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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, ...
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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 …
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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…
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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 que…
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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 growt…
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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, …
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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 …
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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…
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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…
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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 t…
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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 …
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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 …
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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 que…
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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, …
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