Category Archives: past due reviews

Daniel Everett’s Recent Book is Mostly Not About Recursion and the Pirahã

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Pirahã settlement

It’s odd that the release of this book served mainly as an occasion for the re-ignition of the “Universal Grammar (UG) is recursion/Pirahã has no recursion, so UG is wrong/no it isn’t/and also UG isn’t just recursion/oh and also starlings do recursion/etc.” debate, when the … Read More

Science and capitalism: the Roaring Twenties and now

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  One consequence of being on sabbatical is never having to say TL;DR, and feeling free to read things that would normally accumulate in my pile of things to get around to one day. Another, less unambiguously positive consequence is a mild disorientation with respect … Read More

A summer of talking apes

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  From the perspective of films about talking apes, this has been a very disappointing summer. I like apes, and I’ve always been fascinated by attempts to get them to talk, so last summer was a veritable bonanza for me, with both Rise of the … Read More

Targeting the basal ganglia

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Is it nit-picking to complain that this Times Magazine article — about the use of “big data” to predict and control consumer behavior — contains a brief introduction to Ann Graybiel’s work on the role of the basal ganglia in habit formation?  I worry that this falls … Read More

“The Ashtray” and the realpolitik of scientific revolutions

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A while ago now, a friend alerted me to Errol Morris’s series The Ashtray for the NY Times’ Opinionator blog. Morris was writing about his time in graduate school, where he studied philosophy of science (!) with Thomas Kuhn (!!). If you haven’t read this … Read More


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