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While on court, beach volleyball players need to act as a whole in order to prevent the ball from touching the sand: in a fraction of a second - just before the opponent's hand spikes the ball - the passer has to predict and adjust to the attacker's action as well as to their teammate's block position. Thanks to her Consolidator Grant, cognitive science professor Natalie Sebanz is studying the cognitive and psychological mechanisms underlying joint action expertise – in other words, how individuals learn skilled actions, such as those performed by professional athletes, together.
The Theory of Mind - the ability to understand that others may have thoughts, beliefs, desires, and intentions different from ours - develops in early childhood and is considered as a key process to explain our social interactions. How do children acquire this ability? What are the cognitive and brain mechanisms that allow human beings to learn from others, to predict their behaviour and to communicate with them? These are some of the questions Dr Agnes Melinda Kovacs addresses, thanks to an ERC grant, in her laboratory in Budapest.
Quantum theory, despite being one of the most successful scientific theories in history, throws up some bizarre ideas: quantum spin, the uncertainty principle, wave/particle duality, quantum entanglement and non-locality - or “spooky action at a distance” as Einstein once called it. But these are not just abstract concepts or the preserve of theory: Dr Szabolcs Csonka is working on isolating fundamental particles so as to study these phenomena first hand in electrons and thus bring quantum computers one step closer to reality.