Monday, April 30, 2007
In Hofstadter's new book, I am a Strange Loop, consciousness is explained as a positive feedback loop. The Pulitzer Prize winning author, describes humans as evolved perceivers. As Simon Baron-Cohen explained in his seminal book, Mindblindness: An Essay on Autism, evolution has endowed us with the ability to read the minds of others. This mindreading ability allows us to perceive the emotions of others through their actions and facial expression and it is adaptive by allowing us to predict the behaviors of others. Hofstadter suggests that the illusion of consciousness emerges when we turn our perceptual mindreading abilities on ourselves. Thus, consciousness is nothing more than a positive feedback loop.
Did you ever wonder how yeast evolved the ability to produce alcohol? An article in the New Scientist presents a unique look at the evolutionary history of yeast and why the ability to produce alcohol proved to be an effective adaptation.
"Ethanol is toxic to most microbes, so acquiring the ability to turn all the glucose available in a fruit into a sea of the stuff gave S. cerevisiae's ancestors a big competitive advantage. "It quickly converts the sugar into something that it can use to defend its territory," says Aris. The yeast itself, of course, has evolved a high tolerance to alcohol." - Andy Coghlan
Check out the full article.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
I recently read Mind Wide Open by Steven Johnson. The book catalogs the author's journey to understand the human brain. Johnson learns everything from how we read the minds of others to the neurochemical applications involved in our perceptions of love. He participates in neurofeedback tests and fMRI scans. In his sojourn through the intricacies of his own mind, he gains a better understanding of mechanisms that underlie his own behavior. In a recent article posted on Slate.com, several prominent scientists describe how learning about the human mind has changed their lives. The more we learn about the human brain, the more incite we gain into our own thoughts and actions. Take a look at how brain science has changed the lives of Steven Pinker, Marc Hauser, Oliver Sacks, and others.