Top Tech & Science Stories: Newsweek in Review

When study participants in a new fMRI study on LSD reported experiencing their sense of self dissolve, a common experience on the psychedelic substance, a remarkable thing happened to their brain scan images: The regions of the brain responsible for higher cognition lit up, suddenly becoming heavily “over-connected” with other networks in the brain that do not normally communicate with one another. Brinson+Banks/Echosight

From coverage of a landmark LSD study to the hunt for alien life, here's a look at some of Newsweek's coverage of technology and science in the past week.

Brain Scans Show Why LSD Makes You Feel One With Nature and Your Self Dissolve

A study on the effects of LSD using brain imaging technology offers scientific evidence of the oft-reported experience of those "tripping" that the sense of self dissolved while under the influence.

The study showed that regions of the brain responsible for higher cognition became "over-connected" with other areas of the brain that do not normally communicate with each other.

An image from the study, provided by Enzo Tagliazucchi, shows the effects of LSD and psilocybin (the psychedelic substance present in "magic mushrooms") on the overall connectivity of the human brain. Enzo Tagliazucchi

LSD seemed to trigger the part of the brain that's associated with self-consciousness to connect with areas of the brain that process sensory information about the world outside ourselves.

"That interconnectedness may be 'enforcing a stronger link between our sense of self and the sense of the environment and potentially diluting the boundaries of our individuality,' neuroscientist Enzo Tagliazucchi said.

Silicon Valley Targets Smart Guns

Could Silicon Valley innovation kickstart a smart gun industry that's never truly gotten off the ground?

Political resistance from the NRA has largely prevented smart guns from reaching mass market success, but the reliability of the weapons have been at issue, as well. But the "biggest barrier to smart guns is politics, not technology," as gun enthusiasts deride any smart gun push as de facto gun control.

Brutus, the shop dog at Engage Armaments in Rockville, Maryland, sits next to some Armatrix iP1s, a smart gun his owner decided to not sell after being threatened with arson. Katherine Frey/The Washington Post/Getty

Ron Conway, a Silicon Valley billionaire, has created a foundation that has given $1 million to inventors who are pursuing user-authenticated firearms. "The gun companies have chosen to sit on their asses and not innovate," he said. "Silicon Valley is coming to their rescue."

Kai Kloepfer, an 18-year-old from Colorado, is developing a smart gun that uses thumbprints, like the iPhone. "And if we can now trust the lock on our iPhones, he argues, we can learn to trust a similar lock on our guns."

These Tiny Spaceships Will Hunt for Alien Life

It may take more than 20 years, but a $100 million venture is hoping to reach habitable planets and even alien lifeforms.

Breakthrough Starshot, headed by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner and supported by physicist Stephen Hawking, will send light-propelled nanocrafts toward Alpha Centauri, our closest neighboring star system.

space aliens kicksat sprite spaceship
Tiny spacecraft—equipped with cameras, photon thrusters and communication equipment—could reach our neighbouring star system Alpha Centauri in just 20 years. Zachary Manchester

"Earth is a wonderful place, but it might not last forever," Hawking said at the event. "Sooner or later we must look to the stars. Breakthrough Starshot is a very exciting first step on that journey.

As Man-Made Earthquakes Thunder Through Oklahoma, Residents Get Innovative With the Law

A federal lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club takes aim at hydraulic fracturing (fracking) practices that are inducing earthquakes across Oklahoma.

Last year, Oklahoma had some of the highest rates of earthquakes in the world, with 6,000—and nearly 1,000 of them measuring 3.0 or higher. Most are prompted by the injection of wastewater back into the ground after being extracted to unlock oil and gas from shale. Residents report near-daily earthquakes which damage their homes.

A pump jack operates at a site near Guthrie, Oklahoma, that is leased by Devon Energy, one of four companies the Sierra Club has sued for injunctive relief to head off future earthquakes. Nick Oxford/Reuters

The Sierra Club suit insists that companies "reduce, immediately and substantially, the amounts of production wastes they are injecting into the ground" while pushing for an independent earthquake monitoring and prediction center.