Animal rights activists have done stellar work in foregrounding the question of creature-consciousness: no meat-eater is now ignorant of the fact that their food once lived, breathed, maybe nuzzled its kin in a blood-soaked slaughterhouse. Environmentalists have a harder go of it. Fracking footage will always be less upsetting than your average fast food expose: Plants, after all, can't wail frantically as they're mowed down by the millions. But does that mean they're not conscious? Is it sensible, or desirable, to start anthropomorphizing crabgrass and dandelions, or are plants really as insensitive as we all instinctively assume?
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Cats are enigmatic little creatures. It's hard to get a read on them. Does your cat love you, or would it gladly stab you in your sleep, if only it had thumbs and a slightly larger brain? The cat never tells - it thrives on inscrutability. But it can't help betraying certain signs of its inner life: It's hard to play things totally cool when you have a large, ungainly tail sticking out of your back, swishing this way and that for no immediately clear reason.
The term "Asperger's syndrome" will never be heard the same way again, owing to new research showing that Hans Asperger - the Austrian pediatrician for whom the disorder was named - was an active participant in the Nazi eugenics program, recommending that patients deemed "not fit for life" be sent to a notorious children's "euthanasia" clinic.
Anyone who's taken the psychedelic drug LSD (formally known as lysergic acid diethylamide), or spoken to someone who's taken it, knows it can be a utterly bonkers experience. A small new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience seems to offer some insight into what's happening in the brain while we're on a LSD trip. And it might even provide a hint as to how certain mental disorders develop.
Scientists have long been interested in understanding the underpinnings of empathy. Being able to share the feelings of another person plays a critical role in our inner lives, how we behave towards others, and the way human societies function as a whole. Harnessing the power of empathy, some suggest, could go a long way toward solving problems such as racism and sexism, and help us better understand non-neurotypical people. At the same time, another corner of the research world worries that constant immersion in technology is making it harder for today's kids to empathise.
Dramatic mood shifts while drinking alcohol are normal, but for some of us, booze takes us down a path toward nasty, belligerent and downright aggressive behaviour. By studying brain scans of drunk men, Australian scientists have pinpointed the parts of our brain that go weak when we drink, making us meaner than usual. But like so many aspects of human psychology, it's a lot more complicated than that.
The first Bitcoin transaction ever was by man who bought two pizzas. That arrangement would be worth over $123 million today. Regret was baked into Bitcoin from the beginning. Last year, somewhat inexplicably, Bitcoin's price rose more than 1000 per cent. That number has since dipped, but a single Bitcoin is still, as of this writing, worth around $13,760.
New research shows that many young children, prior to reaching the age of six or seven, mistakenly believe that birthday parties cause ageing. It's a truly adorable finding, but the study also offers an important glimpse into the developing brain and our early tendency to seek out causal explanations for the unfolding world around us.
Recent scientific progress has allowed us to begin decoding the significance of many different patterns of activity in the brain. Researchers have begun to understand patterns associated with disorders such as depression, in hopes of correcting it. Other research has zeroed in on how language and speech is signalled in the brain. In one often-cited experiment, researchers were even able to convert the MRI readouts of the test subjects' brains into approximate renditions of the movie clips shown to participants.
You live and then you die and then you rot in a hole - or so say the elites, with their glasses, and their PhDs in neuroscience. This bummer reality has never appealed to many people. For example, 72 per cent of Americans believe in some kind of afterlife. It's a comparatively rarer, though still sizeable, breed of person who believe in some spectral middle ground, in which, instead of rotting or going to Hell, you float around and freak out your kids, or the new residents of the house where you were brutally murdered a hundred years ago.
The ongoing feud between President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reached absolutely bizarre, reality-bending levels this week, with Trump responding to reports Tillerson had called him a "moron" by suggesting that they could "compare IQ tests ... I can tell you who is going to win."
We know that our names may influence just about every avenue of our lives -- where we live, the school courses we enrol in, the grades we achieve, the jobs we choose, the jobs we get called back for, how far we go in those jobs, who we love and where we donate money. Now there's evidence that our names may also affect the way we look.
You surely remember a time you said a word to yourself and started laughing. Something about the syllables bouncing around your mouth just didn't make sense. Maybe the word was "booby" or "piss" or "dingus" or "moist". Maybe it was the name "Brumbpo Tungus" or "Scrimmy Bingus". Well thankfully, now science is here to science its way through humour, ruining the joke for everyone.