This December, Horizon talks to scientists who are drawing lines between free will and genetic disposition, differentiating between feeling and thinking, unlocking how our brains process placebo drugs, and even defining the grey area between consciousness and unconsciousness in comatose patients.
A greater scientific understanding of consciousness is allowing researchers to quantify exactly how conscious we are at any given moment, and the resulting measurements are providing new insight into the likelihood of coma patients to recover.
It’s one of the mysteries that has confounded scientists for over a century – if you offer sick people fake pills and say it will help cure them, it often will. Now, researchers are working out exactly how the placebo effect operates in the brain and how it can be enhanced in order to harness its power in a new approach to treating disease.
Every minute, satellites and sensors collect enormous amounts of data about the world around us – from temperature to pollution and forest cover to soil quality. This month, Horizon looks into the technologies behind Earth observation and how we can make best use of the vast amounts of information produced. We find out how measurements taken by people with smartphones on the ground can feed into local datasets and how the minituarisation of satellites is creating opportunities for start-ups to enter the Earth observation market. We also discover how measurements are being used to protect ecosystems and what historical data can tell us about extreme weather such as hurricanes and droughts.
The world’s oceans are overfished, polluted and – for something that makes up 70% of the Earth’s surface – still little understood. This month, Horizon looks at some of the science that could help us take better care of our oceans, from robots trash collectors out at sea to finding ways to track the plastic that enters our waters. Plus, we look at how climate change is affecting plans for sustainable aquaculture, tech that can help divers reduce the cost of their dives by more than 50%, and the challenges facing research in the Black Sea.
In 1984, after HIV was identified as the cause of AIDS, the US secretary of health, Margaret Heckler, declared a vaccine would be found within two years. Reports of a mysterious virus predominantly affecting gay men had been growing across the US and, with awareness rising, the World Health Organization had held its first conference to address the global situation earlier that year. But there was still little understanding of how the disease evolved and spread.
From droughts and forest fires to floods and big freezes, extreme weather events are on the rise. But to what extent are these linked to climate change? Just months before the world’s first wind monitoring satellite enters orbit, scientists have finalised a climate model with exceptional resolution, and the new tools will help identify how climate change impacts weather-related natural disasters like storm surges, hurricanes and heatwaves.
Two teams of scientists are racing to develop effective prevention.
Scientists are exploring the link between severe weather and climate change.
Co-author of Stephen Hawking's final paper talks about how their work goes beyond Einstein.