How Conscious Are You?

How Conscious Are You?

by Yuen Yiu, Inside Science

Scientists use physical models to quantify human consciousness.

What is consciousness? For centuries, philosophers, scientists, and writers have pondered the question. The concept or even the word itself is difficult to define, and because of this it is one of the most difficult subjects to study scientifically.

One of the most common interpretations of consciousness is awareness or alertness, but even this is closely intertwined with other facets of consciousness such as self-awareness. While the metaphysical answer remains elusive, a group of psychologists from France has taken a slightly different approach — is it possible to measure consciousness without completely understanding it?

Hailing from the aptly named Paris Descartes University, the researchers used the concept of entropy to explore the spectrum from unconsciousness to consciousness. In order to understand what this means, you first need to understand two things — the complexity of the human brain, and the power of statistical mechanics.

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