Do We Live in a Simulation? Chances Are about 50–50

It is not often that a comedian gives an astrophysicist goose bumps when discussing the laws of physics. But comic Chuck Nice managed to do just that in a recent episode of the podcast StarTalk.The show’s host Neil deGrasse Tyson had just explained the simulation argument—the idea that we could be virtual beings living in a computer simulation. If so, the simulation would most likely create perceptions of reality on demand rather than simulate all of reality all the time—much like a video game optimized to render only the parts of a scene visible to a player. “Maybe that’s why we can’t travel faster than the speed of light, because if we could, we’d be able to get to another galaxy,” said Nice, the show’s co-host, prompting Tyson to gleefully interrupt. “Before they can program it,” the astrophysicist said,delighting at the thought. “So the programmer put in that limit.”

A New Connection Between the Gut and Brain

It is well known that a high salt diet leads to high blood pressure, a risk factor for an array of health problems, including heart disease and stroke. But over the last decade, studies across human populations have reported the association between salt intake and stroke irrespective of high blood pressure and risk of heart disease, suggesting a missing link between salt intake and brain health.

Brain Gain: A Person Can Instantly Blossom into a Savant—and No One Knows Why

Savant syndrome comes in different forms. In congenital savant syndrome the extraordinary savant ability surfaces in early childhood. In acquired savant syndrome astonishing new abilities, typically in music, art or mathematics, appear unexpectedly in ordinary persons after a head injury, stroke or other central nervous system (CNS) incident where no such abilities or interests were present pre-incident.

A New Way to Detect Parkinson’s—by Smell

Scent has been used as a diagnostic tool by physicians for thousands of years. But smell tests are not common in modern medicine—when’s the last time you were smelled by your doctor or received a batch of smell results back from the lab? Now, new research suggests that odors can be used to screen for Parkinson’s disease, which currently is without a definitive diagnostic.

Cats Recognize Their Own Names—Even If They Choose to Ignore Them

Cats are notorious for their indifference to humans: almost any owner will testify to how readily these animals ignore us when we call them. But a new study indicates domestic cats do recognize their own names—even if they walk away when they hear them.