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Inner Cosmos with David Eagleman

Science & Technology News

Neuroscientist and author David Eagleman discusses how our brain interprets the world and what that means for us. Through storytelling, research, interviews, and experiments, David Eagleman tackles wild questions that illuminate new facets of our lives and our realities.


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Neuroscientist and author David Eagleman discusses how our brain interprets the world and what that means for us. Through storytelling, research, interviews, and experiments, David Eagleman tackles wild questions that illuminate new facets of our lives and our realities.




Ep48 "Why do brains become depressed?"

What is depression? Why are brains able to slip into it? Is depression detectable in animals? Do animals have options beyond fight or flight? And what does any of this have to do with measuring depression medications in city water supplies, reward pathways in the brain, the prevalence of tuberculosis, and zapping the head with magnetic stimulation? Join today's episode with David Eagleman and his guest -- psychiatrist Jonathan Downar -- for a deep dive into the brain science behind depression and what new solutions are on the horizon.


Ep47 "Wheels rotate backwards on TV, but do they ever in real life?"

Do our visual systems see in frames like a movie camera or instead analyze the world continuously? Why do you see multiple hands when you clap under yellow street lamps? How did Hollywood launch from the question of whether all four legs of a galloping horse come off the ground at once? And what is the very surprising thing that happens if you stare at your ceiling fan for a long time while it turns? This week’s episode is about visual perception -- and a series of eye-opening revelations about how the brain takes in information from the world.


Ep46 "Who says you're dead?"

Can a person be declared legally dead even though he is very much alive? In December of 2010, why did a number of families choose to pull their loved ones off life support just before the new year? How do doctors decide when you've died, and how is it different from how lawyers decide? How is death a process rather than an event? What does any of this have to do with getting buried alive, your family's religious beliefs, or whether a head stays alive after the guillotine? Join Eagleman and guest Jacob Appel, an emergency room psychiatrist and head of ethics, for an episode about the science and the questions about death -- including who's domain it is to call it, and where this is all heading.


Ep45 "Why did a man shoot himself after hearing the lottery numbers?" (Time Traveling: Part 3)

Who is the most disappointed medalist at the Olympics? How do brains simulate what might have been? How can you get your kid to wear a jacket in the cold? What if you had to face more successful versions of yourself? And what does any of this have to do with why menus should be shorter, why empires divide, and why you should always put yourself in the shoes of future people? Join Eagleman to learn the capstone secrets of mental time travel, and what these have to do with the emotions of regret and relief.


Ep44 "Why can't you tickle yourself?" (Time Traveling Part 2)

Why are people who can't remember their past also unable to picture their future? Why do we get so anxious about the world changing around us? What should you advise the president if we find ourselves at war with extraterrestrials? And what does this have to do with Wayne Gretzky, or the Greek goddess of memory, or hitting a bottle to get ketchup onto your French fries? Join this week's episode to find out about one of the most important things brains do: simulations of possible futures.


Ep43 "How do we remember?" (Time Traveling Part 1)

How do billions of neurons store your home address, your ability to ride a bike, and the history of your life? How does memory work in the brain, and how is it different from the way a computer stores information? And what does any of this have to do with the Happy Birthday song, squirrels hiding acorns, bards memorizing epics, or people who cannot forget any of the events of their life? Join Eagleman to learn how and why your brain continually time travels to previous moments.


Ep42 "Is there any such thing as true news?" (Truth Part 3: Artificial Intelligence)

What role will AI play in the future of fake news and misinformation? What does this have to do with our brains’ internal models, with voice passwords, and with what Eagleman calls "the tall intelligence problem"? And why does he believe that these earliest days of AI are its golden age, and we are quickly heading for a balkanization? Join for today's episode about truth, misinformation, and artificial intelligence.


Ep41 "Is there any such thing as true news?" (Truth Part 2: the Internet)

What is the future of misinformation on the internet? Is it possible that the invention of the internet has improved access to truth? What does any of this have to do with the Oxford English Dictionary, Soviet agriculture, liberation technology, Kenyan elections, Barbra Streisand's house, and Twitter revolutions? Join Eagleman for a surprising foray into the thorny forest of truth in the age of the internet.


Ep40 "Is there any such thing as true news?" (Truth Part1)

We all worry about fake news. But is misinformation and disinformation really new? Join Eagleman for a deep dive into the past, present, and future of truth. Why do cameras not tell us what we think they do? What should we not forget about pamphleteering? And what does this have to do with agriculture in the USSR, or book banning in America, or dog whistles, or apps that only tell facts? And why is it so hard to understand the viewpoints of millions of brains at once? This week's episode is the first of a three-parter -- and today we tackle truth in the media.


Ep39 "What is the future of AI relationships?"

Why are our brains so wired for love? Could you fall head over heels for a bot? Might your romantic partner be more satisfied with a 5% better version of you? How does an AI bot plug right into your deep neural circuitry, and what are the pros and cons? And what will it mean when humans you love don’t have to die, but can live on in your phone forever? Join Eagleman for a deep dive into relationships, their AI future, and what it all means for our species.


Ep38 "Why is it hard to teach an old brain new tricks?"

Is it always harder to teach an old dog new tricks? Why is an older person slower to learn a new language but able to learn new faces easily? Why does Arnold Schwartzenegger have an accent but Mila Kunis doesn’t, even though neither spoke English as a child? Why is there a correlation between how tall a person is and how much salary they're likely to earn? What would it mean to say that you are born as many people but die as a single one? This week's episode dives into surprises about brain plasticity and why your flexibility changes throughout your lifetime.


Ep37 "What is Insanity?" Part 2

What does the insanity defense mean in a court of law? And is there such a thing as temporary insanity? Is the twinkie defense a real thing? Can someone use premenstrual syndrome as a defense? And what does the legal wrestling around insanity tell us about the differences between brains: yours and other people’s, or even yours one day and yours the next day? How does law comport with science, and how are they sometimes like two people with quite different ways of looking at the world? Join to find out what happened to Andrea Yates, how the legal system deals with mental illness, and so much more.


Inner Cosmos Inbox 2

Eagleman answers listeners questions.


Ep36 "What is Insanity?" Part 1

What is the insanity defense? Are some people’s brains so different that it makes sense to use a different legal category? How does a legal system decide where the dividing line is? How are science and law strange bedfellows? Join us for the first of two episodes about the insanity defense: where it comes from, where it's going, and why it is so difficult to decide where to draw our societal lines.


Ep35 "What sticks in your brain and what doesn’t? "

f you look at a brain, how can you immediately tell if it belongs to a piano player or a violinist? How can a dog learn how to walk on its rear legs? And what does this have to do with expertise, or the good news about the brains of digital natives, or how governments respond to change just like brains do? While we all like to talk about brain plasticity, the truth is that most of what happens in your life makes no meaningful change to your brain. So what’s the difference between the stuff that sticks and the stuff that doesn’t?


Ep34 "What is intelligence?"

What would it be like to have a much lower or higher IQ than you currently have -- for example, to be a squirrel or an advanced space alien? This week's episode is about intelligence. What is it and what is its history and future? Join Eagleman on a whistle-stop tour of several schools of thought about what intelligence might mean in the brain.


Ep33 "Why do they start sprinters with a bang instead of a flash?"

Why do they use a gun at the Olympics? And why can you get off the blocks after the bang but still be disqualified for jumping the gun? Few things are as bizarre as our time perception. From sprinters to basketball players, from Kubla Khan to Oppenheimer, from television broadcasting to hallucinations, Eagleman unmasks illusions of time that surround us. Why does the brain work so hard to pull off editing tricks? And what does this tell us about our perception of reality?


Ep32 "Is death reversible?"

Does life end inevitably or instead only because we don’t understand biology well enough yet? Today’s episode is about understanding what happens when your molecular cycles grind to a halt... and whether there's anything we can do to hit control-Z. Join Eagleman and his guest Dr. Zvonimir Vrselja to dive into the weird possibility of understanding cells well enough to reverse death.


Inner Cosmos Inbox 1

Eagleman answers listeners questions.


Ep31 "Why do we see #TheDress differently?"

Why can you hear some sounds two different ways, depending on which word you’re looking at? Why do electrical outlets sometimes look like a face? How can you have rich visual experience with your eyes closed? Are some crosswalk buttons fake? Why are some pictures interpretable only once you’ve been told what to look for? And although brains are often celebrated for their parallel processing, what should they really be celebrated for? Tune in to learn what happens when the raw facts of the world collide with your expectations.