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.

66 Episodes
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
Memory takes different forms. Memories can be encoded in the strength of neural connections in our brains, but there’s a sense in which photographs and written records are memories as well. What did people do before such forms of memory even existed? Lynne Kelly is a science writer and researcher who specializes in forms of memory in the ancient world, as well as a competitive memory expert in her own right. She has theorized that ancient structures such as Stonehenge might have served as memory palaces, encoding social knowledge over extended periods of time. We talk about how to improve your own memory, the origin of religion, and how prehistoric cultures preserved their know-how.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Lynne Kelly received her Ph.D. in English from La Trobe University. Originally trained as a computer scientist, she has worked as an educator before transitioning into science writing and memory research. She is an Honorary Research Associate at La Trobe University. She is the author of a number of books, including The Skeptic’s Guide to the Paranormal. Her work on memory methods and ancient societies was published as an academic book, Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies: Orality, Memory, and the Transmission of Culture, as well as in trade form as The Memory Code: The Traditional Aboriginal Memory Technique That Unlocks the Secrets of Stonehenge, Easter Island and Ancient Monuments the World Over. Her most recent book is Memory Craft: Improve Your Memory Using the Most Powerful Methods From Around the World.Web siteTEDx talk on Modern Memory, Ancient author pageTwitter
There are many mysteries surrounding quantum mechanics. To me, the biggest mysteries are why physicists haven’t yet agreed on a complete understanding of the theory, and even more why they mostly seem content not to try. This puzzling attitude has historical roots that go back to the Bohr-Einstein debates. Adam Becker, in his book What Is Real?, looks at this history, and discusses how physicists have shied away from the foundations of quantum mechanics in the subsequent years. We discuss why this has been the case, and talk about some of the stubborn iconoclasts who insisted on thinking about it anyway.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Adam Becker received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Michigan. He is currently a science writer and a Visiting Scholar at the Center for Science, Technology, Medicine & Society at UC Berkeley. His book What Is Real? The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics comes out in paperback on Sept. 3, 2019.Web siteBerkeley web pageWhat Is Real?Talk on the history of quantum mechanicsInteractive explanation of Bell’s TheoremWikipediaTwitter
Fiction shines a light on the human condition by putting people into imaginary situations and envisioning what might happen. Science fiction expands this technique by considering situations in the future, with advanced technology, or with utterly different social contexts. Seth MacFarlane’s show The Orville is good old-fashioned space opera, but it’s also a laboratory for exploring the intricacies of human behavior. There are interpersonal conflicts, sexual politics, alien perspectives, and grappling with the implications of technology. I talk with Seth about all these issues, and maybe a little bit about whether it’s a good idea to block people on Twitter.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Seth MacFarlane is a screenwriter, director, actor, producer, and singer. He is the creator of the animated TV shows Family Guy, American Dad!, and The Cleveland Show. He wrote, directed, and starred in the films Ted, Ted 2, and A Million Ways to Die in the West. He created and stars in the live-action episodic TV show The Orville (which will be moving from Fox to Hulu for its third season). He has recorded several albums as a jazz singer, and was the host of the Academy Awards in 2013. He is an executive producer for the reboot of Cosmos. His honors include several Primetime Emmy Awards, an Annie Award, a Webby Award, a Saturn Award, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.IMDB profileWikipediaFacebookAllmusic profileThe Orville: IMDB, Wikipedia, YouTubeTwitter
“Democracy may not exist, but we’ll miss it when it’s gone” — or so suggests the title of Astra Taylor’s new book. We all know how democracy falls short, in practice, of its lofty ideals; but we can also appreciate how democratic values are crucial in the fight for a more just society. In this conversation, we dig into the nature of democracy, from its origins to the present day. We talk about who gets to participate, how economic inequality affects political inequality, and how democratic ideals manifest themselves in any number of real-world situations.Support Mindscape on Patreon or Paypal.Astra Taylor is a filmmaker, author, and activist. Her documentary films include Zizek!, The Examined Life, and most recently What Is Democracy? Her books include The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital age and the new Democracy May Not Exist, But We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone. She has taught sociology at the university level, and written for publications from n+1 to The London Review of Books. She was active in the Occupy movement, and is a co-founder of the Debt Collective.WikipediaIMDB profileAmazon author pageTrailer for What Is Democracy?Debt CollectiveTwitter
Scientists can’t quite agree on how to define “life,” but that hasn’t stopped them from studying it, looking for it elsewhere, or even trying to create it. Kate Adamala is one of a number of scientists engaged in the ambitious project of trying to create living cells, or something approximating them, starting from entirely non-living ingredients. Impressive progress has already been made. Designing cells from scratch will have obvious uses is biology and medicine, but also allow us to build biological robots and computers, as well as helping us understand how life could have arisen in the first place, and what it might look like on other planets.Support Mindscape on Patreon or Paypal.Katarzyna (Kate) Adamala received her Ph.D. working with Pier Luigi Luisi at the University of Rome and Jack Szostak at Harvard. She is currently an assistant professor of Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development at the University of Minnesota. She is a member of the Build-A-Cell international collaboration, which brings together multiple groups to work on constructing artificial life.University of Minnesota web pageLab web siteGoogle scholar publicationsTalk on synthetic lifeTwitterBuild-A-Cell
As you may have heard, I have a new book coming out in September, Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime. To celebrate, we're going to have more than the usual number of podcasts about quantum mechanics over the next couple of months. Today is an experimental flipped podcast, in which I'm being interviewed by Rob Reid. Rob is the host of the After On podcast, of which this is also an episode. We talk about quantum mechanics generally and my favorite Many-Worlds approach in particular, homing in on the motivation for believing in all those worlds and the potential puzzles that this perspective raises.Support Mindscape on Patreon.Rob Reid received his MBA from Harvard. He currently works as an author, entrepreneur, and podcaster. He was the founder of, which was acquired in 2003 by RealNetworks. He has written nonfiction books about Harvard Business School and about the early days of the Web, as well as two novels. His most recent book is the science-fiction novel After On, which is also the name of his podcast.Web siteWikipediaAmazon author pageAfter On podcastTED talk on synthetic biologyTwitter
Comments (8)


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

Bestest Dog in the whole wide world!!

olivine Me too...Now string CHEESE on the other hand....Love it!!!

Sep 7th

Go Billers

this one was really good

Sep 2nd

Pedro Abreu

Go Billers agreed. I think tight loose is more like a spectrum. She is really smart to avoid race and gender.

Sep 3rd



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

Felix Bart

Pedro Abreu 🙄🙄

Jul 17th
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