are bits of writing from many sources such as personal correspondence,
posts to on-line discussion groups, notes, and occasionally even some
All of this is informal in nature, but contains some interesting and/or
For those who
seen this film, it's like the first 5 minutes or so of the movie
(Personal aside: Those who haven't seen "Contact" yet should be slapped
repeatedly.) It's a pull-back through the universe starting from a 1
meter picnic scene all the way to the edge of the known universe, then
a zoom-in back to the picnic and inward to the level of quarks. All in
under ten minutes.
entry: http://imdb.com/title/tt0078106/ (not much info, unfortunately,
but a more detailed summary).
movie and very, very useful for teachers. I had a lot of trouble
down a copy, but I had seen it as an undergrad in a physics class.
the video can be used for almost any physical science class because it
presents things to scale. For example, some of the features seen along
the way (in chronological order of the film) include the orbit of the
the solar system (including the Oort Cloud), star clusters, galaxies,
clusters, (then zooming in) cells, DNA, atoms, electron orbitals,
nuclei, elementary particles, and quarks.
One thing the
points out that I hadn't thought of previous was that the universe is
such that things cluster together and leave areas with much empty space
It's a real
no matter how much education you have already.
I'm reading a
right now by the author of Awakenings (recall the Robin Williams movie
in which he played a doctor who temporarily brought people out of the
state in which they had existed for 30 years or more). This book is
"The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat" and is probably just as well
as Awakenings (it is required reading in many psych courses). This book
describes some of the more unusual neurological cases the author has
over the years. For example, the first case described in the book (and
the source of its title) is about a man who lost his ability to
discriminate objects. He could "see" just fine, but he could not attach
an appropriate interpretation to what had displayed itself upon his
Consequently, he was frequently found to speak with fire hydrants and
totally misjudge all things which required visual interpretation. He
his students only when they spoke to him (he was a music teacher), and
it was said he "faced people with his ears," those being the secondary
sense organs with which to interpret social situations.
symptoms which are unfortunately relatively common) involved a woman
following a stroke, lost her concept of "left." That is, the left
of her visual field (among other things) did not register. She did not
make up the left side of her face, and all such as that. When nurses
her food, she inquired why they had not included a drink or desert.
they turned the tray around so that those items were now on the right
she then realized they had indeed brought them. Often she believed that
the portions of food were very small. Eventually she was supplied with
a wheelchair (as you might expect she was paralyzed on her left side as
well) so that she could turn around and see the remainder of the food.
(Interestingly, rather than shifting a few degrees to her left, she
turned completely around to her right.) However, now that she was
to the remaining half of her food, she still only ate one half (the
of course) of the remainder. If she was still hungry, she would do this
all over again until she had eaten 7/8ths of her meal. Ironically, she
was always aware that this was the situation, but could do little to
her perception in spite of her intellectual acceptance of the true
incompletely perceived) reality.
I was reading
book while I was at the conference (in the car and at night, not during
the presentations, of course), so it's a wonder I didn't dream about
the whole night.
Brain, the Universe Within"
series is worth watching. It's called "The Brain, the Universe Within"
and consists of five one-hour episodes with generic titles like
"Perception," etc.. I saw it before I started grad school and didn't
like it for some reason (I remember thinking the now out-dated computer
animations were gaudy for one thing), but it has a lot of good info,
though it rushes through it, in my opinion anyway. Apparently, they
put this out on dvd. I noticed my library had copies, so I gave it a
chance. If you're interested, check to see if your library has it as
[Posted to the
group on MySpace.com]
and Schwartz's "Neural Science" is a great book for a beginning
my bible (heresy absolutely intended) through grad school, but I should
note for those unfamiliar with it that it is ~15 lbs and ~$100. Also,
criticism people usually come away from it with is that the title is
of Neural Science," yet the text dwells on facts without providing many
I make this
because people in these group undoubtedly have a wide range of learning
styles. This text is essential if you are motivated to committing the
to memory. However, for more casual readers or those who lean more
a right-brained learning style (who probably gave up reading this post
half-way through the previous paragraph), there are many popular books
out there like Oliver Sachs' "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat"
others) that adopt a narrative style interspersed with scientific
[Posted to the
group on MySpace.com]
>I have yet
any good fiction stuff relating to neuroscience, though.....
is why I was hoping for someone to identify something out there. The
things that come to mind in the fiction realm have been movies.
the Matrix series for brain/computer interfaces and "Eternal Sunshine
the Spotless Mind" that raised (for me anyway) questions about things I
had previously taken for granted about general memory and association.
"Phenomenon" also made me wonder about the basis of intelligence and
intrinsic limitations in that area, although the science in the film
there's a section called "Neuroscience at the Movies" under the
for Kids site:
it's missing some good stuff in my opinion.)
the subject, here's a recommendation to get this post back on track:
The Dragons of
Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence by Carl Sagan
This one is
criticized for the fact that its high-profile author was writing
of his discipline, but it is definitely worth-while reading. It's a
of the literature on the nature of human intelligence and its
origins. Sagan also speculates about where we go from here, which is
a fun area. The book itself is relatively short and has some
besides, so it isn't much of an investment for the broad range of
covered. I think you could get something out of it no matter what level
of involvement (i.e., education) you have in the neurosciences.