Category Archives: nostalgia

What’s it like to be a brain?

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I started reading Elizabeth Costello because the premise was irresistible to me: an academic who, when invited to give talks about her literary work, gives herself over to impassioned sermons on vegetarianism. I have often had the impulse, just before giving a talk, to just … Read More

Hearing with a foreign accent

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claimtoken-51656045da7eb Although I knew I wanted to do cognitive neuroscience from early on in my graduate training, it would be years before I actually started taking pictures of brains with a giant magnet. Part of this was the availability of the equipment. When I was … Read More

A Story Behind a Paper – Part I

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Three-Eyed Frog Data

Happy New Year! I let The Magnet quench over the holidays, and am firing it back up with something a little bit different. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be doing a longish series inspired by the “story behind the paper” posts on Tree of … Read More

It is not enough that Marcus succeed, Hinton must also fail.

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In the New Yorker’s Newsdesk blog last week, Gary Marcus expresses his skepticism of “deep learning,” an approach to artificial intelligence pioneered by Geoffrey Hinton that received some unusually high-profile coverage in the Times. I honestly don’t know enough about deep learning models to evaluate … Read More

Measuring magic and some thoughts on speed

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What’s going on in this picture? Marina Abramovic is being introduced. She is about to stand in front of 47 Russian “re-performers” in green jumpsuits, talking about the speed of life, the constant external stimulus of the communication age, and how this engenders a need … Read More

Defending reductionism, then not so much (Part I)

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Paris in the winter of 1995/96 — the city was chaos because of strikes prompted by a set of neoliberal “reforms.” I am a little embarrassed, in retrospect, by how little I engaged with or understood the enormity of what was going on around me. … Read More

The way of the zebra finch

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a male zebra finch and his song circuit

I have completely forgotten this person’s name, but I am going to call her Crystal Powers, because she so completely embodied a California archetype of the unmoored spiritualist. We were at a party after an art opening and she had asked about my job. At … Read More


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