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A Mystery to Itself

Rivka Galchen: What is a brain?, 22 April 2021

The Idea of the Brain 
by Matthew Cobb.
Profile, 470 pp., £12.99, March, 978 1 78125 590 2
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The Future of Brain Repair: A Realist’s Guide to Stem Cell Therapy 
by Jack Price.
MIT, 270 pp., £25, April 2020, 978 0 262 04375 5
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Livewired: The Inside Story of the Ever-Changing Brain 
by David Eagleman.
Canongate, 316 pp., £20, August 2020, 978 1 83885 096 8
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... But what is ‘it’ and how do these interpretations take place? In The Idea of the Brain, Matthew Cobb topples some common fallacies. He says the use of the terms ‘left brain’ and ‘right brain’ to refer to thinking styles is ‘profoundly mistaken’. The description of ‘mirror neurons’ – motor cortex neurons that fire not only when ...

Life Soup

Liam Shaw: Slime!, 21 April 2022

Slime: A Natural History 
by Susanne Wedlich, translated by Ayça Türkoğlu.
Granta, 326 pp., £20, November 2021, 978 1 78378 670 1
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... that, despite a superficial sliminess, at the fundamental level life was about information. As Matthew Cobb has written, a generation which had spent the Second World War cracking codes and programming computers was primed to use these new metaphors for biology. The later elucidation of gene regulation in E. coli by François Jacob and Jacques Monod ...

Hong Pong

Thomas Jones: John Lanchester, 25 July 2002

Fragrant Harbour 
by John Lanchester.
Faber, 299 pp., £16.99, July 2002, 0 571 20176 8
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... readable prose. On the plane out to Hong Kong, Stone sits next to a young Chinese businessman, Matthew Ho, whose voice concludes the novel. He was born in China in 1966; in 1974 his mother took him clandestinely across the border into Hong Kong, where, when he grows up, he meets Tom Stewart. And, halfway through Ho’s narrative, Dawn Stone at last ...

Dark Knight

Tom Shippey, 24 February 1994

The Life and Times of Sir Thomas Malory 
by P.J.C. Field.
Boydell and Brewer, 218 pp., £29.50, September 1993, 0 85991 385 6
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... the case. If one goes by the records, slowly unearthed in the Twenties and Thirties by Edward Cobb, Edward Hicks and A.C. Baugh, the Malory of Newbold Revel was not ‘little better than a criminal’, he was a criminal, and probably by some way the most distinguished criminal ever to have won a place in English letters. Despite a reasonably secure and ...

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