Neuroscience and Free Will Are Rethinking Their Divorce

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And like their counterparts in Germany, these neuroscientists say the new picture is much more in keeping with our intuitive sense of our free will. When we form a vague intention to move, they explain, this mind-set feeds into the background ebb and flow of neural activity, but the specific decision to act only occurs when the neural activity passes a key threshold — and our all-important subjective feeling of deciding happens at this point or a brief instant afterward. “All this leaves our common sense picture largely intact,” they write.

Source: http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2016/02/a-neuroscience-finding-on-free-will.html?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=oupphilosophy&utm_campaign=oupphilosophy

Neanderthals and humans interbred ‘100,000 years ago’

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Neanderthals and modern humans were interbreeding much earlier than was previously thought, scientists say.

Traces of human DNA found in a Neanderthal genome suggest that we started mixing with our now-extinct relatives 100,000 years ago.

Previously it had been thought that the two species first encountered each other when modern humans left Africa, about 60,000 years ago.

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-35595661

Ancient Babylonians ‘first to use geometry’

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Sophisticated geometry – the branch of mathematics that deals with shapes – was being used at least 1,400 years earlier than previously thought, a study suggests.

Research shows that the Ancient Babylonians were using geometrical calculations to track Jupiter across the night sky.

It had been thought that complex geometry was first used by scholars in Oxford and Paris in medieval times.

They used curves to trace the position and velocity of moving objects.

But now scientists believe the Babylonians developed this technique around 350 BC.

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-35431974

A Short History of Probability

Source: http://www.worldsciencefestival.com/2015/10/short-history-probability/

There’s nothing odd about odds today. From tomorrow’s 50 percent chance of rain, to Effie Trinket’s “may the odds be ever in your favor,” to artificial intelligence—yes, AI—probabilities reign in everyday life. But it wasn’t always that way, and just because we’re surrounded by them nowadays, do we understand them?

That’s one of the topics explored in the WSF15 program Wizards of Odds, which opened with this video about probability’s improbable history and the 18th century theologian-cum-mathematician Thomas Bayes—a true wizard of odds—whose mathematical dives into probability changed the world … and eventually the face of AI.