The Delights Of Disgust
I confess I am disgusted by a great many things about people (and about myself, but let's put that aside). I do not believe it is particularly urgent for me to overcome my disgust, even if I recognize that this emotion must remain entirely separate from my thinking about which laws would be most just. I am disgusted by other people's dandruff, facial moles, food stuck in their beards, yet I do not accept that in feeling this way I am judging those people to be subhuman. I take it rather that humanity, while endearing, is also capable of appearing disgusting.[more inside]
In 1996, Yale psychologist John Bargh published a much cited paper (pdf) demonstrating the "priming effect" --- in a nutshell, subjects who had to unscramble sentences mentioning the elderly walked slower when leaving the examination room than control subjects. This year, Stéphane Doyen and his co-authors attempted to replicate Bargh's experiment, but were unable to reproduce the priming effect --- instead assembling evidence that it was the experimenter's knowledge of the study topic which created the apparent "priming". Is Bargh's famous experiment flawed? Or is Doyen's paper a pile of horseshit published in a two-bit for-profit online journal, as Bargh's strident critique suggests? Or is Bargh full of it himself? And who gets to decide what counts as good science these days anyway?
MIT scientist Dr. Todd Rider has developed a viral infection treatment that works by triggering host cell suicide when it finds the cell has been producing double-stranded RNA. Since dsRNA is the mechanism by which all viral infections proceed, but is not part of normal cellular function, the treatment seems both universal and safe. [more inside]
More evidence of brain plasticity: Some blind people are able to use echolocation to perceive space and objects around them in surprising detail, even though the time differences in echoes necessary to do this are two small to be consciously perceived. An fMRI study by Lore Thaler, Stephen Arnott and Melvyn Goodale revealed that people who are especially adept at this use their calcarine cortex (a.k.a. V1 or primary visual cortex) to process spatial information from the echoes. The original paper. A shorter discussion. (Previously)