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Category Archive: Scientific American

Neuroscience in Fiction: What’s Expected of Us

My message to you is this: pretend that you have free will”. — Ted Chiang, What’s Expected of Us

Ted Chiang is one of my favorite science fiction writers. He doesn’t write very often, but when he does turn in a new, perfectly crafted story, you know you’re in for a real treat.

This week’s pick is Ted Chiang’s take on the age-old problem of free will. Chiang’s story, What’s Expected of Us, appeared in Nature‘s sci-fi series Futures in 2005.

The story explores the consequences that a definite demonstration that free will is an illusion would entail for humankind.

Our book Sleights of Mind also discusses our experience of free will from a nonfiction perspective, as do Jesse Bering and Shaun Nichols‘s excellent Scientific American essays.

Do you think free will is an illusion? Does your belief in free will, or lack thereof, permeate your everyday choices?


-Susana Martinez-Conde

Illusions Column on Pareidolia

“Face on Mars” photographed by Viking 1

Steve and I  write the Illusions column for Scientific American Mind. Our article in the September/October issue, already released, discusses pareidolia: a type of illusion in which a vague or random stimulus seems distinct and meaningful.

A preview of the article is available on the Scientific American website.



A Faithful Resemblance

When seeing is believing

By Susana Martinez-Conde and Stephen L. Macknik


Also, don’t miss Phil Plait’s disquieting account of showering with Lenin.

What’s your favorite pareidolia?


-Susana Martinez-Conde