THYMOS
A newsletter of research on Consciousness, Mind and Life

by piero scaruffi

Researchers are welcome to submit news and articles about breakthroughs and events in the areas of cognitive science, artificial intelligence, neurobiology, artificial life, linguistics, neural networks, connectionism, cognitive psychology, mind, philosophy, psychology, consciousness. Email the editor at this Email address. Readers who would like to receive periodic news and updates on cognitive science, philosophy of mind, neurobiology, artificial intelligence, etc, are invited to register to my mailing list.

My book on consciousness | My reviews of books
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Click here for the index of all years
December 2013
  • Marcello Massimini of the University of Milan in Italy has prformed experiments that seem to prove that consciousness involves widespread communication between different areas of the brain
  • The collaboration of bacteria (Chris Kempes, MIT)
  • The Inevitability of Life. Stuart Kauffman proved that life is vastly more probable than traditionally assumed. Jeremy England ("Statistical physics of self-replication", 2013) showed that when matter is driven by a strong external source of energy (like the sun) and surrounded by a "heat bath" (like the sea), it tends to restructure itself in order to dissipate increasingly more energy, i.e. to behave like living matter. That "restructuring" can occur in many ways but two are obvious: self-replication and self-organizing. These are two processes that cause (allow?) a system to dissipate increasingly more energy. Prigogine had analyzed the behavior of open systems near equilibrium. The behavior of systems that are far from equilibrium because driven by stronger external sources of energy was studied by the Australian physicist Denis Evans ("Probability of Second Law Violations in Shearing Steady States", 1993) and by the Polish physicist Chris Jarzynski ("Nonequilibrium Equality for Free Energy Differences", 1997). Then the British chemist Gavin Crooks ("Entropy production fluctuation theorem and the nonequilibrium work relation for free energy differences", 2008) discovered a simple law: the probability that atoms will undergo a thermodynamic process divided by the probability of the same atoms undergoing the reverse process (such as reconstituting the original lump of sugar) increases as entropy production increases. In other words, the system's behavior becomes more and more irreversible. From these observations England derived his theory. At the same time others showed that self-replication is not a property of living beings alone. Philip Marcus ("Three-Dimensional Vortices Generated by Self-Replication in Stably Stratified Rotating Shear Flows", 2013) and Michael Brenner ("Self-replicating colloidal clusters", 2013) have discovered it in nonliving matter too.

November 2013
October 2013

August 2013
August 2013

July 2013
June 2013

May 2013
  • The feasibility of memory implants: Theodore Berger, a biomedical engineer and neuroscientist at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, envisions a day in the not too distant future when a patient with severe memory loss can get help from an electronic implant.

April 2013
  • Alexander Wissner-Gross, a physicist at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Cameron Freer, a mathematician at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, speculate that intelligent behavior might originate from the physical tendency of systems to maximize possible futures, i.e. future entropy. Intelligence would thus be reduced to a thermodynamic process: article
  • Yukiyasu Kamitani's team at the ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Japan found a way to predict the images that dreamers are seeing as they entered into an early stage of sleep. Article

March 2013
  • Opinion: Why the Singularity is not Coming any Time Soon
  • Scientists from the Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw have shown that during neuron stimulation permanent changes are observed with respect to genes' arrangement within the cell nucleus. article

February 2013
January 2013
  • Rodrigo Quiroga speculates that concepts may be represented by relatively few neurons.

Click here for 2012 news
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