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

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

Author: Sean Carroll | Wondery

Subscribed: 50,937Played: 642,041


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.

72 Episodes
Ideas are coming at you every day from all directions. How can you process it all? You can start with The Next Big Idea. Host Rufus Griscom and thought leaders Malcolm Gladwell, Adam Grant, Dan Pink, and Susan Cain, will be your personal “idea” curators. Open your mind and get ready for something big, because the right idea--at the right moment--has the power to transform your life. Listen now at
Artificial intelligence is better than humans at playing chess or go, but still has trouble holding a conversation or driving a car. A simple way to think about the discrepancy is through the lens of “common sense” — there are features of the world, from the fact that tables are solid to the prediction that a tree won’t walk across the street, that humans take for granted but that machines have difficulty learning. Melanie Mitchell is a computer scientist and complexity researcher who has written a new book about the prospects of modern AI. We talk about deep learning and other AI strategies, why they currently fall short at equipping computers with a functional “folk physics” understanding of the world, and how we might move forward.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Melanie Mitchell received her Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Michigan. She is currently a professor of computer science at Portland State University and an external professor at the Santa Fe Institute. Her research focuses on genetic algorithms, cellular automata, and analogical reasoning. She is the author of An Introduction to Genetic Algorithms, Complexity: A Guided Tour, and most recently Artificial Intelligence: A Guide for Thinking Humans. She originated the Santa Fe Institute’s Complexity Explorer project, on online learning resource for complex systems.Web siteSanta Fe web pageWikipediaGoogle ScholarComplexity author pageTwitter
Our observable universe started out in a highly non-generic state, one of very low entropy, and disorderliness has been growing ever since. How, then, can we account for the appearance of complex systems such as organisms and biospheres? The answer is that very low-entropy states typically appear simple, and high-entropy states also appear simple, and complexity can emerge along the road in between. Today’s podcast is more of a discussion than an interview, in which behavioral neuroscientist Kate Jeffery and I discuss how complexity emerges through cosmological and biological evolution. As someone on the biological side of things, Kate is especially interested in how complexity can build up and then catastrophically disappear, as in mass extinction events.There were some audio-quality issues with the remote recording of this episode, but loyal listeners David Gennaro and Ben Cordell were able to help repair it. I think it sounds pretty good!Support Mindscape on Patreon.Kate Jeffery received her Ph.D. in behavioural neuroscience from the University of Edinburgh. She is currently a professor in the Department of Behavioural Neuroscience at University College, London. She is the founder and Director of the Institute of Behavioural Neuroscience at UCL.Lab web siteInstitute of Behavioural NeuroscienceResearchGate pageTalk on Cognitive Neuroscience and ArchitectureTwitter
The idea of “red states” and “blue states” burst on the scene during the 2000 U.S. Presidential elections, and has a been a staple of political commentary ever since. But it’s become increasingly clear, and increasingly the case, that the real division isn’t between different sets of states, but between densely- and sparsely-populated areas. Cities are blue (liberal), suburbs and the countryside are red (conservative). Why did that happen? How does it depend on demographics, economics, and the personality types of individuals? I talk with policy analyst Will Wilkinson about where this division came from, and what it means for the future of the country and the world.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Will Wilkinson received an M.A. in philosophy from Northern Illinois University, and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Houston. He has worked for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and as a research fellow at the Cato Institute, and is currently Vice President of Policy at the Niskanen Center. He has taught at Howard University, the University of Maryland, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He has written for a wide variety of publications, including The New York Times, The Economist, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Vox, and The Boston Review, as well as being a regular commentator for Marketplace on public radio.Web siteNiskanen web pageThe Density Divide: Urbanization, Polarization, and Populist BacklashWriting at The New York TimesWikipediaTwitter
We had our fun last week, exploring how progress in renewable energy and electric vehicles may help us combat encroaching climate change. This week we’re being a bit more hard-nosed, taking a look at what’s currently happening to our climate. Michael Mann is one of the world’s leading climate scientists, and also a dedicated advocate for improved public understanding of the issues. It was his research with Raymond Bradley and Malcolm Hughes that introduced the “hockey stick” graph, showing how global temperatures have increased rapidly compared to historical averages. We dig a bit into the physics behind the greenhouse effect, the methods that are used to reconstruct temperatures in the past, how the climate has consistently been heating up faster than the average models would have predicted, and the relationship between climate change and extreme weather events. Happily even this conversation is not completely pessimistic — if we take sufficiently strong action now, there’s still time to avert the worst possible future catastrophe.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Michael Mann received his Ph.D. in Geology and Geophysics from Yale University. He is currently Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Pennsylvania State University, with joint appointments in the Departments of Geosciences and the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute. He is the director of Penn State’s Earth System Science Center. He is the author of over 200 scientific publications and four books. His most recent book is The Tantrum that Saved the World, a “carbon-neutral kids’ book.”Web sitePenn State web pageEarth System Science CenterGoogle author pageWikipediaTwitter
The Earth is heating up, and it’s our fault. But human beings are not always complete idiots (occasional contrary evidence notwithstanding), and sometimes we can even be downright clever. Dare we imagine that we can bring our self-inflicted climate catastrophe under control, through a combination of technological advances and political willpower? Ramez Naam is optimistic, at least about the technological advances. He is a technologist, entrepreneur, and science-fiction author, who has been following advances in renewable energy. We talk about the present state of solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources, and what our current rate of progress bodes for the near and farther future. And maybe we sneak in a little discussion of brain-computer interfaces, a theme of the Nexus trilogy.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Ramez Naam worked for 13 years at Microsoft, helping to develop early versions of Outlook, Explorer, and Bing. He founded Apex Technologies, which develops software for use in molecular design. He holds 19 patents. His science-fiction trilogy Nexus was awarded several prizes. He is chair of Energy and Environmental Systems at Singularity University.Web siteSingularity University author pageWikipediaTalk on Exponential EnergyTwitter
I suspect most loyal Mindscape listeners have been exposed to the fact that I’ve written a new book, Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime. As I release this episode on Monday 9 September 2019, the book will officially be released tomorrow, in print, e-book, and audio versions. To get in the mood, we’ve had several podcast episodes on quantum mechanics, but the “emergence of spacetime” aspect has been neglected. So today we have a solo podcast in which I explain a bit about the challenges of quantum gravity, how Many-Worlds provides the best framework for thinking about quantum gravity, and how entanglement could be the key to showing how a curved spacetime could emerge from a quantum wave function. All of this stuff is extremely speculative, but I’m excited about the central theme that we shouldn’t be trying to “quantize gravity,” but instead looking for gravity within quantum mechanics. The ideas here go pretty far, but hopefully they should be accessible to everyone.Support Mindscape on Patreon.The end of this episode includes a bonus, a short snippet from the audio book, read by yours truly. Audio excerpted courtesy Penguin Random House Audio. And here are links to some of the technical papers mentioned in the podcast.Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime“Thermodynamics of Space-Time: The Einstein Equation of State” (Jacobson)“Space from Hilbert Space: Recovering Geometry from Bulk Entanglement” (Cao, Carroll, and Michalakis)“Bulk Entanglement Gravity without a Boundary: Towards Finding Einstein’s Equation in Hilbert Space” (Cao and Carroll)“Mad-Dog Everettianism: Quantum Mechanics at Its Most Minimal” (Carroll and Singh)
Physicists study systems that are sufficiently simple that it’s possible to find deep unifying principles applicable to all situations. In psychology or sociology that’s a lot harder. But as I say at the end of this episode, Mindscape is a safe space for grand theories of everything. Psychologist Michele Gelfand claims that there’s a single dimension that captures a lot about how cultures differ: a spectrum between “tight” and “loose,” referring to the extent to which social norms are automatically respected. Oregon is loose; Alabama is tight. Italy is loose; Singapore is tight. It’s a provocative thesis, back up by copious amounts of data, that could shed light on human behavior not only in different parts of the world, but in different settings at work or at school.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Michele Gelfand received her Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Illinois. She is currently Distinguished University Professor of Psychology and affiliate of the RH Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is a past president of the International Association for Conflict Management. Among her numerous awards are the Carol and Ed Diener Award in Social Psychology, the Annaliese Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, and the Outstanding International Psychologist Award from the American Psychological Association.Web siteUniversity of Maryland web pageGoogle ScholarWikipediaTEDx talk on the secret life of social normsRule Makers, Rule BreakersTwitter
All of us have been wrong about things from time to time. But sometimes it was a simple, forgivable mistake, while other times we really should have been correct. Properties that systematically prevent us from being correct, and for which we can legitimately be blamed, are “intellectual vices.” Examples might include closed-mindedness, wishful thinking, overconfidence, selective attention, and so on. Quassim Cassam is a philosopher who studies knowledge in various forms, and who has recently written a book Vices of the Mind: From the Intellectual to the Political. We talk about the nature of intellectual vices, how they manifest in people and in organizations, and what we can possibly do to correct them in ourselves.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Quassim Cassam received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Oxford University. He is currently Professor of Philosophy at the University of Warwick. He previously held faculty positions at Cambridge University and University College London. He has served as the president of the Aristotelian Society, and was awarded a Leadership Fellowship by the Arts and Humanities Research Council in the UK.Web pagePhilPeople author pageSelf-Knowlege for Humans web siteTwitter
Comments (18)

Adtonitus Maiusculus

"tUcKeR cArLsOn iS a nAzI" getting real tired of your shit, Sean

Oct 21st
Reply (2)

Joseph Wells

I'm a listener from Jersey Shore, Pa. Loved hearing my town mentioned!

Oct 10th

Lowell Hennigs

such an excellent and informative conversation! I need to listen a second time.

Oct 1st

Javier Pena

People like you are why I listen to Rogan. You did a great job confusing, boring and exciting my brain in only ways that you scientist-philosopher types can. Btw, boring mixed with exciting is a great way of exercising the brain in the way interval training would help out the body. Sprint, walk, jog....but with you there’s tripping involved! - sober tripping ;)

Oct 1st

Stephen Biegel

just another Marxist asshole.

Sep 27th
Reply (2)


Bit disappointed in this presentation. The topic is highly complex and difficult to quantify, but is in real need of some meaningful metrics. This discussion could lead to so many rabbit holes. The thing that was missing was a metric not only for tightness, but also for the myriad of factors that work for or against tightness or rules. For example a rule that's accepted by one culture can be totally unacceptable in another. The success or failure of a tight society is also governed by the enforcement of rules that are not wanted by the society. The discussion could've considered the success or failure (and the reasons for those outcomes) of repressive societies, but this aspect was not really touched on. As an example, Singapore's tight laws have been "successful" (the metric for this is unknown) - how does it compare to the "success" or otherwise of Nth. Korea. Can the "tightness" be compared? How? What are the cultural value comparisons? How do the different levels of repression and subjugation of the population affect the outcome?

Sep 14th


I hate string theory

Sep 7th
Reply (2)

Go Billers

this one was really good

Sep 2nd
Reply (1)



Aug 7th

Pedro Abreu

yeah Sean those people that oppose abortion for religious reasons: their religious reasons come from religions known to oppress women so youre just moving the goal post...

Jul 16th
Reply (1)
Download from Google Play
Download from App Store