Technology Works, Except When it Doesn’t

In determining the immensely complicated aspects of life, such as the brain, and global temperatures over hundreds of years, we should always retain a bit of skepticism when the results seem to confound common sense, as this article from Science News notes.

An excerpt.

“The 18-inch-long Atlantic salmon lay perfectly still for its brain scan. Emotional pictures —a triumphant young girl just out of a somersault, a distressed waiter who had just dropped a plate — flashed in front of the fish as a scientist read the standard instruction script aloud. The hulking machine clunked and whirred, capturing minute changes in the salmon’s brain as it assessed the images. Millions of data points capturing the fluctuations in brain activity streamed into a powerful computer, which performed herculean number crunching, sorting out which data to pay attention to and which to ignore.

“By the end of the experiment, neuroscientist Craig Bennett and his colleagues at Dartmouth College could clearly discern in the scan of the salmon’s brain a beautiful, red-hot area of activity that lit up during emotional scenes.

“An Atlantic salmon that responded to human emotions would have been an astounding discovery, guaranteeing publication in a top-tier journal and a life of scientific glory for the researchers. Except for one thing. The fish was dead.

“The scanning technique used on the salmon — called functional magnetic resonance imaging — allows scientists to view the innards of a working brain, presumably reading the ebbs and flows of activity that underlie almost everything the brain does. Over the last two decades, fMRI has transformed neuroscience, enabling experiments that researchers once could only dream of. With fMRI, scientists claim to have found the brain regions responsible for musical ability, schadenfreude, Coca-Cola or Pepsi preference, fairness and even tennis skill, among many other highly publicized conclusions.”

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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