. A small tribe needs to agree on a distinct course of coherent action. Otherwise, its strength is frittered away, defeating the very point of finding strength in … Continue reading

Posted in Social commentary | 1 Comment

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

A primer on the neuroscience of happiness

The age old question of what makes for a happy life is of great interest to almost anyone who is in fact alive. A classic answer, building on Aristotelian notions of happiness, is provided by Charles Murray who points out … Continue reading

Posted in In eigener Sache, Neuroscience, Philosophy, Psychology, Social commentary, Technology | 1 Comment

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

The paradox of progress

I often wonder how people managed to get by a thousand years ago, without effective anesthetics or antibiotics or even a fundamental understanding of the underlying causes of illness and disease. However, I realize that people a thousand years from … Continue reading

Posted in Philosophy, Science, Social commentary, Strategy | 1 Comment

Is there a relationship between weight and success in PhD programs?

TLDR: No. Details on caveats, background, methods and specific results below. On June 2nd 2013, Geoffrey Miller suggested on Twitter that there might be a strong relationship between excess body fat and adverse outcomes in PhD programs, mediated by willpower. … Continue reading

Posted in Science, Social commentary | 4 Comments

Bang or BAM? On respecting complex problems

There are simple problems that can be solved with a single bang. The task of understanding the (human) brain is not a simple problem. On the contrary, the classic quote “The brain, the masterpiece of creation, is almost unknown to … Continue reading

Posted in Science, Social commentary | 2 Comments

PSA: Your “sleep monitor” is probably anything but

As the “quantified self” (probably ill-named) movement gains steam, all kinds of apps that purport to measure important physiological parameters that are related to health gain popularity. In principle, this development is to be welcomed, as individual lifestyle and metabolism … Continue reading

Posted in Data driven lifestyle, Optimization, Pet peeve, Social commentary, Technology | 7 Comments

Meet the netmonger – could it be you?

Netmongers (Excerpt from “Advice for a modern investigator”, chapter 5. Elsevier Press, 2011) The most striking observation regarding this category is that it was entirely absent in the 1898 edition of this book. Meanwhile, it has become by far the … Continue reading

Posted in Life, Social commentary, Technology | Leave a comment

Meditations on the proper handling of pigs

Popular wisdom is not short on advice on how to handle pigs. This goes back to at least biblical times, which counseled that one  should Neither cast ye your pearls before swine. Matthew, 7:6. The point here is that the … Continue reading

Posted in Optimization, Social commentary, Strategy | Leave a comment

Charlemagne was a Neuroscientist

The exploits of Charlemagne are fairly well documented and widely known. He was both the King of the Franks and the founding emperor of the Holy Roman Empire (technically, the Carolingian Empire). In this capacity, he is renowned for a wide … Continue reading

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

One catchy tune, three different sets of values

I’m no musicologist, but I found this to be striking enough to address. Most people associate the tune in question with “God save the Queen“, the national anthem of the United Kingdom. What is much less known is that two … Continue reading

Posted in Social commentary | 3 Comments

In the footsteps of Theodore Roosevelt

The US is at a crossroads. Strong leadership is necessary. What kind? We can look to Theodore Roosevelt for inspiration. Also: Don’t forget the brothers of the cosine. Continue reading

Posted in Life, Misc, Philosophy, Social commentary | 4 Comments