EssentialstheDiagonal is a personal blog by Mike Gerra, skeptic, technologist, psychologist, artist, humanist, collector of grand, eclectic ideas.theDiagonal blog connects the dots across multiple disciplines for inquisitive, objective and critical thinkers, exploring the vertices of big science, disruptive innovation, global sustainability, illuminating literature and leftfield art. It is on this diagonal that creativity thrives, big ideas take flight and reason triumphs.
Tag Archives: consciousness
Saturday, June 1, 2013
Graham is a man very much alive. But, his mind has convinced him that his brain is dead and that he killed it.
From the New Scientist:
Condition: Cotard’s syndrome
“When I was in hospital I kept on telling them that the tablets weren’t going to do me any good ’cause my brain was dead. I lost my sense of smell and taste. I didn’t need to eat, or speak, or do anything. I ended up spending time in the graveyard because that was the closest I could get to death.”
Nine years ago, Graham woke up and discovered he was dead.
He was in the grip of Cotard’s syndrome. People with this rare condition believe that they, or parts of their body, no longer exist.
For Graham, it was his brain that was dead, and he believed that he had killed it. Suffering from severe depression, he had tried to commit suicide by taking an electrical appliance with him into the bath....read more
Monday, March 4, 2013
A growing body of evidence suggests that our brains live in the future, construct explanations for the past and that our notion of the present is an entirely fictitious concoction. On the surface this makes our lives seem like nothing more than a construction taken right out of The Matrix movies. However, while we may not be pawns in an illusion constructed by malevolent aliens, our perception of “self” does appear to be illusory. As researchers delve deeper into the inner workings of the brain it becomes clearer that our conscious selves are a beautifully derived narrative, built by the brain to make sense of the past and prepare for our future actions.
From the New Scientist:
It seems obvious that we exist in the present. The past is gone and the future has not yet happened, so where else could we be? But perhaps we should not be so certain....read more
Friday, December 16, 2011
Massimo Pigliucci over at Rationally Speaking ponders free will, moral responsibility and consciousness and, as always, presents a well reasoned and eloquent argument — we do exist!
From Rationally Speaking:
For some time I have been noticing the emergence of a strange trinity of beliefs among my fellow skeptics and freethinkers: an increasing number of them, it seems, don’t believe that they can make decisions (the free will debate), don’t believe that they have moral responsibility (because they don’t have free will, or because morality is relative — take your pick), and they don’t even believe that they exist as conscious beings because, you know, consciousness is an illusion....read more
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Contemporary medical and surgical procedures have been completely transformed through the use of patient anaesthesia. Prior to the first use of diethyl ether as an anaesthetic in the United States in 1842, surgery, even for minor ailments, was often a painful process of last resort.
Nowadays the efficacy of anaesthesia is without question. Yet despite the development of ever more sophisticated compounds and methods of administration little is still known about how anaesthesia actually works.
Linda Geddes over at New Scientist has a fascinating article reviewing recent advancements in our understanding of anaesthesia, and its relevance in furthering our knowledge of consciousness in general.
From the New Scientist:
Saturday, October 8, 2011
Humans are habitual creatures. Even our collective searches on Google show a familiar regularity. The charts below plot our autumnal, internet-enabled consciousness, courtesy of Jennifer Jacquet over at Guilty Planet / Scientific American.
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Sunday, July 3, 2011
Neurological and Darwinistic strands in the philosophy of consciousness see human beings as no more than our evolved brains. Avoiding naturalistic explanations of human beings’ fundamental difference from other animals requires openness to more expansive approaches, argues Raymond Tallis....read more
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Graham Fleming sits down at an L-shaped lab bench, occupying a footprint about the size of two parking spaces. Alongside him, a couple of off-the-shelf lasers spit out pulses of light just millionths of a billionth of a second long. After snaking through a jagged path of mirrors and lenses, these minuscule flashes disappear into a smoky black box containing proteins from green sulfur bacteria, which ordinarily obtain their energy and nourishment from the sun. Inside the black box, optics manufactured to billionths-of-a-meter precision detect something extraordinary: Within the bacterial proteins, dancing electrons make seemingly impossible leaps and appear to inhabit multiple places at once....read more
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Philosophers and natural scientists regularly dismiss consciousness as irrelevant. However, even its critics agree that consciousness is less a problem than a mystery. One way into the mystery is through an understanding of autism.
It started with a letter from Michaela Martinková:
Our eldest son, aged almost eight, has Asperger’s Syndrome (AS). It is a diagnosis that falls into the autistic spectrum, but his IQ is very much above average. In an effort to find out how he thinks, I decided that I must find out how we think, and so I read into the cognitive sciences and epistemology. I found what I needed there, although I have an intense feeling that precisely the way of thinking of such people as our son is missing from the mosaic of these sciences. And I think that this missing piece could rearrange the whole mosaic....read more