A very rough guide to highlights of 2008

A not very thorough list of my personal 2008 highlights in mind and brain news, dredged from my memory and reproduced for your reading pleasure:

Funniest (unintentional)
USA Today publishing an alarmist story about ‘digital drugs’ that can, according to the article, mimic the effects of alcohol, marijuana, LSD, crack, heroin, sex, heaven and hell. Sadly not true, although hilarious to read.

Funniest (intentional)
The Web Therapy web series staring Lisa Kudrow as an incompetent psychologist. Wonderfully produced, cleverly satirical and very funny to boot.

Best film
The English Surgeon. A profoundly beautiful documentary about the work of London-based neurosurgeon Henry Marsh and his colleague Igor Kurilets in the Ukraine. Do not miss it. See the comments!

Best podcast / radio episode
RadioLab’s delicious programme on Orson Well’s War of the Worlds broadcast and its subsequent psychological impact. Just pure audio delightfulness.

Best video lecture
A gripping lecture at the University of California by historian Prof Alfred McCoy on the ‘psychological torture: a CIA history’.

Most interesting new concept
Brain-computer interfaces to weapons systems pose problems for the definition of a ‘war crime’ if they’re triggered preconsciously, according to an interesting analysis by lawyer Stephen White.

Most interesting interview
A tie between sociologist Harry Collins discussing his work on the social interactions of physicists and what this tells us about what we have to do to be considered an expert and what types of expertise there are, and an Neurophilosophy interview with Heather Perry who trepanned herself and is remarkably reflective about the experience.

Most useful academic article
Nikos Logothetis’ article in Nature about what fMRI is really measuring and what we can and can’t infer about the mind and brain from neuroimaging experiment.

Best example of neurobabble
The cover article on neuroscience-based management in an issue of HR Magazine which has to be read to be believed. Or maybe that’s just your basal ganglia talking.

Most tangential post
I start off talking about blond girls in t-shirts and end up talking about philosophy of mind. Actually, usually happens the other way round in real life.

Best cognitive science art project
Artificially intelligence punk rock pogo robots. Enough said.

Best random clip of TV documentary
A TV presenter is intravenously injected with differing mixtures of the active ingredients of cannabis as part of the BBC documentary Should I Smoke Dope?.

Most overdue decision
The American Psychological Association banning participation in torture. Did it really need all the fuss?

To the bunkers! Most likely to hasten the coming robot war
Pentagon requests robot packs to hunt humans. Uh huh.

4 thoughts on “A very rough guide to highlights of 2008”

  1. Vaughan,
    Thank you very much for siting my film “The English Surgeon” as the Best Film of the Year. It is a great honor indeed. Not many people understand however that the economics of trying to bring such a film to the public is horrendous, so filmmakers like me try and get back some of that money through selling DVDs. Would it be possible to ask people to email info@eyelinefilms.co.uk so that they can purchase a DVD from me rather than give a link to a torrent?
    Geoffrey Smith

  2. Vaughan,
    Should have also added that the Storyville version on the torrent is NOT the full cinema version of the film and is therefore not the “real thing” by some 5 minutes, and also that the film will have a theatrical release in the US in the Spring across at least 10 cities and maybe more.

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