Lately: a link dump, with some updates and pictures

Hey, it’s Friday! Great job, you. You made it. If you’re like me, you spend the last couple hours on a Friday cranking out a flurry of Matlab figures…but not before a little post-lunch procrastination. So, I figured this is as good a time as any to unleash the pile of links I’ve been accumulating all week, heretofore purposelessly. Enjoy!


Like your iPhone (Jesus, since when is that a thing to say), your eyeballs know when they’re being dropped, shaken, or stirred. Which, I like to think, brings our sense of direction one step closer to homing pigeon level.  [Neuroscience News: Motion Sensing Cells in the Eye Let the Brain Know About Directional Changes]

Speaking of magical devices in our skulls, we just keep finding clocks in the brain, don’t we? [Scientific American: Your Brain Has Two Clocks] (ahem three)

I’m more familiar with brain-machine interfaces that allow patients to act on the world, but also important is closing that loop by restoring the world’s ability to affect patients. [Science News: Prosthetic provides sense of touch to man who lost hand]

Perhaps better filed under “no science whatsoever,” I just learned that that tingly feeling in the scalp that sometimes accompanies crinkly noises and calm, attentive voices has a name and a whole subculture devoted to it, but no one knows what causes it. It’s called the Autonomous Stimulus Meridian Response, and devotees are an increasingly vocal community. [NY Daily News: YouTube videos trigger tingling ‘brain orgasms’ in ASMR practitioners]

Sensory substitution devices are changing our outlook on the wiring and functionality of visual cortex! Keep an eye out for a piece from me, appearing next week on The Toast as part of their excellent Gal Science series, on some work from Amir Amedi’s lab back in 2012. To whet your appetite in the meantime, here’s the latest from the Amedi lab, out just yesterday: [Wired Science: What Happens in the Brain When Blind People Learn to See With Sound]

Science outreach:

Got a science outreach project in mind, but need cash money? Apply for the American Society for Cell Biology’s COMPASS Outreach Award!

I’m super excited about volunteering at next weekend’s Expanding Your Horizons Conference here at UC–Berkeley! Part (but not all–more from me on this later) of getting more women into STEM fields is getting girls excited about science, and this conference is a great step in that direction.

Caring about the world, more generally:

This guy got his PsyD, and decided the best way for him to help the world was to use his music production skills to help Oakland middle schoolers make beats during their lunch break. [Oakland North: Oakland nonprofit combines music, life learning]

An Oakland hackathon that spawned apps to facilitate one-button emergency contacts, compare prescription drug costs, and help youth in the criminal justice system remember court dates. [Oakland North: Oakland’s first Startup Weekend focuses on black male achievement]

Ever wonder what moving on up to “a better life” might do to the psyches of kids who feel out of place among more privileged peers? [New Republic: For Boys, Moving to a Wealthier Neighborhood Is as Traumatic as Going to War]

This piece on what it’s like to escort women into abortion clinics is as heartbreaking & depressing as you’d imagine. [The Toast: Saturday Mornings With Abortion Protestors: On Being a Clinic Escort]

All of the pieces on Ken Layne’s new site, Greenfriar, are excellent and I plan on holing up with some of them while sipping tomorrow’s coffee. But for now, let me just say that this is the realest of real talk for anyone who thinks getting backyard chickens is a great idea. [Greenfriar: The Agony and Joy of Backyard Chickens]

Career pessimism:

So, you all know by now that quitting science is the new not quitting science. Here’s a nice post addressing some of the way, way down the road obstacles, namely, getting funded. [Yes, Another Science Blog: Goodbye Academia]

No fewer than four of you sent me this utterly wonderful (I sent it to my mom AND partner) piece on how to interact with and properly support your loved ones grappling with the difficult choice to stay or to go, with the pressure from the sisterhood thus far being no help at all. This piece, I think, really explores new territory in the Quit Lit genre, and it does so by displaying some real emotional bravery. More of this kind of honesty is needed if my generation of scientists is ever going to figure out what to do about loving some, but not all, parts of research. [Model View Culture: I didn’t want to lean out]

More in that same vein: I ranted about this earlier and was flooded with support from friends and sympathizers. Leaning in, and the norm of working longer and longer hours, is a toxic culture where women suffer disproportionately. This needs to change. [Washington Post: Recline, don’t ‘Lean In’ (Why I hate Sheryl Sandberg)]

An interview on the increasingly grim plight of adjuncts. Best summarized in her own words: “Just by existing, the message I’m sending to my children and the students I teach is that education is a road that leads directly back into poverty.” [Inside Higher Ed: Cultural Capital Doesn’t Pay the Rent]

Altered States:

This week in Altered States, we learned about explicit and implicit ways of knowing. I got to rant about one of my favorite topics, embodied cognition, both praising its insights and excoriating the flimsiness of the ways in which we’ve managed to study it. My lecture slides borrow shamelessly from this post from Scientific American, in which George Lakoff discusses the climate in which his thoughts on embodiment were incubated.

To think about what it means to be in our bodies, we read this piece from personal hero Andy Clark, which basically distills the essence of his books: [NYT Opinionator: Out of Our Brains]

Once we’d convinced ourselves that our body and environments shape our most abstract thoughts, we proceeded to explore our motor systems’ adaptability through the magic of prism goggles!

Reaching for things while wearing prism goggles

Reaching for things while wearing prism goggles

Testing our vestibular capabilities while wearing prism goggles

Testing our vestibular capabilities while wearing prism goggles

A student tries mapping her internal model on a grid.

A student tries mapping her internal model on a grid.

This great video from the BBC replicates George Stratton’s original prism goggle experiments with a modern-day guinea pig–he eventually masters riding a bike with the visual world flipped upside down! [BBC: Upside-down goggles]

Then, we discussed what happens when we are too “in our heads.” This piece by Malcolm Gladwell holds that “choking” is a panicked attempt to use explicit knowledge when we really ought to be deferring to our highly-skilled implicit processes, and in the end, we  just look like a beginner. Panicking, on the other hand, is an inappropriate reversion to implicit, instinctive processes. He posits that stereotype threat is an instance of choking, not panicking, and that the signatures of its sufferers’ knowledge are actually there underneath all the second-guessing and self-doubt. [ The Art of Failure]

In the end, we decided that, in some cases, listening to the non-verbalizable, “gut” instincts might actually be appropriate for even the most rational, empirically-minded skeptic. It’s just a matter of judiciously deciding which to rely on.


So, Wild Beasts came out with a new album that I’ve had on repeat all week: [The Quietus: Album Review–Wild Beasts, Present Tense]


And, because it’s important to stay fed, here is a thing I cooked. My partner & I hungrily began to brainstorm what to make for dinner, and when I opened with “Well, let’s see. We have….two rutabagas…” I thought he was about to leave the room. But, fortunately, even the lowly rutabaga can be rendered delicious with what might seem like unreasonable quantities of spices, butter, and cream. [Golden Earthworm: Pureed rutabagas with pan-fried leeks]


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