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RTD info logoMagazine on European Research Special Issue - April 2005   
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The science of traces

Why evoke memory? Perhaps because there is nothing worse than forgetting and remembering is the only way to keep death at a distance. ‘An obligation to remember’ was a phrase often heard in connection with the recent commemorations to mark 60 years since the liberation of Auschwitz. Memory and history go together, but their intertwining does not only concern man.  

Memory is everywhere and RTD info does not claim to have pursued all its meanderings. There is nothing in this issue about the subconscious, the construction of memories, pharmacology, olfactory or spatial memory, the memory of elephants or of cephalopods, and relations between memory and sleep. We have simply sought to evoke briefly some of the principal fields that bear traces that only science can enable us to decipher. 

First there is the cosmos, the vast and mysterious space that is a seemingly endless source of enigmas. Then the Earth, this planet that is beginning to reveal to us the ecosystems of the past, the abrupt changes it has experienced and the way it was created and has evolved. Then there is life itself, the subject of all research, the components and origins of which we are coming increasingly to detect. Next, comes man and society that continue to evolve, inseparable as ever, on the bases of a more or less shared past (from a handful of genes to a long collective history).

One of the reasons this scientific exploration of memory is shedding light on the mysteries of the past and its origins is the extraordinary and exponential increase in the processing powers of the new ‘knowledge machines’. Therefore, it is also pertinent to reflect on the impact of this change, made possible through the digital memory, on the future of neurological memory.

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