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Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Measure Of Harper Lee: A Life Shaped By A Towering Text, by Lynn Neary, NPR

Peering back across Harper Lee's life, it can seem impossible to distinguish the novelist from her masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird. Lee died at the age of 89 in her hometown of Monroeville, Ala., on Friday morning — yet it's clear that her legacy will live on much longer than that, through her characters and the readers who have embraced them for decades.

The Mind’s Biology, by Amy Ellis Nutt, Washington Post

The chief complaint about today’s psychiatric medications is the same one cited by those frustrated by the lack of progress on Alzheimer’s: They don’t treat the disease, just the symptoms, and they don’t even do that very well.

Rather than targeting brain chemistry to reduce symptoms, people such as Insel want to focus on brain circuitry. Their efforts have been bolstered by advances in technology and imaging that now allow scientists not only to see deeper into the brain, but also to study single brain cells to determine which circuits and neurons underlie specific mental and emotional states. Many of these advances come from fields as disparate as physics and electrical engineering — as well as the new field of optogenetics, which uses light to manipulate neurons.

Book Review: A Numerate Life, by Dilip D’Souza, Live Mint

“I was captivated,” John Allen Paulos says of the second time he met his wife. To attract an inattentive waiter while out on a date, he dared her to tip her bottle of Coke on to the floor. “She hesitated only for a brief moment,” he writes. The bottle duly dropped and shattered. The waiter came rushing over. “I was two-thirds of the way to being smitten,” he writes.

A possibly throwaway remark, but then again, I note that this is a book in which Paulos wields a mathematical lens in unexpected ways. So no throwaway here. I mean, most of us (three-fourths of us?) might have said, “I was well on the way to being smitten”, or perhaps we might have settled for “halfway to being smitten”. But Paulos has thought this through and thinks a more precise measure fits better; thus “two-thirds”.

When Dementia Unlocks Creativity, by Eliezer J. Sternberg, Wall Street Journal

Current neuroscientific thinking suggests that all three of these theories are at work. With further study, we may come to confirm traditional lessons on how to harness creative potential—by releasing our inhibitions, not overthinking, and engaging in free association.

Invitation To Love, by Paul Laurence Dunbar