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On my episode today I will be exploring a fun topic—science fiction, with a friend an colleague who is also an up and coming science fiction author. We will discuss themes of communicating science and our shared love of science fiction. Eric Choi is a writer, editor, and aerospace engineer in Toronto. He has twice won the Prix Aurora Award – Canada’s national prize for excellence in science fiction and fantasy – for his short story “Crimson Sky” and for the anthology The Dragon and the Stars, and he was the first recipient of the Isaac Asimov Award (now the Dell Magazines Award) for his novelette “Dedication”. His short fiction has appeared in more than two dozen publications in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Hungary, and Japan. He holds a B.A.Sc in engineering science and an M.A.Sc in aerospace engineering, both from the University of Toronto, and an MBA from York University. In 2009, he was one of the Top 40 finalists (out of 5,351 applicants) in the Canadian Space Agency’s astronaut recruitment campaign. Podcast transcripts at Join the Facebook discussion @TheRationalView Twitter @AlScottRational Instagram @The_Rational_View #TheRationalView #podcast #science #sciencefiction #communication
In this episode I am continuing my investigation into the so-called hard problem of consciousness. I’ve spoken to several people who believe that consciousness arose in single celled organisms and is somehow integrated at higher levels through electrical synchronization or intercellular molecular transport into a unified experience. Hindus and Buddhists believe that there is a Universal consciousness of which we all partake. This is similar in some ways to Sir Roger Penrose’ theory of consciousness called Orchestrated Objective Reduction, where microtubule organelles in the brain’s neurons have evolved to concentrate the diffuse universal consciousness present in the collapse of quantum superpositions. Some of these folks believe that the randomness at the heart of quantum mechanics is necessary for free will and volition. Others like Bertrand Russel believe that we act in accordance with our will even if our actions have past causes and the future is pre-determined. Today I’m honoured to be interviewing an expert who pushes the limits of human knowledge in terms of our understanding of the implications of quantum computing in regards to artificial intelligence. Scott Aaronson is David J. Bruton Centennial Professor of Computer Science at the University of Texas at Austin, and previously at MIT.  He received his bachelor's from Cornell University and his PhD from UC Berkeley. Aaronson's research in theoretical computer science has focused mainly on the capabilities and limits of quantum computers.  His first book, Quantum Computing Since Democritus, was published in 2013 by Cambridge University Press.  He's received the National Science Foundation’s Alan T. Waterman Award, the United States PECASE Award, the Tomassoni-Chisesi Prize in Physics, and the ACM Prize in Computing, and is a Fellow of the ACM. I'm publishing transcripts of some podcasts at Join the Facebook discussion @TheRationalView Twitter @AlScottRational Instagram @The_Rational_View #TheRationalView #podcast #consciousness #sentience #artificialintelligence #quantum computing
In this episode I continue my exploration into the nature of consciousness and awareness.  I’ve learned a lot in my exploration to date. I’ve learned about Hindu and Buddhist ideas on awareness, and I’ve delved into the underlying quantum mechanical nature of reality. I’ve discussed ideas of quantum computing and biological links to the mysteries of quantum mechanics. My guest today is an expert on the cellular basis of memory and cognition. Michael Levin received dual B.S. degrees (computer science and biology), followed by a Ph.D. (Harvard University). After post-doc training (Harvard Medical School), he started his independent lab at Forsyth Institute focusing on the biophysics of cell:cell communication during embryogenesis, regeneration, and cancer. In 2009 he moved his group to Tufts, where they use biophysical and computational approaches to study decision-making and basal cognition in cells, tissues, and synthetic living machines. Levin holds the Vannevar Bush chair, and directs the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts, working to crack the morphogenetic code for applications in regenerative medicine, bioengineering, and artificial intelligence.  Recent work includes the modulation of native bioelectric circuits to control embryogenesis, regeneration, and cancer, and the creation of novel synthetic living proto-organisms. Visit for transcriptions Join the Facebook discussion @TheRationalView Twitter @AlScottRational Instagram @The_Rational_View #therationalview #podcast #cognition #memory #science #consciousness #emergence #cells
In this episode I continue my exploration of consciousness, exploring a field of enquiry that has focused almost exclusively on consciousness and awareness for hundreds of years.  Although it is not science, Buddhism has a uniquely close relation with physics and physicists being oft quoted. 'The Tao of Physics' comes to mind, as well as ‘The Dancing Wu Li Masters’ as examples.  I hope you enjoy this foray into the Buddhist mind. Dr. John Dunne serves on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he holds the Distinguished Chair in Contemplative Humanities at the Center for Healthy Minds.  He is also distinguished professor in the Department of Asian Languages & Cultures, where he currently serves as department Chair. Dr. Dunne's work focuses on Buddhist philosophy and contemplative practice, especially in dialog with Cognitive Science and Psychology. His publications appear in venues ranging across both the Humanities and the Sciences, and they include works on Buddhist philosophy, contemplative practices and their empirical examination and interpretation within scientific contexts. John Dunne speaks in both academic and public contexts, and he occasionally teaches for Buddhist communities, including the Gomde centers of Denmark and Austria and Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe. In addition to serving as core faculty for the Center for Healthy Minds, he is a Fellow of the Mind and Life Institute, where he has previously served on the Board of Directors, and he is an academic advisor to the Rangjung Yeshe Institute in Kathmandu, Nepal. Check out transcripts at Join the Facebook discussion @TheRationalView Twitter @AlScottRational Instagram @The_Rational_View #TheRationalView #podcast #buddhism #consciousness #awareness 
Quantum Mechanics is a strange theory. Richard Feynman said “I think it is safe to say nobody understands quantum mechanics”. So why is it so popular if nobody understands it? How is this the basis for all of our physical knowledge of particles and their interactions? A recent innovative experiment fires neutrons through a double slit and proves that each neutron goes through both slits at the same time. Prof. Holger Hofmann, studied physics in his hometown of Stuttgart, Germany, then went to Tokyo University for a post-doctoral fellowship in 1999. Now at Hiroshima University, his research is focused on the way quantum theory describes observable phenomena. He believes that the key to a proper understanding of quantum mechanics can be found by exploring the practical means that we need to employ to achieve optimal control over a physical system. Dr. Hartmut Lemmel studied physics in his hometown Vienna and graduated at the Vienna University of Technology in the group of Helmut Rauch who is the "father" of neutron interferometry. After his PhD in 2007 he stayed in the group and was posted to the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL) in Grenoble as instrument responsible for the neutron interferometry setup. Visit my website at Join the facebook discussion @TheRationalView Instagram @The_Rational_View Twitter @AlScottRational #TheRationalView #podcast #quantummechanics #doubleslit #reality #pilotwave #manyworlds
In this episode I am lucky to be able to talk to an expert in the lifeblood of modern civilization, our electrical grid. The grid is the pulse that sustains civilization. It provides us with the energy to run our labour-saving appliances, it provides us with lights, it empowers our computers, it heats our homes, it refrigerates our food. Without it we would be tossed back to 19th century living conditions.  It powers all of modern technology and allows us to communicate around the globe. The grid is also a curse. It is an industrial behemoth that emits dangerous pollution into the atmosphere. The burning of fossil fuels kills millions of people around the world every year from particulate pollution, and is one of the leading sources of greenhouse gas accumulation that is forcing the climate into a state it hasn’t been in since homo sapiens evolved half a million years ago. My guest will tell us about the hidden fragility of our electrical grid. As a working chemist, Meredith Angwin headed projects that lowered pollution and increased reliability on the electric grid. Her work included pollution control for nitrogen oxides in gas-fired combustion turbines, and corrosion control in geothermal and nuclear systems. She was one of the first women to be a project manager at the Electric Power Research Institute. In semi-retirement, she became an advocate for nuclear power (one of the most environmentally sound forms of energy) and began to study and take part in grid oversight and governance. For four years, she served on the Coordinating Committee for the Consumer Liaison Group associated with ISO-NE, her local grid operator. She teaches courses and presents workshops on the electric grid.  Her previous major book was Campaigning for Clean Air: Strategies for Pro-Nuclear Advocacy. Meredith’s newest book, Shorting the Grid, The Hidden Fragility of Our Electric Grid should be required reading for any politician in office today who needs to decide how to transition away from fossil fuels and fulfil our society’s obligation to future generations. She and her husband George live in Vermont. They have two children and four grandchildren who live in the New York City area. Check out my podbean page or my website Twitter @AlScottRational Instagram @The_Rational_View #therationalview #podcast #electricity #nuclear #renewables #blackouts #
In this episode I am looking forward to exploring more about alternate interpretations of Quantum Mechanics.  In previous episodes exploring consciousness, I’ve encountered several people who believe that Quantum Mechanics is at the root of consciousness.  My current thinking is that it replaces one mystery with another one without really providing an explanation for consciousness.  We are still stuck with the options of consciousness being a pre-existing property of the universe or some aspect of it, vs. it being an emergent feature of a processing network. Either way, quantum mechanics is an often misunderstood brilliant theory at the root of physics. It tells us that basic particles don’t exist at a specific position and momentum—they are, however, represented very accurately as a smooth wavefunction that can be used to calculate the distribution of a set of measurements on identical particles. The process of observation seems to cause the wavefunction to randomly collapse to a localized spot. Nobody knows for certain what causes this collapse. This is known as the measurement problem.  The many worlds theorem says the wavefunction doesn’t collapse.  It claims that the wavefunction describes all the possible universes that exist and the process of measurement just tells us which universe we are living in. My guest is a leading proponent of transactional quantum mechanics. Dr. Ruth E. Kastner earned her M.S. in Physics and Ph.D. in History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Maryland. Since that time, she has taught widely and conducted research in Foundations of Physics, particularly in interpretations of quantum theory. She was one of three winners of the 2021 Alumni Research Award at the University of Maryland, College Park ( She is the author of 3 books: The Transactional Interpretation of Quantum Theory: The Reality of Possibility (Cambridge University Press, 2012; 2nd edition just published, 2022), Understanding Our Unseen Reality: Solving Quantum Riddles (Imperial College Press, 2015); and Adventures In Quantumland: Exploring Our Unseen Reality (World Scientific, 2019).  She has presented talks and interviews throughout the world and in video recordings on the interpretational challenges of quantum theory, and has a blog at She is also a dedicated yoga practitioner and received her 200-Hour Yoga Alliance Instructor Certification in February, 2020. Visit my website at Join the Facebook conversation @TheRationalView Twitter @AlScottRational Instagram @The_Rational_View #therationalview #podcast #quantummechanics #consciousness #spacetime #reality
In this, my 100th episode, I continue to explore consciousness, but I’m stepping out of my comfort zone a little and seeing what I can learn from the religious viewpoint on consciousness. The idea of an eternal soul is central to many religions, and the Hindus especially believe in reincarnation. I want to learn what they think the soul entails, and what are the parallels between religious thought, philosophy, and the findings of neuro-biology. Dr. Sangeetha Menon is Professor and Head of the Consciousness Studies Programme, and the Dean of the School of Humanities at National Institute of Advanced Studies, in Bangalore. There she developed the NIAS Consciousness Studies Programme along with BV Sreekantan to study consciousness with an interdisciplinary and a multidisciplinary mandate. Her major area of research is philosophy of psychology. She holds degrees in biology and philosophy. One of her primary contributions in consciousness studies is in presenting and engaging with the concept and experience of self from the neurobiological and philosophical points of view. She was awarded the Gita Puraskaram in 1998 for research studies on the Bhagavad Gita. She is an honorary fellow at the University of Exeter, UK. She currently heads the NIAS Consciousness Studies Programme and is the Professor and Dean of the School of Humanities at NIAS. Register for my newsletter at Join the Facebook discussion @TheRationalView Twitter @AlScottRational Instagram @The_Rational_View #therationalview #podcast #consciousness #hindu #soul 
This episode continues my series on consciousness—are we just biological robots? Following on from my exciting interview last week with quantum biophysicist Dr. Luca Turin, I dig further into competing quantum theories of consciousness.  The famous Sir Roger Penrose and his partner Stuart Hameroff have proposed the Orchestrated OR theory.  This theory posits a modification of the incomplete theory of quantum mechanics that underlies half of physics. They argue that consciousness arises from moments of wavefunction collapse that are objectively linked to certain aspects of quantum superpositions.  They further argue that biology has evolved a mechanism to orchestrate these wavefunction collapses in tiny subcellular structures called microtubules. My guest today has been doing experiments in the lab to determine if physical processes in microtubules respond to anesthetics. Professor Jack Tuszyński obtained his Ph.D. in condensed matter physics in 1983 from the University of Calgary. From 1983 to 1988 he was a faculty member at the Department of Physics of the Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John’s. He moved to the University of Alberta in 1988 as an assistant professor, between 1990 to 1993 he was an associate and then full professor at the Department of Physics. Between 2005 and 2020 he has held the prestigious Allard Chair in Experimental Oncology at the Cross Cancer Institute where he leads an interdisciplinary computational drug discovery group. He is also a Fellow of the National Institute for Nanotechnology of Canada. He has held visiting professorship and research positions in China, Germany, France, Israel, Denmark, Belgium and Switzerland. He is widely published in the scientific literature providing frequent invited talks on his ground-breaking work. Register for my newsletter at Join the Facebook conversation @TheRationalView Twitter @AlScottRational Instagram @The_Rational_View #therationalview #podcast #consciousness #OrchOR #quantummind #microtubules 
This episode continues my series on consciousness—are we biological robots?  Today I’m getting into some real science talking to a biophysicist who brings the esoteric world of quantum mechanics to bear on the topic. His groundbreaking work in the lab provides us with some real measurements that provide tantalizing hints at the previously unknown quantum processes tied to consciousness. Dr. Luca Turin was born in 1953 in Beirut, Lebanon, to Italian-Argentinian parents and was brought up in France, Italy and Switzerland. He studied Physiology and Biophysics at University College London, PhD in 1978. Dr. Turin worked at the CNRS 1982-92, then became a lecturer in Biophysics at UCL 1992-2000. He is best known for his work on olfaction, in which he proposed a quantum mechanism for odorant recognition by receptors. For 8 years he was CTO of a venture company designing odorants for fragrance and flavors with a success rate 100 times the industry average. After returning to full time research in 2009, in collaboration with Makis Skoulakis in Athens, Greece, he has shown that both flies and humans can detect molecular vibrations by smell.  His current interest is in quantum electronics in neuroscience. He is the author of three perfume guides, a collection of essays and a popular science book on how smell works. He is currently a Professor in the Medical School at the University of Buckingham (UK). Register for my newsletter at Join the Facebook discussion @TheRationalView Twitter @AlScottRational Instagram @The_Rational_View #therationalview #podcast #consciousness #quantummechanics #biophysics #philosophy #awareness #sentience #experiments
This episode continues my series on the Rational art of war on social media.  Following on from my great interview a few weeks back with Dr Lee McIntyre, author of Talking to Science Deniers, he suggested I interview his colleague Dr. Andrew Norman who is actively working to inoculate the world against anti-science thinking. Dr. Andy Norman is the award-winning author of Mental Immunity: Infection Ideas, Mind-Parasites, and the Search for a Better Way to Think. His work has appeared in Scientific American, Psychology Today, Psychiatric Times, Skeptic, Free Inquiry, and The Humanist. He has appeared on The Joe Rogan Experience, NPR, the BBC’s Naked Scientist, and now the pinnacle—The Rational View. His research illuminates the evolutionary origins of human reasoning, the norms that make dialogue fruitful, and the workings of the mind’s immune system. He champions the emerging science of mental immunity as the antidote to disinformation, propaganda, hate, and division. He is the founder of the Cognitive Immunology Research Collaborative (CIRCE), a global think-tank leading the effort to inoculate humanity against cognitive contagion. Sign up for my newsletter at Join the Facebook discussion @theRationalView Twitter @AlScottRational Instagram @The_Rational_View #therationalview #podcast #sciencedenial #mentalimmunity #pseudoscience #CIRCE
In this episode I continue my investigation into consciousness interviewing an advocate for artificial intelligence. He advocates for a form of physicalistic idealism that is both highly speculative and incredible, by his own words.  He supports the equations of physics as a complete description of reality, and posits that minds arise in quantum superpositions of neurons.  A quantum superposition is a non-intuitive situation that arises in the equations of physics where a system can seemingly exist in two different physical states at the same time as long as it is isolated from observation. This was highlighted in the famous Schrodinger’s Cat thought experiment where the cat was in a superposition of being both alive and dead as long as the box it was in was not opened. David Pearce is author of the Hedonistic Imperative (1995), which advocates the use of biotechnology to abolish suffering throughout the living world. In 1998, he co-founded the World Transhumanist Association (H+) with Nick Bostrom. Transhumanists believe in the use of technology to overcome our biological limitations. Sign up for my newsletter at Join the Facebook discussion @TheRationalView Twitter @AlScottRational Instagram @The_Rational_View #therationalview #podcast #consciousness #science #quantummechanics 
In this episode I begin my investigation into the topic of consciousness with an interview.  The field of consciousness research is broad and interdisciplinary, with active researchers in philosophy, psychology, physics, neuro-biology, computer science, and even theology.  My first interview is a psychologist who wrote a book claiming that bacteria are sentient. Dr. Arthur Reber is an American cognitive psychologist, Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Association for Psychological Science (APS), a Fulbright Fellow, and an avid curling fan. Known for introducing the concept of implicit learning and for using basic principles of evolutionary biology to show how implicit or unconscious cognitive functions differ in fundamental ways from those carried out consciously. His most recent work has been on the "Cellular Basis of Consciousness" theory that maintains that all life is sentient, including unicellular organisms. Register for my newsletter at Join the conversation on Facebook @TheRationalView Twitter @AlScottRational Instagram @The_Rational_View #therationalview #podcast #sentience #science #consciousness #philosophy
This episode delves into the topic of consciousness and why it is seen as a problem by some philosophers. We briefly touched on this in our series on AI, but it also touches the topic of science and religion.  This is an issue that is dealt with in science fiction. Star Trek, especially TNG has several episodes that bear directly on this issue of what it means to be sentient with the character ‘Data’ striving to be more human, and being treated as an object rather than a sentient being due mainly to human chauvinism.  This is also explored by AI researcher David Kelley in his mediated artificial superintelligence, Uplift.  One’s opinion of the answers to these questions have significant impacts on what one expects from the field of AI, and how one might treat and interact with a potentially sentient AI system.  It begs the question of what moral footing underlies our approach to these systems, or even to non-human species in some cases. It bears on the topic of free will, and could influence one’s approach to crime and punishment. Register for my newsletter at Join the Facebook conversation @TheRationalView Twitter @AlScottRational Instagram @The_Rational_View #Therationalview #podcast #consciousness #panpsychism #soul #qualia #mind #sentience #artificialintelligence #determinism 
This podcast covers a very topical concern as Russia is now embarked on the conquest of the Ukraine, and there is much concern globally about the risk of nuclear power plants coming under fire. Should we be afraid of nuclear reactors in a war zone? (First Published March 19, 2022) I review the risks of nuclear war for a new generation, and I contrast it with the risks of nuclear reactors in a war zone.  The conclusions may surprise you. Reactors in a war zone are not a significant health risk. Lack of reactors would be a bigger problem. Register for my newsletter at Join the Facebook conversation @TheRationalView Twitter @AlScottRational Instagram @The_Rational_View #therationalview #podcast #nuclearwar #nuclearreactor #war #atomicweapons #radioactivity #fear 
In this episode I talk to a philosopher and best selling author who may be the world’s expert on bridging the gap to talk to science deniers.  This is the second podcast in series on how to change minds and influence people using the Rational Art of War to spread The Rational View. Lee McIntyre is a Research Fellow at the Center for Philosophy and History of Science at Boston University. Formerly Executive Director of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University, McIntyre is the bestselling author of POST-TRUTH (MIT Press, 2018)  -- along with thirteen other works of fiction and nonfiction, including DARK AGES (2006), and THE SCIENTIFIC ATTITUDE (2019). McIntyre has made appearances on CNN, PBS, NPR and the BBC -- and has spoken at the United Nations, the Aspen Institute, and the Vatican. He starred in the docu-series INFODEMIC: Global Conversations on Science and Misinformation. In November, 2018, McIntyre went undercover at the Flat Earth International Conference in Denver, Colorado, as research for his newest book, HOW TO TALK TO A SCIENCE DENIER (2021), which resulted in over a hundred media appearances including this one. Register for my newsletter at Join the Facebook conversation @TheRationalView Twitter @AlScottRational Instagram @The_Rational_View #therationalview #podcast #communicating #sciencedenial #flatearth #evidencebased #tribalism #fakenews
The next couple podcasts are meant to be a battle manual for the everyday person who wants to join the fight for what they believe in, but doesn’t have the resources of Google or Facebook to identify thousands of folks who might be swayed to your viewpoint. We know that on any sufficiently polarized political issue there is likely to be funded propaganda attempting to influence public opinion. Audit applications that track inactive and fake accounts show that a significant fraction of politicians’ followers are not real people. Why would anyone listen to me? I don’t have a lot of followers. I’m not swaying thousands of people by data mining your social media footprint.  Persuasion starts with a one on one conversation. This is how we persuade others of the virtues of our arguments. I started my podcast to train a Fellowship of like-minded rational warriors to fight the relentless hordes of influence bots that otherwise tend to dominate social media discussions. I want this podcast to be the Art of War for the digital generation and I will be your Sun Tzu. Follow me at Join the Facebook discussion @TheRationalView Twitter @AlScottRational Instagram @The_Rational_View #therationalview #podcast #artofwar #socialmedia #bots #fakenews #propaganda
This episode wraps up my podcast series on Evolution and Creationism.  I summarize the insightful interviews I've had with many great guests including Dr. Niles Eldredge, the co-creator of Punctuated Equilibrium. Topics range from theology to biology and everything in between. For my upcoming podcasts I’m looking at a couple directions to explore with you. I want to discuss communicating science, and I also want to expand on some of my previous themes—Artificial Intelligence and Science/Religion cross over in the discussion of consciousness.  Can a computer be self-aware? Are we just biological computers?  Stay tuned for more insights. Register for my newsletter at Join the Facebook conversation @TheRationalView Twitter @AlScottRational Instagram @The_Rational_View #therationalview #podcast #science #evolution #creationism #theology #biology #genetics 
This episode was meant to continue my series on Evolution and Creationism but it went another surprising direction.  I hope you enjoy exploring the questions raised as my guest strides fearlessly into controversial moral territory. Genetic libertarian Razib Khan writes extensively on evidence surrounding human migrations and genetics. He has written for The New York Times, India Today and Quillette, and runs two weblogs, Gene Expression and Brown Pundits. His newsletter is Razib Khan's Unsupervised Learning. Follow me at Join the Facebook discussion @TheRationalView Twitter @AlScottRational Instagram @The_Rational_View #therationalview #podcast #genetics #eugenics #evolution
In this episode I interview a psychologist who teaches critical thinking, using Creationism as an example for her students. She also analyzes behaviour from an evolutionary perspective. Prof. Lynne Honey received a BA in Psychology from Algoma University, and then a PhD at McMaster University, specializing in learning and behaviour from a physiological and evolutionary perspective. She tended bar, drove a taxi, and cleaned apartment buildings to pay for her expensive education habits. She has been at MacEwan University since 2003, where she is a Professor in the Department of Psychology. She is an award-winning educator who teaches a variety of courses related to learning and behaviour, including Evolutionary Approaches to Human Behaviour. Her published research includes work in animal learning and behaviour, human mate choice and competition, and postsecondary education. Her family says that she is annoyingly good at board games. Follow me at Join the Facebook discussion @therationalview Twitter @AlScottRational Instagram @The_Rational_View #therationalview #podcast #creationism #criticalthinking #reason #fallacies #TOK #evolution
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