Sean Carroll's Mindscape: Science, Society, Philosophy, Culture, Arts, and Ideas
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40 | Adrienne Mayor on Gods and Robots in Ancient Mythology

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

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40 | Adrienne Mayor on Gods and Robots in Ancient Mythology

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

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.

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

The modern world is full of technology, and also with anxiety about technology. We worry about robot uprisings and artificial intelligence taking over, and we contemplate what it would mean for a computer to be conscious or truly human. It should probably come as no surprise that these ideas aren’t new to modern society — they go way back, at least to the stories and mythologies of ancient Greece. Today’s guest, Adrienne Mayor, is a folklorist and historian of science, whose recent work has been on robots and artificial humans in ancient mythology. From the bronze warrior Talos to the evil fembot Pandora, mythology is rife with stories of artificial beings. It’s both fun and useful to think about our contemporary concerns in light of these ancient tales. Support Mindscape on Patreon or Paypal. Adrienne Mayor is a Research Scholar Classics and History and Philosophy of Science at Stanford University. She is also a Berggruen Fellow at Stanford’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. Her work has encompasses fossil traditions in classical antiquity and Native America, the origins of biological weapons, and the historical precursors of the stories of Amazon warriors. In 2009 she was a finalist for the National Book Award. Web page at Stanford Amazon author page Wikipedia Google Scholar Video of a talk on Amazons Twitter

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

39 | Malcolm MacIver on Sensing, Consciousness, and Imagination
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Consciousness has many aspects, from experience to wakefulness to self-awareness. One aspect is imagination: our minds can conjure up multiple hypothetical futures to help us decide which choices we should make. Where did that ability come from? Today’s guest, Malcolm MacIver, pinpoints an important transition in the evolution of consciousness to when fish first climbed on to land, and could suddenly see much farther, which in turn made it advantageous to plan further in advance. If this idea is true, it mi...

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38 | Alan Lightman on Transcendence, Science, and a Naturalist’s Sense of Meaning
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Let’s say, for sake of argument, that you don’t believe in God or the supernatural. Is there still a place for talking about transcendence, the sacred, and meaning in life? Some of the above, but not all? Today’s guest, Alan Lightman, brings a unique perspective to these questions, as someone who has worked within both the sciences and the humanities at the highest level. In his most recent book, Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine, he makes the case that naturalists should take transcendence seriousl...

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37 | Edward Watts on the End of the Roman Republic and Lessons for Democracy
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When many of us think “Ancient Rome,” we think of the Empire and the Caesars. But the Empire was preceded by the Roman Republic, which flourished for a full five centuries. Why, after such a long and prosperous run, would an essentially democratic form of government change — with a good deal of approval from its citizens — into an autocracy? That’s the question I discuss with today’s guest, historian Edward Watts. It’s a fascinating story with many contemporary resonances, especially how reformers choose to...

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36 | David Albert on Quantum Measurement and the Problems with Many-Worlds
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Quantum mechanics is our best theory of how reality works at a fundamental level, yet physicists still can’t agree on what the theory actually says. At the heart of the puzzle is the “measurement problem”: what actually happens when we observe a quantum system, and why do we apparently need separate rules when it happens? David Albert is one of the leading figures in the foundations of quantum mechanics today, and we discuss the measurement problem and why it’s so puzzling. Then we dive into the Many-Worlds...

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35 | Jessica Yellin on The Changing Ways We Get Our News
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Everything we think about the world outside our immediate senses is shaped by information brought to us by other sources. In the case of what’s currently happening to the human race, we call that information “the news.” There is no such thing as “unfiltered” news — no matter how we get it, someone is deciding what information to convey and how to convey it. And the way that is happening is currently in a state of flux. Today’s guest, journalist Jessica Yellin, has seen the news business from the perspective...

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34 | Paul Bloom on Empathy, Rationality, Morality, and Cruelty
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Within every person’s mind there is on ongoing battle between reason and emotion. It’s not always a battle, of course; very often the two can work together. But at other times, our emotions push us toward actions that our reason would counsel against. Paul Bloom is a well-known psychologist and author who wrote the provocatively-titled book Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion, and is currently writing a book about the nature of cruelty. While I sympathize with parts of his anti-empathy stance,...

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33 | James Ladyman on Reality, Metaphysics, and Complexity
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32 | Naomi Oreskes on Climate Change and the Distortion of Scientific Facts
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Our climate is in the midst of dramatic changes, driven largely by human activity, with potentially enormous consequences for humanity and other species. That’s why science tells us, anyway. But there is an influential contingent, especially in the United States, who deny that reality, and work hard to prevent policy action that might ameliorate it. Where did this resistance come from, and what makes it so successful? Naomi Oreskes is a distinguished historian of science who has become, half-reluctantly, th...

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31 | Brian Greene on the Multiverse, Inflation, and the String Theory Landscape
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String theory was originally proposed as a relatively modest attempt to explain some features of strongly-interacting particles, but before too long developed into an ambitious attempt to unite all the forces of nature into a single theory. The great thing about physics is that your theories don’t always go where you want them to, and string theory has had some twists and turns along the way. One major challenge facing the theory is the fact that there are many different ways to connect the deep principles ...

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30 | Derek Leben on Ethics for Robots and Artificial Intelligences
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29 | Raychelle Burks on the Chemistry of Murder
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28 | Roger Penrose on Spacetime, Consciousness, and the Universe
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Holiday Message 2018
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There won't be any regular episodes of Mindscape this week or next, as we take a holiday break. Regular service will resume on Monday January 7, 2019. In the meantime, here is a special Holiday Message. Most likely it will be of interest to very few people -- there's no real substantive content, just me talking about the State of the Podcast and some other things I've been doing. Thanks to everyone for listening, here's looking toward great things in 2019! Support Mindscape on Patreon or Paypal....

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27 | Janna Levin on Black Holes, Chaos, and the Narrative of Science
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26 | Ge Wang on Artful Design, Computers, and Music
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25 | David Chalmers on Consciousness, the Hard Problem, and Living in a Simulation
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24 | Kip Thorne on Gravitational Waves, Time Travel, and Interstellar
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23 | Lisa Aziz-Zadeh on Embodied Cognition, Mirror Neurons, and Empathy
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Brains are important things; they're where thinking happens. Or are they? The theory of "embodied cognition" posits that it's better to think of thinking as something that takes place in the body as a whole, not just in the cells of the brain. In some sense this is trivially true; our brains interact with the rest of our bodies, taking in signals and giving back instructions. But it seems bold to situate important elements of cognition itself in the actual non-brain parts of the body. Lisa Aziz-Zadeh is a p...

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22 | Joe Walston on Conservation, Urbanization, and the Way We Live on Earth
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There's no question that human activity is causing enormous changes on our planet's environment, from deforestation to mass extinction to climate change. But perhaps there is a tiny cause for optimism -- or at least, the prospect of a new equilibrium, if we can manage to ameliorate our most destructive impulses. Wildlife conservationist Joe Walston argues that -- seemingly paradoxically, but not really -- increasing urbanization provides hope for biodiversity preservation and poverty alleviation moving forw...

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21 | Alex Rosenberg on Naturalism, History, and Theory of Mind
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20 | Scott Derrickson on Cinema, Blockbusters, Horror, and Mystery
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19 | Tyler Cowen on Maximizing Growth and Thinking for the Future
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Sean Carroll's Mindscape: Science, Society, Philosophy, Culture, Arts, and Ideas

18 | Clifford Johnson on What's So Great About Superstring Theory
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17 | Annalee Newitz on Science, Fiction, Economics, and Neurosis
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16 | Coleen Murphy on Aging, Biology, and the Future
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Aging -- everybody does it, very few people actually do something about it. Coleen Murphy is an exception. In her laboratory at Princeton, she and her team study aging in the famous C. Elegans roundworm, with an eye to extending its lifespan as well as figuring out exactly what processes take place when we age. In this episode we contemplate what scientists have learned about aging, and the prospects for ameliorating its effects -- or curing it altogether? -- even in human beings. Coleen Murphy received her...

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