How Aphasic Patients Understood the Presidential Debate
In The President’s Speech, a 1985 essay by the late neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks, he observes a group of people with aphasia, a language disorder, as they laugh uproariously at the television. The cause of their amusement is an unnamed actor-turned United States president, presumably Ronald Reagan, addressing his audience: “There he was, the […]
Social Learning in Nature Is Ubiquitous
In 1898, American psychologist Edward Thorndike published a seminal dissertation on animal intelligence. Thorndike, then at Columbia University, had spent hours experimenting with cats and special contraptions of his own design: puzzle boxes, confined spaces the cats could only escape by, for example, pawing at levers in order to trigger a release mechanism. Once out, […]
Why Blind People Are Better at Math
Bernard Morin developed glaucoma at an early age and was blind by the time he was six years old. Despite his inability to see, Morin went on to become a master topologist—a mathematician who studies the intrinsic properties of geometric forms in space—and earned renown for his visualization of an inside-out sphere. For sighted people, […]
An “Infinitely Rich” Mathematician Turns 100
At the Hotel Parco dei Principi in Rome, in September of 1973, the Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdős approached his friend Richard Guy with a request. He said, “Guy, veel you have a coffee?” It cost a dollar, a small fortune to a professor of mathematics at the hinterland University of Calgary who was not much […]
5 Paradoxical Time Travel Stories
Can you imagine a time before we dreamed about time travel? The idea of altering an unpleasant future disclosed by an oracle, and the associated paradoxes of Fate, have been with us for millennia; but before H.G. Wells’ The Time Traveller, in 1895, the concept of time travel was wispy and of very little cultural […]
Today Is “Galactic Tick Day”!
Nearly a quarter of Americans still believe in Ptolemy’s idea that the sun goes around Earth. Yet, every year, these people presumably cheer on December 31 to mark the New Year, another successful trip of Earth around the sun. It’s likely not hypocrisy, just ignorance. But if much of the general public still doesn’t get […]
These Medical Terms Still Bear the Mark of the Third Reich
Dr. Hans Reiter achieved the one thing most likely to keep a physician’s name in textbooks forever: He got an illness named after him. While working as a medic in the German army in World War I, he once treated a case of simultaneous inflammation in the joints, eyes, and urethra. This became known as […]
Can Dogs Help Us Understand the Link Between Intelligence and Health?
If you’re a dog lover, you may have heard of Chaser, the border collie who has been called a “genius” and the “smartest dog in the world.” Retired psychology professor John Pilley, Chaser’s owner and co-author of a recent book about her, says he was able to teach her 1,000 words, the largest “vocabulary” of […]
Lawrence Krauss Versus Freeman Dyson on Gravitons
Yesterday, in the New York Review of Books, Freeman Dyson analyzed a trio of recent books on humanity’s future in the larger cosmos. They were How to Make a Spaceship: A Band of Renegades, an Epic Space Race, and the Birth of Private Spaceflight; Beyond Earth: Our Path to a New Home in the Planets; […]
Why Are People Losing the Blissful Tingles of ASMR?
In more ways than one, the tingles seem to be fading. Just a few years ago, autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR), a puzzling and blissful sensation, became the sudden focal point for a sizable Internet community. Practitioners liken it to a current of electricity running down the scalp and spine. Audiences marveled at online videos, […]