Michael Forbes Wilcox

Author's posts

The Language of Autism: “Special Interest” as a Stigmatizing Phrase

When an a non-autistic person studies something deeply, it’s an “area of expertise,” and the acquisition of such expertise is considered a commendable accomplishment. When an autistic person studies something deeply, it’s a “special interest,” and it’s considered a symptom of pathology. #DoubleStandards Nick Walker Nick’s post on Facebook really hit home for me, because, …

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Another Candidate for my Autism Hall of Fame: John Couch Adams

Isaac Newton (1642-1726) is often mentioned (and rightly so, from what I can tell) as having probably been autistic. Now, I learn of a later-day (1819-1892) kindred spirit. John Couch Adams is known to history as having been hot on the trail of the discovery of Neptune, only to be beaten to the punch in 1846 …

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I Was Ahead of My Time (But I Knew That!)

Synopsis There is a new style of AI (artificial intelligence) that has, in recent years, taken the world by storm. Called Deep Learning, this approach has made possible self-driving cars, enhanced voice and image recognition, and audible translation from one language to another; to name just a few breakthroughs. Most of what we observe being …

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The Good Nudge

Another Obama program that may or may not survive in the new Administration. A recent (January 23, 2017) issue of The New Yorker contains an article (“Good Behavior“) that describes the final days of an Obama initiative to use behavioral science in the service of improving government performance. The article focuses on the Flint water …

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Look What I Got in the Mail

I was 15 years old. My grandmother had sent me this notecard. I knew it was coming, because she had told me about it. “Someday,” she told me, “you will be very proud to have this.” I didn’t have to wait; I was proud of it from the moment she told me about it. I …

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Let’s See if I Can Tape This All Together

What do cupcakes and chocolate have in common? I guess that’s pretty obvious, but Scotch Tape? In September 2009 Scientific American devoted an entire issue to “Origins” and I’ve chosen three of my favorites to link together here. First up: cupcakes: where and when were they invented, and whence the name?   If you click …

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Birds Did Not Evolve from Dinosaurs; They *Are* Dinosaurs

The January 2017 issue of Scientific American contains a fascinating article (behind a paywall) on the evolution of birds. Using birds as an example, the author makes several interesting points about evolution. Some are quite specific to feathers and such; others are more general, such as Evolution has no foresight; it acts only on what …

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What Do Plants See?

The latest (January 2017) issue of Scientific American has a short blurb entitled “Veggies with Vision” that harks back to speculation and studies of over 100 years ago.   In 1907 Francis Darwin, Charles’s son, hypothesized that leaves have organs that are a combination of lens-like cells and light-sensitive cells.   For some reason, research …

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Walking

Following my comments, you will find an excerpt from an original essay, “Walking,” by Henry David Thoreau that appeared in The Atlantic in 1862; there is also a link at the end for those who want to read more. Henry David Thoreau was the proto-environmentalist. said Bill McKibben. Thoreau was also the one who, perhaps in a …

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#Pantsuit Nation

Today is Election Day. As the hashtags #Pantsuit and #Nation sweep the internet, I am reminded of a day many years ago when I made a momentous decision involving a pantsuit. I know, I know! Hard to imagine a pantsuit being involved in an earthshaking moment, but this one was. In the late 1960s, I …

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