Fishing for Genes: How the Largest Gene Family in the Mammalian Genome was Found (and Why Idiosyncrasy in Exploration Matters)
In: Perspectives on Science
Admittedly, it's been a bit quiet this summer. But a few things have been brewing...
With a deleted Twitter account and avoidance of any things online (yes, that includes email), I had time to read, think, write, and do a number of things that have piled on and were postponed for a year now (pandemic-related). I also did that sports thing I plan each new year.
First good news: the lab is now really coming to a start. (We'll call it THE STINK TANK.)
The renovations are moving toward the end. Currently, the estimate is the end of August. The olfactometer is close to being finished. The EEG has already arrived. AND my first graduate student and two undergraduate interns will join me this Fall. Lots of things we need to figure out, tinkering and testing, before we can go ahead with ideas. But this is an exciting start after a year's wait and uncertainty.
You can see the current lab status pictures below.
Second good news: there will be a TEDxCambridge talk online this Fall/Winter... I cannot hide how excited I am about this. The team has been amazing and I learned ... SHIT TONS (official metric). More on that in time, too.
Picture below, too. I may include that one in my tenure file...
The third good news is that John Bickle, Carl Craver, and I have submitted our edited volume on Experimental Tools in Neuroscience to Routledge. It might come out already Winter 2021!! For this, Lu Xu (Firestein lab, Columbia) and I co-wrote a first hand account on her application of SCAPE microscopy in odor mixture coding (pointing toward the cognitive foundations of tool use).
Additionally, a new paper is coming out soon (Perspectives on Science, proofs have been sent off), another co-authored one is under review.
Oh yeah... and my criticism of the arguments behind this recent revival of panpsychism in some corners of the philosophy of mind (and Phil Twitter) is coming out as a book chapter soon, too. I promised, I'd write about it. So stay tuned. ;-)
Summer has been busy. So, hopefully, things keep moving well. Fingers crossed!
Meanwhile, stay safe, well, and sane ;-)
I reviewed Larry Shiner's "Art Scents" in Perception. If you are interested in the question of whether smells can be art(ful) and how to conceive of an aesthetics of olfactory experience, check it out.
Ekin Erkan reviewed "Smellosophy" for Perception.
He nailed it in the Dennett sense: expressing an idea in such a way that the author goes... could not have written it better. And... would love to have written it like that myself.
I gave a short (15 min) talk at AChemS as part of a symposium on its founder Max Mozell.
Mozell's chromatographic theory: A molecular basis of cognitive behavior?
Max Mozell's chromatographic theory, he told me for an interview in 2018, never was completed. His hypothesis states that the mucosa in the nasal epithelium yields a spatially differentiated pattern of odorants with different sorptive rates. Mozell formulated this idea before the olfactory receptor discovery in 1991 and the availability of genetic techniques that allow for target-specific probing of olfactory sensory neurons. His theory does not find many adherents in contemporary olfactory research, now focusing on decoding the stimulus with machine learning and neural principles with optogenetics. Notwithstanding, there are good reasons to reengage with Mozell's theory and translate some of its critical tenets into the 21st century. This talk highlights Mozell's interest in linking sniffing behavior to a molecular physiological mechanism at the periphery. It asks: What questions about the olfactory process did Mozell's theory address that may still be of value today?
I was interviewed on smell and COVID, alongside Barry C. Smith and Chrissi Kelly (AbScent), in the New Statesman.
Link to article: Searching for sense: what we lose when smell deserts us
I was recently interviewed by Alexis Papazoglou for The Philosopher & The News.
Check it out here!
“Certain wines have some qualities that are distinctive…You’re training your brain to recognize certain odor profiles. it’s deductive smelling, almost like Sherlock Holmes."
Unexplainable, the new Vox Podcast on things we don't know (yet) - starting to air THIS WEDNESDAY.
First Episode: The Sense of Smell
Feat. Claire Guest on Medical Detection Dogs, Andreas Mershin in the Nanonose (bioelectronic noses!), and me on the still open questions in the science of smell!