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

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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, philosophy, culture and much more.

75 Episodes
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Maxwell's Demon is a famous thought experiment in which a mischievous imp uses knowledge of the velocities of gas molecules in a box to decrease the entropy of the gas, which could then be used to do useful work such as pushing a piston. This is a classic example of converting information (what the gas molecules are doing) into work. But of course that kind of phenomenon is much more widespread -- it happens any time a company or organization hires someone in order to take advantage of their know-how. César Hidalgo has become an expert in this relationship between information and work, both at the level of physics and how it bubbles up into economies and societies. Looking at the world through the lens of information brings new insights into how we learn things, how economies are structured, and how novel uses of data will transform how we live.Support Mindscape on Patreon.César Hidalgo received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Notre Dame. He currently holds an ANITI Chair at the University of Toulouse, an Honorary Professorship at the University of Manchester, and a Visiting Professorship at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. From 2010 to 2019, he led MIT’s Collective Learning group. He is the author of Why Information Grows and co-author of The Atlas of Economic Complexity. He is a co-founder of Datawheel, a data visualization company whose products include the Observatory of Economic Complexity.Web siteMIT web pageGoogle Scholar pageWikipediaTalk on replacing politiciansIn My Shoes (documentary film)DatawheelAmazon author pageTwitter
The human brain contains roughly 85 billion neurons, wired together in an extraordinarily complex network of interconnected parts. It’s hardly surprising that we don’t understand the mind and how it works. But do we know enough about our experience of consciousness to suggest that consciousness cannot arise from nothing more than the physical interactions of bits of matter? Panpsychism is the idea that consciousness, or at least some mental aspect, is pervasive in the world, in atoms and rocks as well as in living creatures. Philosopher Philip Goff is one of the foremost modern advocates of this idea. We have a friendly and productive conversation, notwithstanding my own view that the laws of physics don’t need any augmenting to ultimately account for consciousness. If you’re not sympathetic toward panpsychism, this episode will at least help you understand why someone might be.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Philip Goff received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Reading. He is currently Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Durham. His new book, Galileo’s Error: Foundations for a New Science of Consciousness, is being published on Nov. 5.Web siteDurham web pagePhilPeople profileAmazon.com author pageBlogTalk on Consciousness and Fundamental RealityPanpsychism at the Stanford Encyclopedia of PhilosophyTwitter
Cosmologists are always talking excitedly about the Big Bang and all the cool stuff that happened in the 14 billion years between then and now. But what about the future? We don't know for sure, but we know enough about the laws of physics to sketch out several plausible scenarios for what the future of our universe will hold. Katie Mack is a cosmologist who is writing a book about the end of the universe. We talk about the possibilities of a Big Crunch (and potential Big Bounce), a gentle cooling off where the universe gradually grows silent, and of course the prospect of a dramatic phase transition, otherwise known as the "bubble of quantum death." Which would make a great name for a band, I think we can all agree.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Katherine (Katie) Mack received her Ph.D. in physics from Princeton University. She is currently an Assistant Professor at North Carolina State University, where her research centers on theoretical cosmology, including dark matter and black holes. She is also a member of NCSU’s Leadership in Public Science Cluster. Her upcoming book, The End of Everything, will be published in 2020.Web siteNCSU web pageWikipediaGoogle Scholar publicationsTalk on Death of a UniverseTwitter
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 http://wondery.fm/TNBIMindscape
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 ExplorerAmazon.com 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 scholarAmazon.com 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 pageAmazon.com author pageWikipediaTalk on Exponential EnergyTwitter
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Comments (31)

Steven G

Nice background sound 😉. I enjoyed this interesting podcast. I liked that you followed with this straight forward topic after the dens and complicated and very interesting solo episode about the existence of our world. I'm looking forward to the next episodes.

Nov 10th
Reply

Matt Bowen

Very interesting and information packed. I do think that the DNA code having evolved is "laughable," however. That takes a lot of faith.

Nov 8th
Reply

Casey Wollberg

I have a challenge for this goofball: define consciousness in terms of "what it is" and not "what it does".

Nov 8th
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Casey Wollberg

Utter nonsense.

Nov 8th
Reply

Jeremy Dixon

define "stuff"...

Nov 6th
Reply

Clarence Thomas

yeah, yeah, yeah...

Oct 29th
Reply (1)

Kristopher Stephens

I was reminded about an episode (or movie?) about Gilligan's island with the Harlem Globetrotters. The team had to beat robots at basketball and when they played as best the could, the boys were too good and dominated. in the 2nd half, they played like the globetrotters normally do (atypically) and beat the boys because they couldn't adapt to nontraditional playing.

Oct 28th
Reply (1)

Adtonitus Maiusculus

Sorry Sean, between the constant politics and now the offhand dismissal of plasma cosmology, you are a partisan fool and the main problem with science communicators

Oct 28th
Reply (1)

Steven G

I'm looking forward to your podcast. Your intro was very enjoyable and well structured. I liked your style on Rogan's podcast and as it seems it is the same on your very own.

Oct 22nd
Reply (1)

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
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Lowell Hennigs

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

Oct 1st
Reply

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
Reply

Stephen Biegel

just another Marxist asshole.

Sep 27th
Reply (2)

DF “DF” DF

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
Reply

olivine

I hate string theory

Sep 7th
Reply (2)

Go Billers

this one was really good

Sep 2nd
Reply (1)

Dane

わ〜ゎなにぬきらり、たよや

Aug 7th
Reply

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)
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