Bird’s Eye: Every solution is based on a model of the problem it addresses. Here are three interesting models for the mind: a historian suggests that apps work better than TV at reflecting his thought processes about history; the Boston Globe reports that the model of depression being caused by serotonin deficiency is almost certainly wrong; a science fiction story about unicorns suggests that a brutal conformity is the price we pay to be accepted. (Caveat lector: I’m not kidding about the brutal part.) The story, “Ponies” won the Nebula award this year, given to the best shot story of the year, as voted by the SF writers of America.
David Starkey is already a “cross-platform” historian, best known for his projects spanning books and TV. However, there’s now an app for that too. It’s called Kings and Queens, and while its textual basis is Starkey’s Crown and Country book, the iOS app is no cash-in.
Developed by Trade Mobile, the app uses a timeline user interface to explore the history of the English monarchy, with a wealth of background material to dive into, and entirely new footage of Starkey explaining the key points. In an interview with Apps Blog, he fizzes with enthusiasm about the potential of apps for his work.
“It’s a case of the technology catching up with what I wanted to do,” he says. “Television is a performance, but apps actually reflect thought processes.”
* How Prozac sent the science of depression in the wrong direction The Boston Globe
The success of Prozac hasn’t simply transformed the treatment of depression: it has also transformed the science of depression. For decades, researchers struggled to identify the underlying cause of depression, and patients were forced to endure a series of ineffective treatments. But then came Prozac. Like many other antidepressants, Prozac increases the brain’s supply of serotonin, a neurotransmitter. The drug’s effectiveness inspired an elegant theory, known as the chemical hypothesis: Sadness is simply a lack of chemical happiness. The little blue pills cheer us up because they give the brain what it has been missing.
There’s only one problem with this theory of depression: it’s almost certainly wrong, or at the very least woefully incomplete. Experiments have since shown that lowering people’s serotonin levels does not make them depressed, nor does it worsen their symptoms if they are already depressed.
* Ponies Kij Johnson Tor
The invitation card has a Western theme. Along its margins, cartoon girls in cowboy hats chase a herd of wild Ponies. The Ponies are no taller than the girls, bright as butterflies, fat, with short round-tipped unicorn horns and small fluffy wings. At the bottom of the card, newly caught Ponies mill about in a corral. The girls have lassoed a pink-and-white Pony. Its eyes and mouth are surprised round Os. There is an exclamation mark over its head.
The little girls are cutting off its horn with curved knives. Its wings are already removed, part of a pile beside the corral.
You and your Pony ___[and Sunny’s name is handwritten here, in puffy letters]___ are invited to a cutting-out party with TheOtherGirls! If we like you, and if your Pony does okay, we’ll let you hang out with us.