Decoding consciousness: What can dreams tell us about how our minds work while awake?

Everyone dreams, every night, entering a strange, semi-conscious state where we experience a world created by our own minds, but our judgement, language, and senses are impaired.  No one knows where dreams come from or why.  That doesn’t mean they can’t tell us a lot about the inner workings of the mind and consciousness itself.… Continue reading Decoding consciousness: What can dreams tell us about how our minds work while awake?

Decoding consciousness: What computers can and cannot tell us about our own minds

An engineering professor believes consciousness is not computable, as in it works fundamentally different from our current mathematics, but is that really the case?  Computers, in fact, have a lot to teach us about our own minds, just not in the way most people think.  Read on for a few musings on what makes us… Continue reading Decoding consciousness: What computers can and cannot tell us about our own minds

The evolution of consciousness, reimagined

What is consciousness?  Can consciousness have evolved, naturally, like the rest of our bodies?  Why are we conscious?  Would we be better off as unconscious zombies?  One thing I know for sure:  If we’d be better off as zombies, we’d be zombies.  It’s much, much cheaper to make us that way, and in the game… Continue reading The evolution of consciousness, reimagined

Scientists reconstruct a 3.3 billion year old protein and discover an all new biochemical pathway critical to life and hiding in plain sight

We’re just starting to understand how evolution takes advantage of much more than mutations in our DNA.  Everything evolves, from the biochemical pathways to the cellular structures that support them.  Further, some of these structures are incredibly ancient, shared by all life, and still working today. The human body is constructed from four basic building… Continue reading Scientists reconstruct a 3.3 billion year old protein and discover an all new biochemical pathway critical to life and hiding in plain sight

Scientists find the oldest fossil of a multicellular animal and solve a 350 year old puzzle in the growth of both animals and plants alike

Meet Bicellum brasieri, a tiny, spherical animal measuring barely a thousandth of an inch discovered in the highlands of Scotland.  Bicellum lived a billion years ago, yet remains a critical precursor for all animal life still to come, including ourselves.  Fast forward a billion years, and scientists have also discovered the rules that govern the… Continue reading Scientists find the oldest fossil of a multicellular animal and solve a 350 year old puzzle in the growth of both animals and plants alike

You have the eye of a fish and the DNA of a Neanderthal, but what are you doing with that big brain?

It’s been a huge couple of weeks in evolutionary biology:  Three teams of scientists, studying three separate periods spanning 450 million years make surprising discoveries about our bodies, our culture, and our ancestors. The human eye is an amazing organ, the origins of which are ancient and shrouded in mystery.  Complex eyes, from people to… Continue reading You have the eye of a fish and the DNA of a Neanderthal, but what are you doing with that big brain?

Designing self-replicating cells one gene at a time and solving the mystery of the origins of life

Meet JCVI-syn3A, the world’s first self-reproducing synthetic organism.  This tiny little microbe was designed by trial and error in a lab and is capable of both maintaining its own internal structure and creating copies of itself, just like a real cell.  The implications for medicine and our understanding of ourselves are, needless to say, enormous.… Continue reading Designing self-replicating cells one gene at a time and solving the mystery of the origins of life

The Origin of Humanity: One Gene, Two Days, a Three Times Larger Brain Than Our Cousins

A groundbreaking new study demonstrates that a change to a single gene results in humans having three times bigger brains than our closest cousins, the great apes.  How evolution preserves and repurposes information in limitless ways, creating the incredible variety of life from small, measurable changes. The human brain is the most complex object in… Continue reading The Origin of Humanity: One Gene, Two Days, a Three Times Larger Brain Than Our Cousins