Sean Carroll's Mindscape: Science, Society, Philosophy, Culture, Arts, and Ideas

Sean Carroll's Mindscape: Science, Society, Philosophy, Culture, Arts, and Ideas

By Sean Carroll | Wondery

Ever wanted to know how music affects your brain, what quantum mechanics really is, or how black holes work? Do you wonder why you get emotional each time you see a certain movie, or how on earth video games are designed? Then you’ve come to the right place. Each week, Sean Carroll will host conversations with some of the most interesting thinkers in the world. From neuroscientists and engineers to authors and television producers, Sean and his guests talk about the biggest ideas in science, philosophy, culture and much more.

Episodes

275 | Solo: Quantum Fields, Particles, Forces, and Symmetries

Publication week! Say hello to Quanta and Fields, the second volume of the planned three-volume series The Biggest Ideas in the Universe. This volume covers quantum physics generally, but focuses especially on the wonders of quantum field theory. To celebrate, this solo podcast talks about some of the big ideas that make QFT so compelling: how quantized fields produce particles, how gauge symmetries lead to forces of nature, and how those forces can manifest in different phases, including Higgs and confinement.Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/05/13/275-solo-quantum-fields-particles-forces-and-symmetries/Support Mindscape on Patreon.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
13/05/242h 12m

AMA | May 2024

Welcome to the May 2024 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). We take questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable number -- based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good -- and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy!Blog post with questions and transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/05/06/ama-may-2024/Support Mindscape on Patreon.Here is the memorial to Dan Dennett at Ars Technica.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
06/05/243h 35m

274 | Gizem Gumuskaya on Building Robots from Human Cells

Modern biology is advancing by leaps and bounds, not only in understanding how organisms work, but in learning how to modify them in interesting ways. One exciting frontier is the study of tiny "robots" created from living molecules and cells, rather than metal and plastic. Gizem Gumuskaya, who works with previous guest Michael Levin, has created anthrobots, a new kind of structure made from living human cells. We talk about how that works, what they can do, and what future developments might bring.Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/04/29/274-gizem-gumuskaya-on-building-robots-from-human-cells/Support Mindscape on Patreon.Gimez Gumuskaya received her Ph.D. from Tufts University and the Harvard Wyss Institute for Biologically-Inspired Engineering. She is currently a postdoctoral researcher at Tufts University. She previously received a dual master's degree in Architecture and Synthetic Biology from MIT.Web siteGoogle scholar publicationsAnthrobots web siteSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
29/04/241h 10m

273 | Stefanos Geroulanos on the Invention of Prehistory

Humanity itself might be the hardest thing for scientists to study fairly and accurately. Not only do we come to the subject with certain inevitable preconceptions, but it's hard to resist the temptation to find scientific justifications for the stories we'd like to tell about ourselves. In his new book, The Invention of Prehistory, Stefanos Geroulanos looks at the ways that we have used -- and continue to use -- supposedly-scientific tales of prehistoric humanity to bolster whatever cultural, social, and political purposes we have at the moment.Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/04/22/273-stefanos-geroulanos-on-the-invention-of-prehistory/Support Mindscape on Patreon.Stefanos Geroulanos received his Ph.D. in humanities from Johns Hopkins. He is currently director of the Remarque Institute and a professor of history at New York University. He is the author and editor of a number of books on European intellectual history. He serves as a Co-Executive Editor of the Journal of the History of Ideas.Web siteNYU web pageAmazon author pageGoogle scholar publicationsSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
22/04/241h 19m

272 | Leslie Valiant on Learning and Educability in Computers and People

Science is enabled by the fact that the natural world exhibits predictability and regularity, at least to some extent. Scientists collect data about what happens in the world, then try to suggest "laws" that capture many phenomena in simple rules. A small irony is that, while we are looking for nice compact rules, there aren't really nice compact rules about how to go about doing that. Today's guest, Leslie Valiant, has been a pioneer in understanding how computers can and do learn things about the world. And in his new book, The Importance of Being Educable, he pinpoints this ability to learn new things as the crucial feature that distinguishes us as human beings. We talk about where that capability came from and what its role is as artificial intelligence becomes ever more prevalent.Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/04/15/272-leslie-valiant-on-learning-and-educability-in-computers-and-people/Support Mindscape on Patreon.Leslie Valiant received his Ph.D. in computer science from Warwick University. He is currently the T. Jefferson Coolidge Professor of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics at Harvard University. He has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Knuth Prize, and the Turing Award, and he is a member of the National Academy of Sciences as well as a Fellow of the Royal Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is the pioneer of "Probably Approximately Correct" learning, which he wrote about in a book of the same name.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
15/04/241h 8m

AMA | April 2024

Welcome to the April 2024 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). We take questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable number -- based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good -- and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy!Blog post with questions and transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/04/08/ama-april-2024/See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
08/04/243h 14m

271 | Claudia de Rham on Modifying General Relativity

Einstein's theory of general relativity has been our best understanding of gravity for over a century, withstanding a variety of experimental challenges of ever-increasing precision. But we have to be open to the possibility that general relativity -- even at the classical level, aside from any questions of quantum gravity -- isn't the right theory of gravity. Such speculation is motivated by cosmology, where we have a good model of the universe but one with a number of loose ends. Claudia de Rham has been a leader in exploring how gravity could be modified in cosmologically interesting ways, and we discuss the current state of the art as well as future prospects.Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/04/01/271-claudia-de-rham-on-modifying-general-relativity/Support Mindscape on Patreon.Claudia de Rham received her Ph.D. in physics from the University of Cambridge. She is currently a professor of physics and deputy department head at Imperial College, London. She is a Simons Foundation Investigator, winner of the Blavatnik Award, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her new book is The Beauty of Falling: A Life in Pursuit of Gravity.Imperial College web pageWikipediaPublications at InspireSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
01/04/241h 21m

270 | Solo: The Coming Transition in How Humanity Lives

Technology is changing the world, in good and bad ways. Artificial intelligence, internet connectivity, biological engineering, and climate change are dramatically altering the parameters of human life. What can we say about how this will extend into the future? Will the pace of change level off, or smoothly continue, or hit a singularity in a finite time? In this informal solo episode, I think through what I believe will be some of the major forces shaping how human life will change over the decades to come, exploring the very real possibility that we will experience a dramatic phase transition into a new kind of equilibrium.Blog post with transcript and links to additional resources: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/03/25/270-solo-the-coming-transition-in-how-humanity-lives/Support Mindscape on Patreon.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
25/03/242h 9m

269 | Sahar Heydari Fard on Complexity, Justice, and Social Dynamics

When it comes to social change, two questions immediately present themselves: What kind of change do we want to see happen? And, how do we bring it about? These questions are distinct but related; there's not much point in spending all of our time wanting change that won't possibly happen, or working for change that wouldn't actually be good. Addressing such issues lies at the intersection of philosophy, political science, and social dynamics. Sahar Heydari Fard looks at all of these issues through the lens of complex systems theory, to better understand how the world works and how it might be improved.Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/03/18/269-sahar-heydari-fard-on-complexity-justice-and-social-dynamics/Support Mindscape on Patreon.Sahar Heydari Fard received a Masters in applied economics and a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Cincinnati. She is currently an assistant professor in philosophy at the Ohio State University. Her research lies at the intersection of social and behavioral sciences, social and political philosophy, and ethics, using tools from complex systems theory.Web siteOhio State web pagePhilPeople profileGoogle Scholar publicationsSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
18/03/241h 11m

AMA | March 2024

Welcome to the March 2024 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). We take questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable number -- based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good -- and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic.Big congrats this month to Ryan Funakoshi, winner of this year's Mindscape Big Picture Scholarship! And enormous, heartfelt thanks to everyone who contributed. We're going to keep doing this in years to come.Blog post with questions and transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/03/11/ama-march-2024/See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
11/03/243h 55m

268 | Matt Strassler on Relativity, Fields, and the Language of Reality

In the 1860s, James Clerk Maxwell argued that light was a wave of electric and magnetic fields. But it took over four decades for physicists to put together the theory of special relativity, which correctly describes the symmetries underlying Maxwell's theory. The delay came in part from the difficulty in accepting that light was a wave, but not a wave in any underlying "aether." Today our most basic view of fundamental physics is found in quantum field theory, which posits that everything around us is a quantum version of a relativistic wave. I talk with physicist Matt Strassler about how we go from these interesting-but-intimidating concepts to the everyday world of tables, chairs, and ourselves.Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/03/04/267-matt-strassler-on-relativity-fields-and-the-language-of-reality/Support Mindscape on Patreon.Matt Strassler received his Ph.D. in physics from Stanford University. He is currently a writer and a visiting researcher in physics at Harvard University. His research has ranged over a number of topics in theoretical high-energy physics, from the phenomenology of dark matter and the Higgs boson to dualities in gauge theory and string theory. He blogs at Of Particular Significance, and his new book is Waves in an Impossible Sea: How Everyday Life Emerges from the Cosmic Ocean.Web siteGoogle Scholar publicationsSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
04/03/241h 30m

267 | Benjamin Breen on Margaret Mead, Psychedelics, and Utopia

The twentieth century was something, wasn't it? Margaret Mead, as well as her onetime-husband Gregory Bateson, managed to play roles in several of its key developments: social anthropology and its impact on sex & gender mores, psychedelic drugs and their potential use for therapeutic purposes, and the origin of cybernetics, to name a few. Benjamin Breen discusses this impactful trajectory in his new book, Tripping on Utopia: Margaret Mead, the Cold War, and the Troubled Birth of Psychedelic Science. We talk about Mead and Bateson, the early development of psychedelic drugs, and how the possibility of a realistic utopia didn't always seem so far away.Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/02/26/267-benjamin-breen-on-margaret-mead-psychedelics-and-utopia/Support Mindscape on Patreon.Benjamin Breen received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Texas at Austin. He is currently an associate professor of history at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Among his awards are the National Endowment for the Humanities Award for Faculty and the William H. Welch Medal of the American Association for the History of Medicine. He writes on Substack at Res Obscura.Web siteUCSC web pageWikipediaAmazon author pageSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
26/02/241h 13m

266 | Christoph Adami on How Information Makes Sense of Biology

Evolution is sometimes described -- not precisely, but with some justification -- as being about the "survival of the fittest." But that idea doesn't work unless there is some way for one generation to pass down information about how best to survive. We now know that such information is passed down in a variety of ways: through our inherited genome, through epigenetic factors, and of course through cultural transmission. Chris Adami suggests that we update Dobzhansky's maxim "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution" to "... except in the light of information." We talk about information theory as a subject in its own right, and how it helps us to understand organisms, evolution, and the origin of life.Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/02/19/266-christoph-adami-on-how-information-makes-sense-of-biology/Support Mindscape on Patreon.Christoph Adami received his Ph.D. in physics from Stony Brook University. He is currently professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics as well as Physics and Astronomy at Michigan State University. Among his awards are the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Society for Artificial Life. His new book is The Evolution of Biological Information: How Evolution Creates Complexity, from Viruses to Brains.Web siteMichigan State web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
19/02/241h 20m

AMA | February 2024

Welcome to the February 2024 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). We take questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable number -- based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good -- and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy!Blog post with questions and transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/02/12/ama-february-2024/Support Mindscape on Patreon.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
12/02/243h 24m

265 | John Skrentny on How the Economy Mistreats STEM Workers

Universities and their students are constantly being encouraged to produce more graduates majoring in STEM fields -- science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. That's the kind of training that will get you a rewarding job, students are told, while at the policy level it is emphasized how STEM workers are needed to drive innovation and growth. In his new book Wasted Education, sociologist John Skrentny points out that the post-graduation trajectories of STEM graduates are more likely to involve being chewed up and spit out by the tech economy than to end up with stable long-term careers. We talk about why that's the case and what might be done about it.Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/02/05/265-john-skrentny-on-how-the-economy-mistreats-stem-workers/Support Mindscape on Patreon.John Skrentny received his Ph.D. in sociology from Harvard University. He is currently Professor of Sociology at UC San Diego, and has previously served as the Co-Director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies and Director of the Yankelovich Center for Social Science Research.Web siteUC San Diego web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsAmazon author pageSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
05/02/241h 20m

264 | Sabine Stanley on What's Inside Planets

The radius of the Earth is over 6,000 kilometers, but the deepest we've ever dug below the surface is only about 12 km. Yet we have a quite reliable idea of the structure of the Earth's interior -- inner core, outer core, mantle, crust -- not to mention pretty good pictures of what's going on inside some other planets. How do we know those things, and what new things are we learning in the exoplanet era? I talk with astrophysicist and planetary scientist Sabine Stanley about how we use gravitation, seismology, magnetic fields, and other tools to learn what's happening inside planets.Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/01/29/264-sabine-stanley-on-whats-inside-planets/Support Mindscape on Patreon.Sabine Stanley received a Ph.D. in geophysics from Harvard University. She is currently a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins University. She has been awarded the William Gilbert Award from the American Geophysical Union. Her recent book is What's Hidden Inside Planets?WebsiteJohns Hopkins web pagePublications from Google ScholarWikipediaSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
29/01/241h 12m

263 | Chris Quigg on Symmetry and the Birth of the Standard Model

Einstein's theory of general relativity is distinguished by its singular simplicity and beauty. The Standard Model of Particle Physics, by contrast, is a bit of a mess. So many particles and interactions, each acting somewhat differently, with a bunch of seemingly random parameters. But lurking beneath the mess are a number of powerful and elegant ideas, many of them stemming from symmetries and how they are broken. I talk about some of these ideas with Chris Quigg, who with collaborator Robert Cahn has written a new book on the development of the Standard Model: Grace in All Simplicity.Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/01/22/263-chris-quigg-on-symmetry-and-the-birth-of-the-standard-model/Support Mindscape on Patreon.Chris Quigg received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of California, Berkeley. He is currently Distinguished Scientist Emeritus at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Among his awards is the J.J. Sakurai Prize in theoretical particle physics from the American Physical Society. He is also the author of Gauge Theories of the Strong, Weak, and Electromagnetic Interactions.WebsitePublicationsAmazon author pageWikipediaSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
22/01/241h 26m

262 | Eric Schwitzgebel on the Weirdness of the World

Scientists and philosophers sometimes advocate pretty outrageous-sounding ideas about the fundamental nature of reality. (Arguably I have been guilty of this.) It shouldn't be surprising that reality, in regimes far away from our everyday experience, fails to conform to common sense. But it's also okay to maintain a bit of skepticism in the face of bizarre claims. Philosopher Eric Schwitzgebel wants us to face up to the weirdness of the world. He claims that there are no non-weird ways to explain some of the most important features of reality, from quantum mechanics to consciousness.Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/01/15/262-eric-schwitzgebel-on-the-weirdness-of-the-world/Support Mindscape on Patreon.Eric Schwitzgebel received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley. He is currently a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Riverside. He is the author of several books, including the new The Weirdness of the World.UC Riverside web pageThe Splintered Mind blogGoogle Scholar publicationsPhilPeople profileWikipediaSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
15/01/241h 20m

261 | Sanjana Curtis on the Origins of the Elements

In mid-20th-century cosmology, there was a debate over the origin of the chemical elements. Some thought that they could be produced in the Big Bang, while others argued that they were made inside stars. The truth turns out to be a combination of both, with additional complications layered in. Some of the elements of the periodic table come all the way from the Big Bang, but others are made inside stars or in stellar explosions. But still others are made by cosmic rays or when neutron stars and black holes merge together. We talk to nuclear astrophysicist Sanjana Curtis about all the different ways that the universe is cleverly able to produce various elements.Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/01/08/261-sanjana-curtis-on-the-origins-of-the-elements/Support Mindscape on Patreon.Sanjana Curtis received her Ph.D. in physics from North Carolina State University. She is currently a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research involves nuclear astrophysics, especially the production of heavier elements in supernova explosions and neutron-star/black-hole collisions. She is also active in science communication, including at her TikTok channel.WebsiteGoogle Scholar publicationsSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
08/01/241h 7m

260 | Ricard Solé on the Space of Cognitions

Octopuses, artificial intelligence, and advanced alien civilizations: for many reasons, it's interesting to contemplate ways of thinking other than whatever it is we humans do. How should we think about the space of all possible cognitions? One aspect is simply the physics of the underlying substrate, the physical stuff that is actually doing the thinking. We are used to brains being solid -- squishy, perhaps, but consisting of units in an essentially fixed array. What about liquid brains, where the units can move around? Would an ant colony count? We talk with complexity theorist Ricard Solé about complexity, criticality, and cognition.Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/01/01/260-ricard-sole-on-the-space-of-cognitions/Support Mindscape on Patreon.Ricard Solé received his Ph.D. in physics from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia. He is currently ICREA research professor at the Catalan Institute for research and Advanced Studies, currently working at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, where he is head of the Complex Systems Lab. He is also an External Professor of the Santa Fe Institute, Fellow of the European centre for Living Technology, external faculty at the Center for Evolution and Cancer at UCSF, and a member of the Vienna Complex Systems Hub. He is the author of several technical books.Web siteGoogle Scholar publicationsSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
01/01/241h 10m

Holiday Message: Reflections on Immortality

The final Mindscape podcast of each year is devoted to a short, reflective Holiday Message. This year the theme is Immortality: whether it's an attractive idea, and whether the laws of physics and cosmology would allow for it in principle. (Spoiler: they do not.) Mindscape will return as usual on January 1, 2024. Happy holidays everyone!Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/12/18/holiday-message-2023-reflections-on-immortality/Support Mindscape on Patreon.Here are some of the stories and papers mentioned in the episode:Borges, "The Immortal"Barnes, A History of the World in 10 1/2 ChaptersThe Good PlaceChiang, Stories of Your Life and OthersDyson, "Time Without End: Physics and Biology in an Open Universe"See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
18/12/2355m 30s

259 | Adam Frank on What Aliens Might Be Like

It wasn't that long ago that topics like the nature of consciousness, or the foundations of quantum mechanics, or prospects for extraterrestrial life were considered fringey and disreputable by much of the scientific community. In all these cases, the tide of opinion is gradually changing. Life on other worlds, in particular, has seen a remarkable growth in interest -- how life could start on other worlds, how we can detect it in the solar system and on exoplanets, and even thoughts about advanced alien civilizations. I talk with astrophysicist Adam Frank about some of those thoughts. We also give the inside scoop on what professional scientists think about UFOs.Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/12/11/259-adam-frank-on-what-aliens-might-be-like/Support Mindscape on Patreon.Adam Frank received a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Washington. He is currently the Helen F. and Fred H. Gowen Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and Distinguished Scientist at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics at the University of Rochester. Among his awards are the National Honors Society Best Book in Science award, and the Carl Sagan Medal from the American Astronomical Society. His new book is The Little Book of Aliens.Web SiteU Rochester web pageWikipediaAmazon author pageSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
11/12/231h 18m

AMA | December 2023

Welcome to the December 2023 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). We take questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable number -- based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good -- and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy!Blog post with questions and transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/12/04/ama-december-2023/Link to the article referenced about time travel in movies: Ars Technica.There will be no AMA in January due to holiday break.Mindscape Big Picture Scholarship.Support Mindscape on Patreon.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
04/12/233h 36m

258 | Solo: AI Thinks Different

The Artificial Intelligence landscape is changing with remarkable speed these days, and the capability of Large Language Models in particular has led to speculation (and hope, and fear) that we could be on the verge of achieving Artificial General Intelligence. I don't think so. Or at least, while what is being achieved is legitimately impressive, it's not anything like the kind of thinking that is done by human beings. LLMs do not model the world in the same way we do, nor are they driven by the same kinds of feelings and motivations. It is therefore extremely misleading to throw around words like "intelligence" and "values" without thinking carefully about what is meant in this new context.Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/11/27/258-solo-ai-thinks-different/Support Mindscape on Patreon.Some relevant references:Introduction to LLMs by Andrej Karpathy (video)OpenAI's GPTMelanie Mitchell: Can Large Language Models Reason?Mitchell et al.: Comparing Humans, GPT-4, and GPT-4V On Abstraction and Reasoning TasksKim et al.: FANToM: A Benchmark for Stress-testing Machine Theory of Mind in InteractionsButlin et al.: Consciousness in Artificial Intelligence: Insights from the Science of ConsciousnessMargaret Boden: AI doesn't have feelingsSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
27/11/231h 20m

257 | Derek Guy on the Theory and Practice of Dressing Well

Putting on clothes is one of the most universal human experiences. Inevitably, this involves choices; maybe you just grab the cheapest and most convenient clothing available, or maybe you want to fit seamlessly into your local environment, whatever that might be. But maybe you choose to dress more consciously, putting a bit of effort into crafting a personal style and creating a desired impression in others. Derek Guy has, to his own surprise, become well-known as the menswear guy on Twitter. He has put a lot of thought into both the practicalities of clothing (how to find a suit that fits) and its wider social impact (how fashion acts as a cultural language). We talk about both sides of the coin.(Picture on right is not Derek, but rather former US Attorney General Elliot Richardson, whose dapper image Derek uses as his avatar.)Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/11/20/257-derek-guy-on-the-theory-and-practice-of-dressing-well/Support Mindscape on Patreon.Derek Guy is a fashion writer living in San Francisco. He blogs at Die, Workwear!, and contributes to a number of publications.Twitter (X)WikipediaPolitico essay on John FettermanSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
20/11/231h 20m

256 | Kelly and Zach Weinersmith on Building Cities on the Moon and Mars

There is an undeniable romance in the idea of traveling to, and even living in, outer space. In recent years, a pragmatic justification has become increasingly popular: the Earth is vulnerable to threats both natural and human-made, and it seems only prudent to spread life to other locations in case a disaster befalls our home planet. But how realistic is such a grand ambition? The wife-and-husband team of Kelly and Zack Weinersmith have tackled this question from a dizzying number of angles, from aeronautics and biology to law and psychology. The result is their new book, A City on Mars: Can We Settle Space, Should We Settle Space, and Have We Really Thought This Through? It provides an exceptionally clear-eyed view of the challenges and opportunities ahead.Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/11/13/256-kelly-and-zach-weinersmith-on-building-cities-on-the-moon-and-mars/Support Mindscape on Patreon.Kelly Weinersmith received a Ph.D. in ecology from the University of California, Davis. She is currently an adjunct professor in the department of biosciences at Rice University. Zack Weinersmith received a B.S. in English from Pfizer College. He is the creator of the popular webcomic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, as well as the author and co-author of several books, including Bea Wolf, a retelling of Beowulf as a children's story, with illustrations by Boulet. Kelly and Zach are also co-authors of Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That'll Improve and/or Ruin Everything.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
13/11/231h 24m

AMA | November 2023

Welcome to the November 2023 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). We take questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable number -- based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good -- and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy!Blog post with questions and transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/11/06/ama-november-2023/See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
06/11/234h 20m

255 | Michael Muthukrishna on Developing a Theory of Everyone

A "Theory of Everything" is physicists' somewhat tongue-in-cheek phrase for a hypothetical model of all the fundamental physical interactions. Of course, even if we had such a theory, it would tell us nothing new about higher-level emergent phenomena, all the way up to human behavior and society. Can we even imagine a "Theory of Everyone," providing basic organizing principles for society? Michael Muthukrishna believes we can, and indeed that we can see the outlines of such a theory emerging, based on the relationships of people to each other and to the physical resources available.Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/10/30/255-michael-muthukrishna-on-developing-a-theory-of-everyone/Support Mindscape on Patreon.Michael Muthukrishna received his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of British Columbia. He is currently Associate Professor of Economic Psychology at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Among his awards are an Emerging Scholar Award from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology and a Dissertation Excellence Award from the Canadian Psychological Association. His new book is A Theory of Everyone: The New Science of Who We Are, How We Got Here, and Where We're Going.Web siteLSE web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
30/10/231h 17m

254 | William Egginton on Kant, Heisenberg, and Borges

It can be tempting, when first introduced to a deep concept of physics like Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, to draw grand philosophical conclusions about the impossibility of knowing anything precisely. That is generally a temptation to be resisted, just because it's so easy to do it wrong. But there is absolutely a place for a careful humanistic synthesis of these kinds of scientific ideas with other ideas, for example from philosophy or literature. That's the kind of task William Egginton takes on in his new book The Rigor of Angels, which compares the work of philosopher Immanuel Kant, physicist Werner Heisenberg, and author Jorge Luis Borges, three thinkers who grappled with limitations on our aspirations to know reality directly.Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/10/23/254-william-egginton-on-kant-heisenberg-and-borges/Support Mindscape on Patreon.William Egginton received his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Stanford University. He is currently the Decker Professor in the Humanities and Director of the Alexander Grass Humanities Institute at Johns Hopkins. He is the author of numerous books on literature, literary theory, and philosophy. In addition to The Rigor of Angels, he has an upcoming book on the work of Chilean film director Alejandro Jodorowsky.Web siteJohns Hopkins web pageWikipediaAmazon author pageSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
23/10/231h 6m

253 | David Deutsch on Science, Complexity, and Explanation

David Deutsch is one of the most creative scientific thinkers working today, who has as a goal to understand and explain the natural world as best we can. He was a pioneer in quantum computing, and has long been an advocate of the Everett interpretation of quantum theory. He is also the inventor of constructor theory, a new way of conceptualizing physics and science more broadly. But he also has a strong interest in philosophy and epistemology, championing a Popperian explanation-based approach over a rival Bayesian epistemology. We talk about all of these things and more, including his recent work on the Popper-Miller theorem, which specifies limitations on inductive approaches to knowledge and probability.Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/10/16/253-david-deutsch-on-science-complexity-and-explanation/Support Mindscape on Patreon.David Deutsch received his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the University of Oxford. He is currently a visiting professor in the Department of Atomic and Laser Physics at Oxford. He is a pioneer in quantum computation as well as initiating constructor theory. His books include The Fabric of Reality and The Beginning of Infinity. Among his awards including the Dirac Prize, the Dirac Medal, the Edge of Computation Science Prize, the Isaac Newton Medal, the Breakthrough Physics Prize, and a Royal Society Fellowship.Web siteOxford web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsAmazon author pageWikipediaTED talk: After Billions of Years of Monotony, the Universe is Waking UpSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
16/10/231h 42m

AMA | October 2023

Welcome to the October 2023 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). We take questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable number -- based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good -- and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy!Blog post with questions and transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/10/09/ama-october-2023/Support Mindscape on Patreon.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
09/10/232h 58m

252 | Hannah Ritchie on Keeping Hope for the Planet Alive

Our planet and its environment are in bad shape, in all sorts of ways. Those of us who want to improve the situation face a dilemma. On the one hand, we have to be forceful and clear-headed about how the bad the situation actually is. On the other, we don't want to give the impression that things are so bad that it's hopeless. That could -- and, empirically, does -- give people the impression that there's no point in working to make things better. Hannah Ritchie is an environmental researcher at Our World in Data who wants to thread this needle: things are bad, but there are ways we can work to make them better.Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/10/02/252-hannah-ritchie-on-keeping-hope-for-the-planet-alive/Support Mindscape on Patreon.Hannah Ritchie received her Ph.D. in geosciences from the University of Edinburgh. She is currently Senior Researcher and the Head of Research at Our World in Data, and a researcher at the Oxford Martin Programme in Global Development at the University of Oxford. Her upcoming book is Not the End of the World: How We Can Be the First Generation to Build a Sustainable Planet.Web siteOxford web pageGoogle scholar publicationsSubstackWikipediaSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
02/10/231h 15m

251 | Rosemary Braun on Uncovering Patterns in Biological Complexity

Biological organisms are paradigmatic emergent systems. That atoms of which they are made mindlessly obey the local laws of physics; even cells and organs do their individual jobs without explicitly understanding the larger whole of which they are a part. And yet the system as a whole functions beautifully, with apparent purpose and function. How do the small parts come together to form the greater whole? I talk with biophysicist Rosemary Braun about what we're learning about collective behavior within organisms from the modern era of huge biological datasets, especially crucial aspects like timekeeping (with bonus implications for dealing with jet lag).Support Mindscape on Patreon.Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/09/25/251-rosemary-braun-on-uncovering-patterns-in-biological-complexity/Rosemary Braun received her Ph.D. in physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and an M.P.H. in biostatistics from Johns Hopkins. She is currently an associate professor of molecular biosciences, applied math, and physics at Northwestern University and external faculty at the Santa Fe Institute.Lab web pageNorthwestern faculty pageGoogle Scholar publicationsSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
25/09/231h 11m

250 | Brendan Nyhan on Navigating the Information Ecosystem

The modern world inundates us with both information and misinformation. What are the forces that conspire to make misinformation so prevalent? Can we combat the flow of misinformation, perhaps by legal restrictions? Would that even be a good idea? How can individuals help distinguish between true and false claims as they come in? What are the biases that we are all subject to? I talk to political scientist Brendan Nyhan about how information and misinformation spread, and what we can do as individuals and as a society to increase the amount of truth we all believe.Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/09/18/250-brendan-nyhan-on-navigating-the-information-ecosystem/Support Mindscape on Patreon.Brendan Nyhan received his Ph.D. in political science from Duke University. He is currently James O. Freedman professor of government at Dartmouth College. Among his awards are an Emerging Scholar award from the American Political Science Association, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.Web siteDartmouth web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
18/09/2357m 46s

249 | Peter Godfrey-Smith on Sentience and Octopus Minds

The study of cognition and sentience would be greatly abetted by the discovery of intelligent alien beings, who presumably developed independently of life here on Earth. But we do have more than one data point to consider: certain vertebrates (including humans) are quite intelligent, but so are certain cephalopods (including octopuses), even though the last common ancestor of the two groups was a simple organism hundreds of millions of years ago that didn't have much of a nervous system at all. Peter Godfrey-Smith has put a great amount of effort into trying to figure out what we can learn about the nature of thinking by studying how it is done in these animals with very different brains and nervous systems.Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/09/11/249-peter-godfrey-smith-on-sentience-and-octopus-minds/Support Mindscape on Patreon.Peter Godfrey-Smith received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of California, San Diego. He is currently professor in the School of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Sydney. Among his books are Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness and Metazoa: Animal Life and the Birth of the Mind.Web siteUniversity of Sydney web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsPhilPeople profileWikipediaAmazon author pageHere are some of the papers mentioned in this episode:Crook (2021), Octopus painGibbons et al. (2022), Bee painGutnick et al. (2011), Octopus arm behaviorSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
11/09/231h 28m

AMA | September 2023

Welcome to the September 2023 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). We take questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable number -- based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good -- and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy!Blog post with questions and transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/09/04/ama-september-2023/And you can now pre-order The Biggest Ideas in the Universe Vol. 2: Quanta and Fields!See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
04/09/234h 3m

248 | Yejin Choi on AI and Common Sense

Over the last year, AI large-language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT have demonstrated a remarkable ability to carry on human-like conversations in a variety of different concepts. But the way these LLMs "learn" is very different from how human beings learn, and the same can be said for how they "reason." It's reasonable to ask, do these AI programs really understand the world they are talking about? Do they possess a common-sense picture of reality, or can they just string together words in convincing ways without any underlying understanding? Computer scientist Yejin Choi is a leader in trying to understand the sense in which AIs are actually intelligent, and why in some ways they're still shockingly stupid.Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/08/28/248-yejin-choi-on-ai-and-common-sense/Support Mindscape on Patreon.Yejin Choi received a Ph.D. in computer science from Cornell University. She is currently the Wissner-Slivka Professor at the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington and also a senior research director at AI2 overseeing the project Mosaic. Among her awards are a MacArthur fellowship and a fellow of the Association for Computational Linguistics.University of Washington web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
28/08/231h 12m

247 | Samuel Bowles on Economics, Cooperation, and Inequality

Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/08/21/247-samuel-bowles-on-economics-cooperation-and-inequality/Economics, much like thermodynamics, is a story of collective behavior arising from the interactions of many individual constituents. The big difference is that in economics, the constituents are themselves complicated human beings with their own goals and limitations. We can still make progress by positing some simple but plausible axioms governing human behavior, and proving theorems about what those axioms imply, such as the famous supply-and-demand curves. The trick is picking the right axioms that actually do apply to any given situation. Samuel Bowles is a highly regarded economist who has helped understand the emergence of political hierarchy and economic inequality, often drawing on wide-ranging ideas from game theory and evolutionary biology. We talk about how people evolved to cooperate, and why nevertheless inequality seems to be ubiquitous.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Samuel Bowles received a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University. He has taught at Harvard University, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and the University of Siena, and he is currently Director of the Behavioral Sciences Program at the Santa Fe Institute. He has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Leontief Prize, and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is one of the developers of the CORE Econ project.Web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaAmazon author pageSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
21/08/231h 20m

246 | David Stuart on Time and Science in Maya Civilization

You might remember the somewhat bizarre worries that swept through certain circles back in 2012, based on the end of the world being predicted by the Maya calendar. The world didn't end, which is unsurprising because the Maya hadn't predicted that, and for that matter they had no way of doing so. But there is very interesting archeology behind our understanding of how the Maya developed their calendar, as well as other aspects of their language and scientific understanding. Mayanist David Stuart takes us on a tour of what we know and what we're still discovering.Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/08/14/246-david-stuart-on-time-and-science-in-maya-civilization/Support Mindscape on Patreon.David Stuart received his Ph.D. in anthropology from Vanderbilt University. He is currently professor of Art History and Director of the Mesoamerica Center at the University of Texas, Austin. He is the youngest-ever recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship. Among his books is The Order of Days: Unlocking the Secrets of the Ancient Maya.Web siteUniversity of Texas web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
14/08/231h 9m

AMA | August 2023

Welcome to the August 2023 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). We take questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable number -- based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good -- and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy!Blog post with questions and transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/08/07/ama-august-2023/See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
07/08/233h 38m

245 | Solo: The Crisis in Physics

Physics is in crisis, what else is new? That's what we hear in certain corners, anyway, usually pointed at "fundamental" physics of particles and fields. (Condensed matter and biophysics etc. are just fine.) In this solo podcast I ruminate on the unusual situation fundamental physics finds itself in, where we have a theoretical understanding that fits almost all the data, but which nobody believes to be the final answer. I talk about how we got here, and argue that it's not really a "crisis" in any real sense. But there are ways I think the academic community could handle the problem better, especially by making more space for respectable but minority approaches to deep puzzles.Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/07/31/245-solo-the-crisis-in-physics/Support Mindscape on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/seanmcarrollSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
31/07/234h 22m

244 | Katie Elliott on Metaphysics, Chance, and Explanation

Is metaphysics like physics, but cooler? Or is it a relic of an outdated, pre-empirical way of thinking about the world? Closer to the former than the latter. Rather than building specific quantitative theories about the world, metaphysics aims to get a handle on the basic logical structures that help us think about it. I talk with philosopher Katie Elliott on how metaphysics helps us think about questions like counterfactuals, possible worlds, time travel, mathematical equivalence, and whether everything happens for a reason.Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/07/24/244-katie-elliott-on-metaphysics-chance-and-time/Support Mindscape on Patreon.Katrina (Katie) Elliott received her Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. After being an assistant professor of philosophy at UCLA, she is now on the faculty at Brandeis. Her research covers topics in metaphysics and the philosophy of science, including explanation, chances, and the logic of time travel.Web pageBrandeis web pagePhilPeople profileSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
24/07/231h 36m

243 | Joseph Silk on Science on the Moon

The Earth's atmosphere is good for some things, like providing something to breathe. But it does get in the way of astronomers, who have been successful at launching orbiting telescopes into space. But gravity and the ground are also useful for certain things, like walking around. The Moon, fortunately, provides gravity and a solid surface without any complications of a thick atmosphere -- perfect for astronomical instruments. Building telescopes and other kinds of scientific instruments on the Moon is an expensive and risky endeavor, but the time may have finally arrived. I talk with astrophysicist Joseph Silk about the case for doing astronomy from the Moon, and what special challenges and opportunities are involved.Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/07/17/243-joseph-silk-on-science-on-the-moon/Support Mindscape on Patreon.Joseph Silk received his Ph.D. in Astronomy from Harvard University. After serving on the faculty at UC Berkeley and Oxford, he is currently Professor of Physics at the Institut d'astrophysique de Paris, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, and Homewood Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins University. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Astronomical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Among his awards are the Balzan Prize, the Henry Norris Russell Lectureship, and the Gruber Prize in cosmology. His new book is Back to the Moon: The Next Giant Leap for Humankind.Johns Hopkins web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsAIP Oral History interviewWikipediaSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
17/07/231h 11m

242 | David Krakauer on Complexity, Agency, and Information

Complexity scientists have been able to make an impressive amount of progress despite the fact that there is not universal agreement about what "complexity" actually is. We know it when we see it, perhaps, but there are a number of aspects to the phenomenon, and different researchers will naturally focus on their favorites. Today's guest, David Krakauer, is president of the Santa Fe Institute and a longtime researcher in complexity. He points the finger at the concept of agency. A ball rolling down a hill just mindlessly obeys equations of motion, but a complex system gathers information and uses it to adapt. We talk about what that means and how to think about the current state of complexity science.Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/07/10/242-david-krakauer-on-complexity-agency-and-information/Support Mindscape on Patreon.David Krakauer received his D.Phil. in evolutionary biology from Oxford University. He is currently President and William H. Miller Professor of Complex Systems at the Santa Fe Institute. Previously he was at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he was the founding director of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery and the Co-director of the Center for Complexity and Collective Computation. He was included in Wired magazine's list of "50 People Who Will Change the World."Web siteSanta Fe Institute web pageWikipediaGoogle ScholarSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
10/07/231h 33m

AMA | July 2023

Welcome to the July 2023 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). We take questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable number -- based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good -- and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic.We're experimenting with a new benefit for Patreon supporters: short video (or audio-only) reflections by me on the podcast that just happened. If you've been wondering whether to join up, this could be the time.Blog post with questions and transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/07/03/ama-july-2023/See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
03/07/233h 4m

241 | Tim Maudlin on Locality, Hidden Variables, and Quantum Foundations

Last year's Nobel Prize for experimental tests of Bell's Theorem was the first Nobel in the foundations of quantum mechanics since Max Born in 1954. Quantum foundations is enjoying a bit of a resurgence, inspired in part by improving quantum technology but also by a realization that understanding quantum mechanics might help with other problems in physics (and be important in its own right). Tim Maudlin is a leading philosopher of physics and also a skeptic of the Everett interpretation. We discuss the logic behind hidden-variable approaches such as Bohmian mechanics, and also the broader question of the importance of the foundations of physics.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/06/26/241-tim-maudlin-on-locality-hidden-variables-and-quantum-foundations/Tim Maudlin received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh. He is currently a professor of philosophy at New York University. He is a member of the Academie Internationale de Philosophie des Sciences and the Foundational Questions Institute (FQXi). He has been a Guggenheim Fellow. He is the founder and director of the John Bell Institute for the Foundations of Physics in Croatia.Web siteNYU web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsPhilPeople profileAmazon author pageWikipediaContribute to the John Bell Institute!See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
26/06/231h 33m

240 | Andrew Pontzen on Simulations and the Universe

It's somewhat amazing that cosmology, the study of the universe as a whole, can make any progress at all. But it has, especially so in recent decades. Partly that's because nature has been kind to us in some ways: the universe is quite a simple place on large scales and at early times. Another reason is a leap forward in the data we have collected, and in the growing use of a powerful tool: computer simulations. I talk with cosmologist Andrew Pontzen on what we know about the universe, and how simulations have helped us figure it out. We also touch on hot topics in cosmology (early galaxies discovered by JWST) as well as philosophical issues (are simulations data or theory?).Support Mindscape on Patreon.Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/06/19/240-andrew-pontz…and-the-universe/Andrew Pontzen received his Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Cambridge. He is currently Professor of Cosmology at University College London. In addition to his research in cosmology, he frequently writes popular articles and appears in science documentaries. His new book is The Universe in a Box: Simulations and the Quest to Code the Cosmos.Web siteUCL web pagePublications at arxiv.orgTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
19/06/231h 26m

239 | Brian Lowery on the Social Self

There is an image, especially in Western cultures, of the rugged, authentic, self-made individual choosing how to navigate the intricacies of the social world. But there is no mystical soul within us, manifesting as the immutable essence of self. What we think of as our "self" is shaped by our environment and our genes, and most of all by our interactions with other people. Psychologist Brian Lowery argues for a strong version of this thesis, positing that our sense of self is largely a social construct. We talk about the implications of this idea, and what it means for shifting notions of personal identity.Post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/06/12/239-brian-lowery-on-the-social-self/Support Mindscape on Patreon.Brian Lowery received his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of California Los Angeles. He is currently Walter Kenneth Kilpatrick Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford University Graduate School of Business. His new book is Selfless: The Social Creation of "You."Web pageWikipediaAmazon author pageTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
12/06/231h 10m

AMA | June 2023

Welcome to the June 2023 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). We take questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable number -- based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good -- and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy!Post with questions and full transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/06/05/ama-june-2023/Support Mindscape on Patreon.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
05/06/232h 58m

238 | Scott Shapiro on the Technology and Philosophy of Hacking

Modern computers are somewhat more secure against being hacked - either by an inanimate virus or a human interloper - than they used to be. But as our lives are increasingly intertwined with computers, the dangers that hacking poses are enormously greater. Why don't we just build unhackable computers? Scott Shapiro, who is a law professor and philosopher, explains why that's essentially impossible. On a philosophical level, computers rely on an essential equivalence between "data" and "code," which is vulnerable to exploitation. And on a psychological level, human beings will always be the weakest link in the chain of security.Web page with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/05/29/238-scott-shapiro-on-the-technology-and-philosophy-of-hacking/Support Mindscape on Patreon.Scott Shapiro received a J.D. from Yale Law School and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Columbia. He is currently the Charles F Southmayd Prof of Law and Philosophy at Yale University. He is the Director of the Yale Center for Law and Philosophy and also Director of the Yale Cybersecurity Lab. He is the Co-Editor of Legal Theory, and Co-Editor for philosophy of Law at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. His new book is Fancy Bear Goes Phishing: The Dark History of the Information Age, in Five Extraordinary Hacks.Yale web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
29/05/231h 27m

237 | Brooke Harrington on Offshore Wealth as a Complex System

The modern world is large and interconnected, and there are a lot of systems that might be important to how it functions but about which most people are barely aware. One of these is the offshore wealth management network, which wealthy individuals can use both legitimately (to invest and plan their money) and less legitimately (to avoid taxation or hide questionable practices generally). Brooke Harrington is a sociologist who has studied offshore wealth management, including by training to be one. In a recent paper, she and colleagues analyze networks of offshore wealth managers as a complex system, uncovering power-law behavior and interesting nation-dependent network structures.Web site with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/05/22/237-brooke-harrington-on-offshore-wealth-as-a-complex-system/Support Mindscape on Patreon.Brooke Harrington received her Ph.D. in sociology from Harvard University. She is currently a professor of sociology at Dartmouth College. Among her awards are the IPM Outstanding Book Award from the American Sociological Association. She is the author of Capital Without Borders: Wealth Management and the One Percent.Web siteDartmouth web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsAmazon author pageWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
22/05/231h 17m

236 | Thomas Hertog on Quantum Cosmology and Hawking's Final Theory

Is there a multiverse, and if so, how should we think of ourselves within it? In many modern cosmological models, the universe includes more than one realm, with possibly different laws of physics, and these realms may or may not include intelligent observers. There is a longstanding puzzle about how, in such a scenario, we should calculate what we, as presumably intelligent observers ourselves, should expect to see. Today's guest, Thomas Hertog, is a physicist and longstanding collaborator of Stephen Hawking. They worked together (often with James Hartle) to address these questions, and the work is still ongoing.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Thomas Hertog received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Cambridge. He is currently a professor of theoretical physics at KU Leuven. His new book is On the Origin of Time: Stephen Hawking's Final Theory.KU Leuven web pageWikipediaGoogle Scholar publicationsSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
15/05/231h 8m

AMA | May 2023

Welcome to the May 2023 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). We take questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable number — based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good — and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy!Support Mindscape on Patreon.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
08/05/233h 8m

235 | Andy Clark on the Extended and Predictive Mind

What is the mind, and what does it try to do? An overly simplified materialist view might be that the mind emerges from physical processes in the brain. But you can be a materialist and still recognize that there is more to the mind than just the brain: the rest of our bodies play a role, and arguably we should count physical artifacts that contribute to our memory and cognition as part of "the mind." Or so argues today's guest, philosopher/cognitive scientist Andy Clark. As to what the mind does, it tries to predict what happens next. This simple idea provides a powerful lens through which to interpret all the different things our minds do, including the idea that "perception is controlled hallucination."Support Mindscape on Patreon.Andy Clark received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Sussex. He is currently Professor of Cognitive Philosophy at Sussex. He was Director of the Philosophy/Neuroscience/Psychology Program at Washington University in St Louis, and Director of the Cogntive Science Program at Indiana University. His new book is The Experience Machine: How Our Minds Predict and Shape Reality.Sussex web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaNew Yorker profileSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
01/05/231h 21m

234 | Tobias Warnecke on Cellular Structure and Evolution

Eukaryotic cells manage to pull off a number of remarkable feats. One is packing quite a long DNA molecule, with potentially billions of base pairs, into a tiny central nucleus. A key role is played by histones, proteins that provide scaffolding for DNA to wrap around. Histones also appear in archaea (one of the other domains of life), but until recently there wasn't evidence for them in bacteria (the final of the three domains). Todays guest, Tobias Warnecke, is an author on a recent paper that claims to provide such evidence. We discuss this new result, as well as background questions of how cells evolved and what their current structure can teach us about their histories.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Tobias Warnecke received his Ph.D. in biology from the University of Bath. He is currently a Programme Leader and MRC Investigator at the London Institute of Medical Sciences. He is a co-author on A. Hochner et al. (2023), "Histone-Organized Chromatin in Bacteria."Web pageLab web siteGoogle Scholar publicationsTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
24/04/231h 6m

233 | Hugo Mercier on Reasoning and Skepticism

Here at the Mindscape Podcast, we are firmly pro-reason. But what does that mean, fundamentally and in practice? How did humanity come into the idea of not just doing things, but doing things for reasons? In this episode we talk with cognitive scientist Hugo Mercier about these issues. He is the co-author (with Dan Sperber) of The Enigma of Reason, about how the notion of reason came to be, and more recently author of Not Born Yesterday, about who we trust and what we believe. He argues that our main shortcoming is not being insufficiently skeptical of radical claims, but of being too skeptical of claims that don't fit our views.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Hugo Mercier received a Ph.D. in cognitive sciences from the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. He is currently a Permanent CNRS Research Scientist at the Institut Jean Nicod, Paris. Among his awards are the Prime d’excellence from the CNRS.Web siteGoogle Scholar publicationsAmazon author pageTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
17/04/231h 12m

232 | Amy Finkelstein on Adverse Selection and Hidden Information

If you knew exactly when every person was going to die, or require medical care, you could make a killing buying and selling insurance. Nobody knows these things, of course -- the future is hard to predict -- but some people know something about the future that other people don't. This sets up adverse selection: the ability of one party to leverage information another party doesn't have, in order to gain an economic advantage. Economist Amy Finkelstein is an expert in this phenomenon, as well as the usefulness of empirical studies in economic research.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Amy Finkelstein received her Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is currently John & Jennie S. MacDonald Professor of Economics at MIT. She is the co-director and research associate of the Public Economics Program at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and the co-Scientific Director of J-PAL North America. Among her awards are a MacArthur Fellowship and the John Bates Clark Medal. Her recent book, with co-authors Liran Einav and Ray Fisman, is Risky Business: Why Insurance Markets Fail and What to Do About It.Web pageWikipediaGoogle Scholar publicationsSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
10/04/231h 13m

Ask Me Anything | April 2023

Welcome to the April 2023 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). We take questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable number — based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good — and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy!See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
03/04/234h 4m

231 | Sarah Bakewell on the History of Humanism

Human beings are small compared to the universe, but we're very important to ourselves. Humanism can be thought of as the idea that human beings are themselves the source of meaningfulness and mattering in our lives, rather than those being granted to us by some higher power. In today's episode, Sarah Bakewell discusses the origin and evolution of this dramatic idea. Humanism turns out to be a complex thing; there are religious humanists and atheistic anti-humanists. Her new book is Humanly Possible: 700 Years of Humanist Freethinking, Inquiry, and Hope.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Sarah Bakewell did postgraduate work in philosophy and artificial intelligence before becoming a full-time author. Among her previous books are How to Live: a life of Montaigne, and At the Existentialist Cafe. She has been awarded the National Book Critics Circle award in biography, as well as the Windham-Campbell Prize in non-fiction.Web siteWikipediaAmazon author pageTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
27/03/231h 21m

230 | Raphaël Millière on How Artificial Intelligence Thinks

Welcome to another episode of Sean Carroll's Mindscape. Today, we're joined by Raphaël Millière, a philosopher and cognitive scientist at Columbia University. We'll be exploring the fascinating topic of how artificial intelligence thinks and processes information. As AI becomes increasingly prevalent in our daily lives, it's important to understand the mechanisms behind its decision-making processes. What are the algorithms and models that underpin AI, and how do they differ from human thought processes? How do machines learn from data, and what are the limitations of this learning? These are just some of the questions we'll be exploring in this episode. Raphaël will be sharing insights from his work in cognitive science, and discussing the latest developments in this rapidly evolving field. So join us as we dive into the mind of artificial intelligence and explore how it thinks.[The above introduction was artificially generated by ChatGPT.]Support Mindscape on Patreon.Raphaël Millière received a DPhil in philosophy from the University of Oxford. He is currently a Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience at the Center for Science and Society, and a Lecturer in the Philosophy Department at Columbia University. He also writes and organizes events aimed at a broader audience, including a recent workshop on The Challenge of Compositionality for Artificial Intelligence.Web siteColumbia web pagePhilPeople profileGoogle Scholar publicationsTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
20/03/231h 57m

229 | Nita Farahany on Ethics, Law, and Neurotechnology

Every time our brain does some thinking, there are associated physical processes. In particular, electric currents and charged particles jump between neurons, creating associated electromagnetic fields. These fields can in principle be detected with proper technology, opening the possibility for reading your mind. That technology is currently primitive, but rapidly advancing, and it's not too early to start thinking about legal and ethical consequences when governments and corporations have access to your thoughts. Nita Farahany is a law professor and bioethicist who discusses these issues in her new book, The Battle for Your Brain: Defending the Right to Think Freely in the Age of Neurotechnology.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Nita Farahany received a J.D. and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Duke University. She is currently the Robinson O. Everett Distinguished Professor of Law & Philosophy at Duke, as well as Founding Director of the Duke Initiative for Science & Society. She has served on a number of government commissions, including the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. She is a Fellow of the American Law Institute and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and was awarded the Duke Law School Distinguished Teaching Award.Web siteDuke web pageWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
13/03/231h 11m

AMA | March 2023

Welcome to the March 2023 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). We take questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable number — based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good — and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy!See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
06/03/233h 1m

228 | Skye Cleary on Existentialism and Authenticity

God is dead, as Nietzsche’s madman memorably reminded us. So what are we going to do about it? If there is no powerful force out there to guide us and give meaning to our lives, how are we supposed to live? Do we have to come up with meaning and purpose ourselves? Apparently so, and how to pull it off was a major question addressed by the existentialist movement. Skye Cleary turns to Simone de Beauvoir, in particular, for thoughts on how to construct an authentic life. Her recent book is How to Be Authentic: Simone de Beauvoir and the Quest for Fulfillment.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Skye Cleary received a Ph.D. and an MBA from Macquarie University. She is an author and philosopher and also teaches at Columbia University and the City College of New York. Her writing has appeared in The Paris Review, Aeon, The Times Literary Supplement, TED-Ed, and The Los Angeles Review of Books, among other outlets. She won the 2017 New Philosopher Writers’ Award and was a 2021 MacDowell Fellow. Web sitePhilPeople profileAmazon author pageTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
27/02/231h 16m

227 | Molly Crockett on the Psychology of Morality

Most of us strive to be good, moral people. When we are doing that striving, what is happening in our brains? Some of our moral inclinations seem pretty automatic and subconscious. Other times we have to sit down and deploy our full cognitive faculties to reason through a tricky moral dilemma. I talk with psychologist Molly Crockett about where our moral intuitions come from, how they can sometimes serve as cover for bad behaviors, and how morality shapes our self-image.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Molly J. Crockett received her Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from the University of Cambridge. She is currently Associate Professor of Psychology and University Center for Human Values at Princeton University. She is a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science and the Society for Experimental Social Psychology.Web sitePrinceton web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
20/02/231h 11m

226 | Johanna Hoffman on Speculative Futures of Cities

Cities are incredibly important to modern life, and their importance is only growing. As Geoffrey West points out, the world is adding urban areas equivalent to the population of San Francisco once every four days. How those areas get designed and structured is a complicated interplay between top-down planning and the collective choices of millions of inhabitants. As the world is changing and urbanization increases, it will be crucial to imagine how cities might serve our needs even better. Johanna Hoffman is an urbanist who harnesses imagination to make cities more sustainable and equitable.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Johanna Hoffman received an MLA in landscape architecture and environmental planning from UC Berkeley. She is the co-founder and Director of Planning at urban futures firm Design for Adaptation. She has won fellowships from the European Futures Observatory and the Berggruen Institute, and served as Artist in Residence at the Buckminster Fuller Institute. Her new book is Speculative Futures: Design Approaches to Navigate Change, Foster Resilience, and Co-Create the Cities We Need.Web siteDesign for AdaptationBerggruen Fellow profileAmazon author pageSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
13/02/231h 12m

AMA | February 2023

Welcome to the February 2023 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). We take questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable number — based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good — and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy!Support Mindscape on Patreon.The big news this month is the successful awarding of the first ever Mindscape Big Picture Scholarship. Congratulations to Lyat Melese and Rehman Hassan! We continue to collection donations for next year’s scholarship contest.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
06/02/233h 7m

225 | Michael Tomasello on The Social Origins of Cognition and Agency

Human beings have developed wondrous capacities to take in information about the world, mull it over, think about a suite of future implications, and decide on a course of action based on those deliberations. These abilities developed over evolutionary history for a variety of reasons and under a number of different pressures. But one crucially important aspect of their development is their social function. According to Michael Tomasello, we developed agency and cognition and even morality in order to better communicate and cooperate with our fellow humans. Support Mindscape on Patreon.Michael Tomasello received a Ph.D. in experimental psychology from the University of Georgia. He is currently the James Bonk Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience and Director of the Developmental Psychology Program at Duke University. He is a fellow of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Among his awards are the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the American Psychological Association, the Wiley Prize in Psychology, and the Heineken Prize for Cognitive Science. His newest book is The Evolution of Agency: Behavioral Organization from Lizards to Humans.Web siteDuke web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaAmazon author page See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
30/01/231h 22m

224 | Edward Tufte on Data, Design, and Truth

So you have some information — how are you going to share it with and present it to the rest of the world? There has been a long history of organizing and displaying information without putting too much thought into it, but Edward Tufte has done an enormous amount to change that. Beginning with The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, and continuing to his new book Seeing With Fresh Eyes: Meaning, Space, Data, Truth, Tufte’s works have shaped how we think about charts, graphs, and other forms of presenting data. We talk about information, design, and how thinking about data reflects how we think about the world.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Edward Tufte received his Ph.D. in political science from Yale University. He has been a professor of public affairs at Princeton and of political science, statistics, and computer science at Yale, where he is currently emeritus professor. He is the founder and owner of Graphics Press, and his books have sold nearly 2 million copies worldwide. He is an active artist and sculptor, as well as a touring lecturer.Web siteYale web pageAmazon.com author pageWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
23/01/231h 16m

223 | Tania Lombrozo on What Explanations Are

There are few human impulses more primal than the desire for explanations. We have expectations concerning what happens, and when what we experience differs from those expectations, we want to know the reason why. There are obvious philosophy questions here: What is an explanation? Do explanations bottom out, or go forever? But there are also psychology questions: What precisely is it that we seek when we demand an explanation? What makes us satisfied with one? Tania Lombrozo is a psychologist who is also conversant with the philosophical side of things. She offers some pretty convincing explanations for why we value explanation so highly.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Tania Lombrozo received her Ph.D. in psychology from Harvard University. She is currently a professor of psychology at Princeton. Among her awards are the Gittier Award from the American Psychological Foundation, an Early Investigator Award from the Society of Experimental Psychologists, and the Stanton Prize from the Society for Philosophy and Psychology.Web pageConcepts and Cognition LabGoogle Scholar publicationsPsychology Today articlesWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
16/01/231h 10m

222 | Andrew Strominger on Quantum Gravity and the Real World

Quantum gravity research is inspired by experiment — all of the experimental data that supports quantum mechanics, and supports general relativity — but it’s only inspiration, not detailed guidance. So it’s easy to “do research on quantum gravity” and get lost in a world of toy models and mathematical abstraction. Today’s guest, Andrew Strominger, is a leading researcher in string theory and quantum gravity, and one who has always kept his eyes on the prize: connecting to the real world. We talk about the development of string theory, the puzzle of a positive cosmological constant, and how black holes and string theory can teach us about each other. Support Mindscape on Patreon.Andrew Strominger received his Ph.D. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is currently the Gwill E. York Professor of Physics at Harvard University. Among his awards are the Dirac Medal, the Klein Medal, the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.Web pageInSpire publicationsWikipediaSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
09/01/231h 24m

221 | Adam Bulley on How Mental Time Travel Makes Us Human

One of the most powerful of all human capacities is the ability to imagine ourselves in hypothetical situations at different times. We can remember the past, but also conjure up possible futures that haven’t yet happened. This simple ability underlies our capability to organize socially and make contracts with other people. Today’s guest, psychologist Adam Bulley, argues that it’s the primary feature that makes us recognizably human, as he argues in the new book The Invention of Tomorrow: A Natural History of Foresight (with Thomas Suddendorf and Jonathan Redshaw).Support Mindscape on Patreon.Adam Bulley received his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Queensland. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Brain and Mind Centre and School of Psychology, The University of Sydney, and the Department of Psychology at Harvard University.Web siteHarvard web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
02/01/231h 20m

Holiday Message 2022: Thinking Really Slowly

Welcome to that beloved Mindscape annual tradition, the Holiday Message. An opportunity for a quicker and less-well-thought-out solo episode to round off another year. Ironically, this year the theme is the importance of slowing down and thinking things out really well! Illustrated by two things that have been on my mind: a couple of internet/tech kerfuffles (Elon Musk buying Twitter, Sam Bankman-Fried and the collapse of FTX), and the distinction between foundations of physics and “regular” physics. See if you can dimly perceive the thread that ties them together.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
19/12/2247m 51s

220 | Lara Buchak on Risk and Rationality

Life is rich with moments of uncertainty, where we’re not exactly sure what’s going to happen next. We often find ourselves in situations where we have to choose between different kinds of uncertainty; maybe one option is very likely to have a “pretty good” outcome, while another has some probability for “great” and some for “truly awful.” In such circumstances, what’s the rational way to choose? Is it rational to go to great lengths to avoid choices where the worst outcome is very bad? Lara Buchak argues that it is, thereby expanding and generalizing the usual rules of rational choice in conditions of risk.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Lara Buchak received a Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University. She is currently a professor of philosophy at Princeton. Her research interests include decision theory, social choice theory, epistemology, ethics, and the philosophy of religion. She was the inaugural winner of the Alvin Plantinga Prize of the American Philosophical Association. Her book Risk and Rationality proposes a new way of dealing with risk in rational-choice theory.Web sitePrinceton web pagePhilPeople profileGoogle Scholar publicationsSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
12/12/221h 16m

AMA | December 2022

Welcome to the December 2022 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). We take questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable number — based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good — and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy!Remember that I take a holiday break at the end of the year, so the next AMA will be at the beginning of February.Support Mindscape on Patreon.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
05/12/223h 15m

219 | Dani Bassett and Perry Zurn on the Neuroscience and Philosophy of Curiosity

It’s easy enough to proclaim that we are curious creatures, but what does that really mean? What kinds of curiosity are there? And how does curiosity arise in our brains? Perry Zurn and Dani Bassett are a philosopher and neuroscientist, respectively (as well as twins), whose new book Curious Minds: The Power of Connection explores these questions through an interdisciplinary lens. We break down the different ways that curiosity can manifest — collecting and creating loose knowledge networks, digging deeply to create a tight knowledge network, and creatively leaping to make unexpected connections. Support Mindscape on Patreon.Perry Zurn received a Ph.D. in philosophy from DePaul University. He is currently an Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies in Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at American University. He is the co-founder of the Trans Philosophy Project and the associated Thinking Trans // Trans Thinking Conference. Among his previous works is Curiosity and Power: The Politics of Inquiry.Web siteAmerican University web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsPhilPeople profileTwitterDani Bassett received a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Cambridge. They are currently the J. Peter Skirkanich Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, with appointments in the Departments of Bioengineering, Electrical & Systems Engineering, Physics & Astronomy, Neurology, and Psychiatry, as well as an external professor of the Santa Fe Institute. Among their awards are the Macarthur Fellowship, the Lagrange Prize in Complex Systems Science (2017), and the Erdos-Renyi Prize in Network Science.University of Pennsylvania web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
28/11/221h 2m

218 | Raphael Bousso on Black Holes and the Holographic Universe

Stephen Hawking’s discoveries of black hole radiation, entropy, and the information-loss problem have both taught us an enormous amount about the relationship between quantum mechanics and gravity, and also left us with some knotty puzzles. One major insight is the holographic principle: the information describing a black hole can be thought of as living on the event horizon (the two-dimensional boundary of the hole), rather than distributed throughout its volume, as normal physics would lead us to expect. Raphael Bousso has made important contributions to our understanding of holography and its implications. We talk about the modern point of view of how gravity relates to quantum mechanics.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Raphael Bousso received his Ph.D. in physics from Cambridge University, where his advisor was Stephen Hawking. He is currently a professor of physics at UC Berkeley. He has made pioneering contributions to our understanding of black hole information, the holographic principle, the string theory landscape, and multiverse cosmology.Web pageInspire publicationsWikipedia TwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
21/11/221h 21m

217 | Margaret Levi on Moral Political Economy

Why do people voluntarily hand over authority to a government? Under what conditions should they do so? These questions are both timeless and extremely timely, as modern democratic governments struggle with stability and legitimacy. They also bring questions from moral and political philosophy into conversations with empirically-minded social science. Margaret Levi is a leading political scientist who has focused on political economy and the nature of trust in government and other institutions. We talk about what democracy means, its current state, and how we can make it better.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Margaret Levi received her Ph.D. in political science from Harvard University. She is currently Professor of Political Science and Senior Fellow at the Center for Democracy, Development and Rule of Law at the Freeman Spogli Institute at Stanford University. She is also co-director of the Stanford Ethics, Society and Technology Hub, and the Jere L. Bacharach Professor Emerita of International Studies at the University of Washington. She is the winner of the 2019 Johan Skytte Prize and the 2020 Falling Walls Breakthrough. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the British Academy, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Association of Political and Social Sciences. She served as president of the American Political Science Association from 2004 to 2005. In 2014 she received the William H. Riker Prize in Political Science, in 2017 gave the Elinor Ostrom Memorial Lecture, and in 2018 received an honorary doctorate from Universidad Carlos III de Madrid.Web pageStanford web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsAmazon author pageWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
14/11/221h 21m

AMA | November 2022

Welcome to the November 2022 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). We take questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable number — based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good — and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy!Support Mindscape on Patreon.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
07/11/223h

216 | John Allen Paulos on Numbers, Narratives, and Numeracy

People have a complicated relationship to mathematics. We all use it in our everyday lives, from calculating a tip at a restaurant to estimating the probability of some future event. But many people find the subject intimidating, if not off-putting. John Allen Paulos has long been working to make mathematics more approachable and encourage people to become more numerate. We talk about how people think about math, what kinds of math they should know, and the role of stories and narrative to make math come alive. Support Mindscape on Patreon.John Allen Paulos received his Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is currently a professor of mathematics at Temple University. He s a bestselling author, and frequent contributor to publications such as ABCNews.com, the Guardian, and Scientific American. Among his awards are the Science Communication award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Mathematics Communication Award from the Joint Policy Board of Mathematics. His new book is Who’s Counting? Uniting Numbers and Narratives with Stories from Pop Culture, Puzzles, Politics, and More.Web pageWikipediaAmazon author pageTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
31/10/221h 10m

215 | Barry Loewer on Physics, Counterfactuals, and the Macroworld

The founders of statistical mechanics in the 19th century faced an uphill battle to convince their fellow physicists that the laws of thermodynamics could be derived from the random motions of microscopic atoms. This insight turns out to be even more important than they realized: the emergence of patterns characterizing our macroscopic world relies crucially on the increase of entropy over time. Barry Loewer has (in collaboration with David Albert) been developing a theory of the Mentaculus — the probability map of the world — that connects microscopic physics to time, causation, and other familiar features of our experience.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Barry Loewer received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Stanford University. He is currently distinguished professor of philosophy at Rutgers University. His research focuses on the foundations of physics and the metaphysics of laws and chance.Web pagePhilPeople profileGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaAmazon author pageSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
24/10/221h 34m

214 | Antonio Padilla on Large Numbers and the Scope of the Universe

It’s a big universe we live in, so it comes as no surprise that big numbers are needed to describe it. There are roughly 10^22 stars in the observable universe, and about 10^88 particles altogether. But these numbers are nothing compared to some of the truly ginormous quantities that mathematicians have found to talk about, with inscrutable names like Graham’s Number and TREE(3). Could such immense numbers have any meaningful relationship with the physical world? In his recent book Fantastic Numbers and Where to Find Them, theoretical physicist Antonio Padilla explores both our actual universe and the abstract world of immense numbers, and finds surprising connections between them.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Antonio (Tony) Padilla received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Durham. He is currently a Royal Society Research Fellow in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Nottingham. He is a frequent contributor to the YouTube series Sixty Symbols and Numberphile.Web pageNottingham staff pageGoogle Scholar publicationsAmazon author pageTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
17/10/221h 15m

AMA | October 2022

Welcome to the October 2022 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). We take questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable number — based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good — and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy!Support Mindscape on Patreon.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
10/10/223h 1m

213 | Timiebi Aganaba on Law and Governance in Space

With communication satellites, weather satellites, GPS, and much more, what happens in space is already important to our lives here on Earth. And the importance of space is only going to grow as we increase the presence of humans, whether in Earth orbit or beyond. So the questions of what laws govern activity in space, and how nations and institutions should practice good governance more generally, are becoming increasingly urgent. Timiebi Aganaba is an academic and space lawyer who has experience experience in a wide variety of context and countries. We talk about the current status of space law and how to guarantee good governance going forward.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Timiebi Aganaba received Ph.D. and LL.M. degrees from the Institute of Air and Space Law at McGill University. She is currently an assistant professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society at Arizona State University, with a courtesy appointment at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. She is also an affiliate faculty with the Interplanetary Initiative and a senior global futures scientist with the Global Futures Lab at ASU. She served as Executive Director of the World Space Week Association, and currently serves on advisory boards for the UN Space Generation Advisory Council, the Board of World View Enterprises, and the SETI Institute. She was the recipient of a Space Leaders Award from the International Astronautical Federation and her doctorate received the George and Ann Robinson Award for advanced research capabilities.Web siteASU web pageSpaceTV profileWorld Space WeekSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
03/10/221h 16m

212 | Chiara Mingarelli on Searching for Black Holes with Pulsars

The detection of gravitational waves from inspiraling black holes by the LIGO and Virgo collaborations was rightly celebrated as a landmark achievement in physics and astronomy. But ultra-precise ground-based observatories aren’t the only way to detect gravitational waves; we can also search for their imprints on the timing of signals from pulsars scattered throughout our galaxy. Chiara Mingarelli is a member of the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav) collaboration, which uses pulsar timing to study the universe using gravitational waves.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Chiara Mingarelli received her Ph.D. in physics from the University of Birmingham. She is currently an assistant professor of physics at the University of Connecticut and a research scientist at the Flatiron Institute Center for Computational Astrophysics. Her Ph.D. thesis was selected by Springer Nature as an Outstanding PhD thesis, and she was selected as a “Voice of the Future” by the Royal Astronomical Society. She regularly contributes to science communication, including Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls and the Science Channel’s “How the Universe Works."Web siteSimons Foundation web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
26/09/221h 26m

211 | Solo: Secrets of Einstein's Equation

My little pandemic-lockdown contribution to the world was a series of videos called The Biggest Ideas in the Universe. The idea was to explain physics in a pedagogical way, concentrating on established ideas rather than speculations, with the twist that I tried to include and explain any equations that seemed useful, even though no prior mathematical knowledge was presumed. I’m in the process of writing a series of three books inspired by those videos, and the first one is coming out now: The Biggest Ideas In The Universe: Space, Time, and Motion. For this solo episode I go through one of the highlights from the book: explaining the mathematical and physical basis of Einstein’s equation of general relativity, relating mass and energy to the curvature of spacetime. Hope it works!Support Mindscape on Patreon.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
19/09/221h 51m

210 | Randall Munroe on Imagining What If...?

What’s the fastest way to get a human being around a racetrack, if we ignore all the rules of racing? How many pages would you have to read to absorb all of the government laws that apply to you? It’s hard to imagine a better person to tackle these kinds of slightly-askew questions than Randall Munroe, creator of the xkcd webcomic. He collected some answers in his book What If?, and has released a sequel, What If? 2. We dive into how one goes about choosing the right questions and answering them, and how to make it funny along the way.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Randall Munroe received a degree in physics from Christopher Newport University, before working for a while at NASA’s Langley Research Center. He is now the creator of xkcd and the author of several books. What If? and What If? 2 are based on a regular feature in which he tackles questions asked by readers.Web siteAmazon author pageExplain xkcdWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
12/09/221h 8m

209 | Brad DeLong on Why the 20th Century Fell Short of Utopia

People throughout history have imagined ideal societies of various sorts. As the twentieth century dawned, advances in manufacturing and communication arguably brought the idea of utopia within our practical reach, at least as far as economic necessities are concerned. But we failed to achieve it, to say the least. Brad DeLong’s new book, Slouching Towards Utopia: An Economic History of the Twentieth Century, investigates why. He compares the competing political and economic systems that dominated the “long 20th century” from 1870 to 2010, and how we managed to create such enormous wealth and still be left with such intractable problems.Support Mindscape on Patreon.J. Bradford DeLong received his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University. He is currently a professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley. and chief economist at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He previously served as deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury for Economic Policy from 1993 to 1995. He has been a long-running blogger, now moved to Substack. He is a co-editor of The Economists’ Voice.Web siteBerkeley web pageSubstack/blogGoogle Scholar publicationsPodcast (with Noah Smith)WikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
05/09/221h 24m

AMA | September 2022

Welcome to the September 2022 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). We take questions asked by Patrons, whittle them down to a more manageable number — based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good — and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy!Support Mindscape on Patreon.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
29/08/223h 30m

208 | Rick Beato on the Theory of Popular Music

There is no human endeavor that does not have a theory of it — a set of ideas about what makes it work and how to do it well. Music is no exception, popular music included — there are reasons why certain keys, chord changes, and rhythmic structures have proven successful over the years. Nobody has done more to help people understand the theoretical underpinnings of popular music than today’s guest, Rick Beato. His YouTube videos dig into how songs work and what makes them great. We talk about music theory and how it contributes to our appreciation of all kinds of music.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Rick Beato obtained a master’s degree in jazz studies from the New England Conservatory of Music. He is currently a producer and owner of Black Dog Sound Studios in Georgia, as well as host of a popular YouTube channel. He has worked as a session musician, songwriter, and lecturer at Berklee College of Music and elsewhere. He is the author of The Beato Book Interactive as well as other music-training tools.Web siteYouTube channelDiscogs pageAllMusic pageWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
22/08/221h 11m

207 | William MacAskill on Maximizing Good in the Present and Future

It’s always a little humbling to think about what affects your words and actions might have on other people, not only right now but potentially well into the future. Now take that humble feeling and promote it to all of humanity, and arbitrarily far in time. How do our actions as a society affect all the potential generations to come? William MacAskill is best known as a founder of the Effective Altruism movement, and is now the author of What We Owe the Future. In this new book he makes the case for longtermism: the idea that we should put substantial effort into positively influencing the long-term future. We talk about the pros and cons of that view, including the underlying philosophical presuppositions.Mindscape listeners can get 50% off What We Owe the Future, thanks to a partnership between the Forethought Foundation and Bookshop.org. Just click here and use code MINDSCAPE50 at checkout.Support Mindscape on Patreon.William (Will) MacAskill received his D.Phil. in philosophy from the University of Oxford. He is currently an associate professor of philosophy at Oxford, as well as a research fellow at the Global Priorities Institute, director of the Forefront Foundation for Global Priorities Research, President of the Centre for Effective Altruism, and co-founder of 80,000 hours and Giving What We Can.Web sitePhilPeople profileGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
15/08/221h 42m

206 | Simon Conway Morris on Evolution, Convergence, and Theism

Evolution by natural selection is one of the rare scientific theories that resonates within the wider culture as much as it does within science. But as much as people know about evolution, we also find the growth of corresponding myths. Simon Conway Morris is a paleontologist and evolutionary biologist who’s new book is From Extraterrestrials to Animal Minds: Six Myths of Evolution. He is known as a defender of evolutionary convergence and adaptationism — even when there is a mass extinction, he argues, the resulting shake-up simply accelerates the developments evolution would have made anyway. We talk about this, and also about the possible role of God in an evolutionary worldview.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Simon Conway Morris received his Ph.D. in geology from the University of Cambridge. He is currently an emeritus professor of evolutionary paleobiology in the Department of Earth Sciences at Cambridge. Among his awards are the Walcott Medal of the National Academy of Sciences and the Lyell Medal of the Geological Society of London. Cambridge web pageGoogle scholar publicationsWikipediaAmazon author pageSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
08/08/221h 16m

AMA | August 2022

Welcome to the August 2022 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). We take questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable number — based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good — and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Here is a link to the Mindscape Big Picture Scholarship. Please consider donating!Support Mindscape on Patreon.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
01/08/223h 6m

205 | John Quiggin on Interest Rates and the Information Economy

The idea of an “interest rate” might seem mundane and practical, in comparison to our usual topics around here, but there is a profound philosophical idea lurking in the background: if you lend me money now against the promise of me paying you back more in the future, I am relating the different values that a certain sum has to me at different moments in time. Traditionally, the interest rates set by the government have been a major tool for influencing the economy, but in recent decades they have increasingly fallen near zero. John Quiggin relates this change to the shift from manufacturing to an information economy, and we talk about what that means for the public interest in having information be reliable and widely available. And yes, there is a bit about crypto.Support Mindscape on Patreon.John Quiggin received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of New England. He is currently a VC Senior Fellow in Economics at the University of Queensland. He is a Fellow of the Econometric Society and the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. Among his books are Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among Us and Economics in Two Lessons: Why Markets Work So Well, and Why They Can Fail So Badly.Web siteUniversity of Queensland web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsAmazon author pageWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
25/07/221h 19m

204 | John Asher Johnson on Hunting for Exoplanets

Recent years have seen a revolution in the study of exoplanets, planets that orbit stars other than the Sun (or don’t orbit stars at all). After a few tentative detections in the 1990s, dedicated instruments in the 2000s have now pushed the number of known exoplanets into the thousands, enough to begin to categorize their distribution and properties. Today’s guest is John Asher Johnson, one of the leaders in this field. We talk about the various different ways that exoplanets can be detected, what we know about them know, and what might happen in the future.Support Mindscape on Patreon.John Asher Johnson received his Ph.D. in astrophysics from the University of California, Berkeley. He is currently professor of astronomy at Harvard University. He is the founder and director of the Banneker Institute for summer undergraduate research. Among his awards are the Newton Lacy Pierce Prize from the American Astronomical Society. He is the author of How Do You Find an Exoplanet? Web siteHarvard web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
18/07/221h 15m

203 | N.J. Enfield on Why Language is Good for Lawyers and Not Scientists

We describe the world using language — we can’t help it. And we all know that ordinary language is an imperfect way of communicating rigorous scientific statements, but sometimes it’s the best we can do. Linguist N.J. Enfield argues that the difficulties run more deeply than we might ordinarily suppose. We use language as a descriptive tool, but its origins are found in more social practices — communicating with others to express our feelings and persuade them to agree with us. As such, the very structure of language itself reflects these social purposes, and we have to be careful not to think it provides an unfiltered picture of reality.Support Mindscape on Patreon.N.J. Enfield received his Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Melbourne. He is currently a professor of linguistics and Director of the Sydney Social Sciences and Humanities Advanced Research Centre at the University of Sydney. His recent book is Language vs. Reality: Why Language Is Good for Lawyers and Bad for Scientists.Web siteUniversity of Sydney web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsAmazon author pageSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
11/07/221h 24m

AMA | July 2022

Welcome to the July 2022 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). I take the large number of questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable size — based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good — and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic.Big news this week! Mindscape is working with Bold.org to sponsor a college scholarship for students interested in studying the fundamental nature of reality. Listeners can find more details and donate here. Our immediate goal is to raise $10,000, and I will match the first $5,000, so this shouldn’t be too hard for us here. Hopefully we can raise much more! And hopefully this will help encourage someone who might not otherwise have been able to study this kind of topic.Support Mindscape on Patreon.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
04/07/223h 26m

202 | Andrew Papachristos on the Network Theory of Gun Violence

The United States is suffering from an epidemic of tragic gun violence. While a political debate rages around the topic of gun control, it remains important to understand the causes and possible remedies for gun violence within the current system. Andrew Papachristos is a sociologist who uses applied network science to study patterns of street violence in urban areas. His research shows that such violence is highly non-random; knowing something about the social networks of perpetrators and victims can help identify who might be at heightened risk of gun violence. It’s an interesting example of applying ideas from mathematics and computer science to real-world social situations.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Andrew Papachristos received his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago. He is currently a professor of sociology at Northwestern University, and a faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research. He is also founding director of the Northwestern Neighborhoods and Networks Initiative.Web siteNorthwestern web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
27/06/221h 15m

201 | Ed Yong on How Animals Sense the World

All of us construct models of the world, and update them on the basis of evidence brought to us by our senses. Scientists try to be more rigorous about it, but we all do it. It’s natural that this process will depend on what form that sensory input takes. We know that animals, for example, are typically better or worse than humans at sight, hearing, and so on. And as Ed Yong points out in his new book, it goes far beyond that, as many animals use completely different sensory modalities, from echolocation to direct sensing of electric fields. We talk about what those different capabilities might mean for the animal’s-eye (and -ear, etc.) view of the world.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Ed Yong received Masters and Bachelors degrees in zoology from Cambridge University, and an M.Phil. in biochemistry from University College London. He is currently a staff writer for The Atlantic. His work has appeared in National Geographic, the New Yorker, Wired, the New York Times, and elsewhere. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in explanatory journalism for his coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among his other awards are the George Polk award for science reporting and the AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Award for in-depth reporting. His new book is An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us.Web siteStories at The AtlanticPulitzer citationWikipediaAmazon author pageTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
20/06/221h 9m

AMA | June 2022

Welcome to the June 2022 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! We are inaugurating a slightly different publication schedule, in which these monthly AMA will take the place of one of the regular Monday episodes, rather than being in addition to all of them. A slight tweak that will hopefully make my obligations a little more manageable.These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). I take the large number of questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable size — based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good — and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy!See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
13/06/223h 4m

200 | Solo: The Philosophy of the Multiverse

The 200th episode of Mindscape! Thanks to everyone for sticking around for this long. To celebrate, a solo episode discussing a set of issues naturally arising at the intersection of philosophy and physics: how to think about probabilities and expectations in a multiverse. Here I am more about explaining the issues than offering correct answers, although I try to do a bit of that as well.Support Mindscape on Patreon.References:Guth, “Inflation and Eternal Inflation“Weinberg, “Living In the Multiverse“Susskind, “The Anthropic Landscape of String Theory“Carroll, Johnson, and Randall, “Dynamical Compactification from De Sitter Space“Sebens and Carroll, “Self-Locating Uncertainty and the Origin of Probability in Everettian Quantum Mechanics“Wald, “Asymptotic behavior of homogeneous cosmological models in the presence of a positive cosmological constant“Gibbons and Hawking, “Cosmological Event Horizons, Thermodynamics, and Particle Creation“Carroll and Chatwin-Davies, “Cosmic Equilibration: A Holographic No-Hair Theorem from the Generalized Second Law“Dyson, Kleban, and Susskind, “Disturbing Implications of a Cosmological Constant“Albrecht and Sorbo, “Can the Universe Afford Inflation?“Boddy, Carroll, and Pollack, “De Sitter Space Without Dynamical Quantum Fluctuations“Carroll, “Why Boltzmann Brains Are Bad“Aguirre, Carroll, and Johnson, “Out of Equilibrium: Understanding Cosmological Evolution to Lower-Entropy States“Carroll, “Beyond Falsifiabiliy: Normal Science in a Multiverse“Carter and McCrea, “The Anthropic Principle and its Implications for Biological Evolution“Leslie, “Doomsday Revisited“Gott, “Implications of the Copernican Principle for Our Future Prospects“Bostrom, Anthropic BiasVilenkin, “The Principle of Mediocrity“Olum, “Conflict Between Anthropic Reasoning and Observation“Elga, “Self-Locating Belief and the Sleeping Beauty Problem“Lewis, “Sleeping Beauty: Reply to Elga“Hartle and Srednicki, “Are We Typical?“Hartle and Srednicki, “Science in a Very Large Universe“Neal, “Puzzles of Anthropic Reasoning Resolved Using Fully Non-Indexical Conditioning“See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
06/06/222h 14m

199 | Elizabeth Cohen on Time and Other Political Values

Time is everywhere, pervading each aspect of intellectual inquiry — from physics to philosophy to biology to psychology, and all the way up to politics. Considerations of time help govern a nation’s self-conception, decide who gets to vote and enjoy other privileges, and put limits on the time spent in office. Not to mention the role of time as a precious commodity, one that is used up every time we stand in line or fill out a collection of forms. Elizabeth Cohen shines a light on the role of time in politics and citizenship, a topic that has been neglected by much political theorizing.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Elizabeth Cohen received her Ph.D. in political science from Yale University. She is currently a professor of political science at Syracuse, and in March 2023 will move to Boston University to become the Maxwell Professor of United States Citizenship in the Department of Political Science. Among her awards are the Moynihan Award for Outstanding Research and Teaching at Syracuse and the Best Book award from the American Political Science section on Migration and Citizenship, for The Political Value of Time.Web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaAmazon author pageTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
30/05/221h 12m

198 | Nick Lane on Powering Biology

The origin of life here on Earth was an important and fascinating event, but it was also a long time ago and hasn’t left many pieces of direct evidence concerning what actually happened. One set of clues we have comes from processes in current living organisms, especially those processes that seem extremely common. The Krebs cycle, the sequence of reactions that functions as a pathway for energy distribution in aerobic organisms, is such an example. I talk with biochemist about the importance of the Krebs cycle to contemporary biology, as well as its possible significance in understanding the origin of life.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Nick Lane received his PhD from the Royal Free Hospital Medical School. He is currently a professor of Evolutionary Biochemistry at University College London. He was a founding member of the UCL Consortium for Mitochondrial Research, and is Co-Director of the UCL Centre for Life’s Origin and Evolution. He was awarded the 2009 UCL Provost’s Venture Research Prize, the 2011 BMC Research Award for Genetics, Genomics, Bioinformatics and Evolution, the 2015 Biochemical Society Award, and the 2016 Royal Society Michael Faraday Prize and Lecture. His new book is Transformer: The Deep Chemistry of Life and Death.Web siteUCL web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsAmazon author pageWikipediaSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
23/05/221h 25m

197 | Catherine Brinkley on the Science of Cities

The concept of the city is a crucial one for human civilization: people living in proximity, bringing in resources from outside, separated from the labors of subsistence so they can engage in the trade of goods and ideas. But we are still learning how cities grow and adapt to new conditions, as well as how we can best guide them to be livable as well as functional. I talk with urban scientist Catherine Brinkley about the structure of cities, including the fractal nature of their shapes, as well as what we can do to make cities thrive as much as possible.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Catherine Brinkley received a Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning as well as a degree in Veterinary Medicine from the University of Pennsylvania. She is currently Associate Professor of Human Ecology and Faculty Director at the Center for Regional Change at the University of California, Davis. She has been awarded fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation, the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity, and the Santa Fe Institute.Web siteUC Davis web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsBrinkley and Raj (2022), “Perfusion and Urban Thickness: The Shape of Cities”TwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
16/05/221h 8m

AMA | May 2022

Welcome to the May 2022 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). I take the large number of questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable size — based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good — and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy!Support Mindscape on Patreon.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
12/05/223h 36m

196 | Judea Pearl on Cause and Effect

To say that event A causes event B is to not only make a claim about our actual world, but about other possible worlds — in worlds where A didn’t happen but everything else was the same, B would not have happened. This leads to an obvious difficulty if we want to infer causes from sets of data — we generally only have data about the actual world. Happily, there are ways around this difficulty, and the study of causal relations is of central importance in modern social science and artificial intelligence research. Judea Pearl has been the leader of the “causal revolution,” and we talk about what that means and what questions remain unanswered.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Judea Pearl received a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn. He is currently a professor of computer science and statistics and director of the Cognitive Systems Laboratory at UCLA. He is a founding editor of the Journal of Causal Inference. Among his awards are the Lakatos Award in the philosophy of science, The Allen Newell Award from the Association for Computing Machinery, the Benjamin Franklin Medal, the Rumelhart Prize from the Cognitive Science Society, the ACM Turing Award, and the Grenander Prize from the American Mathematical Society. He is the co-author (with Dana MacKenzie) of The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect.Web siteGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaAmazon author pageTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
09/05/221h 16m

195 | Richard Dawkins on Flight and Other Evolutionary Achievements

Evolution has equipped species with a variety of ways to travel through the air — flapping, gliding, floating, not to mention jumping really high. But it hasn’t invented jet engines. What are the different ways that heavier-than-air objects might be made to fly, and why does natural selection produce some of them but not others? Richard Dawkins has a new book on the subject, Flights of Fancy: Defying Gravity by Design and Evolution. We take the opportunity to talk about other central issues in evolution: levels of selection, the extended phenotype, the role of adaptation, and how genes relate to organisms.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Richard Dawkins received his Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Oxford. He is an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford, where he was previously the Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science. He is an internationally best-selling author, whose books include The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, and The God Delusion. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and the Royal Society of Literature.Web siteRichard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and ScienceWikipediaTwitterAmazon author pageSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
02/05/221h 18m

194 | Frans de Waal on Culture and Gender in Primates

Humans are related to all other species here on Earth, but some are closer relatives than others. Primates, a group that includes apes, monkeys, lemurs, and others besides ourselves, are our closest relatives, and they exhibit a wide variety of behaviors that we can easily recognize. Frans de Waal is a leading primatologist and ethologist who has long studied cognition and collective behaviors in chimps, bonobos, and other species. His work has established the presence of politics, morality, and empathy in primates. His new book is Different: Gender Through the Eyes of a Primatologist.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Frans de Waal received his Ph.D. in biology from Utrecht University. He is currently Charles Howard Candler Professor of Primate Behavior in the Department of Psychology at Emory University and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. Among his awards are the Knight of the order of the Netherlands Lion, the Galileo Prize, ASP Distinguished Primatologist, and the PEN/EO Wilson Literary Science Writing Award, not to mention an Ig Nobel Prize.Web pageCenter for the Advanced Study of Ape and Human EvolutionFacebook public pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaAmazon author pageSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
25/04/221h 8m

193 | Daniels on Everything, Everywhere, All at Once

Every time we make an important decision, it’s hard not to wonder how things would have turned out had we chosen differently. The set of all those hypothetical lives is a kind of “multiverse” — not one predicted by quantum mechanics or cosmology, but a space of possibilities that is ripe for contemplation. In their new movie Everything Everywhere All At Once, Daniels (the collective moniker for writer/directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) use this idea to tell the story of Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh), who is the “worst” of all her avatars in the multiverse. We talk about philosophy, filmmaking, and how we should all strive to be kind amidst the chaos.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert are writers and directors collectively known as Daniels. They met and formed a collaboration while in film school at Emerson College. They have directed a number of music videos for artists such as DJ Snake and Tenacious D. Their first feature film was Swiss Army Man, starring Daniel Radcliffe.Web siteIMDb: Kwan, ScheinertTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
18/04/221h 8m

AMA | April 2022

Welcome to the April 2022 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). I take the large number of questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable size — based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good — and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy!See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
14/04/223h 27m

192 | Nicole Yunger Halpern on Quantum Steampunk Thermodynamics

Randomness and probability are central to modern physics. In statistical mechanics this is because we don’t know everything about the distribution of atoms and molecules in a fluid, so we consider a probability distribution over what they might be; in quantum mechanics it’s because the theory only lets us predict measurement outcomes probabilistically. Physicist Nicole Yunger Halpern explains how we’ve been lagging behind at bringing these two theories together, and how recent progress is changing the landscape of how we think about the microworld.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Nicole Yunger Halpern received her Ph.D. in physics from Caltech. She is currently a NIST physicist and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Physics and IPST at the University of Maryland. Her Ph.D. thesis won the international Ilya Prigogine Prize for a thermodynamics dissertation. As a postdoc she received the International Quantum Technology Emerging Researcher Award. Her new book is Quantum Steampunk: The Physics of Yesterday’s Tomorrow.Lab web siteUniversity of Maryland QuICS web pageGoogle ScholarBlogAmazon author pageTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
11/04/221h 17m

191 | Jane McGonigal on How to Imagine the Future

The future grows out of the present, but it manages to consistently surprise us. How can we get better at anticipating and preparing for what the future can be like? Jane McGonigal started out as a game designer, working on the kinds of games that represent miniature worlds with their own rules. This paradigm provides a useful way of thinking about predicting the future: imagining changes in the current world, then gaming out the consequence, allowing real people to produce unexpected emergent outcomes. We talk about the lessons learned that anyone can use to better prepare their brain for the future to come.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Jane McGonigal received her Ph.D. in performance studies from the University of California, Berkeley. She is currently a writer and Director of Games Research and Development at the Institute for the Future. She teaches a course at Stanford on How to Think Like a Futurist. She has developed several games, including SuperBetter, a game she designed to improve health and resilience after suffering from a concussion. Her recent book is Imaginable: How to See the Future Coming and Feel Ready for Anything–Even Things That Seem Impossible Today.Web siteInstitute for the Future pageUrgent OptimistsAmazon.com author pageWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
04/04/221h 21m

190 | Lea Goentoro on Regrowing Limbs

Biological organisms are pretty good at healing themselves, but their abilities fall short in crucial ways. Planaria can be cut into pieces, and each piece will regrow into an entire organism; but for most advanced animals, loss of a limb becomes a permanent condition. But why should that necessarily be so, if an organism’s genome knows what it’s supposed to look like? Lea Goentoro’s lab has recently produced surprising results that indicate that it’s easier than you might think to coax animals into regenerating limbs.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Lea Goentoro received her Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Princeton University. She is currently Professor of Biology at Caltech. Her research involves how biological systems function and develop across a variety of scales, including perception, organization, and self-repair.Lab web pageCaltech web pageGoogle Scholar publications“A conserved strategy for inducing appendage regeneration in moon jellyfish, Drosophila, and mice“See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
28/03/221h 3m

189 | Brian Klaas on Power and the Temptation of Corruption

All societies grant more power to some citizens, and there is always a temptation to use that power for the benefit of themselves rather than for the greater good. Power corrupts, we are told — but to what extent is that true? Would any of us, upon receiving great power, be tempted by corruption? Or are corruptible people drawn to accrue power? Brian Klaas has investigated these questions by looking at historical examples and by interviewing hundreds of people who have been in this position. He concludes that power can corrupt, but it doesn’t necessarily do so — we can construct safeguards to keep corruption to a minimum.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Brian Klaas received his D.Phil. in Politics from the University of Oxford. He is currently Associate Professor in Global Politics at University College London and a columnist for The Washington Post. His new book is Corruptible: Who Gets Power and How it Changes Us. He is host of the Power Corrupts podcast.Web siteUCL web pageWashington Post columnsWikipediaAmazon author pageTwitterNew Zealand Police recruitment videoSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
21/03/221h 22m

AMA | March 2022

Welcome to the March 2022 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). I take the large number of questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable size — based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good — and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy!Support Mindscape on Patreon.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
17/03/223h 18m

188 | Arik Kershenbaum on What Aliens Will Be Like

If extraterrestrial life is out there — not just microbial slime, but big, complex, macroscopic organisms — what will they be like? Movies have trained us to think that they won’t be that different at all; they’ll even drink and play music at the same cafes that humans frequent. A bit of imagination, however, makes us wonder whether they won’t be completely alien — we have zero data about what extraterrestrial biology could be like, so it makes sense to keep an open mind. Arik Kershenbaum argues for a judicious middle ground. He points to constraints from physics and chemistry, as well as the tendency of evolution to converge toward successful designs, as reasons to think that biologically complex aliens won’t be utterly different from us after all.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Arik Kershenbaum received his Ph.D. in Evolutionary Biology and Ecology from the University of Haifa. He is currently College Lecturer and Director of Studies at Girton College, University of Cambridge. He is the author of The Zoologist’s Guide to the Galaxy: What Animals on Earth Reveal About Aliens — and Ourselves.Web siteCambridge web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsAmazon author pageTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
14/03/221h 21m

187 | Andrew Leigh on the Politics of Looming Disasters

We’re pretty well-calibrated when it comes to dealing with common, everyday-level setbacks. But our brains aren’t naturally equipped for dealing with unlikely but world-catastrophic disasters. Yet such threats are real, both natural and human-induced. We need to collectively get better at anticipating and preparing for them, at the level of political action. Andrew Leigh is an academic and author who now serves in the Parliament of Australia. We discuss how to move the conversation about existential risks from the ivory tower to implementation in real policies.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Andrew Leigh received his Ph.D. in Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He is a member of the Australian House of Representatives representing Fenner. He was previously a professor of economics at Australian National University, and has served as Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury and Charities. His recent book is What’s the Worst That Could Happen? Existential Risk and Extreme Politics.Web siteResearch web siteWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
07/03/221h 20m

186 | Sherry Turkle on How Technology Affects Our Humanity

Advances in technology have gradually been extending the human self beyond its biological extent, as we augment who we are with a variety of interconnected devices. There are obvious benefits to this — it lets us text our friends, listen to podcasts, and not get lost in strange cities. But as it changes how we interact with other people, it’s important to consider the possible downsides. Sherry Turkle is a psychologist and writer who specializes in the relationship between humans and their technology. She makes the case for not forgetting about empathy, conversation, and even the occasional imperfection in how we present ourselves to the world.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Sherry Turkle received her Ph.D. in sociology and personality psychology from Harvard University. She is currently Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at MIT, founding director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, and a licensed clinical psychologist. Among her awards are a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Rockefeller Humanities Fellowship, the Harvard Centennial Medal, and she was named “Woman of the Year” by Ms. Magazine. Her new book is The Empathy Diaries: A Memoir.Web siteMIT web pageWikipediaAmazon author pageTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
28/02/221h 11m

185 | Arvid Ågren on the Gene’s-Eye View of Evolution

One of the brilliant achievements of Darwin’s theory of natural selection was to help explain apparently “purposeful” or “designed” aspects of biology in a purely mechanistic theory of unguided evolution. Features are good if they help organisms survive. But should we put organisms at the center of our attention, or the genetic information that governs those features? Arvid Ågren helps us understand the attraction of the “selfish gene” view of evolution, as well as its shortcomings. This biological excursion has deep connections to philosophical issues of levels and emergence.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Arvid Ågren received his Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Toronto. He is currently a Wenner-Gren Fellow at the Evolutionary Biology Centre at Uppsala University. Previously he worked at Cornell and Harvard. His recent book is The Gene’s-Eye View of Evolution.Web siteGoogle Scholar publicationsAmazon author pageTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
21/02/221h 25m

184 | Gary Marcus on Artificial Intelligence and Common Sense

Artificial intelligence is everywhere around us. Deep-learning algorithms are used to classify images, suggest songs to us, and even to drive cars. But the quest to build truly “human” artificial intelligence is still coming up short. Gary Marcus argues that this is not an accident: the features that make neural networks so powerful also prevent them from developing a robust common-sense view of the world. He advocates combining these techniques with a more symbolic approach to constructing AI algorithms.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Gary Marcus received his Ph.D. in cognitive science from MIT. He is founder and CEO of Robust.AI, and was formerly a professor of psychology at NYU as well as founder of Geometric Intelligence. Among his books are Rebooting AI: Building Machines We Can Trust (with Ernest Davis).Web siteWikipediaTwitterAmazon.com author pageSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
14/02/221h 24m

AMA | February 2022

Welcome to the February 2022 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). I take the large number of questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable size — based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good — and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy!Support Mindscape on Patreon.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
10/02/224h 15m

183 | Michael Dine on Supersymmetry, Anthropics, and the Future of Particle Physics

Modern particle physics is a victim of its own success. We have extremely good theories — so good that it’s hard to know exactly how to move beyond them, since they agree with all the experiments. Yet, there are strong indications from theoretical considerations and cosmological data that we need to do better. But the leading contenders, especially supersymmetry, haven’t yet shown up in our experiments, leading some to wonder whether anthropic selection is a better answer. Michael Dine gives us an expert’s survey of the current situation, with pointers to what might come next.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Michael Dine received his Ph.D. in physics from Yale University. He is Distinguished Professor of Physics at the Santa Cruz Institute for Particle Physics, University of California, Santa Cruz. Among his awards are fellowships from the Sloan Foundation, Guggenheim Foundation, American Physical Society, and American Academy of Arts and Sciences, as well as the Sakurai Prize for theoretical particle physics. His new book is This Way to the Universe: A Theoretical Physicist’s Journey to the Edge of Reality.Web pagePublications at iNspireWikipediaAmazon author pageSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
07/02/221h 39m

182 | Sally Haslanger on Social Construction and Critical Theory

Reality is just out there — but how we perceive reality and talk about it depends on choices we human beings make. We decide (consciously or not) to conceptualize the world in certain ways, whether it’s because those ways provide elegant predictive descriptions or because they serve a more subtle political purpose. To get at the true nature of reality, therefore, it’s important to think about which aspects of it are socially constructed, and why. I talk with Sally Haslanger about these issues, and the techniques we can use to understand the world and make it a better place.Update (22 March): Our discussion here could have (and did) leave some listeners with the wrong impression of how Sally and I feel about trans rights -- we are entirely for them! My fault for not making things more clear during the conversation. So I have added a brief note during the podcast intro to make our position perfectly explicit. Thanks to everyone who commented.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Sally Haslanger received her Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley. She is currently the Ford Professor of Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Among her awards are the Carus Lectureship, the Distinguished Woman Philosopher award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She is the author of several books, including Resisting Reality: Social Construction and Social Critique.Web siteMIT faculty pagePhilPeople profileGoogle Scholar publicationsAmazon author pageWikipediaSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
31/01/221h 37m

181 | Peter Dodds on Quantifying the Shape of Stories

A good story takes you on an emotional journey, with ups and downs along the way. Thanks to science, we can quantify that. Peter Dodds works on understanding the structure of stories and other strings of words (including Twitter) by analyzing the valence of individual words, then studying how they are strung together in different kinds of stories. Understanding these structures offers powerful insight into how people communicate and how to reach them. As Peter says, “Never bring statistics to a story fight.”Support Mindscape on Patreon.Peter Dodds received his Ph.D. in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is currently a professor of computer science at the University of Vermont and Director of the Vermont Complex Systems Center. He has won multiple teaching awards, and was elected a Fellow of the Network Science Society.Web siteUniversity of Vermont faculty pageComputational Story LabGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
24/01/221h 16m

180 | Camilla Pang on Instructions for Being Human

Being a human is tricky. There are any number of unwritten rules and social cues that we have to learn as we go, but that we ultimately learn to take for granted. Camilla Pang, who was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at age eight, had a harder time than most, as she didn’t easily perceive the rules of etiquette and relationships that we need to deal with each other. But she ultimately figured them out, with the help of analogies and examples from different fields of science. We talk about these rules, and how science can help us think about them.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Camilla Pang received her Ph.D. in computational biology from University College London. She is currently a postdoctoral researcher in pharmaceuticals and a volunteer cancer researcher at the Francis Crick Institute. She was awarded the Royal Society Prize for Science Books in 2020 for her book Explaining Humans: What Science Can Teach Us about Life, Love, and Relationships (US title: An Outsider’s Guide to Humans: What Science Taught Me about What We Do and Who We Are).Web siteWikipediaTwitterAmazon author pageSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
17/01/221h 3m

179 | David Reich on Genetics and Ancient Humanity

Human beings like to divide themselves into groups, and then cooperate, socialize, and reproduce with members of their own group. But they’re not very absolutist about it; groups tend to gradually (or suddenly) intermingle, as people explore, intermarry, or conquer each other. David Reich has pioneered the use of genetic data in uncovering the history of ancient humanity: what groups existed where and when, and how they interacted. The result is a picture of churning populations in constant flux, including “ghost populations” that no longer exist today.Support Mindscape on Patreon.David Reich received his Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Oxford. He is currently a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School. Among his awards are the Dan David Prize, the National Academy of Sciences Award in Molecular Biology, the Wiley Prize, the Darwin-Wallace Medal, and the Massry Prize. He is the author of Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past.Lab web pageHarvard faculty pagePublicationsWikipediaSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
10/01/221h 13m

178 | Jody Azzouni on What Is and Isn't Real

Are numbers real? What does that even mean? You can’t kick a number. But you can talk about numbers in useful ways, and we use numbers to talk about the real world. There’s surely a kind of reality there. On the other hand, Luke Skywalker isn’t a real person, but we talk about him all the time. Maybe we can talk about unreal things in useful ways. Jody Azzouni is one of the leading contemporary advocates of nominalism, the view that abstract objects are not “things,” they are merely labels we use in talking about things. A deeply philosophical issue, but one that has implications for how we think about physics and the laws of nature.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Jody Azzouni received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the City University of New York. He is currently a professor of philosophy at Tufts University. In addition to his philosophical work, he is an active writer of fiction and poetry.Web siteTufts web pagePhilPeople profileAmazon author pageWikipediaPoemHunter pageSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
03/01/221h 14m

Holiday Message 2021 | On Disciplines & Cocktails

As each December comes to a close, we wrap up another year of podcasts with the Mindscape Holiday Message. Nothing too profound, just some thoughts that wouldn’t fit easily into a regular podcast. This year we’re talking about academic disciplines and cocktails. What do they have in common, you may ask? Listen and find out!Support Mindscape on Patreon.Mindscape will be dark on Monday December 27, and will resume regular programming on Monday January 3. Here are the two books I mentioned in the podcast, and the one essay:The Aviary Cocktail BookDeath & Co Modern Classic CocktailsSteven Weinberg, “Against Philosophy”See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
20/12/2159m 13s

AMA | December 2021

Welcome to the December 2021 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). I take the large number of questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable size — based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good — and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Note that there will be no January AMA, for purposes of a holiday break. Enjoy!Support Mindscape on Patreon.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
15/12/213h 37m

177 | Monika Schleier-Smith on Cold Atoms and Emergent Spacetime

When it comes to thinking about quantum mechanics, there are levels. One level is shut-up-and-calculate: find a wave function, square it to get a probability. One level is foundational: dig deeply into the underlying ontology. But there’s a level in between, long neglected but recently coming to life. In this level you think about — or do experiments with — entangled quantum systems in the real world, putting entanglement to use. Monika Schleier-Smith is an experimental physicist specializing in cold atoms, which can be both entangled and manipulated. We discuss how to use such systems to study everything from metrology to quantum gravity.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Monika Schleier-Smith received her Ph.D. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is currently an Associate Professor of Physics at Stanford University. Among her awards are a MacArthur Fellowship, a Sloan Fellowship, and the I. I. Rabi Prize in Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics from the American Physical Society.Web siteStanford web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
13/12/211h 10m

176 | Joshua Greene on Morality, Psychology, and Trolley Problems

We all know you can’t derive “ought” from “is.” But it’s equally clear that “is” — how the world actual works — is going to matter for “ought” — our moral choices in the world. And an important part of “is” is who we are as human beings. As products of a messy evolutionary history, we all have moral intuitions. What parts of the brain light up when we’re being consequentialist, or when we’re following rules? What is the relationship, if any, between those intuitions and a good moral philosophy? Joshua Greene is both a philosopher and a psychologist who studies what our intuitions are, and uses that to help illuminate what morality should be. He gives one of the best defenses of utilitarianism I’ve heard.Bonus! Joshua is a co-founder of Giving Multiplier, an effective-altruism program that lets you donate to your personal favorite causes and also get matching donations to charities that have been judged to be especially effective. He was kind enough to set up a special URL for Mindscape listeners, where their donations will be matched at a higher rate of up to 100%. That lets you get matching donations when you donate to a personal favorite cause along with a charity that has been judged to be especially effective. Check out https://givingmultiplier.org/mindscape.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Joshua Greene received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University. He is currently Professor of Psychology and a member of the Center for Brain Science faculty at Harvard University. His an originator of the dual-process model of moral reasoning. Among his awards are the the Stanton Prize from the Society for Philosophy and Psychology and Harvard’s Roslyn Abramson Award for teaching. He is the author of Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them.Web siteHarvard web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaGiving MultiplierSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
06/12/211h 26m

175 | William Ratcliff on Multicellularity, Physics, and Evolution

We’ve talked about the very origin of life, but certain transitions along its subsequent history were incredibly important. Perhaps none more so than the transition from unicellular to multicellular organisms, which made possible an incredible diversity of organisms and structures. Will Ratcliff studies the physics that constrains multicellular structures, examines the minute changes in certain yeast cells that allows them to become multicellular, and does long-term evolution experiments in which multicellularity spontaneously evolves and grows. We can’t yet create life from non-life, but we can reproduce critical evolutionary steps in the lab.Support Mindscape on Patreon.William Ratcliff received his Ph.D. in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior at the University of Minnesota. He is currently Associate Professor in the School of Biological Sciences at Georgia Tech. Among his awards are a Packard Fellowship and being named in Popular Science‘s “Brilliant 10” of 2016.Web siteGoogle Scholar publicationsPackard Foundation bioTwitter“Experimental Evolution of Multicellularity,” Ratcliff et al. (2012)“De Novo Evolution of Macroscopic Multicellularity,” Bozdag et al. (2021)See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
29/11/211h 26m

174 | Tai-Danae Bradley on Algebra, Topology, Language, and Entropy

Mathematics is often thought of as the pinnacle of crisp precision: the square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle isn’t “roughly” the sum of the squares of the other two sides, it’s exactly that. But we live in a world of messy imprecision, and increasingly we need sophisticated techniques to quantify and deal with approximate statistical relations rather than perfect ones. Modern mathematicians have noticed, and are taking up the challenge. Tai-Danae Bradley is a mathematician who employs very high-level ideas — category theory, topology, quantum probability theory — to analyze real-world phenomena like the structure of natural-language speech. We explore a number of cool ideas and what kinds of places they are leading us to.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Tai-Danae Bradley received her Ph.D. in mathematics from the CUNY Graduate Center. She is currently a research mathematician at Alphabet, visiting research professor of mathematics at The Master’s University, and executive director of the Math3ma Institute. She hosts an explanatory mathematics blog, Math3ma. She is the co-author of the graduate-level textbook Topology: A Categorical Approach.Web siteGoogle Scholar publicationsTwitterVideo introduction to “At the Interface of Algebra and Statistics” Ph.D. thesisSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
22/11/211h 21m

AMA | November 2021

Welcome to the November 2021 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). I take the large number of questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable size — based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good — and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy!See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
17/11/213h 54m

173 | Sylvia Earle on the Oceans, the Planet, and People

It’s a well-worn cliché that oceans cover seventy percent of the surface of Earth, but we tend to give them secondary consideration when thinking about the environment. But climate change is wreaking havoc on the oceans, not to mention pollution and overfishing — 90% of the world’s marine fish stocks are fully exploited or depleted. Today’s guest, Sylvia Earle, is a well-known ocean scientist, a celebrated underwater explorer, and a tireless advocate for the world’s oceans. We talk about the current state of our oceans, what we know and have yet to learn about them, and what we can do individually and collectively to make things better.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Sylvia Earle received her Ph.D. in phycology from Duke University. She is currently National Geographic’s Rosemary and Roger Enrico Chair for Ocean Exploration, as well as founder of Mission Blue, SEAlliance and Deep Ocean Exploration and Research. She formerly served as Chief Scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Among her awards are the TED Prize, the National Women’s Hall of Fame, and the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award from the Seattle Aquarium. She is the author of several books, the most recent of which is National Geographic Ocean: A Global Odyssey.Mission BlueNational Geographic profile pageNational Women’s Hall of FameWikipediaIMDb pageAmazon author pageTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
15/11/211h 11m

172 | David Goyer on Televising the Fall of the Galactic Empire

Science and storytelling have a long and tumultuous relationship. Scientists sometimes want stories to be just an advertisement for how awesome science is; storytellers sometimes want to use science for a few cheap thrills before abandoning it in the morning. But science is about ideas, and ideas can make for thrilling stories when done well. David Goyer is an accomplished screenwriter and director who has taken up a daunting task: adapting Isaac Asimov’s famous Foundation series for TV. (Available on Apple TV now.) We talk about the challenge of making a television version of a beloved series whose central character is a mathematician, and how science and storytelling relate to each other more generally.Support Mindscape on Patreon.David Goyer graduated from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. He has written stories or screenplays for a number of well-known films, including Dark City, Blade, the Dark Knight trilogy, Man of Steel, and Batman v Superman, as well as TV series such as FlashForward and Constantine. He has also directed and produced numerous films and shows. He has written novels, comic books, and video games such as Call of Duty: Black Ops. In addition to Foundation, he is currently working on a TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman graphic novels. Episodes of Foundation are released every Friday; the finale of the first season will be available Nov. 19.Web siteIMDb pageWikipediaFoundation podcastSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
08/11/211h 16m

171 | Christopher Mims on Our Interconnected Industrial Ecology

As the holidays approach, we are being reminded of the fragility of the global supply chain. But at the same time, the supply chain itself is a truly impressive and fascinating structure, made as it is from multiple components that must work together in synchrony. From building an item in a factory and shipping it worldwide to transporting it locally, processing it in a distribution center, and finally delivering it to an address, the system is simultaneously awe-inspiring and deeply dehumanizing. I talk with Christopher Mims about how things are made, how they get to us, and what it all means for the present and future of our work and our lives.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Christopher Mims received a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience and behavioral biology from Emory University. He is currently a technology columnist at The Wall Street Journal. He has previously written for publications such as Wired, Scientific American, The Atlantic, and Smithsonian. His new book is Arriving Today: From Factory to Front Door — Why Everything Has Changed About How and What We Buy.Columns at The Wall Street JournalWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
01/11/211h 27m

170 | Priya Natarajan on Galaxies, Black Holes, and Cosmic Anomalies

There is so much we don’t know about our universe. But our curiosity about the unknown shouldn’t blind us to the incredible progress we have made in cosmology over the last century. We know the universe is big, expanding, and accelerating. Modern cosmologists are using unprecedentedly precise datasets to uncover more details about the evolution and structure of galaxies and the distribution and nature of dark matter. Priya Natarajan is a cosmologist working at the interface of data, theory, and simulation. We talk about the state of modern cosmology, and how tools like gravitational lensing are providing us with detailed views of what’s happening in the distant universe.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Priya Natarajan received her Ph.D. in astrophysics from the University of Cambridge. She is currently professor of astronomy at Yale University, the Sophie and Tycho Brahe Professor at the Niels Bohr Institute of the University of Copenhagen, and an honorary professor for life at the University of Delhi, India. She is an Affiliate at the Black Hole Initiative at Harvard University and an Associate Member of the Center for Computational Astrophysics at the Flatiron Institute in New York. She is a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books and other publications. Among her awards are a Guggenheim Fellowship, the India Abroad Foundation’s “Face of the Future” Award, and an India Empire NRI award for Achievement in the Sciences. She is the author of Mapping the Heavens: The Radical Scientific Ideas That Reveal the Cosmos.Web siteYale web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsArticles at the New York Review of BooksWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
25/10/211h 27m

169 | C. Thi Nguyen on Games, Art, Values, and Agency

Games are everywhere, but why exactly do we play them? It seems counterintuitive, to artificially invent goals and obstacles just so we can struggle to achieve them. (And in some games, like Twister, the fun is in losing, even though you’re supposed to try to win.) C. Thi Nguyen is a philosopher who has developed a theory of games as an art form whose medium is agency. Within each game, we have defined goals, powers, and choices, and by playing different games we can experiment with different forms of agency. A dark side of this idea is to be found in “gamification” — turning ordinary-life activities into a game. Games give us clarity of values, and that clarity can be seductive but misleading, leading people to turn to conspiracy theories about the real world.Support Mindscape on Patreon.C. Thi Nguyen received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of California, Los Angeles. He is currently associate professor of Philosophy at the University of Utah. He has written public philosophy for venues such as Aeon and The New York Times, and is an editor of the aesthetics blog Aesthetics for Birds. He was the recipient of the 2020 Article Prize from the American Philosophical Association. His recent book is Games: Agency as Art.Web sitePhilPeople profileGoogle Scholar publicationsTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
18/10/211h 24m

AMA | October 2021

Welcome to the October 2021 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). I take the large number of questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable size — based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good — and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy!Support Mindscape on Patreon.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
14/10/212h 59m

168 | Anil Seth on Emergence, Information, and Consciousness

Those of us who think that that the laws of physics underlying everyday life are completely known tend to also think that consciousness is an emergent phenomenon that must be compatible with those laws. To hold such a position in a principled way, it’s important to have a clear understanding of “emergence” and when it happens. Anil Seth is a leading researcher in the neuroscience of consciousness, who has also done foundational work (often in collaboration with Lionel Barnett) on what emergence means. We talk about information theory, entropy, and what they have to do with how things emerge.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Anil Seth received his D.Phil in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence from the University of Sussex. He is currently a professor of cognitive and computational neuroscience at Sussex, as well as co-director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science. He has served as the president of the Psychology Section of the British Science Association, and is Editor-in-Chief of the journal Neuroscience of Consciousness. His new book is Being You: A New Science of Consciousness.Web siteGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaAmazon author pageTwitterBarnett and Seth, “Dynamical independence: discovering emergent macroscopic processes in complex dynamical systems” (2021)See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
11/10/211h 25m

167 | Chiara Marletto on Constructor Theory, Physics, and Possibility

Traditional physics works within the “Laplacian paradigm”: you give me the state of the universe (or some closed system), some equations of motion, then I use those equations to evolve the system through time. Constructor theory proposes an alternative paradigm: to think of physical systems in terms of counterfactuals — the set of rules governing what can and cannot happen. Originally proposed by David Deutsch, constructor theory has been developed by today’s guest, Chiara Marletto, and others. It might shed new light on quantum gravity and fundamental physics, as well as having applications to higher-level processes of thermodynamics and biology.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Chiara Marletto received her DPhil in physics from the University of Oxford. She is currently a research fellow at Wolfson College, University of Oxford. Her new book is The Science of Can and Can’t: A Physicist’s Journey Through the Land of Counterfactuals.Web siteOxford web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipedia“How to Rewrite the Laws of Physics in the Language of Impossibility,” QuantaSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
04/10/211h 35m

166 | Betül Kaçar on Paleogenomics and Ancient Life

In the question to understand the biology of life, we are (so far) limited to what happened here on Earth. That includes the diversity of biological organisms today, but also its entire past history. Using modern genomic techniques, we can extrapolate backward to reconstruct the genomes of primitive organisms, both to learn about life’s early stages and to guide our ideas about life elsewhere. I talk with astrobiologist Betül Kaçar about paleogenomics and our prospects for finding (or creating!) life in the universe.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Betül Kaçar received her PhD in biomolecular chemistry from Emory University. She is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Bacteriology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is also principal investigator of Project MUSE, a NASA-funded astrobiology research initiative and an associate professor (adjunct) at Earth-Life Science Institute of Tokyo Institute of Technology. Among her awards are a NASA Early Career Faculty Fellow in 2019, and a Scialog Fellow for the search for life in the universe.Web siteGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaTwitter“Do We Send the Goo?”See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
27/09/211h 14m

165 | Kathryn Paige Harden on Genetics, Luck, and Fairness

It's pretty clear that our genes affect, though they don't completely determine, who we grow up to be; children’s physical and mental characteristics are not completely unrelated to those of their parents. But this relationship has been widely abused throughout history to underwrite racist and sexist ideas. So there has been a counter-reaction in the direction of removing any consideration of genetic heritage from how we understand people. Kathryn Paige Harden argues in favor of a more nuanced view: DNA does matter, we can clearly measure some of its effects, and understanding those effects is a crucial tool in fighting discrimination and making the world a more equitable place.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Kathryn Paige Harden received her Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Virginia. She is currently a professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the leader of the Developmental Behavior Genetics Lab and co-director of the Texas Twin Project. She was the recipient of the Award for Distinguished Scientific Early Career Contributions to Psychology from the American Psychological Association. Her new book is The Genetic Lottery: Why DNA Matters for Social Equality.Web siteUniversity of Texas web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsAmazon author profileWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
20/09/211h 25m

AMA | September 2021

Welcome to the September 2021 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). I take the large number of questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable size — based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good — and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy!See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
16/09/213h 38m

164 | Herbert Gintis on Game Theory, Evolution, and Social Rationality

How human beings behave is, for fairly evident reasons, a topic of intense interest to human beings. And yet, not only is there much we don’t understand about human behavior, different academic disciplines seem to have developed completely incompatible models to try to explain it. And as today’s guest Herb Gintis complains, they don’t put nearly enough effort into talking to each other to try to reconcile their views. So that what he’s here to do. Using game theory and a model of rational behavior — with an expanded notion of “rationality” that includes social as well as personally selfish interests — he thinks that we can come to an understanding that includes ideas from biology, economics, psychology, and sociology, to more accurately account for how people actually behave.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Herbert Gintis received his PhD in economics from Harvard University. After a long career as professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, he is currently a professor at Central European University and an External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute. His book Schooling in Capitalist America, written with frequent collaborator Samuel Bowles, is considered a classic in educational reform. He has published books and papers on economics, game theory, sociology, evolution, and numerous other topics.Web siteSanta Fe Institute pageGoogle Scholar publicationsBooks (Princeton University Press)WikipediaSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
13/09/211h 29m

163 | Nigel Goldenfeld on Phase Transitions, Criticality, and Biology

Physics is extremely good at describing simple systems with relatively few moving parts. Sadly, the world is not like that; many phenomena of interest are complex, with multiple interacting parts and interesting things happening at multiple scales of length and time. One area where the techniques of physics overlap with the multi-scale property of complex systems is in the study of phase transitions, when a composite system transitions from one phase to another. Nigel Goldenfeld has made important contributions to the study of phase transitions in their own right (and mathematical techniques for dealing with them), and has also been successful at leveraging that understanding to study biological systems, from the genetic code to the tree of life.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Nigel Goldenfeld received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Cambridge. He currently holds the Chancellor's Distinguished Professorship in Physics at UC San Diego. Until recently he was a Swanlund Endowed Chair and Center for Advanced Study Professor in Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Among his awards are the Xerox Award for research, the A. Nordsieck award for excellence in graduate teaching, and the American Physical Society’s Leo P. Kadanoff Prize. He is the co-founder of NumeriX, a company that specializes in high-performance software for the derivatives marketplace.Web siteUC San Diego web pageUniversity of Illinois web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaTwitterLectures on Phase Transitions and the Renormalization GroupQuanta interviewSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
06/09/211h 31m

162 | Leidy Klotz on Our Resistance to Subtractive Change

There is no general theory of problem-solving, or even a reliable set of principles that will usually work. It’s therefore interesting to see how our brains actually go about solving problems. Here’s an interesting feature that you might not have guessed: when faced with an imperfect situation, our first move to improve it tends to involve adding new elements, rather than taking away. We are, in general, resistant to subtractive change. Leidy Klotz is an engineer and designer who has worked with psychologists and neuroscientists to study this phenomenon. We talk about how our relative blindness to subtractive possibilities manifests itself, and what lessons might be for design more generally.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Leidy Klotz received his Ph.D. in Architectural Engineering from Penn State University. He is currently Copenhaver Associate Professor of Engineering Systems and Environment and Architecture at the University of Virginia. Before becoming a professor, he worked as a school designer, and before that was a professional soccer player for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. His new book is Subtract: The Untapped Science of Less.Web siteUniversity of Virginia web pageGoogle Scholar publications“People Systematically Overlook Subtractive Changes,” Adams, Converse, Hales and Klotz, 2021.WikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
30/08/211h 14m

161 | W. Brian Arthur on Complexity Economics

Economies in the modern world are incredibly complex systems. But when we sit down to think about them in quantitative ways, it’s natural to keep things simple at first. We look for reliable relations between small numbers of variables, seek equilibrium configurations, and so forth. But those approaches don’t always work in complex systems, and sometimes we have to use methods that are specifically adapted to the challenges of complexity. That’s the perspective of W. Brian Arthur, a pioneer in the field of complexity economics, according to which economies are typically not in equilibrium, not made of homogeneous agents, and are being constantly updated. We talk about the basic ideas of complexity economics, how it differs from more standard approaches, and what it teaches us about the operation of real economies.Support Mindscape on Patreon.W. Brian Arthur received his Ph.D. in operations research from the University of California, Berkeley. He is currently an External Faculty Member at the Santa Fe Institute, IBM Faculty Fellow, and Visiting Researcher in the Intelligent Systems Lab at PARC. He was formerly the Morrison Professor of Economics and Population Studies and Professor of Biology at Stanford. He is known for developing the theory of increasing returns in economics. Among his awards are a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Schumpeter Prize in economics, and the Lagrange Prize for complexity.Web siteSanta Fe web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaAmazon author pageSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
23/08/211h 35m

160 | Edward Slingerland on Confucianism, Daoism, and Wu Wei

Plato and Aristotle founded much of what we think of as Western philosophy during the fourth and fifth centuries BCE. Interestingly, that historical period also witnessed the foundation of some of the major schools of Chinese philosophy, especially Confucianism and Daoism. This is a long-overdue discussion of ancient Chinese ideas, featuring philosopher and religious-studies scholar Edward Slingerland. We talk about the relationship between these two schools of thought, and their differences and similarities with Western philosophy. One of the biggest ideas is wu wei, or “effortless action” — the way that true mastery consists of doing things without too much conscious control. Today we would call it “flow” or “being in the zone,” but the idea stretches back quite a ways.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Edward Slingerland received his Ph.D. in religious studies from Stanford. He is currently Distinguished University Scholar, Professor of Philosophy, and Associate Member of the departments of Asian Studies and Psychology at the University of British Columbia. He is Director of the Database of Religious History, and co-director of the Center for the Study of Human Evolution, Cognition, and Culture. Among his books are Trying Not to Try: Ancient China, Modern Science, and the Power of Spontaneity, and a translation of Confucius’s Analects. His new book is Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization.Web siteUBC web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsAmazon.com author pageWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
16/08/211h 23m

AMA | August 2021

Welcome to the August 2021 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). I take the large number of questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable size — based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good — and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy!Support Mindscape on Patreon.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
12/08/213h 11m

159 | Mari Ruti on Lack, Love, and Psychoanalysis

Neuroscience has given us great insights into how our brains work. But there is still room for purely humanistic disciplines to help us think through our thoughts and emotions, not to mention the meaning of our lives. Mari Ruti is a professor of English literature, with expertise in critical theory, gender studies, and psychoanalysis, especially the work of French theorist Jacques Lacan. We talk about the psychological drive that is motivated by what Lacan calls “lack,” which is related to “desire.” We use this as a way to think about such essential human experiences as mourning, creativity, and love. (We don’t talk about love enough here on the podcast.)Support Mindscape on Patreon.Mari Ruti received her Ph.D. in comparative literature from Harvard University. She is currently a Distinguished Professor of critical theory and gender and sexuality studies at the University of Toronto. She is the co-editor of the Psychoanalytic Horizons book series for Bloomsbury.U Toronto web pageAmazon.com author pageSemantic scholarWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
09/08/211h 49m

158 | David Wallace on the Arrow of Time

The arrow of time — all the ways in which the past differs from the future — is a fascinating subject because it connects everyday phenomena (memory, aging, cause and effect) to deep questions in physics and philosophy. At its heart is the fact that entropy increases over time, which in turn can be traced to special conditions in the early universe. David Wallace is one of the world’s leading philosophers working on the foundations of physics, including space and time as well as quantum mechanics. We talk about how increasing entropy gives rise to the arrow of time, and what it is about the early universe that makes this happen. Then we cannot help but connecting this story to features of the Many-Worlds (Everett) interpretation of quantum mechanics.Support Mindscape on Patreon.David Wallace received a D.Phil. in Physics and a D.Phil. in Philosophy from Oxford University. He is currently W.A. Mellon Professor of Philosophy of Science, with joint appointments in the Philosophy Department and the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, at the University of Pittsburgh. He is the author of The Emergent Multiverse: Quantum Theory According to the Everett Interpretation. Among his honors are the Lakatos Award for outstanding contribution to the philosophy of science. His most recent book is Philosophy of Physics: A Very Short Introduction.Web sitePhilPeople profileGoogle Scholar publicationsAmazon.com author pageSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
02/08/211h 47m

157 | Elizabeth Strychalski on Synthetic Cells and the Rules of Biology

Natural selection has done a pretty good job at creating a wide variety of living species, but we humans can’t help but wonder whether we could do better. Using existing genomes as a starting point, biologists are getting increasingly skilled at designing organisms of our own imagination. But to do that, we need a better understanding of what different genes in our DNA actually do. Elizabeth Strychalski and collaborators recently announced the construction of a synthetic microbial organism that self-reproduces just like a normal unicellular creature. This work will help us understand the roles of genes in reproduction, one step on the road to making DNA molecules and artificial cells that will perform a variety of medical and biological tasks.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Elizabeth Strychalski received her Ph.D. in physics from Cornell University. She is the founder and current leader of the Cellular Engineering Group at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. She serves on the steering group for the Build-A-Cell collaboration.NIST web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsTalk on Controlling Biology with Complexity“Genetic requirements for cell division in a genomically minimal cell,” Pelletier et al.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
26/07/211h 17m

156 | Catherine D’Ignazio on Data, Objectivity, and Bias

How can data be biased? Isn’t it supposed to be an objective reflection of the real world? We all know that these are somewhat naive rhetorical questions, since data can easily inherit bias from the people who collect and analyze it, just as an algorithm can make biased suggestions if it’s trained on biased datasets. A better question is, how do biases creep in, and what can we do about them? Catherine D’Ignazio is an MIT professor who has studied how biases creep into our data and algorithms, and even into the expression of values that purport to protect objective analysis. We discuss examples of these processes and how to use data to make things better.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Catherine D’Ignazio received a Master of Fine Arts from Maine College of Art and a Master of Science in Media Arts and Sciences from the MIT Media Lab. She is currently an assistant professor of Urban Science and Planning and Director of the Data+Feminism Lab at MIT. She is the co-author, with Lauren F. Klein, of the book Data Feminism.Web siteMIT web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsData + Feminism LabWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
19/07/211h 28m

155 | Stephen Wolfram on Computation, Hypergraphs, and Fundamental Physics

It’s not easy, figuring out the fundamental laws of physics. It’s even harder when your chosen methodology is to essentially start from scratch, positing a simple underlying system and a simple set of rules for it, and hope that everything we know about the world somehow pops out. That’s the project being undertaken by Stephen Wolfram and his collaborators, who are working with a kind of discrete system called “hypergraphs.” We talk about what the basic ideas are, why one would choose this particular angle of attack on fundamental physics, and how ideas like quantum mechanics and general relativity might emerge from this simple framework.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Stephen Wolfram received his Ph.D. in physics from Caltech. He is the founder and CEO of Wolfram Research, and the creator of Mathematica, Wolfram|Alpha, and the Wolfram Language. Among his awards are a MacArthur Fellowship. Among his books is A New Kind of Science. He recently launched the Wolfram Physics Project.Web siteWolfram ResearchTalk on Computation and Fundamental PhysicsAmazon.com author pageWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
12/07/212h 40m

AMA | July 2021

Welcome to the July 2021 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). I take the large number of questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable size — based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good — and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy!Support Mindscape on Patreon.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
09/07/213h 48m

154 | Reza Aslan on Religion, Metaphor, and Meaning

Religion is an important part of the lives of billions of people around the world, but what religious belief actually amounts to can vary considerably from person to person. Some believe in an anthropomorphic, judgmental God; others conceive of God as more transcendent and conceptual; some are animists who attribute spiritual essence to creatures and objects; and many more. I talk with writer and religious scholar Reza Aslan about his view of religion as a vocabulary constructed by human beings to express a connection with something beyond the physical world — why one might think that, and what it implies about how we should go about living our lives.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Reza Aslan received his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is currently a professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside. He is the author of numerous books, including No God but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam; Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth; and God: A Human History. He has also worked in television, producing and writing documentaries, and serving as a consulting producer for the drama series The Leftovers. He recently started a podcast, Metaphysical Milkshake, with actor Rainn Wilson.Web siteUCR web pageAmazon.com author pageWikipediaTwitterIMDb profile pageSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
05/07/211h 25m

153 | John Preskill on Quantum Computers and What They’re Good For

Depending on who you listen to, quantum computers are either the biggest technological change coming down the road or just another overhyped bubble. Today we’re talking with a good person to listen to: John Preskill, one of the leaders in modern quantum information science. We talk about what a quantum computer is and promising technologies for actually building them. John emphasizes that quantum computers are tailor-made for simulating the behavior of quantum systems like molecules and materials; whether they will lead to breakthroughs in cryptography or optimization problems is less clear. Then we relate the idea of quantum information back to gravity and the emergence of spacetime. (If you want to build and run your own quantum algorithm, try the IBM Quantum Experience.)Support Mindscape on Patreon.John Preskill received his Ph.D. in physics from Harvard University. He is currently the Richard P. Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at Caltech and the Davis Leadership Chair at the Institute for Quantum Information and Matter, as well as an Amazon Scholar at Amazon Web Services. Before moving into quantum information, he was a leading researcher in quantum field theory and black holes. He is the winner of multiple bets with Stephen Hawking.Caltech Theory Group web pageCaltech IQIM web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsBlog posts at Quantum FrontiersWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
28/06/211h 32m

152 | Charis Kubrin on Criminology, Incarceration, and Hip-Hop

It’s all well and good to talk abstractly about morality and justice, but at some point you have to sit down and figure out what to do about people who break the rules. In our modern legal system, mostly that involves incarceration, especially for so-called “street crimes.” Here in the US, we’ve taken that strategy to extremes, leading the world in the number of incarcerated people per capita. How do we decide who goes to prison, and how should we decide? I talk with criminologist Charis Kubrin on how the justice system distinguishes guilt from innocence. We discuss one interesting issue at length: the use of rap lyrics written by defendants as evidence of guilt. What role should artistic creations play in deciding someone’s culpability of a crime?Support Mindscape on Patreon.Charis Kubrin received her Ph.D. from the University of Washington. She is currently a professor of Criminology and Law and Society at the University of California, Irvine. She is co-author of the textbook Introduction to Criminal Justice: a Sociological Perspective. Among her awards are the Ruth Shonie Cavan Award and the Coramae Richey Mann Award from the American Society of Criminology, and the W.E.B. DuBois Award and the Paul Tappan Award from the Western Society of Criminology.Web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
21/06/211h 19m

151 | Jordan Ellenberg on the Mathematics of Political Boundaries

Any system in which politicians represent geographical districts with boundaries chosen by the politicians themselves is vulnerable to gerrymandering: carving up districts to increase the amount of seats that a given party is expected to win. But even fairly-drawn boundaries can end up quite complex, so how do we know that a given map is unfairly skewed? Math comes to the rescue. We can ask whether the likely outcome of a given map is very unusual within the set of all possible reasonable maps. That’s a hard math problem, however — the set of all possible maps is pretty big — so we have to be clever to solve it. I talk with geometer Jordan Ellenberg about how ideas like random walks and Markov chains help us judge the fairness of political boundaries.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Jordan Ellenberg received his Ph.D. in mathematics from Harvard University in 1998. He is currently the John D. MacArthur professor of mathematics at the University of Wisconsin. He competed in the International Mathematical Olympiad three times, winning a gold medal twice. Among his awards are the MAA Euler Book Prize and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He is the author of How Not to Be Wrong and the novel The Grasshopper King. His new book is Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else.Web siteWisconsin web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsAmazon author pageWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
14/06/211h 23m

AMA | June 2021

Welcome to the June 2021 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). I take the large number of questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable size — based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good — and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy!Support Mindscape on Patreon.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
10/06/213h 18m

150 | Simon DeDeo on How Explanations Work and Why They Sometimes Fail

You observe a phenomenon, and come up with an explanation for it. That’s true for scientists, but also for literally every person. (Why won’t my car start? I bet it’s out of gas.) But there are literally an infinite number of possible explanations for every phenomenon we observe. How do we invent ones we think are promising, and then decide between them once invented? Simon DeDeo (in collaboration with Zachary Wojtowicz) has proposed a way to connect explanatory values (“simplicity,” “fitting the data,” etc) to specific mathematical expressions in Bayesian reasoning. We talk about what makes explanations good, and how they can get out of control, leading to conspiracy theories or general crackpottery, from QAnon to flat earthers.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Simon DeDeo received his Ph.D. in astrophysics from Princeton University. He is currently an Assistant Professor in Social and Decision Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, and External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute.Web siteCarnegie Mellon web page“From Probability to Consilience: How Explanatory Values Implement Bayesian Reasoning,” Wojtowicz and DeDeoAxiom of Chance blogGoogle Scholar publicationsSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
07/06/211h 32m

149 | Lee Smolin on Time, Philosophy, and the Nature of Reality

The challenge to a theoretical physicist pushing beyond our best current theories is that there are too many ways to go. What parts of the existing paradigm do you keep, which do you discard, and why make those choices? Among today’s theorists, Lee Smolin is unusually reflective about what principles should guide us in the construction of new theories. And he is happy to suggest radical revisions to well-established ideas, in areas from the nature of time to the workings of quantum mechanics. We talk about time, the universe, the role of philosophy, a new picture of spacetime, and the future of physics.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Lee Smolin received his Ph.D. in physics from Harvard University. He is currently on the faculty of the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Canada, where he was a founding member. Among his awards are the Majorana Prize, the Klopsteg Memorial Award, and the Buchalter Cosmology Prize. He is the author of several books, most recently Einstein’s Unfinished Revolution: The Search for What Lies Beyond the Quantum.Web sitePerimeter Institute pageGoogle Scholar publicationsAmazon author pageWikipediaSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
31/05/211h 29m

148 | Henry Farrell on Democracy as a Problem-Solving Mechanism

Democracy posits the radical idea that political power and legitimacy should ultimately be found in all of the people, rather than a small group of experts or for that matter arbitrarily-chosen hereditary dynasties. Nevertheless, a good case can be made that the bottom-up and experimental nature of democracy actually makes for better problem-solving in the political arena than other systems. Political theorist Henry Farrell (in collaboration with statistician Cosma Shalizi) has made exactly that case. We discuss the general idea of solving social problems, and compare different kinds of macro-institutions — markets, hierarchies, and democracies — to ask whether democracies aren’t merely politically just, but also an efficient way of generating good ideas.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Henry Farrell received his Ph.D. in Government from Georgetown University. He is currently the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Agora Institute Professor of International Affairs at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He was the 2019 recipient of the Friedrich Schiedel Prize for Politics & Technology. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and co-leader of the Moral Economy of Technology initiative at Stanford University. He is a co-founder of Crooked Timber blog, as well as the Monkey Cage blog at the Washington Post.Web siteJohns Hopkins web page“Pursuing Cognitive Democracy,” Farrell & ShaliziCrooked Timber postsWashington Post columnsWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
24/05/211h 26m

147 | Rachel Laudan on Cuisine, Culture, and Empire

For as much as people talk about food, a good case can be made that we don’t give it the attention or respect it actually deserves. Food is central to human life, and how we go about the process of creating and consuming it — from agriculture to distribution to cooking to dining — touches the most mundane aspects of our daily routines as well as large-scale questions of geopolitics and culture. Rachel Laudan is a historian of science whose masterful book, Cuisine and Empire, traces the development of the major world cuisines and how they intersect with politics, religion, and war. We talk about all this, and Rachel gives her pitch for granting more respect to “middling cuisine” around the world.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Rachel Laudan received a Ph. D. in History and Philosophy of Science from University College London. She retired from academia after teaching at Carnegie-Mellon, the University of Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, and the University of Hawaii. Among her awards are the Jane Grigson/Julia Child prize of the International Association of Culinary Professionals and the IACP Cookbook Award for Best Book in Culinary History.Web siteBlogAmazon author pageWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
17/05/211h 16m

AMA | May 2021

Welcome to the May 2021 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). I take the large number of questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable size — based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good — and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic.Enjoy!Support Mindscape on Patreon.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
13/05/212h 58m

146 | Emily Riehl on Topology, Categories, and the Future of Mathematics

“A way that math can make the world a better place is by making it a more interesting place to be a conscious being.” So says mathematician Emily Riehl near the start of this episode, and it’s a good summary of what’s to come. Emily works in realms of topology and category theory that are far away from practical applications, or even to some non-practical areas of theoretical physics. But they help us think about what is possible and how everything fits together, and what’s more interesting than that? We talk about what topology is, the specific example of homotopy — how things deform into other things — and how thinking about that leads us into groups, rings, groupoids, and ultimately to category theory, the most abstract of them all.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Emily Riehl received a Ph.D in mathematics from the University of Chicago. She is currently an associate professor of mathematics at Johns Hopkins University. Among her honors are the JHU President’s Frontier Award and the Joan & Joseph Birman Research Prize. She is author of Categorical Homotopy Theory, and co-author of the upcoming Elements of ∞-Category Theory. She competed on the United States women’s national Australian rules football team, where she served as vice-captain.Johns Hopkins web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsQuanta profileWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
10/05/211h 16m

145 | Niall Ferguson on Histories, Networks, and Catastrophes

The world has gone through a tough time with the COVID-19 pandemic. Every catastrophic event is unique, but there are certain commonalities to how such crises play out in our modern interconnected world. Historian Niall Ferguson wrote a book from a couple of years ago, The Square and the Tower, that considered how an interplay between networks and hierarchies has shaped the history of the world. This analysis is directly relevant to how we deal with large-scale catastrophes, which is the subject of his new book, Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe. We talk about global culture as a complex system, and what it means for our ability to respond to crisis.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Niall Ferguson received his D.Phil. degree from the University of Oxford. He is currently the Milbank Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a senior faculty fellow of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard, and a visiting professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing. He is the author of numerous book, several of which have been adapted into television documentaries, and has helped found several different companies. He won an international Emmy for his PBS series The Ascent of Money, and has previously been named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine.Web siteHoover Institution web pageAmazon author pageWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
03/05/211h 25m

144 | Solo: Are We Moving Beyond the Standard Model?

I’ve been a professional physicist since the 1980’s, and not once over the course of my career has a particle-physics experiment produced a completely surprising new result. We’ve discovered particles (top quark, Higgs boson) and even phenomena (neutrino masses), but nothing we hadn’t either predicted or could easily accommodate within the Standard Model of particle physics. That might have changed just this month, with possible confirmations of two “anomalies” in particle-physics measurements involving muons. They might be new physics, or they might just go away. I talk about what it might mean, and (more importantly) how we should feel about the likelihood that these results really do imply physics beyond the Standard Model.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Here are some relevant references for the first result, from LHCb at CERN, that B-mesons are seemingly decaying at different rates into electrons and muons:arxiv paperCERN CourierScientific AmericanResonaancesAnd here are some references for the other result, from the Muon g-2 experiment at Fermilab, on the anomalous magnetic moment of the muon:arxiv paperFermilab articleLattice QCD calculationQuantaArs TechnicaResonaancesMoving the g-2 ring from Brookhaven to FermilabSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
26/04/211h 11m

143 | Julia Galef on Openness, Bias, and Rationality

Mom, apple pie, and rationality — all things that are unquestionably good, right? But rationality, as much as we might value it, is easier to aspire to than to achieve. And there are more than a few hot takes on the market suggesting that we shouldn’t even want to be rational — that it’s inefficient or maladaptive. Julia Galef is here to both stand up for the value of being rational, and to explain how we can better achieve it. She distinguishes between the “soldier mindset,” where we believe what we’re told about the world and march toward a goal, and the “scout mindset,” where we’re open-minded about what’s out there and always asking questions. She makes a compelling case that all things considered, it’s better to be a scout.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Julia Galef received a BA in statistics from Columbia University. She is currently a writer and host of the Rationally Speaking podcast. She was a co-founder and president of the Center for Applied Rationality. Her new book is The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don’t.Web siteRationally Speaking podcastNew York magazine profileWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
19/04/211h 32m

AMA | April 2021

Welcome to the April 2021 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). I take the large number of questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable size — based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good — and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy!Support Mindscape on Patreon.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
14/04/212h 41m

142 | Charlie Jane Anders on Stories and How to Write Them

Telling a story seems like the most natural, human thing in the world. We all do it, all the time. And who amongst us doesn’t think we could be a fairly competent novelist, if we just bothered to take the time? But storytelling is a craft like any other, with its own secret techniques and best practices. Charlie Jane Anders is a multiple-award-winning novelist and story writer, but also someone who has thought carefully about all the ingredients of a good story, from plot and conflict to characters and relationships. This will be a useful conversation for anyone who tells stories, reads novels, or watches movies. Maybe you’ll be inspired to finally write that novel.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Charlie Jane Anders studied English and Asian literature at Cambridge University. She is the author of over 100 published works of short fiction and several novels, including the new Young Adult book Victories Greater Than Death. She was co-founder of the website io9, a blog about science and science fiction. She is a frequent event organizer, including the monthly Writers With Drinks. Among her accolades are Hugo, Nebula, Locus, Sturgeon, and Crawford awards. She is the co-host, with Annalee Newitz, of the Our Opinions Are Correct podcast. Later this year she will publish Never Say You Can’t Survive: How to Get Through Hard Times by Making Up Stories.Web siteWikipediaAmazon author pageTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
12/04/211h 26m

141 | Zeynep Tufekci on Information and Attention in a Networked World

In a world flooded with information, everybody necessarily makes choices about what we pay attention to. This basic fact can be manipulated in any number of ways, from advertisers micro-targeting specific groups to repressive governments flooding social media with misinformation, or for that matter well-meaning people passing along news from sketchy sources. Zeynep Tufekci is a sociologist who studies the flow of information and its impact on society, especially through social media. She has provided insightful analyses of protest movements, online privacy, and the Covid-19 pandemic. We talk about how technology has been shaping the information space we all inhabit.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Zeynep Tufekci received a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Texas-Austin. She is currently an Associate Professor in the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and will be a Visiting Professor at the Craig Newmark Center for Journalism Ethics and Security at Columbia University. She is the author of Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Scientific American, The Atlantic, and elsewhere, and she publishes the Insight newsletter on Substack.Web siteUNC web pageInsight @ SubstackGoogle Scholar publicationsNew York Times profileWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
05/04/211h 17m

140 | Dean Buonomano on Time, Reality, and the Brain

“Time” and “the brain” are two of those things that are somewhat mysterious, but it would be hard for us to live without. So just imagine how much fun it is to bring them together. Dean Buonomano is one of the leading neuroscientists studying how our brains perceive time, which is part of the bigger issue of how we construct models of the physical world around us. We talk about how the brain tells time very differently than the clocks that we’re used to, using different neuronal mechanisms for different timescales. This brings us to a very interesting conversation about the nature of time itself — Dean is a presentist, who believes that only the current moment qualifies as “real,” but we don’t hold that against him.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Dean Buonomano received his Ph.D. from the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Texas Medical School, Houston. He is currently a Professor in the Department of Neurobiology at UCLA. His lab studies how the brain perceives time and constructs models of the external physical world. He is the author of Brain Bugs: How the Brain’s Flaws Shape our Lives and Your Brain is a Time Machine: The Neuroscience and Physics of Time.Lab web siteUCLA web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsAmazon.com author pageWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
29/03/211h 27m

139 | Elizabeth Anderson on Equality, Work, and Ideology

Imagine two people with exactly the same innate abilities, but one is born into a wealthy family and the other is born into poverty. Or two people born into similar circumstances, but one is paralyzed in a freak accident in childhood while the other grows up in perfect health. Is this fair? We live in a society that values some kind of “equality” — “All men are created equal” — without ever quite specifying what we mean. Elizabeth Anderson is a leading philosopher of equality, and we talk about what really matters about this notion. This leads to down-to-earth issues about employment and the work ethic, and how it all ties into modern capitalism. We end up agreeing that a leisure society would be great, but at the moment there’s plenty of work to be done.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Elizabeth Anderson received a Ph.D. in philosophy from Harvard University. She is currently the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and John Dewey Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan. Among her honors are the MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She was named by Prospect magazine as one of the top 50 thinkers of the Covid-19 era.Web siteUniversity of Michigan web pageNew Yorker profileAmazon.com author pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
22/03/211h 19m

138 | Daryl Morey on Analytics, Psychology, and Basketball

You might think that human beings, exhausted by competing for resources and rewards in the real world, would take it easy and stick to cooperation in their spare time. But no; we are fascinated by competition, and invent games and sports to create artificial competition just for fun. These competitions turn out to be wonderful laboratories for exploring concepts like optimization, resource allocation, strategy, and human psychology. Today’s guest, Daryl Morey, is a world leader in thinking analytically about sports, as well as the relationship between impersonal data and the vagaries of human behavior. He’s currently an executive in charge of the Philadelphia 76ers, but I promise you don’t need to be a fan of the Sixers or of basketball or of sports in general to enjoy this wide-ranging conversation.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Daryl Morey received a bachelor’s in computer science from Northwestern University, and an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management. He served as general manager for the Houston Rockets from 2007 to 2020, and since November 2020 has been the President for Basketball Operations for the Philadelphia 76ers. He is founder and co-chair of the annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. He was voted NBA Executive of the Year in 2018.Philadelphia 76ersBasketball-Reference pageWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
15/03/211h 16m

AMA | March 2021

Welcome to the March 2021 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). With an expanding number of questions, it’s become a bit impractical for me to try to rush through and answer them all. So instead, this time I have picked out certain questions to tackle, and grouped some together if they were related. I tried to pick questions on the basis of whether or not I had anything interesting to say in response, but that will of course be in the ear of the listener.Support Mindscape on Patreon.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
10/03/213h 11m

137 | Justin Clarke-Doane on Mathematics, Morality, Objectivity, and Reality

On a spectrum of philosophical topics, one might be tempted to put mathematics and morality on opposite ends. Math is one of the most pristine and rigorously-developed areas of human thought, while morality is notoriously contentious and resistant to consensus. But the more you dig into the depths, the more alike these two fields appear to be. Justin Clarke-Doane argues that they are very much alike indeed, especially when it comes to questions of “reality” and “objectivity” — but that they aren’t quite exactly analogous. We get a little bit into the weeds, but this is a case where close attention will pay off.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Justin Clarke-Doane received his Ph.D. in philosophy from New York University. He is currently Associate Professor of philosophy at Columbia University, as well as an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham and Adjunct Research Associate at Monash University. His book Morality and Mathematics was published in 2020.Web siteColumbia web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsInterview at What Is It Like to Be a Philosopher?Heyman Center eventSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
08/03/211h 32m

136 | Roderick Graham on Cyberspace, Race, and Cultural Conservatism

The internet has made it so much easier for people to talk to each other, in a literal sense. But it hasn’t necessarily made it easier to have rewarding, productive, good-faith conversations. Here I talk with sociologist Rod Graham about what kinds of conversations the internet does enable, and should enable, and how we can work to make them better. We discuss both how social media are used for nefarious purposes, from cyberbullying to driving extremism, but also how they can be mobilized for more lofty goals. We also get into some of the lost nuances in conventional discussions of race, including how many minorities are more culturally conservative than an oversimplified narrative would lead us to believe, and the tricky relationship between online discourse and social cohesion.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Roderick Graham received his Ph.D. in sociology from the City University of New York. He is currently an Associate Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice at Old Dominion University, and serves as the coordinator of the university’s Cybercriminology Bachelor’s program. He is the author of The Digital Practices of African-Americans.Web siteOld Dominion web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsArticles on MediumYouTube channelTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
01/03/211h 23m

135 | Shadi Bartsch on Plato, Vergil, Confucius, and Modernity

In our postmodern world, studying the classics of ancient Greece and Rome can seem quaint at best, downright repressive at worst. (We are talking about works by dead white men, after all.) Do we still have things to learn from classical philosophy, drama, and poetry? Shadi Bartsch offers a vigorous affirmative to this question in two new books coming from different directions. First, she has newly translated the Aeneid, Vergil’s epic poem about the founding myth of Rome, bringing its themes into conversation with the modern era. Second, in the upcoming Plato Goes to China, she explores how a non-Western society interprets classic works of Western philosophy, and what that tells us about each culture.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Shadi Bartsch-Zimmer received her Ph.D. in Classics from the University of California, Berkeley. She is currently the Helen A. Regenstein Distinguished Service Professor of Classics at the University of Chicago. Among her awards are a Guggenheim Fellowship, an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, and multiple teaching awards. She has served as the Editor-in-Chief of Classical Philology, and is the Founding Director of the Stevanovich Institute on the Formation of Knowledge. She is developing an upcoming podcast.Web siteUniversity of Chicago web pageWikipediaTwitterAmazon author pageWashington Post Op-EdSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
22/02/211h 20m

AMA | February 2021

Welcome to the February 2021 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). This month is in what has been the conventional format, where I just try my best to answer every question. But it’s growing a bit unwieldy, so going forward I might just try to pick my favorite questions and answer them in greater detail. We shall see.Support Mindscape on Patreon.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
17/02/212h 53m

134 | Robert Sapolsky on Why We Behave the Way We Do

A common argument against free will is that human behavior is not freely chosen, but rather determined by a number of factors. So what are those factors, anyway? There’s no one better equipped to answer this question than Robert Sapolsky, a leading psychoneurobiologist who has studied human behavior from a variety of angles. In this conversation we follow the path Sapolsky sets out in his bestselling book Behave, where he examines the influences on our behavior from a variety of timescales, from the very short (signals from the amygdala) to the quite ancient (genetic factors tracing back tens of thousands of years and more). It’s a dizzying tour that helps us understand the complexity of human action.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Robert Sapolsky received his Ph.D. in neuroendocrinology from Rockefeller University. He is currently the John and Cynthia Fry Gunn Professor of Biology, Neurology, and Neurosurgery at Stanford University. His awards include a MacArthur Fellowship, the McGovern Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Wonderfest’s Carl Sagan Prize for Science Popularization.Stanford web pageWikipediaRobert Sapolsky Rocks (fan page)Amazon author pageYouTube lectures on Human Behavioral BiologyIMDbSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
15/02/211h 28m

133 | Ziya Tong on Realities We Don't See

It’s a truism that what we see about the world is a small fraction of all that exists. At the simplest level of physics and biology, our senses are drastically limited; we only see a narrow spectrum of electromagnetic waves, and we only hear a narrow band of sound. We don’t feel neutrinos or dark matter at all, even as they pass through our bodies, and we can’t perceive microscopic objects. While science can help us overcome some of these limitations, they do shape how we think about the world. Ziya Tong takes this idea and expands it to include the parts of our social and moral worlds that are effectively invisible to us — from where our food comes from to how we decide how wealth is allocated in society.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Ziya Tong received a B.A. in psychology and sociology from the University of British Columbia, and an M.A. in communications from McGill University. She has served as host, writer, director, producer, and reporter from a number of science programs, most notably Daily Planet on Discovery Canada. She is a Trustee of the World Wildlife Fund, and served on the Board of WWF Canada. Her book The Reality Bubble: How Science Reveals the Hidden Truths that Shape Our World was published in 2019.Web siteIMDb pageWWF pageWikipediaAmazon author pageTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
08/02/211h 37m

Bonus | AIP Oral History Interview

Here is a special bonus punishment treat for Mindscape listeners: an interview of me, by David Zierler of the American Institute of Physics’s Oral History project. This is a fantastic project that collects interviews with influential physicists of all ages, and apparently sometimes less-influential physicists. So if you’d like to hear my (academic) life story boiled down to a mere four hours, here you go!Support Mindscape on Patreon.It’s well worth checking out the AIP Oral History Project website, which has over 1000 fascinating interviews with physicists from different decades. The transcript of this particular interview can be found there. Thanks to David and the AIP for letting us include this as a bonus podcast episode.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
04/02/214h 1m

132 | Michael Levin on Growth, Form, Information, and the Self

As a semi-outsider, it’s fun for me to watch as a new era dawns in biology: one that adds ideas from physics, big data, computer science, and information theory to the usual biological toolkit. One of the big areas of study in this burgeoning field is the relationship between the basic bioinformatic building blocks (genes and proteins) to the macroscopic organism that eventually results. That relationship is not a simple one, as we’re discovering. Standard metaphors notwithstanding, an organism is not a machine based on genetic blueprints. I talk with biologist and information scientist Michael Levin about how information and physical constraints come together to make organisms and selves.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Michael Levin received his Ph.D. in genetics from Harvard University. He is currently Distinguished Professor and Vannevar Bush Chair in the Biology department at Tufts University, and serves as director of the Tufts Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology. His work on left-right asymmetric body structures is on Nature’s list of 100 Milestones of Developmental Biology of the Century.Tufts web siteAllen Center web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
01/02/211h 21m

131 | Avi Loeb on Taking Aliens Seriously

The possible existence of technologically advanced extraterrestrial civilizations — not just alien microbes, but cultures as advanced (or much more) than our own — is one of the most provocative questions in modern science. So provocative that it’s difficult to talk about the idea in a rational, dispassionate way; there are those who loudly insist that the probability of advanced alien cultures existing is essentially one, even without direct evidence, and others are so exhausted by overblown claims in popular media that they want to squelch any such talk. Astronomer Avi Loeb thinks we should be taking this possibility seriously, so much so that he suggested that the recent interstellar interloper `Oumuamua might be a spaceship built by aliens. That got him in a lot of trouble. We talk about the trouble, about `Oumuamua, and the attitude scientists should take toward provocative ideas.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Abraham (Avi) Loeb received his Ph.D. in plasma physics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is currently the Frank B. Baird Jr. professor of science at Harvard University. He served as the Chair of Harvard’s Astronomy department from 2011-2020. He is Director of the Institute for Theory and Computation of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and Founding Director of Harvard’s Black Hole Initiative. He is chair of the Advisory Committee for the Breakthrough Starshot Initiative. His new book is Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth.Harvard Astronomy web pageCenter for Astrophysics web pageWikipediaSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
25/01/211h 40m

130 | Frank Wilczek on the Present and Future of Fundamental Physics

What is the world made of? How does it behave? These questions, aimed at the most basic level of reality, are the subject of fundamental physics. What counts as fundamental is somewhat contestable, but it includes our best understanding of matter and energy, space and time, and dynamical laws, as well as complex emergent structures and the sweep of the cosmos. Few people are better positioned to talk about fundamental physics than Frank Wilczek, a Nobel Laureate who has made significant contributions to our understanding of the strong interactions, dark matter, black holes, and condensed matter, as well as proposing the existence of time crystals. We talk about what we currently know about fundamental physics, but also the directions in which it is heading, for better and for worse.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Frank Wilczek received his Ph.D. in physics from Princeton University. He is currently the Herman Feshbach professor of physics at the MIT; Founding Director of the T. D. Lee Institute and Chief Scientist at Wilczek Quantum Center, Shanghai Jiao Tong University; Distinguished Professor at Arizona State University; and Professor at Stockholm University. Among his numerous awards are the MacArthur Fellowship, the Nobel Prize in Physics (2004, for asymptotic freedom), membership in the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the author of numerous books, most recently Fundamentals: Ten Keys to Reality.Web siteMIT web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsNobel biographyProfile in Quanta magazineWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
18/01/211h 16m

129 | Solo: Democracy in America

The first full week of 2021 has been action-packed for those of us in the United States of America, for reasons you’re probably aware of, including a riotous mob storming the US Capitol. The situation has spurred me to take the unusual step of doing a solo podcast in response to current events. But never fear, I’m not actually trying to analyze current events for their own sakes. Rather, I’m using them as a jumping-off point for a more general discussion of how democracy is supposed to work and how we can make it better. We’ve talked about related topics recently with Cornel West and David Stasavage, but there are things I wanted to say in my own voice that fit well here. Politics is important everywhere, and it’s a crucial responsibility for those of us who live in societies that aspire to be participatory and democratic. We have to think these things through, and that’s what this podcast is all about.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Apologies to Alexis de Toqueville, who wrote an important book whose name I stole, and who is mentioned nowhere in this episode.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
11/01/211h 43m

128 | Joseph Henrich on the Weirdness of the West

We all know stereotypes about people from different countries; but we also recognize that there really are broad cultural differences between people who grow up in different societies. This raises a challenge when most psychological research is performed on a narrow and unrepresentative slice of the world’s population — a subset that has accurately been labeled as WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic). Joseph Henrich has argued that focusing on this group has led to systematic biases in how we think about human psychology. In his new book, he proposes a surprising theory for how WEIRD people got that way, based on the Church insisting on the elimination of marriage to relatives. It’s an audacious idea that nudges us to rethink how the WEIRD world came to be.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Joseph Henrich received his Ph.D. in anthropology from UCLA. He is currently Professor and Chair of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. Among his awards are a Fulbright scholarship, a Presidential Early Career Award, the Killam Research Prize, and the Wegner Theoretical Innovation Prize. His trade books include The Secret of Our Success: How Culture is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating Our Species, and Making Us Smart, and the new The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous.Personal web siteLab web siteHarvard web pageWikipediaAmazon author pageTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
04/01/211h 27m

Holiday Message 2020 | The Screwy Universe

Welcome to the third annual Mindscape Holiday Message! Just a chance for me to be a little more chatty and informal than usual, although as it turned out this isn’t all that different from a conventional solo episode. With the difference that what I’m talking about — a phenomenon called “cosmic birefringence” — has played a big part in my personal scientific career, so I get to be a bit autobiographical.Every photon has a direction of polarization, which generally remains fixed as the photon travels through space. Birefringence is an effect by which the polarization rotates rather than staying fixed. It can happen in materials, but generally not in outer space. But there are exotic physics ideas that could cause such a rotation, including the dynamical dark energy candidate known as quintessence. People have put limits on such cosmic birefringence for a while now, but recently there was a claim that there might be a nonzero amount of birefringence visible in the polarization of the cosmic microwave background! Still very tentative, but if this hint turns into real evidence, it would big extremely big news for our understanding of physics and cosmology, possibly helping us pinpoint the nature of dark energy.Show notes, links, transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2020/12/21/holiday-message-2020-the-screwy-universe/See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
21/12/201h 31m

127 | Erich Jarvis on Language, Birds, and People

Many characteristics go into making human beings special — brain size, opposable thumbs, etc. Surely one of the most important is language, and in particular the ability to learn new sounds and use them for communication. Many other species communicate through sound, but only a very few — humans, elephants, bats, cetaceans, and a handful of bird species — learn new sounds in order to do so. Erich Jarvis has been shedding enormous light on the process of vocal learning, by studying birds and comparing them to humans. He argues that there is a particular mental circuit in the brains of parrots (for example) responsible for vocal learning, and that it corresponds to similar circuits in the human brain. This has implications for the development of intelligence and other important human characteristics.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Erich Jarvis received his Ph.D. in Animal Behavior and Molecular Neurobehavior from Rockefeller University. He is currently a professor in the Laboratory of Neurogenetics of Language at Rockefeller and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Among his many awards are the Alan T. Waterman Award from the National Science Foundation, an American Philosophical Society Award, a Packard Foundation fellowship, an NIH Director’s Pioneer award, Northwestern University’s Distinguished Role Model in Science award, and the Summit Award from the American Society for Association Executives.Web siteRockefeller web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaTalk on vocal learning and the brainTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
14/12/201h 15m

AMA | December 2020

Getting into the swing of things here with monthly Ask Me Anything episodes. If you missed the explanation last month, there is a Patreon page for people who wish to support Mindscape with a small donation per episode. Benefits include a warm feeling, social status, access to ad-free versions of the podcast, and the ability to ask questions once per month, which I answer over the course of a hilariously long podcast. Thanks to the generosity of Patreon supporters, we are now making the fruits of these monthly adventures available on the regular podcast feed.Here is the December 2020 edition. Note that there won’t be a January 2021 edition, as I take a break from podcasting for the holidays. Have a good one everybody!Support Mindscape on Patreon.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
09/12/203h 24m

126 | David Stasavage on the Origin and History of Democracy

Those of us living in democracies tend to take the idea for granted. We forget what an audacious, radical idea it is to put government power into the hands of literally all of the citizens of a country. Where did such an idea come from, and where is it going? Political scientist David Stasavage has written an ambitious history of democracy worldwide, in which he makes a number of unconventional points. The roots of democracy go much further back than we often think; the idea wasn’t invented in Athens, but can be found in a large number of ancient societies. And the resurgence of democracy in Europe wasn’t because that continent was especially advanced, but precisely the opposite. These insights have implications for what the future of democracy has in store.Support Mindscape on Patreon.David Stasavage received his Ph.D. in Government from Harvard University. He is currently Dean for the Social Sciences and the Julius Silver Professor in the Department of Politics at New York University and an Affiliated Professor in NYU’s School of Law. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His most recent book is The Decline and Rise of Democracy: A Global History from Antiquity to Today.Web siteNYU web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsTalk on the history of taxation and fairnessAmazon author pageTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
07/12/201h 25m

125 | David Haig on the Evolution of Meaning from Darwin to Derrida

Aristotle conceived of the world in terms of teleological “final causes”; Darwin, or so the story goes, erased purpose and meaning from the world, replacing them with a bloodless scientific algorithm. But should we abandon all talk of meanings and purposes, or instead conceptualize them as emergent rather than fundamental? Philosophers (and former Mindscape guests) Alex Rosenberg and Daniel Dennett recently had an exchange on just this subject, and today we’re going to hear from a working scientist. David Haig is a geneticist and evolutionary biologist who argues that it’s perfectly sensible to perceive meaning as arising through the course of evolution, even if evolution itself is purposeless.Support Mindscape on Patreon.David Haig received his Ph.D. in biology from Macquarie University. He is currently the George Putnam Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. His research focuses on evolutionary aspects of cooperation, competition, and kinship, including the kinship theory of genomic imprinting. His new book is From Darwin to Derrida: Selfish Genes, Social Selves, and the Meanings of Life.Web siteGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaAmazon author pageTalk on cooperative behaviorSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
30/11/201h 15m

124 | Solo: How Time Travel Could and Should Work

Time! It doesn’t stop, psychological effects of being under lockdown notwithstanding. How we experience time depends on our situation, but time itself just marches forward. Unless, of course, it’s possible to travel to the past, as countless science-fiction scenarios have depicted. But does that really make sense? Couldn’t we then change the past, even so dramatically that our own existence would never have happened? In this solo podcast I talk about both the physics and fiction of time travel. I point out that it might be allowed by the laws of physics, and explain how that would work, but that we really don’t know. And I try to make sense of some of the less-sensible depictions of cinematic time travel. Coming up with a logical theory that could account for Back to the Future isn’t easy, but podcasting isn’t for the squeamish.Support Mindscape on Patreon.But wait, there’s more! I was contacted by Janna Levin, who we fondly remember from Episode 27. Janna moonlights as Chair and Director of Sciences at Pioneer Works, an institution dedicated to bringing together creative people in art and science. Like the rest of us, they’ve been looking for ways to offer more online content in these pandemic times, so we thought about ways to collaborate. Here’s what they came up with: artist Azikiwe Mohammed has created an animated video backdrop to this podcast episode. The visuals are trippy, colorful, and inspired by (without trying to directly illustrate) what I talk about in the episode. You can check out a brief write-up at the Pioneer Works site, or view the video directly below.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHy1j4LiyGQSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
23/11/202h 41m

AMA | November 2020

As you have likely heard me mention before, I have an account on Patreon, where people can sign up to donate a dollar or two per episode of Mindscape. In return they get two tangible (if minor) benefits. First, they get to listen to the podcast without any ads. Second, once per month I do an Ask Me Anything episode, where patrons are allowed to ask any question they like, and I do my best to answer as many as I can.Patreon supporters have kindly agreed to let these monthly AMA episodes be released to the general public (though they maintain the right actually ask the questions). I announced that I’d be doing this a while back, but with the cost structure I had with my podcast host it turned out to be prohibitively expensive for me. But now we’ve got that all figured out! So now, and hopefully going forward, these AMAs will be part of the regular podcast feed. They will be released sometime in the middle of each month, not as part of the usual Monday weekly series, so they won’t get numbers of their own.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
20/11/203h 12m

123 | Lisa Feldman Barrett on Emotions, Actions, and the Brain

Emotions are at the same time utterly central to who we are — where would we be without them? — and also seemingly peripheral to the “real” work our brains do, understanding the world and acting within it. Why do we have emotions, anyway? Are they hardwired into the brain? Lisa Feldman Barrett is one of the world’s leading experts in the psychology of emotions, and she emphasizes that they are more constructed and less hard-wired than you might think. How we feel and express emotions can vary from culture to culture or even person to person. It’s better to think of emotions of a link between affective response and our behaviors.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Lisa Feldman Barrett received her Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Waterloo. She is currently the University Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Director of the Interdisciplinary Affective Science Laboratory at Northeastern University. She also holds research appointments at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH)/Harvard Medical School in the Psychiatric Neuroimaging Program and at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging in the Department of Radiology. Among her many honors are the Award for Distinguished Service in Psychological Science from the American Psychological Association, the Mentor Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Association for Psychological Science, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She is the author of How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain, and her latest book is Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain.Web siteLab web pageNortheastern web pageGoogle Scholar profileAmazon author pageTalk on How the Brain Creates EmotionsWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
16/11/201h 17m

122 | David Eagleman on Tapping Into the Livewired Brain

Imagine you were locked in a sealed room, with no way to access the outside world but a few screens showing a view of what’s outside. Seems scary and limited, but that’s essentially the situation that our brains find themselves in — locked in our skulls, with only the limited information from a few unreliable sensory modalities to tell them what’s going on inside. Neuroscientist David Eagleman has long been interested in how the brain processes that sensory input, and also how we might train it to learn completely new ways of accessing the outside world, with important ramifications for virtual reality and novel brain/computer interface techniques.Support Mindscape on Patreon.David Eagleman received his Ph.D. in neuroscience from the Baylor College of Medicine. He is currently the CEO of Neosensory, a company that builds sensory-augmentation devices, as well as an adjunct professor at Stanford. His research has involved time perception, synesthesia, and sensory substitution. He is the founder and director of the Center for Science and Law. He is a bestselling author of both fiction and nonfiction. He was the writer and host of the TV show The Brain with David Eagleman, and writer of the Netflix documentary The Creative Brain. His most recent book is Livewired: The Inside Story of the Ever-Changing Brain.Web siteStanford web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsNeosensoryTalk on The Livewired BrainAmazon author pageThe Brain with David Eagleman (PBS)WikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
09/11/201h 17m

121 | Cornel West on What Democracy Is and Should Be

This episode is published on November 2, 2020, the day before an historic election in the United States. An election that comes amidst growing worries about the future of democratic governance, as well as explicit claims that democracy is intrinsically unfair, inefficient, or ill-suited to the modern world. What better time to take a step back and think about the foundations of democracy? Cornel West is a well-known philosopher and public intellectual who has written extensively about race and class in America. He is also deeply interested in democracy, both in theory and in practice. We talk about what makes democracy worth fighting for, the different traditions that inform it, and the kinds of engagement it demands of its citizens.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Cornel West received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University. He is currently Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy at Harvard University as well as Professor Emeritus at Princeton. He is the author of numerous books, including Race Matters and Democracy Matters. He is a frequent guest on the Bill Maher Show, CNN, C-Span, and Democracy Now, appeared in the Matrix trilogy, and has produced three spoken-word albums. He is the co-host, with Tricia Rose, of the Tight Rope podcast.Web siteHarvard web pageIndieBound author pageTalk on Race, Democracy, and the HumanitiesWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
02/11/201h 21m

120 | Jeremy England on Biology, Thermodynamics, and the Bible

Erwin Schrödinger’s famous book What Is Life? highlighted the connections between physics, and thermodynamics in particular, and the nature of living beings. But the exact connections between living organisms and the flow of heat and entropy remains a topic of ongoing research. Jeremy England is a leader in this field, deriving connections between thermodynamic relations and the processes of life. He is also an ordained rabbi who finds resonances between modern science and passages in the Hebrew Bible. We talk about it all, from entropy fluctuation theorems to how scientists should approach religion.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Jeremy England received his Ph.D. in physics from Stanford University. He is currently Senior Director in the Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning group at GlaxoSmithKline. He has been a Rhodes scholar, a Hertz fellow, and was named one of Forbes‘s “30 Under 30 Rising Stars of Science.” His new book is Every Life is on Fire: How Thermodynamics Explains the Origins of Living Things.Web siteGoogle Scholar publicationsTalk on Non-Equilibrium Statistical Mechanics and LifeAmazon author pageWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
26/10/201h 28m

119 | Musa al-Gharbi on the Value of Intellectual Diversity

In the service of seeking truth, there would seem to be value in intellectual diversity, both in keeping ourselves honest and in the possibility of new ideas coming from unexpected quarters. That’s true in the natural sciences, but even more so in the humanities and social sciences, where the right/wrong distinction is sometimes less clear. But academia isn’t always diverse; as an empirical fact, there are a lot more liberals on university faculties than there are conservatives. I talk with Musa al-Gharbi about why this is true — self-selection? discrimination? — the extent to which it’s a real problem, and how we should better think about the value of diverse viewpoints.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Musa al-Gharbi received Masters degrees in philosophy from the University of Arizona and in sociology from Columbia University. He is currently a Paul F. Lazarsfeld Fellow in Sociology at Columbia, and until recently served as the Communications Director for Heterodox Academy. His essays have appeared in outlets such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Atlantic Magazine, Foreign Affairs, Voice of America, and Al-Jazeera.Web siteColumbia web pageEssaysPanel discussion on Populism and Tribalism in American LifeHeterodox AcademyTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
19/10/201h 16m

118 | Adam Riess on the Expansion of the Universe and a Crisis in Cosmology

Astronomers rocked the cosmological world with the 1998 discovery that the universe is accelerating. Well-deserved Nobel Prizes were awarded to Saul Perlmutter, Brian Schmidt, and today’s guest Adam Riess. Adam has continued to push forward on investigating the structure and evolution of the universe. He’s been a leader in emphasizing a curious disagreement that threatens to grow into a crisis: incompatible values of the Hubble constant (expansion rate of the universe) obtained from the cosmic microwave background vs. direct measurements. We talk about where this “Hubble tension” comes from, and what it might mean for the universe.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Adam Riess received his Ph.D. in astronomy from Harvard University. He is currently Bloomberg Distinguished Professor and Thomas J. Barber Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins University and a Senior member of the Science Staff at the Space Telescope Science Institute. Among his many awards are the Helen B. Warner Prize of the American Astronomical Society, the Sackler Prize, the Shaw Prize, the Gruber Cosmology Prize, the MacArthur Fellowship, the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, and the Nobel Prize.Johns Hopkins web pageSpace Telescope Science Institute web pageNobel LectureGoogle Scholar publicationsTalk on the expansion rate of the universeWikipediaSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
12/10/201h 18m

117 | Sean B. Carroll on Randomness and the Course of Evolution

Evolution is a messy business, involving as it does selection pressures, mutations, genetic drift, and the effects of random external interventions. So in the end, how much of it is predictable, and how much is in the hands of chance? Today we’re thrilled to have as a guest my evil (but more respectable, by most measures) twin, the biologist Sean B. Carroll. Sean is both a leader of the modern evo-devo revolution, and a wonderful and diverse writer. We talk about the importance of randomness and unpredictability in life, from the evolution of species to the daily routine of every individual.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Sean B. Carroll received a Ph.D. in immunology from Tufts University. He is currently the Andrew and Mary Balo and Nicholas and Susan Simon Endowed Chair of Biology at the University of Maryland, Vice-President for Science Education at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Executive Director of HHMI Tangled Bank Studios, and Professor Emeritus of Genetics and Molecular Biology at the University of Wisconsin. His new book, A Series of Fortunate Events: Chance and the Making of the Planet, Life, and You, explores the role of chance in the development of life.Web siteHHMI web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsTangled Bank StudiosTalk on The Serengeti RulesAmazon author pageWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
05/10/201h 20m

116 | Teresa Bejan on Free Speech, Civility, and Toleration

How can, and should, we talk to each other, especially to people with whom we disagree? “Free speech” is rightfully entrenched as an important value in liberal democratic societies, but implementing it consistently and fairly is a tricky business. Political theorist Teresa Bejan comes to this question from a philosophical and historical perspective, managing to relate broad principles to modern hot-button issues. We talk about the importance of tolerating disreputable beliefs, the senses in which speech acts can be harmful, and how “civility” places demands on listeners as well as speakers.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Teresa Bejan received an M.Phil. in Political Thought and Intellectual History from Cambridge and a Ph.D. in Political Science from Yale. She is currently Associate Professor of Political Theory and Fellow of Oriel College at the University of Oxford. Among her awards are the American Political Science Association’s Leo Strauss Award for the best dissertation in political philosophy and the inaugural Early Career Prize for the greatest overall contribution to research and teaching in political thought from the Britain & Ireland Association for Political Thought. Her book Mere Civility: Disagreement and the Limits of Toleration considers political speech through the lens of early modern debates about religious liberty.Web siteOxford web pageMere CivilityGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaTalk on “What Was the Point of Equality?”TwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
28/09/201h 43m

115 | Netta Engelhardt on Black Hole Information, Wormholes, and Quantum Gravity

Stephen Hawking made a number of memorable contributions to physics, but perhaps his greatest was a puzzle: what happens to information that falls into a black hole? The question sits squarely at the overlap of quantum mechanics and gravitation, an area in which direct experimental input is hard to come by, so a great number of leading theoretical physicists have been thinking about it for decades. Now there is a possibility that physicists might have made some progress, by showing how subtle effects relate the radiation leaving a black hole to what’s going on inside. Netta Engelhardt is one of the contributors to these recent advances, and together we go through the black hole information puzzle, why wormholes might be important to the story, and what it all might teach us about quantum gravity.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Netta Engelhardt received her Ph.D. in physics from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is currently on the faculty in the physics department at MIT. She recently shared the New Horizons in Physics Prize with Ahmed Almheiri, Henry Maxfield, and Geoff Penington, “for calculating the quantum information content of a black hole and its radiation.”MIT web pageinSPIRE publicationsTalk on Black Hole InformationNew Horizons PrizeToday’s episode is sponsored by LinkedIn Jobs (http://linkedIn.com/mindscape) and The Great Courses Plus (http://thegreatcoursesplus.com/mindscape). Follow these links for exclusive offers.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
21/09/201h 26m

114 | Angela Chen on Asexuality in a Sex-Preoccupied World

Sexuality is, and always has been, a topic that is endlessly fascinating but also contentious. You might think that asexuality would be more straightforward, but you’d be wrong. Asexual people, or “aces,” haven’t been front and center in the public discussion of gender and sexuality, and as a result there is confusion about such basic issues as what “asexuality” even means. Angela Chen is a science journalist and an ace herself, and she’s written a new book about asexuality and how it fits into the wider discussion of sex and gender. Precisely because sexuality is so taken for granted by many people, thinking about asexuality not only helps us understand the issues confronting aces, but the meaning of sexuality more broadly.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Angela Chen received a B.A. in comparative literature from UC San Diego. She is a contributing editor at Catapult magazine, and her writings have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Vox Media, The Atlantic, MIT Technology Review, and elsewhere. Her new book is Ace: What Asexuality Reveals about Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex.Web siteAmazon.com author pageTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
14/09/201h 8m

113 | Cailin O'Connor on Game Theory, Evolution, and the Origins of Unfairness

You can’t always get what you want, as a wise person once said. But we do try, even when someone else wants the same thing. Our lives as people, and the evolution of other animals over time, are shaped by competition for scarce resources of various kinds. Game theory provides a natural framework for understanding strategies and behaviors in these competitive settings, and thus provides a lens with which to analyze evolution and human behavior, up to and including why racial or gender groups are consistently discriminated against in society. Cailin O’Connor is the author or two recent books on these issues: Games in the Philosophy of Biology and The Origins of Unfairness: Social Categories and Cultural Evolution.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Cailin O’Connor received her Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of California, Irvine. She is currently Associate Professor of Logic and Philosophy of Science and a member of the Institute for Mathematical Behavioral Science at UCI. Her works involves questions in the philosophy of biology and behavioral science, game theory, agent-based modeling, social epistemology, decision theory, rational choice, and the spread of misinformation.Web siteGoogle Scholar publicationsPhilPeople ProfileTalk on how misinformation spreadsAmazon author pageTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
07/09/201h 19m

112 | Fyodor Urnov on Gene Editing, CRISPR, and Human Engineering

Not too long ago nobody carried a mobile phone; now almost everybody does. That’s the kind of rate of rapid progress we’re seeing with our ability to directly edit genomes. With the use of CRISPR-Cas9 and other techniques, gene editing is becoming commonplace. How does that work — and perhaps more importantly, how are we going to put it to use? Fyodor Urnov has worked in this area from its beginning, having coined the term “gene editing.” We talk about how this new technology can be used to cure or prevent disease, as well as the pros and cons of designer babies.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Fyodor Urnov received his Ph.D. in Biology from Brown University. He is currently professor of Genetic, Genomics, and Development in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at UC Berkeley, as well as Director for Technology and Translation at the Innovative Genomics Institute. His research focuses on using CRISPR gene-editing techniques to develop treatments for sickle cell disease, radiation injury, and other conditions, as well as guiding IGI researchers as they bring these therapies from the lab to the clinic.Web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsInnovative Genomics InstituteTalk on “The Next Generation of Edited Humans”TwitterTodays episode is sponsored by The Great Courses Plus. Mindscape listeners get a free trial if they sign up at http://thegreatcoursesplus.com/mindscape.See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
31/08/201h 20m

111 | Nick Bostrom on Anthropic Selection and Living in a Simulation

Human civilization is only a few thousand years old (depending on how we count). So if civilization will ultimately last for millions of years, it could be considered surprising that we’ve found ourselves so early in history. Should we therefore predict that human civilization will probably disappear within a few thousand years? This “Doomsday Argument” shares a family resemblance to ideas used by many professional cosmologists to judge whether a model of the universe is natural or not. Philosopher Nick Bostrom is the world’s expert on these kinds of anthropic arguments. We talk through them, leading to the biggest doozy of them all: the idea that our perceived reality might be a computer simulation being run by enormously more powerful beings.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Nick Bostrom received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the London School of Economics. He also has bachelor’s degrees in philosophy, mathematics, logic, and artificial intelligence from the University of Gothenburg, an M.A. in philosophy and physics from the University of Stockholm, and an M.Sc. in computational neuroscience from King’s College London. He is currently a Professor of Applied Ethics at the University of Oxford, Director of the Oxford Future of Humanity Institute, and Director of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology. He is the author of Anthropic Bias: Selection Effects in Science and Philosophy and Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies.Web siteOxford web pageWikipediaAmazon author pageTalk on the Simulation ArgumentSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
24/08/201h 20m

110 | Neil Johnson on Complexity, Conflict, and Infodemiology

Physicists have traditionally simplified systems as much as possible, in order to shed light on fundamental properties. But small, simple parts build up into large, complex wholes. Are there new rules and laws of nature that apply specifically to the realm of complexity? This has been a popular question for a few decades now, and we have some answers but not as many as we would like. Neil Johnson is an expert on complex systems generally, and information networks in particular. We discuss how self-organization can arise from individual units following their own agendas, and how we can mathematically characterize such behavior. Then we talk about information networks in the modern world, including how they have been used to spread disinformation and find recruits for radical fringe groups.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Neil Johnson received his Ph.D. in physics from Harvard University. He is currently professor of physics at George Washington University, where he heads an initiative in Complexity and Data Science. In 1999 he presented the annual Christmas Lectures at the Royal Institution in London. He was the recipient of the Burton Award from the American Physical Society in 2018. Among his books are the textbook Financial Market Complexity and the trade book Simply Complexity.Web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaAmazon author pageLecture on Complexity in Human ActivitySee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
17/08/201h 23m

109 | Jason Torchinsky on Our Self-Driving Future

It’s easy to foresee that technological progress will change how we live; it’s much harder to anticipate exactly how. Self-driving cars represent an enormous technological challenge, but one that is plausibly on the way to being solved. What will be the unanticipated consequences when autonomous vehicles become commonplace? Jason Torchinsky is a fan of technology, but also a fan of driving, and his recent book Robot, Take the Wheel examines how our relationship with cars is likely to change in the near future.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Jason Torchinsky is a senior editor at Jalopnik. His writing has also appeared in venues such as Boing Boing, Muck Rack, and Mother Jones. He is a producer and occasional guest star on Jay Leno’s Garage, and has been the host of the YouTube series Jason Drives.Articles at JalopnikArticles at Muck RackRobot, Take the Wheel: The Road to Autonomous Cars and the Lost Art of DrivingTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
10/08/201h 18m

108 | Carl Bergstrom on Information, Disinformation, and Bullshit

We are living, in case you haven’t noticed, in a world full of bullshit. It’s hard to say whether the amount is truly increasing, but it seems that everywhere you look someone is trying to convince you of something, regardless of whether that something is actually true. Where is this bullshit coming from, how is it disseminated, and what can we do about it? Carl Bergstrom studies information in the context of biology, which has led him to investigate the flow of information and disinformation in social networks, especially the use of data in misleading ways. In the time of Covid-19 he has become on of the best Twitter feeds for reliable information, and we discuss how the pandemic has been a bounteous new source of bullshit.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Carl Bergstrom received his Ph.D. in biology from Stanford University. He is currently a professor of biology at the University of Washington. In addition to his work on information and biology, he has worked on scientific practice and communication, proposing the eigenfactor method of ranking scientific journals. His new book (with Jevin West) is Calling Bullshit: The Art of Skepticism in a Data-Driven World, which grew out of a course taught at the University of Wisconsin.Web siteUniversity of Washington web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaTwitterAmazon author pageCalling Bullshit websiteSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
03/08/201h 24m

107 | Russ Shafer-Landau on the Reality of Morality

Despite occasional and important disagreements, most people are in rough agreement about what it means to be moral, to do the right thing. There’s much less agreement about why we should be moral, or even what kind of answer to that question could be convincing. Philosopher Russ Shafer-Landau is one of the leading proponents of moral realism — the view that objective moral truths exist independently of human choices. That’s not my own view, but ethics and meta-ethics are areas in which I think it’s wise to keep an open mind and listen to smart people who disagree. This conversation offers food for thought for people on either side of this debate.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Russ Shafer-Landau received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Arizona. He is currently Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Among his numerous books are Moral Realism: A Defense and Whatever Happened to Good and Evil? He is the editor of Oxford Studies in Metaethics, and is the founder and organizer of the annual Madison Metaethics Workshop.Web siteUW-Madison web pagePhilPeople profileAmazon author pageTalk on Moral Disagreement and Moral IntuitionsWikipediaSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
27/07/201h 30m

106 | Stuart Bartlett on What "Life" Means

Someday, most likely, we will encounter life that is not as we know it. We might find it elsewhere in the universe, we might find it right here on Earth, or we might make it ourselves in a lab. Will we know it when we see it? “Life” isn’t a simple unified concept, but rather a collection of a number of life-like properties. I talk with astrobiologist Stuart Bartlett, who (in collaboration with Michael Wong) has proposed a new way of thinking about life based on four pillars: dissipation, autocatalysis, homeostasis, and learning. Their framework may or may not become the standard picture, but it provides a useful way of thinking about what we expect life to be.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Stuart Bartlett received his Ph.D. in complex systems from the University of Southampton. He is currently a postdoctoral researcher in the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences at Caltech, and was formerly a postdoc at the Earth Life Science Institute at the Tokyo Institute of Technology.Web site/BlogCaltech web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsResearchGate page“Defining Lyfe in the Universe: From Three Privileged Functions to Four Pillars,” Bartlett and Wong (2020).See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
20/07/201h 25m

105 | Ann-Sophie Barwich on the Science and Philosophy of Smell

We gather empirical evidence about the nature of the world through our senses, and use that evidence to construct an image of the world in our minds. But not all senses are created equal; in practice, we tend to privilege vision, with hearing perhaps a close second. Ann-Sophie Barwich wants to argue that we should take smell more seriously, and that doing so will give us new insights into how the brain works. As a working philosopher and neuroscientist, she shares a wealth of fascinating information about how smell works, how it shapes the way we think, and what it all means for questions of free will and rationality.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Ann-Sophie Barwich received her Ph.D. in Philosophy at the Centre for the Study of the Life Sciences, University of Exeter. She is currently Assistant Professor in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science and Cognitive Science Program at Indiana University Bloomington. She has previously been a Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience at The Center for Science & Society, Columbia University, and held a Research Fellowship at the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research, Vienna. Her new book is Smellosophy: What the Nose Tells the Mind.Web siteIndiana University web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsBlog at Psychology TodayTalk on the Philosophy and History of OlfactionTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
13/07/201h 17m

104 | David Rosen and Scott Miles on the Neuroscience of Music and Creativity

Creativity is one of those things that we all admire but struggle to define or make concrete. Music provides a useful laboratory in which to examine what creativity is all about — how do people become creative, what is happening in their brains during the creative process, and what kinds of creativity does the audience actually enjoy? David Rosen and Scott Miles are both neuroscientists and musicians who have been investigating this question from the perspective of both listeners and performers. They have been performing neuroscientific experiments to understand how the brain becomes creative, and founded Secret Chord Laboratories to develop software that will predict what kinds of music people will like.Support Mindscape on Patreon.David S. Rosen received his Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from Drexel University. He is currently a co-founder and the chief operations officer at Secret Chord Laboratories, a music-tech startup company. His interdisciplinary research program covers an array of topics: creative cognition, peak experiences, the neuroscience of music production and perception, psychedelics and STEAM education. David began playing the piano at the age of 8 and bass at age 15. He is the co-creator and bassist of sci-fi transmedia band, Chronicles of Sound, and instrumental progressive rock band, NAKAMA.Scott Miles received his Ph.D. in neuroscience from Georgetown University. He is currently the CEO and innovation leader of Secret Chord Laboratories. He has been performing and producing music since the age of 10. In his doctoral work he investigated how music preference is formed in the brain. He secured funding through the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to support this work. With David Rosen, Ph.D., he found support for two hypotheses about how the structure of music leads to purchase decisions. Miles then coded an algorithm to generate new music, and in a behavioral experiment, music featuring these properties was indeed preferred. He formed and has overseen the development of Secret Chord laboratories since it was incorporated in June 2018.Secret Chord LaboratoriesPaper on Surprise and MusicSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
06/07/201h 26m

103 | J. Kenji López-Alt on Cooking As and With Science

Cooking is art, but it’s also very much science — mostly chemistry, but with important contributions from physics and biology. (Almost like a well-balanced recipe…) And I can’t think of anyone better to talk to about the intersection of these fields than Kenji López-Alt: professional chef and restauranteur, MIT graduate, and author of The Food Lab. We discuss how modern scientific ideas can improve your cooking, and more importantly, how to bring a scientific approach to cooking anything at all. Then we also get into the cultural and personal resonance of food, and offer a few practical tips.Support Mindscape on Patreon.James Kenji López-Alt received a bachelor’s degree in architecture from MIT. After working at several restaurants, he began writing the Food Lab column for Serious Eats, where he is now Chief Culinary Consultant. His first book, The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking through Science, won the 2016 James Beard Award for General Cooking and the International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook of the Year Award. He is co-owner of Wursthall Restaurant and Bierhaus in San Mateo, California.Web siteFood Lab columnAmazon author pageWikipediaTwitterYouTubeStoring stew/chili overnight probably doesn’t make it taste betterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
29/06/201h 15m

102 | Maria Konnikova on Poker, Psychology, and Reason

The best chess and Go players in the world aren’t human beings any more; they’re artificially-intelligent computer programs. But the best poker players are still humans. Poker is a laboratory for understanding how rationality works in real-world situations: it features stochastic events, incomplete information, Bayesian updating, game theory, reading other people, a battle between emotions and reason, and real-world stakes. Maria Konnikova started in psychology, turned to writing, and then took up professional-level poker, and has learned a lot along the way about the challenges of being rational. We talk about what games like poker can teach us about thinking and human psychology.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Maria Konnikova received her Ph.D. in psychology from Columbia University. She is currently a contributing writer for The New Yorker. She is the author of two bestselling books, The Confidence Game and Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes. Among her awards are the 2019 Excellence in Science Journalism Award from the Society of Personality and Social Psychology. She is a successful tournament poker player and Ambassador for PokerStars. She is the host of The Grift podcast. Her new book is The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win.Web siteArticles at The New YorkerThe Grift podcastAmazon author pageTalk on How the Mind LearnsHendon Mob poker databaseWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
22/06/201h 20m

101 | David Baltimore on the Mysteries of Viruses

I recently saw an estimate that if you took all the novel coronaviruses in the world (the actual viruses, not patients), you could fit them into a bucket no more than a couple of liters in volume. A huge impact has been wrought by a very small amount of stuff. The world of viruses is vast and complicated, and we’re still learning some of its basic features. Today’s guest David Baltimore won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery that genetic information in viruses could flow from RNA to DNA, establishing an exception to the Central Dogma of Biology. He is the author of the Baltimore Classification scheme for viruses, and has done important research in the role of viruses in diseases from AIDS to cancer. We talk about what viruses are, how they work, and the status of the novel coronavirus we are currently battling. David also has some strong opinions about public health and how we should be preparing for future outbreaks.Support Mindscape on Patreon.David Baltimore received his Ph.D. in molecular biology from the Rockefeller Institute. He is currently the Robert Andrews Millikan Professor of Biology at Caltech. At age 37 he was awarded the Nobel Prize, which he shared with Howard Temin and Renato Dulbecco. He has served as the President of both Rockefeller University and Caltech, as well as President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Founding Director of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. Among his other awards are the National Medal of Science and the Warren Alpert Foundation Prize.Caltech Web PageNobel Prize pageWikipediaAhead of the Curve: David Baltimore’s Life in Science, by Shane Crotty“Introduction to Viruses” videoSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
15/06/201h 14m

100 | Solo | Life and Its Meaning

A podcast only hits the century mark once! And for Mindscape, this is it. There have been holiday messages and bonus episodes and the like. But this is the 100th officially-numbered episode. To celebrate, I decided to treat myself to a solo episode in which I reflect, somewhat non-systematically, on the age-old question of the meaning of life. I end up spending a lot (most?) of the time talking about the meaning of “life,” i.e. what it means to be a living organism in a naturalistic universe. But then I go on to muse about the construction of human meaning in a world where values are not imposed on us or objectively grounded in physical facts.I think life does have meaning, and it’s important to understand what forms it might take. I settle largely on the idea that humans can conceive of different possible futures, assign value to them, and work against the natural order of things to create something that otherwise would not have been. This is far from the final word, even in my own mind; it’s an invitation to think and converse in a reasonable way about some of the biggest questions there are. Just like the podcast in general.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Here are some modern works offering other perspectives on the meaning of life:Owen Flanagan, The Really Hard Problem: Meaning in a Material WorldSusan Wolf, Meaning in Life and Why it MattersTerry Eagleton, The Meaning of Life: A Very Short IntroductionJulian Baggini, What’s It All About? Philosophy and the Meaning of LifeThaddeus Metz, “The Meaning of Life” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
08/06/201h 33m

99 | Scott Aaronson on Complexity, Computation, and Quantum Gravity

There are some problems for which it’s very hard to find the answer, but very easy to check the answer if someone gives it to you. At least, we think there are such problems; whether or not they really exist is the famous P vs NP problem, and actually proving it will win you a million dollars. This kind of question falls under the rubric of “computational complexity theory,” which formalizes how hard it is to computationally attack a well-posed problem. Scott Aaronson is one of the world’s leading thinkers in computational complexity, especially the wrinkles that enter once we consider quantum computers as well as classical ones. We talk about how we quantify complexity, and how that relates to ideas as disparate as creativity, knowledge vs. proof, and what all this has to do with black holes and quantum gravity.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Scott Aaronson received his Ph.D. in computer science from the University of California, Berkeley. He is currently the David J. Bruton Jr. Centennial Professor of Computer Science at the University of Texas at Austin, and director of the Quantum Information Center there. He specializes in quantum computing and computational complexity theory, but has written on topics from free will to the nature of consciousness. Among his awards are the Tomassoni-Chisesi Prize in Physics (Italy) and the Alan T. Waterman Award from the National Science Foundation. His blog Shtetl-Optimized is known both for its humor and as the most reliable source of information on news in quantum computing. He is the author of Quantum Computing Since Democritus.Web siteShtetl-Optimized blogUniversity of Texas web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaAmazon.com author pageTalk at TEDxCaltechSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
01/06/201h 52m

98 | Olga Khazan on Living and Flourishing While Being Weird

Each of us is different, in some way or another, from every other person. But some are more different than others — and the rest of the world never stops letting them know. Societies set up “norms” that define what constitute acceptable standards of behavior, appearance, and even belief. But there will always be those who find themselves, intentionally or not, in violation of those norms — people who we might label “weird.” Olga Khazan was weird in one particular way, growing up in a Russian immigrant family in the middle of Texas. Now as an established writer, she has been exploring what it means to be weird, and the senses in which that quality can both harm you and provide you with hidden advantages.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Olga Khazan is a staff writer for The Atlantic, covering health, gender, and science. She has previously written for the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, Forbes, and other publications. Among her awards are the National Headliner Awards for Magazine Online Writing. Her new book is Weird: The Power of Being an Outsider in an Insider World.Web siteStories at The AtlanticAmazon.com author pageTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
25/05/201h 1m

97 | John Danaher on Our Coming Automated Utopia

Humans build machines, in part, to relieve themselves from the burden of work on difficult, repetitive tasks. And yet, despite the fact that machines are everywhere, most of us are still working pretty hard. But maybe that’s about to change. Futurists like John Danaher believe that society is finally on the brink of making a transition to a world in which work would be optional, rather than mandatory — and he thinks that’s a very good thing. It will take some adjusting, personally as well as economically, but he envisions a future in which human creativity and artistic impulse can flourish in a world free of the demands of working for a living. We talk about what that would entail, whether it’s realistic, and what comes next.Support Mindscape on Patreon.John Danaher received an LLM degree from Trinity College Dublin and a Ph.D. from University College, Cork. He is currently Senior Lecturer in the School of Law at the National University of Ireland, Galway. His research is situated at the overlap of legal studies and philosophy, and frequently involves questions of technology, automation, and the future. He is the coeditor of Robot Sex: Social and Ethical Implications, and author of the recent book Automation and Utopia: Human Flourishing in a World Without Work. He writes frequently for publications such as The Atlantic, The Guardian, and The Irish Times, and is the host of his own podcast, Philosophical Disquisitions.Web site and blogNUI Galway web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsAmazon.com author pageTalk on The Algorithmic Self in LovePhilosophical Disquisitions podcastTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
18/05/201h 22m

96 | Lina Necib on What and Where the Dark Matter Is

The past few centuries of scientific progress have displaced humanity from the center of it all: the Earth is not at the middle of the Solar System, the Sun is but one star in a large galaxy, there are trillions of galaxies, and so on. Now we know that we’re not even made of the same stuff as most of the universe; for every amount of ordinary atoms and other known particles, there is five times as much dark matter, some kind of stuff we haven’t identified in laboratory experiments. But we do know a great deal about the behavior of dark matter. I talk with Lina Necib about why we think there’s dark matter, what it might be, and how it’s distributed in the galaxy. The latter question has seen enormous recent progress, especially from high-precision measurements of the distribution of stars in the Milky Way.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Lina Necib received her Ph.D. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is currently a Sherman Fairchild Postdoctoral Scholar in Theoretical Physics at Caltech, and will be an Assistant Professor of Physics at MIT starting in the fall. Her research spans issues in particle physics and astrophysics, especially concerning the nature and distribution of dark matter, as well as techniques for detecting it and constraining its properties.Web pageInspire publicationsGoogle Scholar publicationsTalk on Dark Matter in the Age of GaiaGaia home pageSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
11/05/201h 21m

95 | Liam Kofi Bright on Knowledge, Truth, and Science

Everybody talks about the truth, but nobody does anything about it. And to be honest, how we talk about truth — what it is, and how to get there — can be a little sloppy at times. Philosophy to the rescue! I had a very ambitious conversation with Liam Kofi Bright, starting with what we mean by “truth” (correspondence, coherence, pragmatist, and deflationary approaches), and then getting into the nitty-gritty of how we actually discover it. There’s a lot to think about once we take a hard look at how science gets done, how discoveries are communicated, and what different kinds of participants can bring to the table.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Liam Kofi Bright received his Ph.D. in Logic, Computation and Methodology from Carnegie Mellon University. He is currently on the faculty of the London School of Economics in the Department of Philosophy, Logic, and the Scientific Method. He has worked on questions concerning peer review and fraud in scientific communities, intersectionality, logical empiricism, and Africana philosophy. He is well-known on Twitter as the Last Positivist.Web sitePhilPeople profileThe Sooty Empiric BlogPaper on “Is Peer Review a Good Idea?”Talk on Why Do Scientists Lie?TwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
04/05/201h 35m

94 | Stuart Russell on Making Artificial Intelligence Compatible with Humans

Artificial intelligence has made great strides of late, in areas as diverse as playing Go and recognizing pictures of dogs. We still seem to be a ways away from AI that is “intelligent” in the human sense, but it might not be too long before we have to start thinking seriously about the “motivations” and “purposes” of artificial agents. Stuart Russell is a longtime expert in AI, and he takes extremely seriously the worry that these motivations and purposes may be dramatically at odds with our own. In his book Human Compatible, Russell suggests that the secret is to give up on building our own goals into computers, and rather programming them to figure out our goals by actually observing how humans behave.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Stuart Russell received his Ph.D. in computer science from Stanford University. He is currently a Professor of Computer Science and the Smith-Zadeh Professor in Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, as well as an Honorary Fellow of Wadham College, Oxford. He is a co-founder of the Center for Human-Compatible Artificial Intelligence at UC Berkeley. He is the author of several books, including (with Peter Norvig) the classic text Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach. Among his numerous awards are the IJCAI Computers and Thought Award, the Blaise Pascal Chair in Paris, and the World Technology Award. His new book is Human Compatible: Artificial Intelligence and the Problem of Control.Web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaTalk on Provably Beneficial Artificial IntelligenceAmazon author pageSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
27/04/201h 27m

93 | Rae Wynn-Grant on Bears, Humans, and Other Predators

Human beings have a strange fascination with dangerous, predatory animals — bears, lions, wolves, sharks, and more. The top of the food chain is an interesting and precarious place to live; while you might be the boss of your local environment, you also depend on the functioning of an entire ecology. Rae Wynn-Grant is a carnivore ecologist who studies how large predators migrate, feed, reproduce — and especially how they interact with humans. We talk about the diverse social structures of different species of carnivores, how they find mates, and how they diversify their diet. And of course we discuss how humans and other locally-dominant species can live together peacefully.Rae Wynn-Grant received her Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolution from Columbia University. She is currently a Fellow with National Geographic Society working on carnivore conservation in partnership with the American Prairie Reserve. She maintains a Visiting Scientist position at the American Museum of Natural History, and adjunct faculty positions at Columbia University and Johns Hopkins University. She appears in National Geographic’s Born Wild: The Next Generation, premiering on April 22.Web siteNational Geographic web pageAMNH web pageJohns Hopkins web pageTalk on Humans and Conflicts with BearsTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
20/04/201h 2m

92 | Kevin Hand on Life Elsewhere in the Solar System

It’s hard doing science when you only have one data point, especially when that data point is subject to an enormous selection bias. That’s the situation faced by people studying the nature and prevalence of life in the universe. The only biosphere we know about is our own, and our knowing anything at all is predicated on its existence, so it’s unclear how much it can teach us about the bigger picture. That’s why it’s so important to search for life elsewhere. Today’s guest is Kevin Hand, a planetary scientist and astrobiologist who knows as much as anyone about the prospects for finding life right in our planetary backyard, on moons and planets in the Solar System. We talk about how life comes to be, and reasons why it might be lurking on Europa, Titan, or elsewhere.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Kevin Hand received his Ph.D. in Geological and Environmental Sciences from Stanford University. He is currently Deputy Chief Scientist for Solar System Exploration at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He has collaborated with director James Cameron, and is a frequent consultant on films, including acting as a science advisor to the movie Europa Report. His a cofounder of Cosmos Education, a non-profit organization devoted to science education in developing countries. His new book is Alien Oceans: The Search for Life in the Depths of Space.JPL web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsTalk on Ocean Worlds of the Outer Solar SystemWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
13/04/201h 56m

91 | Scott Barry Kaufman on the Psychology of Transcendence

If one of the ambitious goals of philosophy is to determine the meaning of life, one of the ambitious goals of psychology is to tell us how to achieve it. An influential work in this direction was Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs — a list of human needs, often displayed suggestively in the form of a pyramid, ranging from the most basic (food and shelter) to the most refined. At the top lurks “self-actualization," the ultimate goal of achieving one’s creative capacities. Psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman has elaborated on this model, both by exploring less-well-known writings of Maslow’s, and also by incorporating more recent empirical psychological studies. He suggests the more dynamical metaphor of a sailboat, where the hull represents basic security needs and the sail more creative and dynamical capabilities. It’s an interesting take on the importance of appreciating that the nature of our lives is one of constant flux.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Scott Barry Kaufman received his Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from Yale University. He has taught at Columbia University, NYU, the University of Pennsylvania, and elsewhere. He is the host of The Psychology Podcast. He was named by Business Insider as one of the “50 groundbreaking scientists who are changing the way we see the world.” He is the author of numerous books; his most recent, Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization, is published April 7.Web siteThe Psychology PodcastGoogle Scholar publicationsAmazon.com author pageDiscussion on “Defining Intelligence”WikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
06/04/201h 19m

90 | David Kaiser on Science, Money, and Power

Science costs money. And for a brief, glorious period between the start of the Manhattan Project in 1939 and the cancellation of the Superconducting Super Collider in 1993, physics was awash in it, largely sustained by the Cold War. Things are now different, as physics — and science more broadly — has entered a funding crunch. David Kaiser, who is both a working physicist and an historian of science, talks with me about the fraught relationship between scientists and their funding sources throughout history, from Galileo and his patrons to the current rise of private foundations. It’s an interesting listen for anyone who wonders about the messy reality of how science gets done.Support Mindscape on Patreon.David Kaiser received a Ph.D. in physics, and a separate Ph.D. in history of science, from Harvard University. He is currently Germeshausen Professor of the History of Science in MIT’s Program in Science, Technology, and Society, Professor of Physics in MIT’s Department of Physics, and also Associate Dean for Social and Ethical Responsibilities of Computing (SERC) in MIT’s Schwarzman College of Computing. He has been awarded the Davis Prize and Pfizer Prize from the History of Science Society, was named a Mac Vicar Faculty Fellow for undergraduate teaching at MIT, and received the Perkins Award for excellence in mentoring graduate students. His book Quantum Legacies: Dispatches from an Uncertain World is available April 3.Web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsAmazon author pageWikipediaSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
30/03/201h 34m

89 | Lera Boroditsky on Language, Thought, Space, and Time

What direction does time point in? None, really, although some people might subconsciously put the past on the left and the future on the right, or the past behind themselves and the future in front, or many other possible orientations. What feels natural to you depends in large degree on the native language you speak, and how it talks about time. This is a clue to a more general phenomenon, how language shapes the way we think. Lera Boroditsky is one of the world’s experts on this phenomenon. She uses how different languages construe time and space (as well as other things) to help tease out the way our brains make sense of the world.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Lera Boroditsky received her Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from Stanford University. She is currently associate professor of cognitive science at UC San Diego. She serves as Editor in Chief of the journal Frontiers in Cultural Psychology. She has been named one of 25 Visionaries changing the world by the Utne Reader, and is also a Searle Scholar, a McDonnell scholar, recipient of an NSF Career award, and an APA Distinguished Scientist lecturer.Web siteUC San Diego web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaTalk on How Language Shapes the Way We ThinkTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
23/03/201h 28m

Tara Smith on Coronavirus, Pandemics, and What We Can Do

This is a special episode of Mindscape, thrown together quickly. Many thanks to Tara Smith for joining me on short notice. Tara is an epidemiologist, and a great person to talk to about the novel coronavirus (and its associated disease, COVID-19) pandemic currently threatening the world. We talk about what viruses are, how they spread, and a lot of the science behind virology and pandemics. We also take a practical turn, talking about what measures (washing hands, social distancing, self-isolation) are useful at combating the spread of the virus, and which (wearing masks) are probably not. Then we look to the future, to ask what the endgame here is; Tara suggests that the kind of drastic measure we are currently putting up with might last a long time indeed.Tara Smith received her Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Toledo. She is currently Professor of Epidemiology at the Kent State University College of Public Health. She has researched and written extensively about diseases such as ebola and MRSA. She is an active science communicator, and writes regular columns for SELF magazine.Web siteKent State web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaAmazon author pageTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
18/03/201h 20m

88 | Neil Shubin on Evolution, Genes, and Dramatic Transitions

“What good is half a wing?” That’s the rhetorical question often asked by people who have trouble accepting Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. Of course it’s a very answerable question, but figuring out what exactly the answer is leads us to some fascinating biology. Neil Shubin should know: he is the co-discoverer of Tiktaalik Roseae, an ancient species of fish that was in the process of learning to walk and breathe on land. We talk about how these major transitions happen — typically when evolution finds a way to re-purpose existing organs into new roles — and how we can learn about them by studying living creatures and the information contained in their genomes.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Neil Shubin received his Ph.D. in organismic and evolutionary biology from Harvard University. He is currently the the Robert Bensley Distinguished Service Professor and Associate Dean of Biological Sciences at the University of Chicago. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical society. His first book, Your Inner Fish, was chosen by the National Academy of Sciences as the best science book of 2009, and was subsequently made into a TV special. His new book is Some Assembly Required: Decoding Four Billion Years of Life, from Ancient Fossils to DNA.Web siteUniversity of Chicago web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaAmazon author pageYour Inner Fish on PBSTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
16/03/201h 33m

87 | Karl Friston on Brains, Predictions, and Free Energy

If you tell me that one of the world’s leading neuroscientists has developed a theory of how the brain works that also has implications for the origin and nature of life more broadly, and uses concepts of entropy and information in a central way — well, you know I’m going to be all over that. So it’s my great pleasure to present this conversation with Karl Friston, who has done exactly that. One of the most highly-cited neuroscientists now living, Friston has proposed that we understand the brain in terms of a free energy principle, according to which our brains are attempting to model the world in such a way as to minimize the amount of surprise we experience. It’s a bit more complicate than that, but I think we made great headway in explicating some very profound ideas in a way that should be generally understandable.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Karl Friston received his medical degree from King’s College Hospital, London. He is currently Professor at the Institute of Neurology, University College London, and Wellcome Principal Research Fellow and Scientific Director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging. Among his major contributions are statistical parametric mapping, voxel-based morphometry, and dynamical causal modeling. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, of the Academy of Medical Science, and of the Royal Society of Biology. Among his awards are the Young Investigators Award in Human Brain Mapping, the Minerva Golden Brain Award, the Weldon Memorial Prize, the Charles Branch Award, and the Glass Brain Award for human brain mapping.Web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsTalk on “I Am, Therefore I Think”Article on “The Free-Energy Principle: A Unified Brain Theory?”WikipediaSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
09/03/201h 29m

86 | Martin Rees on Threats to Humanity, Prospects for Posthumanity, and Life in the Universe

Anyone who has read histories of the Cold War, including the Cuban Missile Crisis and the 1983 nuclear false alarm, must be struck by how incredibly close humanity has come to wreaking incredible destruction on itself. Nuclear war was the first technology humans created that was truly capable of causing such harm, but the list of potential threats is growing, from artificial pandemics to runaway super-powerful artificial intelligence. In response, today’s guest Martin Rees and others founded the Cambridge Centre for the Study of Existential Risk. We talk about what the major risks are, and how we can best reason about very tiny probabilities multiplied by truly awful consequences. In the second part of the episode we start talking about what humanity might become, as well as the prospect of life elsewhere in the universe, and that was so much fun that we just kept going.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Lord Martin Rees, Baron of Ludlow, received his Ph.D. in physics from University of Cambridge. He is currently Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge, as well as Astronomer Royal of the United Kingdom. He was formerly Master of Trinity College and President of the Royal Society. Among his many awards are the Heineman Prize for Astrophysics, the Gruber Prize in Cosmology, the Crafoord Prize, the Michael Faraday Prize, the Templeton Prize, the Isaac Newton Medal, the Dirac Medal, and the British Order of Merit. He is a co-founder of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk.Web pageInstitute for Astronomy, Cambridge, web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsAmazon.com author pageWikipediaCentre for the Study of Existential RiskSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
02/03/201h 40m

85 | L.A. Paul on Transformative Experiences and Your Future Selves

It’s hard to make decisions that will change your life. It’s even harder to make a decision if you know that the outcome could change who you are. Our preferences are determined by who we are, and they might be quite different after a decision is made — and there’s no rational way of taking that into account. Philosopher L.A. Paul has been investigating these transformative experiences — from getting married, to having a child, to going to graduate school — with an eye to deciding how to live in the face of such choices. Of course we can ask people who have made such a choice what they think, but that doesn’t tell us whether the choice is a good one from the standpoint of our current selves, those who haven’t taken the plunge. We talk about what this philosophical conundrum means for real-world decisions, attitudes towards religious faith, and the tricky issue of what it means to be authentic to yourself when your “self” keeps changing over time.Support Mindscape on Patreon.L.A. (Laurie) Paul received her Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University. She is currently professor of philosophy and cognitive science at Yale University. She has worked extensively on causation, the philosophy of time, mereology, and transformative experience. She has won fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Humanities Center, and the Australian National University. Among her books are the monograph Transformative Experience; she is currently working on a popular-level book on this theme.Web siteYale web pagePhilPeople profileGoogle Scholar publicationsAmazon.com author pageWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
24/02/201h 14m

84 | Suresh Naidu on Capitalism, Monopsony, and Inequality

Nations generally want their economies to be rich, robust, and growing. But it’s also important to person to ensure that wealth doesn’t flow only to a few people, but rather that as many people as possible can enjoy the benefits of a healthy economy. As is well known, the best way to balance these interests is a contentious subject. On one side we might find free-market fundamentalists who want to let supply and demand set prices and keep government interference to a minimum, while on the other we might find enthusiasts for very strong government control over all aspects of the economy. Suresh Naidu is an economist who has delved deeply into how economic performance affects and is affected by other notable social factors, from democracy to revolution to slavery. We talk about these, as well as how concentrations of economic power in just a few hands — monopoly and its cousin, monopsony — can distort the best intentions of the free market.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Suresh Naidu received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of California, Berkeley. He is currently professor of economics and international affairs at Columbia University as well as a fellow at Roosevelt Institute, external faculty at the Santa Fe Institute, and a research fellow at National Bureau of Economic Research. His awards include a Sloan Research Fellowship and the “Best Ph.D. Advisor Award” from the Columbia Association of Graduate Economics Students.Columbia School of International and Public Affairs pageSanta Fe Institute pageEquitable Growth pageGoogle Scholar publicationsThe Economy online textbookTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
17/02/201h 26m

83 | Kwame Anthony Appiah on Identity, Stories, and Cosmopolitanism

The Greek statesman Demosthenes is credited with saying “I am a citizen of the world,” and the idea that we should take a cosmopolitan view of our common humanity is a compelling one. Not everyone agrees, however; in the words of former British Prime Minister Theresa May, “If you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere.” On the other side of the political spectrum, groups who share a feature of identity — race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and others — find it useful to band together to make political progress. Kwame Anthony Appiah is a leading philosopher and cultural theorist who has thought carefully about the tricky issues of cosmopolitanism and identity. We talk about how identities form, why they matter, and how to negotiate the difficult balance between being human and being your particular self.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Kwame Anthony Appiah received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Cambridge University. He is currently Professor of Philosophy and of Law at New York University. He is the author of numerous academic books as well as several novels. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and is the recipient of a number of major awards, including the National Humanities Medal of the United States. He currently writes the New York Times Magazine column “The Ethicist“, and frequently writes for The New York Review of Books. (Note that in the podcast intro I mistakenly said he was “born and raised” in Ghana; he was actually born in London, moving to Ghana when he was six months old.)Web siteNYU web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsAmazon.com author pageTalk on “Beyond Identity”WikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
10/02/201h 38m

82 | Robin Carhart-Harris on Psychedelics and the Brain

The Convention on Psychotropic Substances was a 1971 United Nations treaty that placed strong restrictions on the use of psychedelic drugs — not only on personal use, but medical and scientific research as well. Along with restrictions placed by individual nations, it has been very difficult for scientists to study the effects of psychedelics on the brain, despite indications that they might have significant therapeutic potential. But this has gradually been changing, and researchers like Robin Carhart-Harris have begun to perform controlled experiments to see how psychedelics affect the brain, and what positive uses they might have. Robin and I talk about how psychedelics work, how they can help with conditions from addiction to depression, and how they can help people discover things about themselves.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Robin Carhart-Harris received his Ph.D. in psychopharmacology from the University of Bristol. He is currently the Director of the Centre for Psychedelic Research in the Department of Brain Sciences at Imperial College London, and holds an honorary position at the University of Oxford. His research involves functional brain imaging studies with psilocybin (magic mushrooms), LSD, MDMA (ecstasy) and DMT (ayahuasca), plus a clinical trial of psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression.Web siteCentre for Psychedelic ResearchGoogle Scholar pageTalk on Psychedelics: Lifting the VeilTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
03/02/201h 17m

81 | Ezra Klein on Politics, Polarization, and Identity

People have always disagreed about politics, passionately and sometimes even violently. But in certain historical moments these disagreements were distributed without strong correlations, so that any one political party would contain a variety of views. In a representative democracy, that kind of distribution makes it easier to accomplish things. In contrast, today we see strong political polarization: members of any one party tend to line up with each other on a range of issues, and correspondingly view the other party with deep distrust. Political commentator Ezra Klein has seen this shift in action, and has studied it carefully in his new book Why We’re Polarized. We talk about the extent to which the apparent polarization is real, how we can trace its causes, and whether there’s anything we can do about it.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Ezra Klein received a B.A. in political science from the University of California, Los Angeles. He is currently the editor-at-large and founder of Vox. As a writer and editor his work has appeared in/on The Washington Post, MSNBC, Bloomberg, The New York Review of Books, and The New Yorker. Among his awards are Blogger of the Year (The Week), 50 Most Powerful People in Washington DC (GQ), Best Online Commentary (Online News Association), and the Carey McWilliams Award (American Political Science Association).Vox profileThe Ezra Klein Show podcastWhy We’re PolarizedWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
27/01/201h 21m

80 | Jenann Ismael on Connecting Physics to the World of Experience

Physics is simple; people are complicated. But even people are ultimately physical systems, made of particles and forces that follow the rules of the Core Theory. How do we bridge the gap from one kind of description to another, explaining how someone we know and care about can also be “just” a set of quantum fields obeying impersonal laws? This is a hard question that comes up in a variety of forms — What is the “self”? Do we have free will, the ability to make choices? What are the moral and ethical ramifications of these considerations? Jenann Ismael is a philosopher at the leading edge of connecting human life to the fundamental laws of nature, for example in her recent book How Physics Makes Us Free. We talk about free will, consciousness, values, and other topics about which I’m sure everyone will simply agree.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Jenann Ismael received her Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University. She is currently Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University. Her work includes both the foundations of physics (spacetime, quantum mechanics, symmetry) and the philosophy of mind and cognition. She has been awarded fellowships from Stanford University, the Australian Research Council, the Scots Philosophical Association, and the Center for Advanced Study in Social and Behavioral Sciences, as well as an Essay Prize from the British Society for the Philosophy of Science.Web siteColumbia web pagePhilPeople profileAmazon author pageCloser to Truth interviewWikipedia“Well-Being and Time,” David Velleman (mentioned in the episode)See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
20/01/201h 26m

79 | Sara Imari Walker on Information and the Origin of Life

We are all alive, but “life” is something we struggle to understand. How do we distinguish a “living organism” from an emergent dynamical system like a hurricane, or a resource-consuming chemical reaction like a forest fire, or an information-processing system like a laptop computer? There is probably no one crisp set of criteria that delineates life from non-life, but it’s worth the exercise to think about what we really mean, especially as the quest to find life outside the confines of the Earth picks up steam. Sara Imari Walker planned to become a cosmologist before shifting her focus to astrobiology, and is now a leading researcher on the origin and nature of life. We talk about what life is and how to find it, with a special focus on the role played by information and computation in living beings.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Sara Imari Walker received her Ph.D. in physics from Dartmouth college. She is currently Associate Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University, Deputy Director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science, and Associate Director of the ASU-Santa Fe Institute Center for Biosocial Complex Systems. She is the co-founder of the astrobiology social network SAGANet, and serves on the Board of Directors for Blue Marble Space.Web siteGoogle Scholar pageAsk an Astrobiologist interviewTalk on A Theory of LifeWikipediaTwitterSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.
13/01/201h 23m