Links for 23rd November 2009

Fresh from the clogged tubes of teh intarwubs…

  1. How our brains learned to read

    "So what did the reading module originally evolve for? Dehaene lets the answer to this question remain a mystery until the end, while he takes the reader on a fascinating tour of the neuroscience of reading. It is a rich and comprehensive book by a clear writer and a fine scientist.

    Eventually we get the solution, admittedly speculative, to the puzzle. The area that reading co-opted originally evolved for the visual acuity needed to track animals, a skill with obvious survival benefits. Some of the evidence for this comes from studying line, edge and curve detection in the letterbox area, which also explains universal visual features of all alphabets."

    Tagged with: neurosciencereadingbrainarchitectureadaptivesciencedeterminism

  2. Rethinking NIMBY: Why Wind Power Could Lead To New Ways of Defining (and Dealing With) Public Naysaying

    "You don't have to have a fully formed opinion on something to answer a public opinion poll. In fact, Smith argues, most people don't. Academic surveys, on the other hand, get more into the nitty gritty, asking questions about potential downsides of a project that people might not have thought about before. If you'd been laboring under the impression that wind power had no downsides, an academic survey might force you to reexamine your position in ways that a poll wouldn't. In these kind of surveys, the majority of Americans still favor wind projects, Smith said, but that majority is smaller.

    Once you're looking at the nuanced opinions, he said, there's not much difference between local and national viewpoints. In fact, protests often characterized as NIMBY are, instead, really national activism drawn to a specific place because that's where stuff is going down."

    Tagged with: NIMBYpublicopinionpollsprotestactivismflashpointlocalisationenvironmentcommunity

  3. Reprogramming Predators : Blueprint for a Cruelty-Free World

    "Even the hypothetical world-wide adoption of a cruelty-free diet leaves one immense source of suffering untouched. Here we shall explore one of the thorniest issues: the future of what biologists call obligate predators. For the abolitionist project seems inconsistent with one of our basic contemporary values. The need for species conservation is so axiomatic that an explicitly normative scientific sub-discipline, conservation biology, exists to promote it. In the modern era, the extinction of a species is usually accounted a tragedy, especially if that species is a prominent vertebrate rather than an obscure beetle. Yet if we seriously want a world without suffering, how many existing Darwinian lifeforms can be conserved in their current guise? What should be the ultimate fate of iconic species like the large carnivores?"

    Tagged with: futurismcrueltypainlifeveganismconservationpredators

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