Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Science Blogging, The Book

What's next? Science Blogging, The Musical?

I can see it (and hear it) now...

The Music, The Film, A Place Where Dreams Come True.

But seriously, Bora Zivkovic, that tireless expert on circadian rhythms and proprietor of A Blog Around The Clock, has compiled a book of the 50 best posts in science blogs from 2006. Read more:

The Science Blogging Anthology - the Great Unveiling!

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At January 17, 2007 8:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I see that our very own Neurocritic has a Finalist as well. And that is a pretty cool entry. Unfortunately, I have an issue with the opening sentences:

Men's brains weigh about 2.5 pounds. Women's brains are 100 grams less, the equivalent of one teaspoon. To most people, this difference seems negligible--hardly the stuff of controversy.

If women's brains weigh 100 grams less, given that the density of brain tissue is something like 1.05 g/cc, we are talking about 95 ml of brain, or just a smidge over NINETEEN teaspoons. Something seems amiss here, but I'm not sure how else to interpret these sentences.

Ironically enough, I think the Neurocritic's point is just as strong with the real numbers as with the figures that are published. In essence, it's the big "so what?" point. Except in cases of gross abnormality or a disease that flat out causes neuronal death, the connection between brain weight and any other interesting measure is hardly clear cut. Once you've got a brain this massive, it is not clear that a weight difference of less than 10% means anything (especially if you believe it is offset by packing density or neuron size).

Or, to think about it a different way, I think it's pretty clear that if you took 1000 people whose brain sizes were all identical, you could, if you wished, measure a distribution of (say) IQ scores whose variance would be very close to that of the whole population. Two brains that are the exact same size do not necessarily belong to people who are equally intelligent.

Or, to put it another other way, I know of only one decently normed cognitive test where males (on average) generally show a truly non-negligible advantage. On tests of mental rotation, you can get male-female differences as large as one standard deviation, which is definitely in the "wow, that's something we should try to explain" range IF you were interested in understanding that one facet of spatial ability. For what it's worth, I am incredibly unimpressed with any of the explanations for this difference in the literature (or for the claims that there isn't really any difference at all). Of course, I don't have an explanation for it, either.

At January 17, 2007 8:39 PM, Blogger The Neurocritic said...

Hi anonymous, I didn't write that post, you commented in the wrong blog. You want Neurontic, not Neurocritic.

At January 19, 2007 8:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi anonymous, I didn't write that post, you commented in the wrong blog. You want Neurontic, not Neurocritic.

Oops. Actually, I guess I want "NDyslexic" or something. I swear, I thought this was written by the Neurocritic. What should have convinced me that it wasn't was the egregious error in the original article. I think I will crawl off to bed now...


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