A few times a week I read a book featuring the fictional locomotive Thomas the Tank Engine or one of his friends. I also regularly hear my partner speaking aloud the words of the series, conceived by Wilbert Awdry. While we do so mainly for the entertainment of our two-year-old son, recently a discussion began with our five-year-old daughter, who asked why Thomas needed a driver. And what really is the role of the Fat Controller, we wondered, given all the trains have personalities and can make decisions. But can they? Can you?

Our musings didn’t go much further, as bath time beckoned. Coincidentally though, Matyáš Moravec, a postdoctoral fellow in philosophy at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, has also been grappling with Thomas the Tank Engine, and come to a devastating conclusion: “while we humans might feel like we have free will, it is just an illusion”. Enter our world, dear reader.

Meanwhile, do take the time to read our complete coverage of this year’s Nobel Prize winners. Remember, at The Conversation we pair academic experts with professional journalists to explain often complex issues. Given the level of detail involved in much of the Nobel winning work, there can be no better place to read about it than here, where the authors have often spent decades themselves working on similar projects.

Have a great week.

Stephen Khan

Executive Editor, The Conversation International

George Sheldon/Shutterstock

Do we have free will – and do we want it? Thomas the Tank Engine offers clues

Matyáš Moravec, University of St Andrews

Thomas the Tank Engine’s movements are restricted by the tracks, but he still thinks he’s free.

Ilze Kitshoff/Sony Pictures Entertainment/Tiff

Woman King is worth watching: but be aware that its take on history is problematic

Dominique Somda, University of Cape Town

This movie is absolutely worth seeing. But it’s best viewed with the awareness of its significant alterations of history.

Marco Destefanis/Alamy

Nobel prize in literature: Annie Ernaux and writing from experience

Siobhán McIlvanney, King's College London

The French writer has won the Nobel for literature for her ascetic approach to writing and fearlessness in covering the personal and taboo.