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Self as Symbol

The loopy nature of consciousness trips up scientists studying themselves

9:34am, January 27, 2012

This essay is part of Demystifying the Mind, a special report on the new science of consciousness. The next installments will appear in the February 25 and March 10 issues of Science News.

When Francis Crick decided to embark on a scientific research career, he chose his specialty by applying the “gossip test.” He’d noticed that he liked to gossip about two especially hot topics in the 1940s — the molecular basis for heredity and the mysteries of the brain. He decided to tackle biology’s molecules first. By 1953, with collaborator James Watson (and aided by data from competitor Rosalind Franklin), Crick had identified the structure of the DNA molecule, establishing the foundation for modern genetics.

A quarter century later, he decided it was time to try the path not taken and turn his attention to the brain — in particular, the enigma of consciousness.

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