In The News

Julien Musolino speaks to Vogue (Portugal) [November issue]

 Vogue November cover 1

 It is with great pleasure to announce Julien Musolino's interview with Vogue Portugal. Attached is the cover photo and the interview [in Portuguese]. Some rough translations are posted below:


They are more and more, and these, where I include myself, no longer have the petulant boldness to say 'doesn't exist and that's it'. Is there absolutely conclusive evidence of all that might have to do with the soul? No. But it is good to refer to one of the fundamental laws of science, which for many of us sins as a corset of knowledge, according to which the absence of proof does not prove the absence. And this is unquestionable. ”If this opinion leaves us room for some reverie, it bumps into the (pertinent) questions raised by Musolino.

“Here we need to be accurate. If by 'soul' is meant an immaterial, psychologically potent and immortal entity, separated from the body, conventional science has completely abandoned the idea. This is what I show in my book The Soul Fallacy. But of course the word 'soul' can also be used in many other ways, such as 'soul food', 'soul mate', 'poor soul', etc. Note, however, that when I say that the poor souls who died on the Titanic were not expecting that end, I am not making a metaphysical or scientific statement. So when the word soul is used metaphorically or poetically, conventional science has nothing to say about it. ”

Clearly not speaking “in these souls,” the question does not arise. Musolino continues: “Dominant science rejects, in fact, the concept of soul as an immaterial, psychologically potent and immortal part of each of us. Here again it is convenient to be clear about what is meant by soul. So let's call the soul I just described as 'the traditional soul'. The reason science has rejected the traditional soul is because such a soul is in fact a scientific hypothesis for which there is no evidence and against which there is a mountain of doubt. Therefore, mainstream science has rejected the traditional soul for the same reasons it rejected, for example, the idea that the earth is flat or that humans were created in their present form over the last ten thousand years. ”

[São cada vez mais e esses, onde me incluo, já não têm a ousadia petulante de dizer ‘não existe e pronto’. Há provas absolutamente concludentes de tudo o que poderá ter a ver com a alma? Não. Mas é bom referirmos uma das leis fundamentais da ciência, que para muitos de nós peca por ser um espartilho do conhecimento, segundo a qual a ausência de prova, não prova a ausência. E isto é indiscutível.” Se esta opinião nos deixa espaço para algum devaneio, ela esbarra nas questões (pertinentes) levantadas por Musolino.

“Aqui necessitamos de ser precisos. Se por ‘alma’ se entende uma entidade imaterial, psicologicamente potente e imortal, separada do corpo, a ciência convencional abandonou completamente a ideia. É isso que mostro no meu livro The Soul Fallacy. Mas é claro que a palavra ‘alma’ também pode ser usada de várias outras maneiras, como em ‘alimentos da alma’ (soul food), ‘alma gémea’ (soul mate), ‘pobre alma’ (poor soul), etc. Observe, no entanto, que quando digo que as pobres almas que morreram no Titanic não estavam à espera daquele fim, não estou a fazer uma afirmação metafísica ou científica. Portanto, quando a palavra alma é usada metaforicamente ou poeticamente, a ciência convencional não tem nada a dizer sobre isso.”\

Não estando, claramente, a falar “nessas almas”, a questão não se coloca. Continua Musolino: “A ciência dominante rejeita, de facto, o conceito de alma como uma parte imaterial, psicologicamente potente e imortal, de cada um de nós. Aqui convém novamente ser claro sobre o que se entende por alma. Por isso vamos chamar a alma que acabei de descrever como ‘a alma tradicional’. A razão pela qual a ciência rejeitou a alma tradicional é porque esse tipo de alma é de facto uma hipótese científica para a qual não há evidência alguma e contra a qual existe uma montanha de dúvidas. Assim sendo, a ciência dominante rejeitou a alma tradicional pelas mesmas razões que rejeitou, por exemplo, a ideia de que a Terra é plana ou de que os seres humanos foram criados, na sua forma atual, nos últimos dez mil anos.”]

 Julien Vogue Interview [Portuguese]

COSWL Pop-Up Mentoring Program (PUMP) group won the LSA Service Award

 First presented in 2007, this award honors members of the LSA who have performed distinguished service to the Society.

The organizers of PUMP, working in collaboration with COSWL and conference sponsors in linguistics, have provided an invaluable service to linguists seeking short-term mentoring relationships. In just two years, PUMP has served 379 linguists at 15 conferences and Institutes. The volunteer organizers have donated many hours of time and effort to outreach and coordination, including matching mentors with mentees. Their contributions have provided invaluable support for those participating, and greatly helped to advance the LSA’s Mentoring Initiative.

The PUMP team is pictured below, clockwise from top left: Melissa Baese-Berk, Paola Cepeda, Hadas Kotek, Kristen Syrett, Jessica Rett, Ivona Kučerová.


 Some of you may have participated in PUMP as a mentor or mentee. I encourage you to look out for a PUMP event at an upcoming conference. The next ones up are NWAV, BUCLD, and the LSA Annual Meeting.

Read More:


Morgan Moyer has received an NSF Doctoral Dissertation Research Award (BCS-1918068) to fund her dissertation work!

The award, entitled "Linguistic cues and speaker goals in the question/answer exchange" is under the direction of PI Kristen Syrett, and Co-PI Morgan Moyer, and lasts from 9/1/2019 to 2/28/21.

Morgan and Dr. Syrett also recently published a WIREs Cognitive Science primer called "The semantics of questions," which introduces cognitive scientists to the interesting and complex issues inherent to this topic, and is the first official peer-reviewed article linked to Morgan's dissertation work. 

Michmizos receives VCRI Grant on Translating Biological to Artificial Intelligence

Konstantinos Michmizos wins the Rutgers Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation Grant for the proposal entitled "Translating Biological to Artificial Intelligence." This is the second Award received within 6 months, in collaboration with leaders in experimental neuroscience: Cheryl Dreyfus, Zhiping Pang (Rutgers Medical School), and Bonnie Firestein (SAS Cell Biology and Neuroscience.) 

Prevailing over a century, the neuronal paradigm of studying the brain has left us with limitations in both our understanding of how the brain processes information to achieve biological intelligence (BI) and how such knowledge is translated into artificial intelligence (AI). Overturning our assumptions of how the brain functions and dysfunctions, the recent exploration of astrocytes, the most abundant yet long-neglected non-neuronal brain cells, has ignited a revolution in our fundamental understanding of BI.  

The $60,000 1-year Award will enable Konstantinos and his collaborators to achieve their goal, which is to harness and nurture the computational power of non-neuronal cells and unleash it into Brain-morphic Computing. The team is actively working on establishing the experimental and computational foundations to co-study how astrocytes work independently and cooperatively with the neuronal brain.

Click here for the original story on the CS website.

Victoria Abraira named 2019 PEW Scholar

Victoria Abraira, an assistant professor in Rutgers Cell Biology and Neuroscience was selected as a 2019 Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences provides funding to young investigators of outstanding promise in science relevant to the advancement of human health.

The program makes grants to selected academic institutions to support the independent research of outstanding individuals who are in their first few years of their appointment at the assistant professor level.

Abraira is only the fourth faculty member and first woman from Rutgers University to win this honor!

Congratulations to this Rutgers University—New Brunswick scholar whose research explores the neural circuits involved in processing and responding to touch.

"Although touch is an important part of our everyday lives and shapes how we move through the world and interact with others, it is the least studied of all the senses," Abraira said in her bio posted on Pew. "As a postdoctoral fellow, I discovered that most of the neurons in the skin that detect touch relay information to cells in the spinal cord, rather than communicating directly with the brain."

Using methods in molecular genetics coupled with advanced techniques for manipulating and monitoring the activity of individual neurons in awake mice, her team will stimulate or silence specific spinal circuits to determine how they encode tactile sensations and use this information to guide the animal’s behavior and its ability to coordinate movement.

The team will also explore, for the first time, how social touch is modulated by spinal circuits that differ from those that process the touch that allows us to grasp and distinguish objects.

"Our findings could lead to new treatments for disorders that impair social interactions, such as autism, or to improved therapies for spinal cord injury," she says.