Saturday, July 02, 2005

Science RSS Feeds

C and I just installed a new version of gallery which has RSS feeds. And I just downloaded Inforss an RSS extension to Firefox. It scrolls headlines from your RSS feeds across the bottom of your Firefox.

One of the defaults is a feed to The Register and through it I read "Are Brains Analog or Digital?" It's a poorly written article that starts with a specious claim "we think in analog, not digital. It's a bold claim which if true, threatens to make thirty years of linguistics and neuroscience metaphors look very silly indeed." I really don't know a serious scientist who truly thinks "digital" is anything, but a flawed analogy to try to explain the brain to nonscientists.

Then frustratingly the article presents part of the story that makes it seem like the digital analogy actually explains the whole story. "We know that with brain neurons, at least 90 per cent of the bandwidth they use is digital. There is a fibre or there is not a fibre, there is a pulse or there is not a pulse." Well that's true. However it neglects to mention a key point: unlike a computer, each neuron accumulates chemicals or "weights" and fires a pulse if these get above a certain weight. Therefore the brain is both analog and digital. Well not really either. My dad says he hates scientific analogies, because they don't properly explain anything. In this case, I have to agree.

C already told me The Register is "unqualified journalism" and now I've unsubscribed from The Register Feed.

My main source of science articles is The Economist. The Economist provides 2-4 a week. I also read National Geographic, but the articles are in small font, so I read it less often on the computer. I'd like to add another science RSS feed. Technical or abstracts are fine, hard to read isn't. If you have any recommendations, please add comments here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

^+ on firefox makes the font bigger