The Search for a Cure for Coma

We have made almost no progress in finding a cure for coma for three thousand years.  By the second millennium BCE, healers in Ancient Mesopotamia were already well-versed in the prognosis and symptoms of coma, yet medicine to wake up coma patients eluded them. In trying to understand this phenomenon, they looked not to the […]

Read More The Search for a Cure for Coma

Can Life Produce Chaos?

In the 1980s and 1990s, scientists around the world raced to answer a simple question: is life capable of chaos? Mathematically, chaos means extreme sensitivity to small changes (Figure 1). This is sometimes referred to as the “butterfly effect”: in a chaotic system, it is as if something as small as the flapping of a […]

Read More Can Life Produce Chaos?

Elitism is a Threat to Science

Science is highly exclusive: the vast majority of people cannot participate in research, access research articles, influence what gets researched, or influence science-related policy-making.  This exclusivity is worrisome, not only because it is unfair (and that unfairness is not evenly distributed across different groups of people), but also because it is a threat to science […]

Read More Elitism is a Threat to Science

You Don’t Have a Lizard Brain

Despite our best intentions, scientists sometimes make a very basic mistake: we look for what makes humans unique. Certainly, humans are not just unique, but extraordinary. Nothing else in the known universe has produced art, science, technology, or civilization. But, our history of searching for how, precisely, we came to be exceptional has often led to […]

Read More You Don’t Have a Lizard Brain

Measuring Consciousness in Bits

Consciousness is an ambiguous concept. It can mean a lot of different things, depending on the context. For example, I can say that I am conscious of something, as in, “I am conscious of the fact that I am currently writing about consciousness.” It can also mean self-consciousness or self-awareness: the notion that you know […]

Read More Measuring Consciousness in Bits

We Are All Brains In Vats

The following post is from my new article for Knowing Neurons, an online publication about neuroscience and the mind.   The Matrix made all of us ask the same disturbing questions: How do I know that the world I see, hear, and touch is real? Can I prove that I’m not actually in a pod created by machines […]

Read More We Are All Brains In Vats

There Is No Ghost In The Brain

As long as the nature of consciousness will remain a mystery, we will be in the grip of anxiety. And that is because we are, all of us, haunted by that uniquely human question: what awaits us after death? Although the vast majority of Americans believe in some sort of afterlife, such beliefs are starkly at odds […]

Read More There Is No Ghost In The Brain

Consciousness Is A Scientific Problem

Below is the text of my newest article for the Berkeley Science Review: The brain does many things. It makes decisions, it remembers facts, it moves our muscles, it can do math, and it can communicate with other brains. Each of these abilities are active subjects of neuroscience research. But the brain does something else, which […]

Read More Consciousness Is A Scientific Problem