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FROM THE EDITOR

Will interactive holograms ever become a realit y, like the holodeck on Star Tre k? �p81

CONTRIBUTORS

CONTRIBUTORS

I G H T

B R

I E L

, D A N

X 3

I M A G E S

: G E T T Y

PA G E

I S

T H

J A L A

OI K O

: E

C O V E R

Your brain is a tough nut to crack. Psychologists have been trying to understand what’s inside our heads for over a century (which actually isn’t very long, as science goes), and there are still gaping cavities at the roots of our models. We have a pretty good understanding of how each of our senses work – how we see, touch, feel, hear and smell – but not so much how we generate consciousness – our sense of being. We have some sound models of what happens when we try to remember something, but no definitive picture of how those memories are created, or encoded, in the first place. This, in the face of our understanding of the rest of the Universe – of black holes, of distant worlds, of our own genetic code and so on – seems a bit disappointing.

It’s so disheartening in fact, that there’s even a school of thought that says we might never be able to fully understand the brain. There’s just too much navelgazing going on; in other words, our brains might be too limited to ever really understand how they do what they do.

I’m mentioning all this, not because I’m having another existential crisis (I save those for the holidays) but because May is Mental Health Awareness month around the world. This inspired us to devote a whole issue’s worth of features to the subject. But as we debated which stories we could fit on our pages, it became clear just how much we still don’t understand about what happens when our minds – the product of our brains – get ill. That said, this issue has taught me one thing for sure: that we’re happier and healthier when we’re together (p58), which is nice. So in that spirit, we hope you enjoy the issue and find someone to share it with.

Daniel Bennett, Editor

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ON THE BBC THIS MONTH...

People Fixing the World: Making peace with nature Many of the planet ’s most violent conflic t s take place in i t s most v a luable natur a l wildernesses , but what happens once the f ighting stops? This series explores how nature and people c an recover a fter war. In this episode, the team v i s i t s a projec t in Columbia that trains former guerrilla f ighters to create ecotourism initiatives that protect biodiversit y. BBC World Ser v ice , 9 May, 3pm Also available on BBC Sounds

Sliced Bread Sliced Bread re turns wi th a new ser ie s that cu t s through the adver t i s ing hype to f ind out whether the latest wonder products really do what they claim. First to go under the microscope this season, are anti-snoring devices and barefoot running shoes. BBC Radio 4, 11 May, 12:30pm Also available on BBC Sounds dScience:

CrowdScience: Why am I so lazy? I f, like me, you think of li fe as a perpetual f ight against the joy o f iner t ia , then this episode o f CrowdScience i s f or you. The team uses a bit of science to e xpla in why a l i tt le la z ine s s is no bad thing. BBC World Service, 12 May, 8:30pm Also available on BBC Sounds

PROF PETE ETCHELLS A prof e s sor o f ps ycholog y, Pete researches how screens, and in particular video games, a f f ec t childr en. We a sked him whether socia l media i s ruining childhood. ->p70

GINNY SMITH Neuroscience expert Ginny f inds ou t whether t he blueprints of teenagers’ br a ins c an predic t t heir likelihood of suf fering poor mental health. ->p74

PROF STEPHON ALEXANDER In his f i r s t column, Stephon investigates the idea that t he Hig g s boson may have been invol ved in t he bir t h of the Universe. ->p32

DR EMMA BECKETT Emma i s a f ood and nu t r i t ion s c ien t i s t at t he Uni ver s i t y o f Newca s t le , Aus t r a l i a . She e xplore s t he potent i a l f or gene-edi ted f ood to boos t our health. ->p38

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