Tiger Eyes Shaped Mysterious Sleepwalking Maniac
(It’s been a while since I felt like writing one of my regular links blogs, but here I am - I realised just then that I’d read a bunch of articles in the last few days, and that I felt like sharing them. The busiest part of semester for me is over for a bit, so I have more time and energy for stuff like this! So hi!)
The Maniac In Me by Daniel Smith (New York Times): Thoughtful piece on the nature of anxiety; Daniel and his brother both have anxiety, but of different qualities, and Smith elegantly portrays his adulthood as a quest to figure out how to best harness that anxiety rather than let it harness him.
The Mysterious Case Of The Vanishing Genius by Mike Martin (Psychology Today): Margie Profet was fascinated by human evolutionary biology, and clearly had an original mind. Perhaps one of her most interesting hypotheses (and one with some evidence behind it) is that allergies are the body defending itself against likely carcinogens - at least, people prone to allergies have lower rates of cancer. But Profet was an eccentric kind of person, too, and eventually decided to remove herself from the world between 2002-2005; nobody knows where she is now, whether she’s alive or dead. [via]
On Tiger Moms by Julie Park (The Point): As an Asian-American, Julie Park has seen the ‘Tiger Mom’ parenting technique of Amy Chua (e.g., relentless focus on achievement, no namby pamby ‘find your calling’ stuff) up close and personal, in her childhood and in her friends’ experiences. And here she discusses the complications of the technique, and what it can and can’t do for a child; and her piece makes you think about the unexamined assumptions we have about childhood and Western society, and that Amy Chua has about childhood and Western society. [via]
Do The Eyes Have It? by Pat Shipman (American Scientist): One funny thing about us humans is that our eyes have white sclerae. This is not the case for the other apes (apart from some rare mutations) - their sclerae (i.e., the bits that surround the iris) are darker. And Shipman argues that it may well be that the reason we’ve evolved white eyes is to communicate with dogs. After all, dogs are very unusual in that they seem to watch our eyes in a way almost no other animal does, and having white sclerae makes watching our eyes easier. And hunting animals is more successful with dogs. (Still, Australian aborigines went without dogs for tens of thousands of years, until traders bought dingoes a couple of thousand years ago. And their sclerae are white.) [via]
A Duplicated Gene Shaped Human Brain Evolution, And Why The Human Gene Project Missed It by Ed Yong (Not Exactly Rocket Science): The Human Gene Project had some limitations in terms of how it collated the human genome; one of which was that the techniques used had trouble identifying genes that are duplicated within the genome only in humans and not in other animals. It turns out that one of those duplicated genes, SRGAP2C, is responsible for human neurons having more synapses with longer stalks and bigger ‘heads’ than the neurons of other mammals; after all, more synapses almost certainly increases the overall amount of information a human brain can hold!
The Case Of The Sleepwalking Killer by Karen Abbott (Past Imperfect): In 1846 in Boston, a man named Albert J. Tirrell was tried for murdering Mary Ann Bickford, his romantic partner. Tirrell’s lawyer, Rufus Choate, knew that there was a fair bit of circumstantial evidence against Tirrell. And so he went for a novel defense - Tirrell had murdered Bickford in his sleep!