We're all about the cross-pollination of disciplines and we're (naturally) fascinated by the human brain, so today's release of Portraits of the Mind: Visualizing the Brain from Antiquity to the 21st Century, a book that sources its material in science, roots its aesthetic in art, and reads like a literary anthology, is making us swoon in all kinds of ways. Author Carl Schoonover
explores – in breathtaking visual detail – the evolution of humanity's understanding of the brain, from Medieval sketches to Victorian medical engravings to today's most elaborate 3D brain mapping.
Axon Scaffolding Proteins (Photomicrograph, 2008) | The arrangement of proteins forming the inner scaffolding of axons, captured thanks to genetically engineered antibodies that help researchers study the molecular components neurons like specific types of proteins
Phrenological Skull (Drawing on human skull, 19th century) | A quasi-medical artifact of phrenology, the 19th-century pseudo-science positing that bumps on the head reflect the underlying shape and functionality of the brain, dividing the skull into regions that control specific aspects of one's organs and personality
The foreword by Jonah Lehrer, one of our favorite science-distillers, only adds to the tome's already irresistable allure.
Hippocampus (Photomicrograph, 2005) | Genetically-encoded fluorescent proteins illuminate neurons in different colors in a modern version of the Golgi stain, a simple chemical coloring traditionally done with silver nitrate
Schoonover curates images come from data laboratories around the world, many of which are revealed to the world for the first time, contextualized through essays by leading scientists. And while the history of brain research seems to be an extended exercise in Socratian the-more-we-learn-the-more-we-learn-how-little-we-know, Portraits of the Mind
manages to construct a thrilling frame for hope in neuroscience by making the scientific understanding of the human brain both exciting and accessible, a digestible deluge of visual and intellectual fascination.
Tree bark may not sound like the most exciting or relatable of subjects but, in fact, it is both. Not only do we come in contact with it constantly in our daily lives, from cinnamon to cork to chewing gum to rubber, but it's also a hauntingly beautiful, textured piece of living matter that looks like the skin of some magnificent mythical dragon. French photographer Cedric Pollet
travels the world to capture this beauty and has documented it in his gorgeous new book, Bark: An Intimate Look at the World's Trees.
To whet people's enthusiasm, I thought it was important to find ways to surprise and move them, by treating bark in a completely new way, at once aesthetic and playful." ~ Cedric Pollet
Ocotillo tree, a shrub-like plant found in the Southeast United States
Silk floss tree (Ceiba speciosa), a flowering deciduous tree native to South America's tropical forests
The sap of birch is used as a tonic in Northern Europe and Russia, as well as in syrup, beer and candy flavoring
From the vibrant, ruffled bark of the manzanita tree, the color of the sunset in this small evergreen's native California, to the lush green-and-brown colors of the rainbow eucalyptus, which resemble the thoughtful palette of a contemporary designer, the big, bold and beautiful 190-page tome captures the world's most breathtaking barks, including those of trees indigenous to some of Earth's most remote regions.
Japanese Stewartia, a close relative to the tea plant
A type of manzanita endemic to the San Luis Obispo region of California
Bark is as much a stunning visual treat for color and photography lovers alike as it is a visceral manifesto for biodiversity and reforestation, two of today's most pressing issues in preserving the amazing world we inherited.
What Kenyan tribes have to do with Ohio's ghettos and the global water crisis.
These are turbulent times for photojournalism. At once declared dead
, extolled as a creative business model and explored in
new forms of media education, photojournalism has reached a cultural tipping point at a time of more international wars, civic unrest and natural disasters than in any other concentrated period of modern history. The Power of Photojournalism is a two
-part documentary by the Annenberg Space for Photography
investigating just what the title promises through the work of the 66th annual Picture of the Year International winners.
Photography is one of the most important parts of journalism because it reaches people so powerfully. It's quicker, it's more visceral than text. Photography is immediate." ~ Geneva Overholser, Director, School of Journalism, USC Annenberg School for Communication
The bottom line is heart. And the one thing photojournalists have always had is heart." ~ Rick Shaw, Director, Pictures of the Year International
You can see a full online gallery
of the winners at the Annenberg Space for Photography. For a closer look at the role of photojournalism in framing culture and making sense of the world, we highly recommend Witness in Our Time: Working Lives of Documentary Photographers – a fascinating and visually gripping survey of the genre through interviews of and and images by 22 of the world's most prominent photojournalists.
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The psychology of spaghetti sauce and why too many jams make you lose your appetite.
Why are you reading this? How did you decide to click the link, load the page and stay? How do we decide to do anything at all and, out of the myriad choices we face each day, what makes one option more preferable over another? This is one of the most fundamental questions of the social sciences, from consumer psychology to economic theory to behavioral science.
Today, at the risk of meta-irony, we look at not one but five fantastic books and talks that explore the subject. Take your pick(s) – if you can, that is.
JONAH LEHRER HOW WE DECIDE
Among other things, Jonah Lehrer
writes the excellent Frontal Cortex blog for Wired
, one of our favorites. He is the Malcolm Gladwell of science writing – only with better hair and more meticulous fact-checking – distilling for the common man the complexities and fascinations of university labs and obscure research papers. In his latest book, How We Decide, Lehrer explores how the unexpected discoveries of neuroscience can help us make better everyday decisions.
Amazon has a nice Q&A with Lehrer on the book page, in which he addresses everything from neuroscience to how he handles the cereal aisle.
BARRY SCHWARTZ THE PARADOX OF CHOICE
studies the relationship between economics and psychology. In The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less
, he debunks one of the great myths of modern civilization: That abundance makes us happier and greater choice equals greater good. Through solid behavioral economics, cognitive psychology and neuroscience, Schwartz makes a compelling case that abundance exhausts the human psyche, sprouts unreasonable expectations and ultimately makes us feel unfulfilled. Alongside the research, he offers simple yet effective strategies for curbing the disappointment consumerism has set us up for and living lives that feel more complete.
MALCOLM GLADWELL BLINK
We may have had our public disagreements with the king of pop psychology, but Malcolm Gladwell
does have a penchant for synthesizing diverse research, connecting the dots, and distilling the gist for the laymen of the land. In Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
, he does just that, translating research on snap judgements into captivating storytelling about our "adaptive unconscious" – the always-on mental system the processes danger and reacts to new information. From assessing a stranger's trustworthiness to choosing a mate during speed-dating to orchestrating military maneuvers, the book explores the deeper science of what's commonly known as "first impressions," kindling a new level of awareness of our own behavior and that of others.
DAN ARIELY PREDICTABLY IRRATIONAL
Behavioral economist Dan Ariely
has dedicated his career to expoloring the curious ways in which people make choices through odd, unorthodox and often amusing experiments. Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
is a densely insightful yet entertaining read, recounting Ariely's ingenious experiments in how irrational impulses drive our economic behavior and substantiating them with additional evidence for what we all suspect but don't want to hear: We're emotional beings swayed by the winds of irrationality even as we attempt to make the most logical and rational of chocies. Intelligent and accessible, the book will change the way you think of yourself and the world around you.
The book's sequel, The Upside of Irrationality, is also a fascinating read and highly recommended.
SHEENA IYENGAR THE ART OF CHOOSING
Columbia Business School social psychologist
Sheena Iyengar. The Art of Choosing
begins with the story of a man who survived stranded in the middle of the ocean for 76 days because he chose to live, just as Iyengar herself has chosen not to let her blindness prevent her from being a fierce researcher and acclaimed academic. This fascinating piece of pop-psychology offers a fascinating journey into the web of consumerism, woven out of our biological need for choice and control, drawing on everything from the pensées of Albert Camus to The Matrix.
In this compelling BigThink interview, Iyengar reveals how she came to study choice and how her own biological limits affect the way she makes choices.
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