In the eerie science fiction film, Under the Skin, starring Scarlett Johansson as an alien vixen clothed in human skin, roaming the earth in search of single men for nefarious purposes, a turning point comes when she offers a hooded man on a dark road a ride in her vehicle. When the man takes off his hood we see his shockingly disfigured face. It is not make up. The disfigurement is caused by a genetic condition, neurofibromatosis, affecting actor Adam Pearson. Pearson’s brother has the same disorder, but no disfigurement. Instead he suffers memory problems. The film is a head scratcher–in the best possible way–but neurofibromatosis is not. Let’s have a look.
“Turns out he wasn’t kidding,” said Ray. “He really couldn’t remember last week’s puzzler.” (1) On Monday Tom Magliozzi, co-host of NPR’s ‘Car Talk’ died of Alzheimer’s disease. For his many fans the dreaded disorder suddenly became personal. For many, it comes as a shock to learn that the mind-robbing disease can be fatal.
Neil Hall from the University of Liverpool has published a very interesting mini-study on scientists and Twitter. He developed a metric that compares the popularity of scientists on Twitter to the impact of their publications within peer-reviewed journals. The metric is called the Kardashian Index, a reference to the fact that Kim Kardashian became wildly popular for no apparent reason, and a wink at those scientists who get Twitter popularity without having accomplished as much as others in their scientific career. Neil Hall is not necessarily critiquing the individuals who use Twitter to their advantage – he simply creates a metric that finds discrepancies between Twitter popularity and scientific popularity. The idea is brilliant, but in my view the short article is based on an incorrect premise. The premise is that science and social media contributions are two fundamentally separate things that can be compared to each other. Continue reading
For the star-studded cast who made up two panels at this year’s Kavli Prize award ceremony (available via webcast) at the World Science Festival in New York City today, special significance was attached to the death in November of the Norwegian-born Fred Kavli, the benefactor of 17 institutes in various parts of the world, including five dedicated solely to neuroscience.
Anguish grips the country with news of another horrific mass murder. From local police to the Secret Service, law enforcement worry about the “lone wolf.” These are individuals with no criminal record, feeling alienated and angry, plotting spectacular murder and violence in secret. “Experts” lament that there is no way to track lone wolf killers, but nothing could be farther from the truth. The lone wolf is perhaps the easiest of all potential murderers to identify and stop before they act. Continue reading
Beginning on October 1, researchers seeking NIH grants must balance male and female cells and animals in their NIH funded research. Under the banner of ending sex bias, this new mandate appears to be a significant advance in the way research is done, but many scientists fear the well-intentioned directive is misguided. Continue reading
What were the biggest neuroscience stories of 2013? It may be years before we gain the perspective to know for sure. But here’s a list of top contenders, and one of dubious value.