How your brain bonds with fictional characters

Scans show similar activity to what occurs when you think about yourself.

Credit: Aneta Pawlik/Unsplash
  • Researchers explored the brain activity that accompanies our often-close association with fictional characters.
  • The same brain region that's active when we think about ourselves seems to be involved.
  • When we like a fictional character, the research suggests, we see ourselves in them.
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    Researchers read centuries-old sealed letter without ever opening it

    The key? A computational flattening algorithm.

    Credit: David Nitschke on Unsplash

    An international team of scholars has read an unopened letter from early modern Europe — without breaking its seal or damaging it in any way — using an automated computational flattening algorithm.

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    How sci-fi helps humanity avoid species-level mistakes

    Technology of the future is shaped by the questions we ask and the ethical decisions we make today.

    • Robots (from the Czech word for laborer) began appearing in science fiction in the early 1900s as metaphors for real world ideas and issues surrounding class struggles, labor, and intelligence. Author Ken MacLeod says that the idea that robots would one day rebel was baked into the narrative from the start. As technologies have advanced, so too have our fears.
    • "Science fiction can help us to look at the social consequences, to understand the technologies that are beginning to change our lives," says MacLeod. He argues that while robots in science fiction are a reflection of humanity, they have little to do with our actual machines and are "very little help at all in understanding what the real problems and the real opportunities actually are."
    • AI has made the threat of "autonomous killer robots" much more of a possibility today than when Asimov wrote his three laws, but it's the decisions we make now that will determine the future. "None of these developments are inevitable," says MacLeod. "They're all the consequences of human actions, and we can always step back and say, 'Do we really want to do this?'"

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    ‘Designer baby’ book trilogy explores the moral dilemmas humans may soon create

    How would the ability to genetically customize children change society? Sci-fi author Eugene Clark explores the future on our horizon in Volume I of the "Genetic Pressure" series.

    • A new sci-fi book series called "Genetic Pressure" explores the scientific and moral implications of a world with a burgeoning designer baby industry.
    • It's currently illegal to implant genetically edited human embryos in most nations, but designer babies may someday become widespread.
    • While gene-editing technology could help humans eliminate genetic diseases, some in the scientific community fear it may also usher in a new era of eugenics.
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    Aphantasia: the rare brain condition that darkens the mind’s eye

    A new study provides validation for the recently identified phenomenon.

    Credit: agsandrew/ Adobe Stock
    • Aphantasia, a recently identified psychological phenomenon, describes when people can't conjure visualizations in their mind's eye.
    • A new study published in Cortex compared the visual memories of aphantasic participants with a group of controls.
    • Its results found experimental validation for the condition.
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