Synthetic DNA and the necessity of biological mechanisms

Scientists have created synthetic DNA with four extra "letters": A couple billion years ago, four molecules danced into the elegant double-helix structure of DNA, which provides the codes for life on our planet. But were these four players really fundamental to the appearance of life — or could others have also given rise to our genetic code? … Continue reading Synthetic DNA and the necessity of biological mechanisms

The real issues with colonizing space

At Nautilus, Phil Torres argues that we should think twice about colonizing space.  His reasoning appears to be that as we spread throughout the universe, we will undoubtedly diversify into different species, and that those species may come to distrust each other, and eventually try to destroy each other. Now, I've argued before that most … Continue reading The real issues with colonizing space

What’s at the edge of the universe?

Gizmodo has an interesting article that someone asked my thoughts on.  Part of their "Giz asks" series, it asks various physicists what's at the edge of the universe?  The physicists polled include Sean Carroll, Jo Dunkley, Jessie Shelton, Michael Troxel, Abigail Vieregg, and Arthur B. Kosowsky. They all give similar answers, that space isn't known … Continue reading What’s at the edge of the universe?

Maybe the brain communicates via electrical fields after all

An interesting finding by scientists at Case Western Reserve University, that neurons may communicate via electrical fields: Scientists think they've identified a previously unknown form of neural communication that self-propagates across brain tissue, and can leap wirelessly from neurons in one section of brain tissue to another – even if they've been surgically severed. ...To … Continue reading Maybe the brain communicates via electrical fields after all

Did smell lead to consciousness?

Smell has apparently always been a peculiar sense.  The sensory pathway of smell information to the brain runs completely independent from the other senses.  The pathways for the other senses run through the midbrain and thalamus and are then relayed to cortical regions.  But smell goes to the olfactory bulb behind the nose, and from … Continue reading Did smell lead to consciousness?

Is the brainstem conscious?

(Warning: neuroscience weeds and references to gruesome animal research.) The vast majority of neuroscientists see consciousness as a cortical phenomenon.  It may be crucially dependent on sub-cortical and sub-cerebral structures, but subjective experience itself exists mainly or entirely in the neocortex.  In this view, the brainstem only produces reflex responses, with anything more sophisticated coming … Continue reading Is the brainstem conscious?