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Tag Archives: Scientific American

David Chalmers Thinks the Hard Problem Is Really Hard

I’m writing a book on the mind-body problem, and one theme is that mind-theorists’ views are shaped by emotionally traumatic experiences, like mental illness, the death of a child and the breakup of a marriage. David Chalmers is a striking counter-example. He seems remarkably well adjusted and rational, especially for a philosopher. I’ve tracked his career since I heard him call consciousness “the hard problem” ...

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Why Scientists Must Share Their Failures

Ask any budding director if they would like to see the first iterations of Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather. I don’t think many would pass up the opportunity to see Coppola’s process from filming, to editing, to deciding what makes the final cut. Indeed, people in nearly any occupation, from painters to journalists to architects could learn from failed iterations of ...

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Species Split When Mountains Rise

The tropics are well known for their biodiversity . But another hotspot? Mountains. Like the Hengduan Mountains, in south-central China.  “It’ll look very much like this kind of familiar temperate alpine system, but the plant diversity there is off the charts.” Rick Ree is associate curator of botany at the Field Museum in Chicago.  These mountains harbor a third of ...

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What Is the "Mother of All Bombs" That the U.S. Just Dropped on Afghanistan?

The idea of dropping an air-blast bomb—even if it’s the largest nonnuclear ordnance ever used by the U.S. in combat—to target fighters holed up in tunnels deep underground might at first seem counterintuitive. The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb, or “Mother of All Bombs” (MOAB), which the Air Force unleashed on ISIS fighters and tunnels Thursday in the Achin ...

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Our Ability to Keep 'em Guessing Peaks around Age 25

The brain processes sights, sounds and other sensory information—and even makes decisions—based on a calculation of probabilities. At least, that’s what a number of leading theories of mental processing tell us: The body’s master controller builds an internal model from past experiences, and then predicts how best to behave. Although studies have shown humans and other animals make varied behavioral ...

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I Never Thought I'd be Marching for Science

I am black. I am a woman. I am a marine biologist. I am from Brooklyn. I am the daughter of civil rights activists, of a first and a second generation immigrant. I have marched against police brutality and mass incarceration, and for black lives. I have marched against pipelines and for sane climate policy. I have marched for women, ...

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NASA Satellite Will Watch Earth Breathe from Space

Carbon is a building block of life on our planet. It is stored in reservoirs on Earth—in rocks, plants and soil—in the oceans, and in the atmosphere. And it cycles  constantly between these reservoirs. Understanding the carbon cycle is crucially important for many reasons. It provides us with energy, stored as fossil fuel. Carbon gases in the atmosphere help regulate Earth’s ...

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5 Ways Henrietta Lacks Changed Medical Science

Henrietta Lacks’s cells have long been familiar to scientists — but it was the ethical controversy around those cells that made her famous to the wider world. Her fame was thanks to an award-winning book  published in 2010 that explored how, in the course of Lacks’s treatment for cancer, doctors isolated what became the first “immortal” human cells. The HeLa cells survived, thrived, ...

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Treating Epilepsy's Toughest Cases

0SHARESShare Like many people with epilepsy, Richard Shane, 56, has some problems with memory. But he can easily recall his first seizure, 34 years ago. “I was on the phone with my father, and I noticed that I started moaning, and I lost some level of consciousness,” Shane says. After experiencing a similar episode three weeks later, he went to ...

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It's Time to Get a Better Accounting of What Kills Us

0SHARESShare Death is certain. Too often an accurate accounting of the events leading to it is not. When a person dies, a doctor, medical examiner or coroner must fill out a certificate listing the cause of death and the underlying factors that helped to bring it about. Too often, however, these forms are riddled with problems. When a drunk driver ...

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