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Brain Scans and the Law (Watch the Full World Science Festival Event)

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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The question of whether brain scanning can detect the intentions of a criminal defendant fascinates cops, lawyers and John and Jane Doe. It’s probably still a theoretical question and may remain so for a long time to come.

Even so, Alan Alda moderated a panel of experts whose members spend a lot of time on the issue of scanners and criminal intent. Watch this session from the World Science Festival that took place on the afternoon of June 1.

On the panel were Nita A. Farahany, a scholar from Duke Law School who studies the legal and social implications of the biosciences, Kent Kiehl, who has amassed the largest database containing brain scans of  prisoners, Jed S. Rakoff, a federal judge, and Anthony D. Wagner, a Stanford University memory researcher.

About the Author: Gary Stix, a senior editor, commissions, writes, and edits features, news articles and Web blogs for SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. His area of coverage is neuroscience. He also has frequently been the issue or section editor for special issues or reports on topics ranging from nanotechnology to obesity. He has worked for more than 20 years at SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, following three years as a science journalist at IEEE Spectrum, the flagship publication for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. He has an undergraduate degree in journalism from New York University. With his wife, Miriam Lacob, he wrote a general primer on technology called Who Gives a Gigabyte? Follow on Twitter @@gstix1.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. Moulton 12:44 am 06/2/2013

    Wouldn’t it make more sense to put the Rule of Law on trial?

    Disjunction Dysfunction and the Error Function

    http://www.musenet.org/utnebury/error.html

    Punishment and Violence: Is the Criminal Law Based on One Huge Mistake? by James Gilligan, Harvard University; published in the Journal of Social Research, Fall 2000.

    http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/40971409

    Link to this
  2. 2. sjfone 6:48 am 06/3/2013

    “Extraction of the Stone” here we come.

    Link to this

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