Science of sounds

In his latest book, Harnessed, cognitive scientist Mark Changizi, reveals how and why language, speech and music exist, and why they are apparently uniquely human attributes that separate us, as a species, from the rest of life on Earth. A fact that also gives us special responsibility for the Earth, you might say. According to Changizi, the “lower” parts of the brain, the bits that recognise the sounds of nature, the scuffs, cracks and bangs, were hijacked by the “upper” parts of our brain and give us speech as we evolved from our ape-like hominid ancestors.

The research subject

I lay flat on my back on the table. Large foam pads were placed under my elbows and round my neck. I was given a pair of headphones and a restraining strap was fixed across my forehead. Then I was shunted backwards into a narrow, cream-coloured tube. The door was locked and the room was filled with an incessant humming noise as the machine started. Soon the humming was replaced by squealing and the whole machine began to vibrate.

Evolution-denying book causes Ireland Science Minister’s embarrassment

Ireland’s Minister for Science, Conor Lenihan, is facing criticism this week for his involvement in the launch of a book describing evolution as ‘a scientific hoax’ and ‘an utter impossibility’. The book’s website on Monday advertised that the Minister would launch the book, The Origin of Specious Nonsense, on Wednesday, but by Monday night it emerged that the Minister had pulled out of the event and his name had been removed from the website.

Sustaining research through the economic downturn – in the UK and Europe

On the 6th and 7th of September 2010, the historic Midland hotel in central Manchester, UK was filled with nearly 400 participants attending the Vitae Researcher Development Conference. The discussion of ideas on professional development and support for researchers at this year’s annual gathering is of particular importance, as it comes cheek by jowl with the UK spending review outcomes to be announced this Autumn – and with an expectation of hard times to come. The conference participants were set to discuss the new political context, to gather evidence of the contribution of researchers to the academic base and to economic and cultural prosperity, and to address future skill sets of researchers and the UK’s place in the global research environment.