Register for an account


Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.


Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

The Sciences

You Are A Machine

Cosmic VarianceBy Sean CarrollDecember 15, 2011 2:04 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

For any remaining mind/body dualists out there: neuroscientist Patrick Haggard builds magnetic coils that he can hold close to your head, and use them to control your body via signals to your brain. "Transcranial magnetic stimulation" would be the technical term. (He thinks it means you don't have free will, because he's a neuroscientist and not a philosopher.)

The machinery can't force Prof Haggard to do anything really complicated – "You can't make me sign my name," he says, almost ruefully – but at one point, Christina is able to waggle his index finger slightly, like a schoolmaster. It's very fine control, a part of the brain specifically in command of a part of the body. "There's quite a detailed map of the brain's wiring to the body that you can build," he tells me.

We sometimes say "the Large Hadron Collider is the most complex machine ever built," but I'm not sure how it would directly compare to a human being. All part of the great bootstrap up to greater complexity, which will continue for a while until it all inevitably deteriorates into empty space.

    3 Free Articles Left

    Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.


    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

    Want unlimited access?

    Subscribe today and save 70%


    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In