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

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

Science Podcasts

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.

Location:

United States

Description:

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.

Language:

English


Episodes

267 | Benjamin Breen on Margaret Mead, Psychedelics, and Utopia

2/26/2024
The twentieth century was something, wasn't it? Margaret Mead, as well as her onetime-husband Gregory Bateson, managed to play roles in several of its key developments: social anthropology and its impact on sex & gender mores, psychedelic drugs and their potential use for therapeutic purposes, and the origin of cybernetics, to name a few. Benjamin Breen discusses this impactful trajectory in his new book, Tripping on Utopia: Margaret Mead, the Cold War, and the Troubled Birth of Psychedelic Science. We talk about Mead and Bateson, the early development of psychedelic drugs, and how the possibility of a realistic utopia didn't always seem so far away. Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/02/26/267-benjamin-breen-on-margaret-mead-psychedelics-and-utopia/ Support Mindscape on Patreon. Benjamin Breen received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Texas at Austin. He is currently an associate professor of history at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Among his awards are the National Endowment for the Humanities Award for Faculty and the William H. Welch Medal of the American Association for the History of Medicine. He writes on Substack at Res Obscura. Web siteUCSC web pageWikipediaAmazon author page See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:01:13:11

266 | Christoph Adami on How Information Makes Sense of Biology

2/19/2024
Evolution is sometimes described -- not precisely, but with some justification -- as being about the "survival of the fittest." But that idea doesn't work unless there is some way for one generation to pass down information about how best to survive. We now know that such information is passed down in a variety of ways: through our inherited genome, through epigenetic factors, and of course through cultural transmission. Chris Adami suggests that we update Dobzhansky's maxim "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution" to "... except in the light of information." We talk about information theory as a subject in its own right, and how it helps us to understand organisms, evolution, and the origin of life. Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/02/19/266-christoph-adami-on-how-information-makes-sense-of-biology/ Support Mindscape on Patreon. Christoph Adami received his Ph.D. in physics from Stony Brook University. He is currently professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics as well as Physics and Astronomy at Michigan State University. Among his awards are the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Society for Artificial Life. His new book is The Evolution of Biological Information: How Evolution Creates Complexity, from Viruses to Brains. Web siteMichigan State web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:01:20:21

AMA | February 2024

2/12/2024
Welcome to the February 2024 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). We take questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable number -- based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good -- and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy! Blog post with questions and transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/02/12/ama-february-2024/ Support Mindscape on Patreon. See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:03:24:37

265 | John Skrentny on How the Economy Mistreats STEM Workers

2/5/2024
Universities and their students are constantly being encouraged to produce more graduates majoring in STEM fields -- science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. That's the kind of training that will get you a rewarding job, students are told, while at the policy level it is emphasized how STEM workers are needed to drive innovation and growth. In his new book Wasted Education, sociologist John Skrentny points out that the post-graduation trajectories of STEM graduates are more likely to involve being chewed up and spit out by the tech economy than to end up with stable long-term careers. We talk about why that's the case and what might be done about it. Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/02/05/265-john-skrentny-on-how-the-economy-mistreats-stem-workers/ Support Mindscape on Patreon. John Skrentny received his Ph.D. in sociology from Harvard University. He is currently Professor of Sociology at UC San Diego, and has previously served as the Co-Director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies and Director of the Yankelovich Center for Social Science Research. Web siteUC San Diego web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsAmazon author page See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:01:20:15

264 | Sabine Stanley on What's Inside Planets

1/29/2024
The radius of the Earth is over 6,000 kilometers, but the deepest we've ever dug below the surface is only about 12 km. Yet we have a quite reliable idea of the structure of the Earth's interior -- inner core, outer core, mantle, crust -- not to mention pretty good pictures of what's going on inside some other planets. How do we know those things, and what new things are we learning in the exoplanet era? I talk with astrophysicist and planetary scientist Sabine Stanley about how we use gravitation, seismology, magnetic fields, and other tools to learn what's happening inside planets. Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/01/29/264-sabine-stanley-on-whats-inside-planets/ Support Mindscape on Patreon. Sabine Stanley received a Ph.D. in geophysics from Harvard University. She is currently a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins University. She has been awarded the William Gilbert Award from the American Geophysical Union. Her recent book is What's Hidden Inside Planets? WebsiteJohns Hopkins web pagePublications from Google ScholarWikipedia See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:01:12:29

263 | Chris Quigg on Symmetry and the Birth of the Standard Model

1/22/2024
Einstein's theory of general relativity is distinguished by its singular simplicity and beauty. The Standard Model of Particle Physics, by contrast, is a bit of a mess. So many particles and interactions, each acting somewhat differently, with a bunch of seemingly random parameters. But lurking beneath the mess are a number of powerful and elegant ideas, many of them stemming from symmetries and how they are broken. I talk about some of these ideas with Chris Quigg, who with collaborator Robert Cahn has written a new book on the development of the Standard Model: Grace in All Simplicity. Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/01/22/263-chris-quigg-on-symmetry-and-the-birth-of-the-standard-model/ Support Mindscape on Patreon. Chris Quigg received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of California, Berkeley. He is currently Distinguished Scientist Emeritus at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Among his awards is the J.J. Sakurai Prize in theoretical particle physics from the American Physical Society. He is also the author of Gauge Theories of the Strong, Weak, and Electromagnetic Interactions. WebsitePublicationsAmazon author pageWikipedia See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:01:26:09

262 | Eric Schwitzgebel on the Weirdness of the World

1/15/2024
Scientists and philosophers sometimes advocate pretty outrageous-sounding ideas about the fundamental nature of reality. (Arguably I have been guilty of this.) It shouldn't be surprising that reality, in regimes far away from our everyday experience, fails to conform to common sense. But it's also okay to maintain a bit of skepticism in the face of bizarre claims. Philosopher Eric Schwitzgebel wants us to face up to the weirdness of the world. He claims that there are no non-weird ways to explain some of the most important features of reality, from quantum mechanics to consciousness. Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/01/15/262-eric-schwitzgebel-on-the-weirdness-of-the-world/ Support Mindscape on Patreon. Eric Schwitzgebel received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley. He is currently a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Riverside. He is the author of several books, including the new The Weirdness of the World. UC Riverside web pageThe Splintered Mind blogGoogle Scholar publicationsPhilPeople profileWikipedia See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:01:20:09

261 | Sanjana Curtis on the Origins of the Elements

1/8/2024
In mid-20th-century cosmology, there was a debate over the origin of the chemical elements. Some thought that they could be produced in the Big Bang, while others argued that they were made inside stars. The truth turns out to be a combination of both, with additional complications layered in. Some of the elements of the periodic table come all the way from the Big Bang, but others are made inside stars or in stellar explosions. But still others are made by cosmic rays or when neutron stars and black holes merge together. We talk to nuclear astrophysicist Sanjana Curtis about all the different ways that the universe is cleverly able to produce various elements. Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/01/08/261-sanjana-curtis-on-the-origins-of-the-elements/ Support Mindscape on Patreon. Sanjana Curtis received her Ph.D. in physics from North Carolina State University. She is currently a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research involves nuclear astrophysics, especially the production of heavier elements in supernova explosions and neutron-star/black-hole collisions. She is also active in science communication, including at her TikTok channel. WebsiteGoogle Scholar publications See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:01:07:28

260 | Ricard Solé on the Space of Cognitions

1/1/2024
Octopuses, artificial intelligence, and advanced alien civilizations: for many reasons, it's interesting to contemplate ways of thinking other than whatever it is we humans do. How should we think about the space of all possible cognitions? One aspect is simply the physics of the underlying substrate, the physical stuff that is actually doing the thinking. We are used to brains being solid -- squishy, perhaps, but consisting of units in an essentially fixed array. What about liquid brains, where the units can move around? Would an ant colony count? We talk with complexity theorist Ricard Solé about complexity, criticality, and cognition. Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/01/01/260-ricard-sole-on-the-space-of-cognitions/ Support Mindscape on Patreon. Ricard Solé received his Ph.D. in physics from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia. He is currently ICREA research professor at the Catalan Institute for research and Advanced Studies, currently working at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, where he is head of the Complex Systems Lab. He is also an External Professor of the Santa Fe Institute, Fellow of the European centre for Living Technology, external faculty at the Center for Evolution and Cancer at UCSF, and a member of the Vienna Complex Systems Hub. He is the author of several technical books. Web siteGoogle Scholar publications See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:01:10:00

Holiday Message: Reflections on Immortality

12/18/2023
The final Mindscape podcast of each year is devoted to a short, reflective Holiday Message. This year the theme is Immortality: whether it's an attractive idea, and whether the laws of physics and cosmology would allow for it in principle. (Spoiler: they do not.) Mindscape will return as usual on January 1, 2024. Happy holidays everyone! Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/12/18/holiday-message-2023-reflections-on-immortality/ Support Mindscape on Patreon. Here are some of the stories and papers mentioned in the episode: Borges, "The Immortal"Barnes, A History of the World in 10 1/2 ChaptersThe Good PlaceChiang, Stories of Your Life and OthersDyson, "Time Without End: Physics and Biology in an Open Universe" See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:00:55:30

259 | Adam Frank on What Aliens Might Be Like

12/11/2023
It wasn't that long ago that topics like the nature of consciousness, or the foundations of quantum mechanics, or prospects for extraterrestrial life were considered fringey and disreputable by much of the scientific community. In all these cases, the tide of opinion is gradually changing. Life on other worlds, in particular, has seen a remarkable growth in interest -- how life could start on other worlds, how we can detect it in the solar system and on exoplanets, and even thoughts about advanced alien civilizations. I talk with astrophysicist Adam Frank about some of those thoughts. We also give the inside scoop on what professional scientists think about UFOs. Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/12/11/259-adam-frank-on-what-aliens-might-be-like/ Support Mindscape on Patreon. Adam Frank received a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Washington. He is currently the Helen F. and Fred H. Gowen Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and Distinguished Scientist at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics at the University of Rochester. Among his awards are the National Honors Society Best Book in Science award, and the Carl Sagan Medal from the American Astronomical Society. His new book is The Little Book of Aliens. Web SiteU Rochester web pageWikipediaAmazon author pageSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:01:18:30

AMA | December 2023

12/4/2023
Welcome to the December 2023 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). We take questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable number -- based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good -- and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy! Blog post with questions and transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/12/04/ama-december-2023/ Link to the article referenced about time travel in movies: Ars Technica. There will be no AMA in January due to holiday break. Mindscape Big Picture Scholarship. Support Mindscape on Patreon. See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:03:36:27

258 | Solo: AI Thinks Different

11/27/2023
The Artificial Intelligence landscape is changing with remarkable speed these days, and the capability of Large Language Models in particular has led to speculation (and hope, and fear) that we could be on the verge of achieving Artificial General Intelligence. I don't think so. Or at least, while what is being achieved is legitimately impressive, it's not anything like the kind of thinking that is done by human beings. LLMs do not model the world in the same way we do, nor are they driven by the same kinds of feelings and motivations. It is therefore extremely misleading to throw around words like "intelligence" and "values" without thinking carefully about what is meant in this new context. Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/11/27/258-solo-ai-thinks-different/ Support Mindscape on Patreon. Some relevant references: Introduction to LLMs by Andrej KarpathyOpenAI's GPTMelanie Mitchell: Can Large Language Models Reason?Mitchell et al.: Comparing Humans, GPT-4, and GPT-4V On Abstraction and Reasoning TasksKim et al.: FANToM: A Benchmark for Stress-testing Machine Theory of Mind in InteractionsButlin et al.: Consciousness in Artificial Intelligence: Insights from the Science of ConsciousnessMargaret Boden: AI doesn't have feelings See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:01:20:46

257 | Derek Guy on the Theory and Practice of Dressing Well

11/20/2023
Putting on clothes is one of the most universal human experiences. Inevitably, this involves choices; maybe you just grab the cheapest and most convenient clothing available, or maybe you want to fit seamlessly into your local environment, whatever that might be. But maybe you choose to dress more consciously, putting a bit of effort into crafting a personal style and creating a desired impression in others. Derek Guy has, to his own surprise, become well-known as the menswear guy on Twitter. He has put a lot of thought into both the practicalities of clothing (how to find a suit that fits) and its wider social impact (how fashion acts as a cultural language). We talk about both sides of the coin. (Picture on right is not Derek, but rather former US Attorney General Elliot Richardson, whose dapper image Derek uses as his avatar.) Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/11/20/257-derek-guy-on-the-theory-and-practice-of-dressing-well/ Support Mindscape on Patreon. Derek Guy is a fashion writer living in San Francisco. He blogs at Die, Workwear!, and contributes to a number of publications. Twitter (X)WikipediaPolitico essay on John Fetterman See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:01:20:45

256 | Kelly and Zach Weinersmith on Building Cities on the Moon and Mars

11/13/2023
There is an undeniable romance in the idea of traveling to, and even living in, outer space. In recent years, a pragmatic justification has become increasingly popular: the Earth is vulnerable to threats both natural and human-made, and it seems only prudent to spread life to other locations in case a disaster befalls our home planet. But how realistic is such a grand ambition? The wife-and-husband team of Kelly and Zack Weinersmith have tackled this question from a dizzying number of angles, from aeronautics and biology to law and psychology. The result is their new book, A City on Mars: Can We Settle Space, Should We Settle Space, and Have We Really Thought This Through? It provides an exceptionally clear-eyed view of the challenges and opportunities ahead. Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/11/13/256-kelly-and-zach-weinersmith-on-building-cities-on-the-moon-and-mars/ Support Mindscape on Patreon. Kelly Weinersmith received a Ph.D. in ecology from the University of California, Davis. She is currently an adjunct professor in the department of biosciences at Rice University. Zack Weinersmith received a B.S. in English from Pfizer College. He is the creator of the popular webcomic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, as well as the author and co-author of several books, including Bea Wolf, a retelling of Beowulf as a children's story, with illustrations by Boulet. Kelly and Zach are also co-authors of Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That'll Improve and/or Ruin Everything. See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:01:24:17

AMA | November 2023

11/6/2023
Welcome to the November 2023 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). We take questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable number -- based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good -- and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy! Blog post with questions and transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/11/06/ama-november-2023/ See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:04:20:12

255 | Michael Muthukrishna on Developing a Theory of Everyone

10/30/2023
A "Theory of Everything" is physicists' somewhat tongue-in-cheek phrase for a hypothetical model of all the fundamental physical interactions. Of course, even if we had such a theory, it would tell us nothing new about higher-level emergent phenomena, all the way up to human behavior and society. Can we even imagine a "Theory of Everyone," providing basic organizing principles for society? Michael Muthukrishna believes we can, and indeed that we can see the outlines of such a theory emerging, based on the relationships of people to each other and to the physical resources available. Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/10/30/255-michael-muthukrishna-on-developing-a-theory-of-everyone/ Support Mindscape on Patreon. Michael Muthukrishna received his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of British Columbia. He is currently Associate Professor of Economic Psychology at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Among his awards are an Emerging Scholar Award from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology and a Dissertation Excellence Award from the Canadian Psychological Association. His new book is A Theory of Everyone: The New Science of Who We Are, How We Got Here, and Where We're Going. Web siteLSE web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipedia See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:01:17:21

254 | William Egginton on Kant, Heisenberg, and Borges

10/23/2023
It can be tempting, when first introduced to a deep concept of physics like Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, to draw grand philosophical conclusions about the impossibility of knowing anything precisely. That is generally a temptation to be resisted, just because it's so easy to do it wrong. But there is absolutely a place for a careful humanistic synthesis of these kinds of scientific ideas with other ideas, for example from philosophy or literature. That's the kind of task William Egginton takes on in his new book The Rigor of Angels, which compares the work of philosopher Immanuel Kant, physicist Werner Heisenberg, and author Jorge Luis Borges, three thinkers who grappled with limitations on our aspirations to know reality directly. Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/10/23/254-william-egginton-on-kant-heisenberg-and-borges/ Support Mindscape on Patreon. William Egginton received his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Stanford University. He is currently the Decker Professor in the Humanities and Director of the Alexander Grass Humanities Institute at Johns Hopkins. He is the author of numerous books on literature, literary theory, and philosophy. In addition to The Rigor of Angels, he has an upcoming book on the work of Chilean film director Alejandro Jodorowsky. Web siteJohns Hopkins web pageWikipediaAmazon author pageSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:01:06:56

253 | David Deutsch on Science, Complexity, and Explanation

10/16/2023
David Deutsch is one of the most creative scientific thinkers working today, who has as a goal to understand and explain the natural world as best we can. He was a pioneer in quantum computing, and has long been an advocate of the Everett interpretation of quantum theory. He is also the inventor of constructor theory, a new way of conceptualizing physics and science more broadly. But he also has a strong interest in philosophy and epistemology, championing a Popperian explanation-based approach over a rival Bayesian epistemology. We talk about all of these things and more, including his recent work on the Popper-Miller theorem, which specifies limitations on inductive approaches to knowledge and probability. Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/10/16/253-david-deutsch-on-science-complexity-and-explanation/ Support Mindscape on Patreon. David Deutsch received his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the University of Oxford. He is currently a visiting professor in the Department of Atomic and Laser Physics at Oxford. He is a pioneer in quantum computation as well as initiating constructor theory. His books include The Fabric of Reality and The Beginning of Infinity. Among his awards including the Dirac Prize, the Dirac Medal, the Edge of Computation Science Prize, the Isaac Newton Medal, the Breakthrough Physics Prize, and a Royal Society Fellowship. Web siteOxford web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsAmazon author pageWikipediaTED talk: After Billions of Years of Monotony, the Universe is Waking Up See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:01:42:06

AMA | October 2023

10/9/2023
Welcome to the October 2023 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). We take questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable number -- based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good -- and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy! Blog post with questions and transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2023/10/09/ama-october-2023/ Support Mindscape on Patreon. See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:02:58:13