YouTube for Biologists: Journal of Visualized Experiments

A friend recently alerted me to The Journal of Visualized Experiments, a revolutionary way to present science by showing the actual experimental procedures. Poking around the site I already picked up tips for my own research just by watching others perform procedures that I do myself in the lab (eg. use Sparkle glass cleaner not just for objectives but also for sample coverglass, how to properly interpret the OD ratio on the spectrophotometer for RNA purity, etc.)

Click more to see some of my favorite videos on the site.

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Boyden blogs!

As Neurodudes readers know, Ed Boyden has been blogging here at Neurodudes for quite a while. But now he has his own blog over at the MIT Tech Review. (We hope he continues to post here too!)

Also, congrats are in order: Ed recently was chosen to be one of the first to be awarded the NIH New Innovator Award!

Neurotechnology Ventures: New Course

Our brains have a lot of problems that need to be solved — now. And neurotechnology is a hot field. But what knowledge and skills do you study if you want to be a neurotechnologist? What problems are important, but also tractable within a reasonable timeframe? And, can you survive while climbing this possibly-very-high mountain?

A team of three academics at MIT and the University of Hong Kong is launching an international collaboration to create a set of novel courses to address this need. The first one, Neurotechnology Ventures, is being taught in Spring 2007 and focuses on neurotechnologies that are close to solving major human problems. The class explores the problems that neurotechnologists encounter when envisioning, planning, and building startups to bring neuroengineering innovations to the world.

Emphasizing the global nature of any modern neurotechnology, Neurotechnology Ventures will be videoconferenced between the U.S. and China, which is increasingly becoming a major neurotechnology player (including some very daring and scientifically interesting developments in fields such as human spinal cord regenerative medicine). Information will be posted online as the class evolves dynamically, to the web site HTTP:// The goal is to open up this new field to the world, and see if we can solve the major problems of the brain in an open and efficient way.


J Physiol. archive now online

The Journal of Physiology announced in the editorial in their recent issue that they have completed digitizing their archive all the way back to 1878, and that it’s now open-accessible from PubMed Central here. (Though I note that the PMC archive, contrary to the statements of the editorial, only goes back to 1904 at the moment.

This is great news, as a lot of classic neuroscience papers were published J Physiol in the 50s and 60s, and previously their online archive had only gone back to 1997 or so. See for example, the Hodgkin and Huxley 1952 papers (1, 2, 3, 4) and Hubel and Wiesel 1962.

-John O’Leary

NeuroWiki: call for participation

What is NeuroWiki?

NeuroWiki is a wiki discussion forum about neuroscience research, especially theoretical, computational, and cognitive neuroscience. Neuroscience is an exploding field and it’s hard to keep track of. NeuroWiki will provide short, collaboratively written summaries of current research trends and ideas, with links to related papers and researchers — this will aid neuroscientists in keeping up with areas outside their specialty, and will allow researchers to learn about things related to their work that they would not have heard of otherwise. However, the best part of NeuroWiki will be the discussions spawned by these topics.

Like PLoS, NeuroWiki content will be “open content”, freely available for reuse in other projects.
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of wikis and wizards

This week’s Nature features an idea called “The Digital Universe,” which hopes to organize and present peer-reviewed content (especially science) for public consumption online.
Preview the actual site here .

There’s some important criticism, especially of the business model, in the article…and you have to wonder about the creator, a wiki-disser and alien-watcher: “The driving force behind the project is ManyOne, a company headed by Joseph Firmage, who made a fortune in the 1990s from an Internet consulting company. He resigned in 1999 after the fallout from his book claiming that he had encountered extraterrestrials. Firmage says he vehemently opposes the ‘anyone can edit’ vision of Wikipedia. ‘Wikipedia is a very uninviting place for most intellectuals,’ he adds.”


The Most Dangerous Idea (Apparently)

So, Edge has a new question for 2006 for its All-Stars of Academia to answer: What is your dangerous idea? (Suggested to Edge by Steven Pinker, who perhaps got the idea from a colloquium series at his old haunting grounds.)

Offhand, one might expect a broad range of perceived dangerous ideas, varying by research interests and such. What’s surprising is that many of the luminaries think that the “most dangerous idea” is this particular, same idea: As neuroscience progresses, popular realization that the “astonishing hypothesis” — that mind is brain — will create a potentially cataclysmic upheaval of society as we know and have profound (negative) moral implications as people claim less responsibility for their actions.

Of course, this just isn’t true. But, would you believe that
Paul Bloom,
VS Ramachandran,
John Horgan,
Andy Clark,
Marc Hauser,
Clay Shirky,
Eric Kandel,
John Allen Paulos,
and, in a more genetic context, Jerry Coyne and Craig Venter
are all very worried about this issue? (And I didn’t even read 50% of the Edge dangerous ideas… there might be even more… ) Is this really the most dangerous idea out there to all of these talented thinkers?

I feel strongly that science and morality have always been separate domains and that any worry that, by “debunking” the mind, we automatically become immoral machines is just ridiculous. Through this scientific knowledge, we might gain some humility, maybe better see our close relatedness to nonhuman primates and place in nature, etc., but we’re not going to flip out and become crazed zombies. This just isn’t going to happen.

Does anybody else think that this just isn’t a truly dangerous idea (although certainly an “astonishing” one, in the Crick sense)? Or am I wrong here?

Samples of academic worrying after the jump.
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