Category Archives: Neuroscience

Could whistling shed light on the origins of speech?

FOR centuries, shepherds from the small village of Aas in the French Pyrenees led their sheep and cattle up to mountain pastures for the summer months. To ease the solitude, they would communicate with each other or with the village below in a whistled form of the local Gascon dialect, transmitting and receiving information accurately over distances of up to 10 kilometres…

This article first appeared in The Observer on 26 September 2021. To continue reading, click here.

 

Body consciousness

PARTS of Ann Arbor bring The Truman Show to mind, with their wood-frame houses and white picket fences. Home to the University of Michigan, the city oozes middle-class prosperity and security. So, while doing research there a decade ago, Sarah Garfinkel was shocked to discover that young veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan felt terrified even in Ann Arbor. “It broke my heart,” she says. And it changed the course of her career…

This article first appeared in New Scientist on 27 June 2020. To continue reading, click here (paywall).

Interview: Covid-19 expert Karl Friston

NEUROSCIENTIST Karl Friston, of University College London, builds mathematical models of human brain function. Lately, he’s been applying his modelling to Covid-19, and using what he learns to advise Independent Sage, the committee set up as an alternative to the UK government’s official pandemic advice body, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage)…

This article first appeared in The Observer on 31 May 2020. To continue reading, click here.

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…

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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….

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