Let sleeping babies lie in peace

Most parents are probably cautious and quiet around a sleeping baby, worried that the slightest sound will jar them from their slumber. Now, there’s even more reason to watch what you say when a sleeping baby is around, because we know that even if it doesn’t wake them up, they can still hear it – and…

The Power of a Bedtime Story

My 4-year-old nephew has an eclectic taste in bed-time stories. One week my sister will find herself reading the adventures of Spryo versus The Mega Monsters, the next week recounting the emotional journey of Mo Willem’s Knuffle Bunny, and the next reading captions out of Smithsonian’s Human: The Definitive Visual Guide. (Yes, at my nephew’s…

Why “Smart” Girls Don’t Do Math

Sometimes, usually about halfway through a stack of student papers, I close my eyes and dream of teaching without grades. Not without reading papers, or breaking out the colored pen to mark and comment, but without the one single letter that they look for first, and that takes the focus off the other hundreds of letters…

Inheriting Your Parents’ Learning

In my favorite fantasy world, the Discworld, Death – yes, the skeleton with the robe and scythe – has a granddaughter, Susan, and Susan has an unusual birthmark: when she gets angry, and her face flushes red, and three white lines appear on her cheek, almost like an afterimage of being slapped. Susan was raised…

Amnesia at the Movies

Hollywood has made so many films featuring amnesia – from the reasonably accurate Memento to the purely fictional Long Kiss Goodnight – that there are legitimate scientific articles analyzing the portrayal of amnesia in films. But there are at least two forms of amnesia that seem underrepresented; a movie aficionado might find particular scenes or instances that illustrate…

The brain within the brain

Fractals are fascinating because no matter how close you zoom in, you find a crystal clear picture just as complex as the original – often sharing the same structure as the original. Look closely at the brain fractal below, and you will see many smaller brains inside it; if not for the limits of JPEG…

Why moms cry at the movies

My sister recently presented me with a little puzzle to solve: before having her son, she doesn’t think she would have teared up at the ending of Toy Story 3 or the opening of Up; now, despite the repeated viewings my nephew has insisted on, they are guaranteed to wash out her eyes. A few months…