Funny feet

ns_logoMY RUNNING shoes have a thick sole and cushioned heel. I bought them five years ago, before the “barefoot” craze for minimalist shoes that would allow people to better emulate how our ancestors ran. Soon after that, reports began appearing of injuries sustained by runners who had adopted these shoes, and lawsuits were filed against some manufacturers. Now the maximally cushioned or “fat” shoe is back in vogue, and suddenly my old shoes look high-tech again…

This article first appeared in New Scientist on 24 January 2015. To continue reading, click here.

Ella Albrecht/Gallerystock
Ella Albrecht/Gallerystock

Once upon a time…

ns_logoWHAT is “now”? It is an idea that physics treats as a mere illusion, yet it is something we are all familiar with. We tend to think of it as this current instant, a moment with no duration. But if now were timeless, we wouldn’t experience a succession of nows as time passing. Neither would we be able to perceive things like motion. We couldn’t operate in the world if the present had no duration. So how long is it…?

This article first appeared in New Scientist on 10 January 2015. To continue reading, click here.

Consciousness out there

FOLLOW this link to the first of a series of articles I’ve written about FEEL, a new project being run by experimental psychologist Kevin O’Regan in Paris, to explore the possibility that consciousness is not locked inside our brains, but emerges when we interact with the world. The implications are exciting and sometimes disturbing – for example, that babies are born without consciousness and acquire it gradually, in piecemeal fashion, as they move and receive sensory feedback, and gradually learn more sophisticated ways of manipulating the world.

 

Courtesy of Jacqueline Fagard
Courtesy of Jacqueline Fagard

 

Upside down world

ns_logoA MAN walks confidently towards an open gate but instead of going straight through he raises his knee very high as if he were stepping over a low wall. He strides forward, reaching out to shake a friend’s hand. But again he misjudges, and his friend draws back in alarm to avoid being punched in the nose…

This article was first published in New Scientist on 11 October 2014. To continue reading, click here.

 

Swiss canton braces for tsunami

 

page11-nature_logoTHE land of chocolate and clocks could soon be known for something quite different: tsunamis. Authorities in Nidwalden, a canton in landlocked Switzerland, are factoring the risk of a tsunami in Lake Lucerne into their hazard plans. It is the first official acknowledgement of such a threat in Europe’s Alpine region — and comes in step with findings that the risk of tsunamis in the area, which is home to around 13 million people, is much higher than previously thought…

This article was first published in Nature on 4 September 2014. To continue reading, click here.

view-of-riggie-mountain-meadows-and-lake-lucerne