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why science is stupid

I’m resubmitting the grant that I submitted to NIH last summer with major revisions.  It’s just a fact of science that research has to be hypothesis driven; scientists are rarely able to do research just for the sake of doing it without basing in on prior observations.  so I have read the previous research, and I have come up with a hypothesis:  the populations of cells in the brain that I am looking at are different in many ways, but in one key way they are not different.  The reason science is stupid is because other scientists only want to see positive results that DO show some kind of difference.  I like to think that these cells are different in this one key way, but I can’t find anything in the literature to suggest that they are.  So my hypothesis is that they are the same in this one key way.  Because it’s a negative hypothesis, it will never get funded by me or anyone else, so no one will ever figure it out and show whether or not they truly are the same or different.  I could try to make up a bullshit hypothesis about why I DO think they are different, but the reviewers will say “where is your evidence?”, and I won’t be able to give them any, because no one has had the opportunity to do it because science is positive-result driven only.  science is supposed to be the pursuit of knowledge and truth, but half of knowledge and truth will always remain a mystery as long as science doesn’t want to know about negative results.

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reflections on “the people’s key” and “the king of limbs”

the people’s key:

1)  unlike most other bright eyes albums, I actually really like the intro speaking part of firewall.  especially when he says that hitler is an “asspokin’, charismistic, yeller” that is part alien/demon from another dimension. 

2)  there seem to be a lot of references to hitler throughout.

3) firewall is one of my favorite songs on the album, although “my veins are full of flat cherry cola” is a very unexpected line.

4)  i also like ladder song a lot, especially the line “see now a star’s born, looks just like a blood orange”, because you can’t rhyme the word orange!

the king of limbs:

1)  I do not like this album.

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it took me almost 3 months to create this photo of the upper midline of a rat’s prefrontal cortex. pretty cool though eh?

it took me almost 3 months to create this photo of the upper midline of a rat’s prefrontal cortex. pretty cool though eh?

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Scott, as someone who wants to go into journalism, do you agree that the following article is extremely poorly written?

WASHINGTON – Just how confident are you that you made the right decision? New research has uncovered a part of the brain that’s larger in people who seem particularly introspective.

Some people know their minds better than others, and research being reported Friday is a step at understanding the biology behind that important part of human consciousness. It’s work necessary for one day tackling brain injuries or diseases that rob people of key aspects of self-reflection — such as the schizophrenia patients who aren’t aware that they’re ill and thus don’t take their medication.

By learning the neurologic basis of self-awareness, “might we be able to come up with potential strategies to intervene in these cases and improve people’s introspective ability?” asks Stephen Fleming of University College London, lead author of the new research published in the journal Science.

Introspection is basically thinking about your thinking, a way to judge your own thoughts and actions — and inherently difficult to study. The British research team devised a way to measure introspective ability by comparing people’s confidence in a decision they made with the accuracy of that decision.

Here’s how it worked: Researchers briefly showed 32 healthy people computer screens containing patterns, one slightly brighter than the rest, similar to tests used in eye exams. First, the volunteers had to rapidly choose which screen contained the brighter pattern. Because some people are simply better observers, the computer adjusted the level of difficulty to each individual so that the task was equally hard for everyone and no one could be completely sure their answer was correct.

Then the volunteers had to rate how confident they were in their answer. The idea: People with good introspective abilities would be more confident when they were right, and more likely to second-guess themselves when they really were wrong. People who are just brash and overconfident might lead an outsider to think they were right, but in reality wouldn’t show that correlation.

Brain scans showed the people’s introspective ability was strongly linked to the amount of gray matter in a spot of the prefrontal cortex, right behind the eyes, the researchers reported.

In addition, the study found people who were more introspective also had stronger functioning white matter in that part of the brain — the nerve fibers that act as a telephone system to allow cells to communicate with others.

Bolstering the findings, previous studies show schizophrenia is associated with poor prefrontal cortex functioning, and that strokes in that area can rob people of introspective ability, Fleming said.

But much more research is needed to address the which-came-first question: Are these brain differences innate? Or do they reflect this brain region getting stronger as people try to spend more time monitoring their own mental state, meaning it’s an ability that might be improved with training?

Regardless, much brain research to date has focused on simpler questions, like how memory form. The new findings help shed light on more sophisticated, higher-level abilities, said Columbia University psychology researcher Hakwan Lau, who wasn’t involved in the research but analyzed it in an accompanying article in Science.

"Understanding how the brain works is important in its own right,” said Lau.

i mean, first of all, they never even come out and say what part of the brain they are talking about.  i know most people wouldn’t gain much from hearing the words orbitofrontal cortex, and honestly, i just know it because that’s the part of the brain my thesis deals with, but i think people who are legitimately interested in this would probably like to know.  second, this quote:  “the nerve fibers that act as a telephone system to allow cells to communicate with others”.  that is a terrible, terrible analogy.  first of all, even though it is a semantic argument, they are not nerve fibers.  second of all, they do not act as a telephone system.  they simply do what they do.  it offers no insight to the reader to add that part.  i think it is sufficient to say “the TRACTS that allow cells to communicate with others”.  who the hell is writing this?  furthermore, this is not news.  this has all been known for some time.  then, this quote:  “Regardless, much brain research to date has focused on simpler questions, like how memory form”.  first, grammatical error.  second, i think it’s a hell of a stretch to suggest that the answer to how memory formS is more easily obtained than understanding the neurobiology of introspection.  i’m sure there are many many neuroscientists out there that would be grossly offended by that statement.  if it were easy, it would be done already, and we are very very far from understanding how memory works.  finally, i don’t know who this douchebag psychologist that they quote at the end is, but “Understanding how the brain works is important in its own right” is the most profound thing he had to say?  screw that guy.  ok, i’m done.

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