Category Archives: popular science

Losing your free will to your beliefs

Textbook brain

Old patterns in our working brains could use rewiring from time to time. A decade ago, pop science asked if we were left brained or right brained. Now that question has been tweaked to: is your brain conservative or liberal? Conservative ideas are connected to strong emotions and spring from deep inside the brain from the region of the amygdala. While in liberal brains, parts of the anterior cingulate cortex light up, as these areas are involved in reasoning out conflicted issues. It could be that such partitioning will always be imperfect like everything else in life. We could be conservative about some things and liberal about others.

Often I come across readers and commenters indignant when newer analyses or younger readers find older, beloved works of literature or art to be racist or sexist. The year-end Christmas special of Sherlock Holmes: The Abominable Bride was trying to make up for the original, which had mostly minor submissive female characters dedicated to the male universe of Sherlock Holmes. As a young child, I would curl up with Conan Doyle’s stories with nary a consciousness that my gender was being excluded in some way. With dawning adulthood, I realised my existence had been circumscribed by way of gender, and that I could never be a Holmes or a Watson without upsetting or upending the world in which I lived. My society had chosen for me the limited role of Mrs Hudson.

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An ode to the starry night

Crescent moon and Venus. The little green blur in the corner are the frond-like leaves of a coconut tree caught in the frame.

The night sky was part of the secret life of my dreams furnished with plump stars and the clearest, obsidian dark. But in the skies of my waking nights, its million suns had been banished to areas beyond city limits. The night sky in a smaller town where people go to bed early is a startling, breathtaking sight. Your face flushes with silent poetry as you gawp wordlessly at the muted distant fires from cousin suns so far from Earth.

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