By Ker Than, LiveScience Staff Writer
It wasn't that long ago that the study of consciousness was considered to be too abstract, too subjective or too difficult to study scientifically. But in recent years, it has emerged as one of the hottest new fields in biology, similar to string theory in physics or the search for extraterrestrial life in astronomy.
No longer the sole purview of philosophers and mystics, consciousness is now attracting the attention of scientists from across a variety of different fields, each, it seems, with their own theories about what consciousness is and how it arises from the brain.
Instead of trying to reduce consciousness to something else, some scientists suggest that consciousness should simply be taken for granted, the way that space and time and mass are in physics. But other researchers find this view unhelpful and suggest that consciousness is an emergent property of the brain, similar to the 'wetness' of water or the 'transparency' of glass, both of which are properties that are the result of the actions of individual molecules.