In April, Horizon looks beyond the hype of smart drugs and brain stimulation to examine less extreme ways for people to sharpen their mental abilities. We find out about the wearable tech that can train police officers to make better decisions, discover how a videogame can stimulate empathy, and learn how meditation changes your brain.
Software that can enhance your cognitive abilities will become as prevalent as physical gyms are today, according to Danny Dankner, the chief executive of Applied Cognitive Engineering, developers of the IntelliGym sports brain-training software.
Intensive bouts of meditation have an immediate and visible impact on practitioners’ sleeping brainwaves, researchers have confirmed, in results that help enlarge the picture of how exactly the mind-training practices can change our brains.
In the heat of the moment, with a thief absconding on your left and a victim screaming to your right, it can be hard for a police official to make the right decision. A new device is helping police train their brains to make better decisions in risky situations, by triggering memories of past events in unprecedented detail.
In the last 30 years gaming has grown from a niche hobby to the world’s most profitable form of entertainment. Now, researchers are investigating how they can be used to increase empathy, reflect on political beliefs, and boost mental health.
The construction industry has a heavy carbon footprint, accounting for some 40% of global emissions, and yet, as the world’s population grows, demand for housing and building is only soaring. We kick off 2021 by looking at how the construction sector can become greener and some of the radical solutions required. We speak to sustainable architecture expert Dr Catherine De Wolf about the need to design recyclable buildings and how that will require a fundamental restructure of the way the construction industry works. We look at nearly zero energy wooden homes and investigate whether this material can help us kick our concrete habit – concrete being the most used substance on Earth. We home in on techniques to make cement greener and piezoelectric to light up spaces with the addition of vegetable waste, and at how self-healing building materials can prolong the life of civil infrastructures. And we explore the promise of fungal architecture to see whether structures grown from fungus can green the way we build.
In December, as the European Space Agency’s Gaia mission to create a precise 3-D map of a billion objects in the Milky Way releases its next tranche of data, we take an in-depth look at what we know – and what we don’t – about our home galaxy. We speak to astrophysicist Prof. Ralf Klessen about why it might enhance our understanding of the Milky Way to consider it as a constantly evolving ecosystem rather than studying different parts in an isolated way. We speak to scientists who are trying to image the centre of the galaxy, which is hidden from view behind giant dust and gas clouds, and we explore the latest research into how stars are formed. And finally, we find out what the galaxies surrounding the Milky Way can tell us about our home system.
Stone and concrete structures with the ability to heal themselves in a similar way to living organisms when damaged could help to make buildings safer and last longer.
Artificial intelligence (AI) used by governments and the corporate sector to detect and extinguish online extreme speech often misses important cultural nuance, but bringing in independent factcheckers as intermediaries could help step up the fight against online vitriol, according to Sahana Udupa, professor of media anthropology at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany.
Bacteria can give structures an ‘in-built immune system’ to help them last longer.
Independent factcheckers can bring context to AI tools, says media anthropologist.
Dr Kate Rychert studies ocean plate structures.