Thursday, December 16, 2010

Why has science failed?

"Why has science failed to banish belief in the supernatural?" That's the opening sentence of Dr Adam Hamlin's article, The Neurobiology of Religious Experience, in the new Australian Book of Atheism, edited by Warren Bonett (Scribe Publications, 2010).

The book is available from Warren's online bookstore, Embiggen Books, from the publisher Scribe Publications, or from selected bookstores around Australia. As well as Adam's contribution to the section on neuroscience, the book has chapters from noted public figures including Dr Leslie Cannold, Jane Caro, radio's Robyn Williams, Dr Philip Nitschke, Lyn Allison, Lee Rhiannon and many more, covering atheism and its effect on life, politics, education, society and philosophy.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A quiet week, or quite a week

Lots happening in my life this week, so not a lot happening on Kingdom of the Blind. This morning, however, I made the discovery of a blog I haven't read before: Neuroskeptic. If you're interested in neuroscience, this blog is well-written and quite accessible to a layperson.

I especially like the recent post about why mice are the kings of the lab these days. Having heard all about their nasty habits from Dr Adam Hamlin, I've come to realise that the intelligent little critter in Flowers for Algernon is much more realistic when he bites Charlie than when he cuddles him.

The sentiments expressed by Daniel Keyes in his book are echoed by Jim Endersby, in the final chapter of the book that inspired the title of this blog:
Now that we have the knowledge to intervene so effectively in the engineering of living things, we need to ask whether we have the wisdom to use such power wisely.*
*A Guinea Pig's History of Biology (Harvard University Press, 2007)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lost? You may have Alzheimer's

The latest news release from the Queensland Brain Institute reveals new research into the part of the brain that controls our sense of direction (shown in red in the image). This part of the brain is often damaged in Alzheimer's disease, so the researchers hypothesise that an impaired sense of direction could be an early warning sign that could help with diagnosis of this slippery condition.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Music and science

I discovered the Symphony of Science project a while ago, and I can't think why I haven't shared it with you before. Musician John Boswell uses autotune software to set sound and video clips of well-known scientists and philosophers to music. Pearls of wisdom from Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking feature in this composition:

The latest in the series, A Wave of Reason begins with Bertrand Russell and includes several modern thinkers including Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and the Bad Astronomer, Phil Plait.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Cell birth

I had a couple of hours to spare in the Culture at Work studio this week, so I began another embroidery I've had in mind for a while, based on an image of cell birth that appears on a Queensland Brain Institute bookmark.

The neurons, with their tendrils stretching out to make new connections, look rather sperm-like, which is appropriate when we're talking about the birth of brain cells. What will they develop into as they grow and age? What thoughts will pass along those tendrils?

The beautiful blue and green fluorescent markers used to reveal the cell structures are a lovely colour combination. The thread I'm using is hand-dyed stranded cotton, and the whole work will be in padded satin stitch when it's done; at the moment I'm just working the outlines in outline stitch (I've satin stitched one tendril at the top of the image below).

Friday, December 3, 2010

QBI newsletter

Click here to download a PDF of the latest newsletter from the Queensland Brain Institute.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Bizarre bioscapes

I'm pleased to present this amazing image of a rat's hippocampus by Thomas Deerinck. It's a widefield multiphoton fluorescence image stained to reveal the distribution of glia (cyan), neurofilaments (green) and cell nuclei (yellow). Thomas Deerinck works at the National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research, University of California, San Diego, USA. This image won second prize in the 2010 Olympus BioScapes Digital Imaging Competition®.

Each year for the past seven, Olympus (the camera manufacturer) has run a digital imaging competition for those working in life sciences. Any human, animal or plant subject is allowed, and the images are selected and judged on the science they represent, the aesthetics of the picture and the technical proficiency of the photographer. All of the ten winning images are stunning: you can see them and many highly commended images at the Olympus BioScapes website.

Can you pick out the shape of the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus (as in my Neurogenesis embroidery below) in Deerinck's prizewinning image? Looking at all those gorgeous colours, my fingers are itching to start a new embroidery!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010