April 15, 2011

Happy Friday. Pleasant cool morning here, temp at +20 the last time I checked. The sun comes up in the east now. A beautiful red fox trotted up our driveway about 6:30 am, found something dead (vole? Bird?) and ate it, then stood there watching and waiting for a bit. Nosy was outside, so I surveiled the primitive tableau of nature. Fox went off through the yard and about 10 minutes later the cat appeared at the door looking nonchalant. I have watched her watch a fox from no more than 15 feet away before and nothing untoward happened. Our vet says a healthy cat would not likely be outmatched by a fox, so I don’t worry about it.

Yokelly we are watching again the lecture series by Robert Sapolsky of Stanford about Biology and Human Behavior. The first time through was like drinking from a fire hose. Sapolsky is a soft-spoken, extremely smart lecturer with a rapid, steady delivery. His lectures are relentlessly on point, though he slips in dry humor along the way. The second time through it’s easier to retain. Last night we watched his lecture on LTP, long term potentiation, also called learning. If you have ever had information go in one ear and out the other, and then suddenly the light bulb goes on, that’s long-term potentiation in action. Has to do with calcium, glutamate, and repetition. You will learn fancy terms like inhibitory neurotransmitter and excitotoxin, which are sure to impress one or two of your friends. Sapolsky’s primary area of research is aggression in baboons. If you want to understand how your brain works, and how drugs licit and illicit affect how your brain works, this series makes you think. It’s like going to college again, minus the beer. Available at your library.

Robert Sapolsky and colleague

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