Category Archives: Neuroscience

Adventurer in time

IN JULY 1962, Michel Siffre took off his watch and descended into the abyss of Scarasson in the French Alps. There, in a cave 130 metres below the surface, he set up camp next to a glacier. With a torch as his only light source, and deprived of all reminders of the passage of time, he lived underground, alone, for 63 days…

Michel Siffre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This article first appeared in New Scientist on 8 August 2018. To continue reading, click here.

The AI composer

COMPUTER scientist Luc Steels uses artificial intelligence to explore the origins and evolution of language. He is best known for his 1999–2001 Talking Heads Experiment, in which robots had to construct a language from scratch to communicate with each other. Now Steels, who works at the Free University of Brussels (VUB), has composed an opera based on the legend of Faust, with a twenty-first-century twist. He talks about Mozart as a nascent computer programmer, how music maps onto language, and the blurred boundaries of a digitized world….

Luc Steels presents an extract of Fausto at the Gaîté Lyrique theatre in Paris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This article first appeared in Nature on 14 September 2017. To continue reading, click here.

 

 

The anatomy of terror

WHAT makes someone prepared to die for an idea? This is a question that concerns anthropologist Scott Atran of the University of Oxford’s Centre for Resolution of Intractable Conflicts. Research he has led in some of the most embattled regions of the world, including in Mosul, suggests the answer comes in two parts. Jihadists fuse their individual identity with that of the group, and they adhere to “sacred values”…

Adolf Eichmann on trial

This article first appeared in New Scientist on 19 August 2017. To read more, click here.

Pope Francis champions Huntington’s disease

YOSBELY Soto Soto shares a corrugated iron hut with her two sons on the shores of Venezuela’s Lake Maracaibo. The heat inside has been unbearable since her husband left her a few years ago, taking the air conditioner with him. The 32-year-old has to beg for food to feed herself and her children, something made all the harder because she is shunned by her community. So too are her brother and sister, who like Yosbely have Huntington’s disease…

This article first appeared in Brain on 25 July 2017. To continue reading, click here.

 

Inside the minds of torturers

WHEN Françoise Sironi was 6, her grandfathers met for the first time. One was Italian, the other from the French frontier region of Alsace. She remembers the conversation turning serious, then being mystified when the men fell weeping into each other’s arms. They had discovered they fought in the same first-world-war battle – but on opposite sides. The incident sparked a lifelong interest in what drives ordinary people to extraordinary acts. She became a clinical psychologist and, in 1993, helped found the Primo Levi Centre in Paris to treat the victims of torture. She is now an expert witness for the International Criminal Court in The Hague, specialising in assessing those accused of crimes against humanity or genocide…

Françoise Sironi by Serge Picard/Agence Vu

 

This article first appeared in New Scientist on 12 July 2017. To continue reading, click here.