The clinical neurologist, author, former weightlifter, and popularizer of science has died of the metastatic melanoma that he announced in February had spread to his liver. A perennial guest on WNYC's broadcast of WNYC's Radiolab, he unfailingly came across as clever, kind, and self-deprecating (including about his prosopagnosia, or face blindness). Dr. Sacks remained engaged with science and the public until the end. [more inside]
And now, weak, short of breath, my once-firm muscles melted away by cancer, I find my thoughts, increasingly, not on the supernatural or spiritual, but on what is meant by living a good and worthwhile life — achieving a sense of peace within oneself. I find my thoughts drifting to the Sabbath, the day of rest, the seventh day of the week, and perhaps the seventh day of one’s life as well, when one can feel that one’s work is done, and one may, in good conscience, rest.Sabbath, an essay by Oliver Sacks (NYT) [more inside]
Bismuth is element 83.
I do not think I will see my 83rd birthday, but I feel there is something hopeful, something encouraging, about having “83” around. Moreover, I have a soft spot for bismuth, a modest gray metal, often unregarded, ignored, even by metal lovers. My feeling as a doctor for the mistreated or marginalized extends into the inorganic world and finds a parallel in my feeling for bismuth.Oliver Sacks on dying. (SLNYT)
My Letter From Oliver Sacks by David Friedman [The Morning New]
In 2002, David Friedman thought of a question he wanted to ask Oliver Sacks, on the topic of 3D glasses and “pseudoscopic” vision. A week after he sent the letter, he received a typewritten reply, complete with diagrams.
A General Feeling of Disorder by Oliver Sacks [New York Review of Books]
“As an example of this, migraine is a sort of prototype illness, often very unpleasant but transient, and self-limiting; benign in the sense that it does not cause death or serious injury and that it is not associated with any tissue damage or trauma or infection; and occurring only as an often-hereditary disturbance of the nervous system. Migraine provides, in miniature, the essential features of being ill—of trouble inside the body—without actual illness.”
She was 22 when her memory was obliterated. Twenty-six years later, Su Meck is still learning about the family she raised and the husband she has no recollection of marrying. Su has no earliest single memory and resents the question (it is the one she’s asked most frequently). She begins remembering around 1992, when she was roughly three months pregnant with Kassidy and a friend who was aware of her condition explained why her period had likely ceased, and went with her to a drugstore to buy a test. [more inside]
You invest so much in it, don't you? It's what elevates you above the beasts of the field, it's what makes you special. Homo sapiens, you call yourself. Wise Man. Do you even know what it is, this consciousness you cite in your own exaltation? Do you even know what it's for?Dr. Peter Watts is no stranger to MetaFilter. But look past his sardonic nuptials, heartbreaking eulogies, and agonizing run-ins with fascists (and fasciitis) and you'll find one of the most brilliant, compelling, and disquieting science fiction authors at work today. A marine biologist skilled at deep background research, his acclaimed 2006 novel Blindsight [full text] -- a cerebral "first contact" tale led by a diverse crew of bleeding-edge post-humans -- is diamond-hard and deeply horrifying, wringing profound existential dread from such abstruse concepts as the Chinese Room, the Philosophical Zombie, Chernoff faces, and the myriad quirks and blind spots that haunt the human mind. But Blindsight's last, shattering insight is not the end of the story -- along with crew/ship/"Firefall" notes, a blackly funny in-universe lecture on resurrecting sociopathic vampirism (PDF - prev.), and a rigorously-cited (and spoiler-laden) reference section, tomorrow will see the release of
A meditation on falsehood and truth in memory by Oliver Sacks.
Valero Doval created a marvelous image for an Oliver Sacks' article about neuroplasticity, the brain’s capacity to create new pathways. The artist's other collages are also excellent: Aerofauna | Wonderful World | EnigmaticCities | Portraits. [more inside]
Oliver Sacks is surviving cancer of the eye, ocular melanoma. In his latest book, The Mind’s Eye, he "tells the stories of people who are able to navigate the world and communicate with others despite losing what many of us consider indispensable senses and abilities." In the interview, Sacks talks about his diagnosis, the after-effects of his radiation treatment (which include hallucinations that resolve themselves into words if he "smokes a little pot"), his apprenticeships with poets W.H. Auden and Thom Gunn, and the importance of science writing in an age when the authority of science is being undermined by religious zealots. Via MeFi's own, Steve Silberman, digaman. [more inside]
Prosopagnosia, or face blindness, is an impairment which limits one's ability to recognize faces (previously). As part of the World Science Festival, Robert Krulwich interviews two famous suffers of this little known disease: the portrait artist Chuck Close and the neuroscientist and writer Oliver Sacks. [more inside]
Western musical intervals are derived from speech tendencies, according to Duke scientists. Specifically, "most of the 12 chromatic scale intervals correspond to peaks of relative power in the normalized spectrum of human vocalizations." A somewhat more layperson-friendly summary of the study is here. [more inside]
Musicophilia. Metafilter's own digaman interviews Oliver Sacks on his forthcoming book and a lifetime's worth of loving music and studying its effects on the human mind. [more inside]
The Abyss. Oliver Sacks writes about Clive Wearing (recently discussed here). [Via MindHacks.] [more inside]
A Blog entry about a guy who melted a kilo of Iridium in New Jersey with Oliver Sacks. There are also pictures and movies of the 200,000 eV electron beam furnace in action. Theo Gray, co-founder of Wolfram Research was there too (the pictures are all his). For any laymen who may have wondered in, Iridium is not a phone company, it is a precious metal that shares an element group with the likes of Platinum and Rhodium.
2003 Reith Lectures. Neuroscientist Vilayanur S. Ramachandran, Director of the Centre for Brain and Cognition at the University of California, talks about a number of fascinating neurological disorders and the insights they provide into mental functioning.