I knew I would get my ass kicked my the Metropolitan Transit Authority last night. I woke up at 4:30 PM after pulling an all-nighter, and had a couple of beers with the landlord and his uncle, who are making renovations in the house. I got to the Woodlawn "4" station and had a s-l-o-w ride to 14th St (the train, normally an express, was making all local stops), where I transfered to a slow "R" train. By the time I got to the beautiful Bell House, I had missed the theremin performance, and the first five minutes of the lecture by neurobiologist (and economist) Paul Glimcher. The event was completely packed- I had to stand in the vestibule outside the performance space, so my recap will be somewhat half-assed.
Much of the lecture dealt with the research techniques employed in Dr. Glimcher's lab- one particular experiment featured monkeys presented with a set of three lights- a central light which would get the monkey's attention, followed by a light to the left or right. If the monkey looked at the left-hand light, it would receive a small, constant amount of fruit juice, while a glance at the right-hand light would provide either no juice or a big juice payoff. The experiment was modeled on the work or shirk problem of game theory. A similar experiment was performed with human subjects- the pattern of choices between a safe payoff and a gamble was similar between human subjects and monkeys. In another experiment with monkeys, an added "bonus" was given along with the juice reward- the bonus took the form of pictures of monkeys shown while the juice reward was given. Pictures of high-status monkeys were valued more than pictures of low-status monkeys. Pictures of female monkeys weren't valued more than pictures of male monkeys until one of the researches joked, "You've got the female monkeys backwards!" Pictures of the hindquarters of female monkeys were highly valued by the male monkey subjects. Yeah, monkeys dig "porn".
I lost the thread of the lecture a couple of times becuase I was outside the auditorium looking in (damn MTA construction schedules!). I wish my recap were better, folks. As a possible consolation, here's a good interview with Dr Glimcher, and a video of one of his lectures.
I did make it a big beer night after the lecture ended, so that was some compensation for the godawful trip down and the half-perceived lecture. I also had a long reminiscence with a couple of folks about the ***FUTURE BLOG POST ABOUT PAST EVENT***