Gleanings - mind & brain, law and war, media, bad trains


Cordyceps in glass, by glass artist Wesley Fleming -- a strange depiction of a rather horrid business. For more, do go to the source, the lovely Myrmecos Blog, which is all about bugs.

Now, the best of the week's gleanings. I'm going to categorize them from here out, and at least try to keep them from being from completely all over everywhere about everything.

Mind, brain, and body (including those gene things)

While reading Wolpert's review of Greenberg's book about depression (he didn't much like it), I found that the Guardian has a particularly rich trove of writings and resources on depression, some of it drawing on resources at BMJ (the journal formerly known as the British Medical Journal). This is a happy collaboration and mix of regular journalism and academic resource.

Ed Yong examines how Requests work better than orders, even when we're asking or ordering ourselves. Among other things, notes Yong, this is "testament to the power of grammar." NB. Yong, on a serious roll of late, also explains how the sperm of ants and bees do battle inside the queens.

Vaughan Bell describes his run-in with Baronness and neuroscientist Susan Greenfield regarding the corrupting powers of internet indulgence. He liked her more than he expected to her. Which doesn't mean he agrees with her.

The excellent Genetic Future notes the announcement of NIH's new genetic testing registry, a publicly accessible database of genetic tests due to be available in 2011.

And Virginia Hughes wrote a splendid article on fMRI and its use in the courtroom. Here Helen Mayberg, whom I've profiled and whose work on depression I have written about often, squares off against Kent Kiehl, who is also very smart and, like Mayberg, an interesting figure full of interesting ideas. I'll leave to you to decide whose argument is stronger. Kudos to Nature for putting this, and an increasing amount of its non-peer-reviewed content, on open access.


Jay Rosen has a wonderful post on How the Backchannel Has Changed the Game for Conference Panelists. The backchannel is the twitter stream that audience members now rather routinely produce while a conference speaker or panel holds forth at the front of the room; it carries hideous dangers for the unwary, unprepared, or just plain unlikeable speaker. Rosen gives splendid tips on how to answer this challenge. The gist is to have one of the panelists tune into and contribute to the backchannel (and let the audience know this) and use the backchannel as a springboard for discussion. Some serious multitasking. Rosen tells how he and his co-panelists at a SXSW panel pulled it off. Fascinating stuff.


Democrats Inch Toward Securing Votes for Health Bill. The CBO, it seems, is ahead of them; Ezra Klein says the CBO found that the bill cuts deficit by $1.3 trillion over 20 years, covers 95%. Here's a good take on the finished draft. Meanwhile, the news that the number of unfilled scrips approaches 15% might bolster the weak.

Forbes has a good post on Medicineâs Dance With The Devil, with those parts played by two cardiologists in a debate at the American College of Cardiology's annual convention. Speaks well that the debate should occur.

Et alia

I just planned a complicated trip to the West Coast. Trip would be simple, actually, if I could just take fast trains along north-to-south route: LA to Palo Alto to SF to Vancouver. I almost booked the Amtrak from LA to San Jose, but it took over 10 hours (if it runs on time) and so gets me there well after bedtime. Instead I took a bunch of planes, and will wear myself out with overly loud airport CNN and too many shuttles and burn a ton of carbon. Perhaps I should move to Spain, where High-Speed Rail Gains Traction.

Finally, Welcome to, where you can choose your poison and possibly win a very fancy trip â hotel, ride in a Rolls â to see the book's breakout party

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