Author Archives: erikkaestner

February 05

Brain Training or Just Brain Games: The Neuroscience of Cognitive Transfer

If you listen to podcasts, you have no doubt heard the phrase ‘Lumosity: Brain games by real neuroscientists’. The idea is simple: Much like the mundane, repetitive tasks like running and lifting weights have positive real-world health benefits, tasks like figuring out if arrows are going up or down or performing math could have positive […]

October 29

The Dark Art of Computer Learning

It is a well-established fact that computers will one day rise up to kill us all. But what is rapidly becoming clear is that they first intend to humiliate us before their xenocidal rampage. A recent report found that roughly half of current U.S. jobs currently filled by humans are likely to be taken by […]

July 17

The Lion Cries Tonight? Emotions and the Animal Brain (Part 1)

“Even insects express anger, terror, jealousy and love, by their stridulation.”— Charles Darwin (1) Of philosophers who study ethics, 60% rate meat-eating on the ‘immoral’ side of a value scale (compared to 19% of the general population; 2). Such a large discrepancy in beliefs between ethicists and the general population intrigued me. What are the […]

May 15

The Birth of Tragedy: Pessimism and the Brain (Part 2)

Is the resolve to be so scientific about everything perhaps a kind of fear of, an escape from, pessimism? – Friedrich Nietzsche In the first part of this article we examined contrasts in attitude and outlook between optimistic and pessimistic people and possible differences in the brain leading to these contrasts. The next question is, […]

April 10

Main-lining the Secret Truth of the Universe: Pessimism and the Brain (part 1)

Cohle: I’d consider myself a realist, alright? But in philosophical terms I’m what’s called a pessimist. Hart: Um, okay, what’s that mean? Cohle: Means I’m bad at parties. Hart: Let me tell you, you ain’t great outside of parties either. A friend in college told me that she only felt like she knew the truth when […]

February 27

Buried Alive

You wake up. It’s pitch black, the air is stale, and your body is pressed by wooden planks on all sides. You try to reach up but your hand hits wooden planks above you. Seized by terror, you try to thrash about but there is no room to move and it’s getting harder to breathe. […]

January 09

Reefer Madness?

The recent legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington makes this is a good time to think about the potential risks of marijuana consumption. Marijuana has a long and storied history of recreational use in humans (earliest evidence of its use is 4000 BC in China1). The popular image of marijuana today is as a […]

October 27

The Shape of Things to Come

Experts overwhelmingly agree: Robots will soon overthrow humanity. The only question is whether they will merely enslave us1 or will entirely destroy the human race2,3,4. To better face our coming downfall, it is important to understand how machines will gain the powers to destroy us. They have already bested us in chess5, game shows6, and […]

September 13

Reading is Weird

How do humans learn how to read? Reading is a much more recent development compared to spoken language, with the development of written language typically placed around 3200 BCE in Egypt (1). Some have termed this development a cultural invention because we were able to gain a new ability to understand meaning from written characters, […]

June 24

When shown a picture of a middle-aged male…

   When shown a picture of a middle-aged male actor, how is it that we can easily tell Matt Damon from Mark Wahlberg? The actual differences in their faces are not huge in absolute terms, though it feels obvious when looking at them. Faces are all pretty much the same: two eyes, a mouth, a […]