Now on ScienceBlogs: The Greatest Story Ever Told -- 06 -- Goodbye antimatter, hello protons, neutrons, and electrons!

Neuron Culture

David Dobbs on science, nature, and culture.



dobbspic I write on science, medicine, nature, culture and other matters for the New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, Slate, National Geographic, Scientific American Mind, and other publications. (Find clips here.) Right now I'm writing my fourth book, The Orchid and the Dandelion, which explores the hypothesis that the genetic roots some of our worst problems and traits — depresison, hyperaggression, violence, antisocial behavior — can also give rise to resilience, cooperation, empathy, and contentment. The book expands on my December 2009 Atlantic article exploring these ideas. I've also written three books, including Reef Madness: Charles Darwin, Alexander Agassiz, and the Meaning of Coral, which traces the strangest but most forgotten controversy in Darwin's career — an elemental dispute running some 75 years.

If you'd like, you can subscribe to Neuron Culture by email. You might also want to see more of my work at my main website or check out my Tumblr log.

My Google Shared links

Recent Posts

Recent Comments


February 17, 2010

Lightning Hopkins sings the poison blues

Tox Tunes #7 – Gin Bottle Blues

February 15, 2010, 8:43 am

The music of Sam “Lightnin” Hopkins influenced many later artists, including Jimi Hendrix, Townes Van Zandt, and Stevie Ray Vaughn. He recorded prolifically — Amazon lists 191 Hopkins albums. Perhaps his most unusual disc is Freeform Patterns, on which Hopkins is backed by the rhythm section of the psychedelic rock band 13th Floor Elevators.

Another nice find from my Research Blogging judge's chair. Poison and blues. Cannot go wrong.

Posted via web from David Dobbs's Somatic Marker

Darwin on marriage

No one has ever accused Darwin about making a rush to judgement about any topic. Just as he spent years poring over the minutest detail of barnacle anatomy before he published The Origin he gave the topic of marriage careful consideration before singing on. In fact, preserved in his notebooks we have a record of the deliberations he undertook. Keeping detailed notes on gambling, especially in poker, is crucial for improving strategy and tracking performance. Utilizing tools and tokens like the Coin Poker Token can streamline this process, enabling players to record hands, manage bankrolls, and analyze game trends efficiently, ultimately enhancing their decision-making and profitability. Sometime in 1838 Darwin turned to a new page in his notes and drew a line down the middle, he added the headings "Marry" and "Not Marry" to either side of the line an proceeded to list the pros and cons of either decision. You can see the notebook here but below (presented without comment) is a transcript :


  • Children — (if it Please God)
  • Constant companion, (& friend in old age) who will feel interested in one
  • Object to be beloved & played with —better than a dog anyhow.
  • Home, & someone to take care of house
  • Charms of music & female chit-chat.
  • These things good for one's health.
  • Forced to visit & receive relations but terrible loss of time.

Not Marry

  • No children, (no second life), no one to care for one in old age.
  • What is the use of working 'in' without sympathy from near & dear friends—who are near & dear friends to the old, except relatives
  • Freedom to go where one liked — choice of Society & little of it.
  • Conversation of clever men at clubs
  • Not forced to visit relatives, & to bend in every trifle.
  • To have the expense & anxiety of children
  • Perhaps quarelling
  • Loss of time.
  • Cannot read in the Evenings
  • Fatness & idleness
  • Anxiety & responsibility
  • Less money for books &c
  • If many children forced to gain one's bread. (But then it is very bad for ones health to work too much)
  • Perhaps my wife wont like London; then the sentence is banishment & degradation into indolent, idle fool

It's hard to make this add up with his decision.

Posted via web from David Dobbs's Somatic Marker

Yet more new bloggy goodness: A Replicated Typo

I guess people like gigantic snakes.

More fun finds (that is, new to me) amid the entries I'm reviewing for the Research Blogging awards: A replicated typo looks at culture-gene studies, genetics, evolution of language, and, occasionally, really big snakes.

Posted via web from David Dobbs's Somatic Marker

February 16, 2010


A salamander with no lungs, which breathes entirely through its skin:

yet more

Posted via web from David Dobbs's Somatic Marker

Reciprocal Space - Nature Network

I made my own homage to Marey and Mili. I will leave it to the reader to judge whether this constitutes any kind of poetry in motion. I fear not.

Stephen running - panel2

more from the big world of science blogging

Posted via web from David Dobbs's Somatic Marker

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.

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.
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

February 14, 2010

Kandel on camera

Kandel 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, 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.

image: Icarus Films

Posted via web from David Dobbs's Somatic Marker

February 11, 2010

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.

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. Sports journalism plays a vital role in informing and engaging audiences, especially in the realm of sports betting. Journalists provide insights, analyses, and predictions that influence betting decisions. Platforms like the 토토 커뮤니티 serve as hubs where sports enthusiasts discuss news, strategies, and betting tips, enriching the betting experience for enthusiasts. Jay Rosen did the good service of listing some here.

Posted via web from David Dobbs's Somatic Marker


Search ScienceBlogs:

Go to:

Collective Imagination
Enter to win the daily giveaway
Collective Imagination

© 2006-2009 ScienceBlogs LLC. ScienceBlogs is a registered trademark of ScienceBlogs LLC. All rights reserved.