Three Types of Cortical Layer 5 Neurons That Differ in Brain-wide Connectivity and Function

My very first publication has finally made it through the rigorous peer review process and has been published in the journal Neuron!

The paper Three Types of Cortical Layer 5 Neurons That Differ in Brain-wide Connectivity and Function can be pulled down from my server or can be found through the usual channels.


A Thought on Self Reflexive Skepticism

Think of something at which you are an expert. Really truly an expert. Try to think about how you feel when you hear a layman talking about that subject. Maybe it's fishing, maybe it's science, maybe it's parenting. It could be the statistics for your favorite football player, something about cars, maybe you are an expert on a band you love.
Think about how ignorant people sound when they talk about your field of expertise.
Now try to remember that, outside your field of expertise, you are just as ignorant. You are just as full of misinformation and misconception about the entirety of the rest of the world, as those people who misunderstand your particular area of expertise.
Think about that every time you have an opinion, every time you think your voice deserves to be heard, and every time that your beliefs are challenged by something you have heard. Remember that listening to the news, reading a blog, and talking to your friends is not a substitute for reading primary research. No one will ever be able to consume all the information required to become an expert on everything, rather as you learn more about a subject you often find out how little you truly know or understand about the world.
Little is more damaging to a critical mind than undeserved self-confidence in one's own ability, or the untouchable elevation of unsubstantiated belief.


Wrongness, Rightness, and The Academics who never believed the Earth was flat.

Why should you read this:
This post is going to be a little different. I am going to write this one a bit more casually, and that may mean there will be some pg-13 language involved. If you are offended by that type of thing, I apologize in advance. Disclaimer aside, this article is going to cover a pretty broad range. It is not addressing a single small topic, but instead addresses a common argument I run into while discussing science with the public. I will go through that argument bit by bit and talk about some of the flaws, and provide some insights into the scientific method. Prepare yourself for some verbal adventure, and dive right in!
The Story:
We start this story with you. Not the real you, but the hypothetical You. Got that? Just imagine yourself, but a story version of yourself. A You that is compelled to do what the plot says you are going to do. If ninjas attack the story You, it doesn't matter what you would do in real life, because the hypothetical You in the story is compelled to do whatever the story says. I think you have it now, so please don't be offended that I'm going to make story You sound like a total jerk!


The World is Big and Stupid

A few weeks ago I stumbled onto this NPR article which made me smile. In it, the author points out a quoted piece of text written by Charles Darwin in a letter to one of his friends.

The quote reads, "I am very poorly today, and very stupid and hate everything and everyone."

This is Charles Darwin on a bad day a few years after publishing his great work, On the Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection. Just a brilliant scientist having a really bad day, and being so very human about it.

I loved the quote so much that I made a few wallpapers for my desktop to remind myself that my frustrations should not stop me from doing great things. So here for you are a few iterations to liven up your desktop on a depressing day, and to remind you that even world changing scientists have very bad days.



A Man With a Gun - A Man With a Sneeze

Why should I read this:
The recent measles outbreak has been in the news a lot the last few weeks. Just about every single news outlet and blog in the country has written on the topic. My degree is specifically "human biology", so I have strong opinions about how public health and disease should be treated. Whether I am preaching to the choir, or you are still certain that you should have personal choice in the matter,  read along and we will go over some of the talking points.

The Story:

Imagine a man with a gun. Not a soldier or an action hero, just imagine a normal man with a gun.

Imagine that man walking through a crowded public space. Imagine him walking casually, calm and unassuming. Imagine him harboring no I'll will against his fellow man.

Imagine that man casually drawing his gun as he walks, and firing. He fires with no particular target in mind, he doesn't even seem to realize what he's doing.


Mitochondria and Your Other DNA

Why read this?
The mitochondrion is, in my opinion, one of the most fascinating and incredible organelles in our cells. Really, I promise that mitochondria are going to surprise you. Stick with me here and I'll try to tell you a story about mitochondria, and about your own body, that you likely have not heard before.

I promise to keep the science talk as colloquial as possible. A very basic knowledge of biology is all that is required to feel very comfortable here, 7th grade biology should cover you. If you don't have that much biology knowledge rattling around in your head, then you will have at least some of it by the end of this article!

Don't skip ahead, and try not to despair over the length. I realize that reading a long story is a big obstacle when it comes to making science seem fun, but this story could easily fall under science fiction if you didn't know any better. Also, long doesn't necessarily mean boring.

At minimum you will think, "Huh, that's pretty neat", but more likely than not, you will spend the rest of the day cleaning your brains off the wall, after this story blows your mind wide open!

The Story:
Those readers who are even superficially familiar with cellular biology will probably remember mitochondria from their 7th grade biology class. You will possibly recall that the mitochondrion is an organelle responsible for manufacturing energy. The so called "Power House" of the cell. You might even remember it looking like the cross section of a kidney bean with a squiggly loop inside, much like the picture below. If you haven't thought about mitochondria since the 7th grade, then your teacher flat out failed to tell you one of the most exciting stories in biology.

Before we get to the really cool part, let's make sure everyone is up to speed on how mitochondria work in our bodies, what they are for, and where they are found.

Yes, this is my best attempt to draw a simplified mitochondrion. Thanks college!



Starting a brand new place to write and organize my thoughts. Real posts on the way, hope to finish up writing on some of my other Hobo-Geek works in progress from software testing while traveling. After that I already have several half baked works that motivated me to make this new site in the first place. Expect those to become fully baked over the next few weeks or months.