Finger counting, finger gnosia and cerebral structures

In June The Guardian posted an interesting piece on finger counting and numbers. The main content of the article concerns the work of cognitive scientists Andrea Bender and Sieghard Beller which explores the cultural diversity in finger counting. It tells us that if asked to use you hands to count to 10, these variations will […]

Birds and the number 0

I’ve been working on an article that has me thinking about neuroscientifc studies on the cerebral representations of magnitude and it happened to be brought to my attention today that Irene Pepperberg spoke at the 2012 Francis Crick Memorial Conference on Consciousness in Animals.

Pepperberg is famous for having worked for many years with […]

Foraging for food, remembering, and mathematics

On April 16 Scientificamerican.com reported on research that links hunting for words with foraging for food.

Our brains may have evolved to forage for some kinds of memories in the same way, shifting our attention from one cluster of stored information to another depending on what each patch has to offer. Recently, Thomas Hills of […]

Worms, promiscuous connections and autistic savants

If you’ve been reading my posts, you’ve probably figured out that this blog is motivated, to a large extent, by my fascination with what mathematics can help us see about the source, targets and bewildering range of human cognition. My expectations rest on the idea that what we have come to call the human mind […]

Cognition and Will

I see mathematics as associated with a searching, instinctual will, whose direction is shaped by our biology. I find some of its roots in the way our visual system constructs what we see, or in the way grid cells (neurons lit by location) tell a rat where it is, or the way ants can find […]

A Little Protein and a Big Bang

This blog is motivated in part by my conviction that life itself is far more mysterious than we are yet able to ponder. And it is mathematics that has often redirected my attention back to that mystery as its wealth of conceptual possibilities shows me more of what we don’t understand. David Deutsch very nicely […]

Nature’s Culture

In another blogging heads interview (and in a related blog), John Horgan explores with David Rothenberg the significance of beauty in scientific thinking. Rothenberg’s new book Survival of the Beautiful, is the subject of much of their discussion. While the conversation centers on questions of beauty (how biology does or does not take it into […]

Time, memory, illusions and mathematics

In a recent post on the Scientific American blog network, George Musser reported on talks given by neuroscientists at a conference, organized by the Foundational Questions Institute on how the brain works to construct our sense of past, present and future.

Musser’s post made some observations that were familiar to me – like the idea […]

Packed oranges, bridges and misunderstandings

David Castelvecchi, at the Scientific American blog network, wrote about a Comment article that appeared in the July 13 issue of the journal Nature. The author, Peter Rowlett, takes note of what could happen when the mathematician “pushes ideas far into the abstract, well beyond where others would stop.” He does this with a collection […]

Embodied Minds, Surfing and Mathematics

Mark Turner, cognitive scientist at Case Western Reserve, wrote an article that was recently posted on the Social Science Research Network entitled The Embodied Mind and the Origins of Human Culture. He makes the point that our awareness is divorced from “Almost all the heavy lifting in human thought and action,” which is done “in […]