The Human Brain: Neuroscience Meet Conceptual Art


True, the nine images selected here by Carl Schoonover are stunning, but what intrigues me more is the obvious passion for his work that is communicated in his written descriptions and stories for the images.

Elegance often begets meaning and understanding. In a fit of candor, Nobel laureate Richard Axel once pronounced that “science without enchantment is nothing!” In my new book Portraits of the Mind: Visualizing the Brain from Antiquity to the 21st Century (Abrams), I examine this special relationship, and share the images and stories I have come to love–many of which were, until now, only available to people in the field.

If only by name, ‘neuroscience’ can be off-putting. An invitation to a guided tour, of words and images depicting humanity’s emerging understanding of a key part of what makes us each who we are, is very appealing. I’m not really an example of a hard sell for books on human behavior or the brain, but nonetheless, Schoonover’s new book has been added to the top of my ‘next-trip’ list for the bookstore or library.

Food and Money: The Value Of A Dollar Translated

The Value Of A Dollar

To visualize the The Value Of A Dollar, artist Jonathan Blaustein purchased exactly one-bucks-worth of nineteen different foodstuffs, and photographed each, stripped from its packaging, on a plain white background. Blaustein explains:

I’m interested in the way photography is used to deceive. Millions, if not billions of advertising dollars are spent annually photographing food and obfuscating reality. Fast food conglomerates are certainly the worst culprits, but everywhere we see glamorized versions of what we eat.

To learn more, see the full series and his New York Times LENS Blog interview.

[Jonathan Blaustein via kottke]


These striking images remind me again of my fascination in how words can be used to deceive. The impact of marketing and advertising is based on this powerful combination of words and photography. Sadly, for food and sustainable agriculture, the power has not been used well.

A Building That Teaches Through Its Landscape – UVM in The Chronicle of Higher Education


As pleased as I was to see the new Jeffords building at the University of Vermont featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education, I must confess to being somewhat disappointed by this piece. Although Dean Tom Vogelmann appears amiable and approachable in the photograph above, the remaining photos do little to convey the “functional elegance” of the exterior or interior design of the new home for plant biology, soil sciences, and life sciences at UVM. The more important omissions to my mind, however, are details on the myriad steps and design choices made to enable a large building with teaching science labs to minimize its environmental footprint and to be potentially eligible for LEED gold certification. I yearned to know more about how that was accomplished. True, the teaching landscape featured in the article is interesting, yet I’ve begun to fear we fall further behind in the battle to minimize the effects of climate change whenever we miss an opportunity to inform and educate. I expected more from this publication.

Disclosure: I currently serve on the Board of Advisors for the UVM College of Agriculture & Life Sciences.

Infographic: Social Media In Big Business | Digital Buzz Blog


This surprises me. Twitter is number 1 with 65% of the world’s top 100 companies having accounts? (Note that in businessland, “top” always means biggest in money measured one way or the other.) While it’s clear that we’re only looking at the quantity of users, not the quality of their use, it just seems as if most large corporations outside the world of consumer goods and services are not active in social media. Perhaps a new social norm is emerging in corporate boardrooms where it’s embarrassing to admit you are not using social media…., an Emerging Resource for Word Lovers


Animation of a Hypotrochoid Out Three Fifths made by Sam Derbyshire with MuPAD [source]

Like many of you, I’m sure, I’ve relied on the SMOG Readability Calculator (SMOG=Simple Measure of Gobbledygook) for years as a quick check on my writing and readability level for specific audiences. Now the SMOG calculator is combined with other useful resources and tools at the new site. Check it out.

Gmail Gets One-Click Microsoft Word Previews

gmail_logo.PNGGoogle just announced a small but handy new feature for Gmail: one-click previews for Microsoft Word documents. This new features works for .doc and the more recent .docx format. Until now, Gmail’s one-click preview feature only supported PDF files, PowerPoint documents and images in the TIFF format. The new preview feature for Word documents replaces the “view as HTML” option in Gmail.

Now, this is useful for anyone, but particularly those of us who spend a large portion of our days working with words and sharing words with others. One more step toward complete abandonment of the corporate Microsoft Exchange jail. It’s a good example of an added feature that seems so obvious you wonder why no one has done it before. Thank you, Google.


Come now, SEC — everyone is impacted by climate change

BERLIN - JANUARY 23: A snowman is pictured wit...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I read today that the SEC  has now said that companies have an obligation to tell  investors of any risks — or benefits, for that matter — that climate change poses to their business. Specifically:

The S.E.C., on a party-line 3-2 vote, issued “interpretive guidance” to help companies decide when and whether to disclose matters related to climate change. The commission said that companies could be helped or hurt by climate-related lawsuits, business opportunities or legislation and should promptly disclose such potential impacts. Banks or insurance companies that invest in coastal property that could be affected by storms or rising seas, for example, should disclose such risks, the agency said.

via S.E.C. Says Companies Should Disclose Climate-Related Risks –

For goodness sake, there is not a company that I can think of that won’t feel an impact one way or the other when the climate goes nuts.  You have  a plant in a hurricane zone? Big trouble.  You don’t but your main competitor does?  Big boon.  Neither you nor your competitors have plants there, but your main customer does? Mucho big trouble.  You run a tiny clothing store, and you’ve made a good living selling parkas and ski clothes?  The snow melts too soon, and Chapter 11,. here you come.

I’m not trying to be a doomsday predictor, hollering Repent, repent before it’s too late.  But it you accept that the climate is changing, then you must accept that every single company must list how different scenarios would affect its business.  Otherwise, this is another exercise in futility.

But all that would be worth a sad smile or a single tear.  What has me ready to either guffaw or sob was that, after proposing the new disclusres, Mary L. Schapiro gave the boilerplate disclaimer:

“we are not opining on whether the world’s climate is changing; at what pace it might be changing; or due to what causes. Nothing that the commission does today should be construed as weighing in on those topics.”

Let me get this straight: We are not saying that the climate is changing, but we are saying that you’d better disclose how you will be affected by this change that we are not claiming is happening?

Ain’t Washington rhetoric grand?

Posts like this are why Claudia Deutsch’s The Bottom Line blog on True/Slant regularly makes my day. It can be far too easy by the end of a work week of reading absurd news stories to begin to feel alone: Doesn’t anyone else find this ridiculous? Why aren’t the media pundits covering this story? Claudia reassures me on both counts.