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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, ...
 
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There is so much we don’t know about our universe. But our curiosity about the unknown shouldn’t blind us to the incredible progress we have made in cosmology over the last century. We know the universe is big, expanding, and accelerating. Modern cosmologists are using unprecedentedly precise datasets to uncover more details about the evolution and…
 
Games are everywhere, but why exactly do we play them? It seems counterintuitive, to artificially invent goals and obstacles just so we can struggle to achieve them. (And in some games, like Twister, the fun is in losing, even though you’re supposed to try to win.) C. Thi Nguyen is a philosopher who has developed a theory of games as an art form wh…
 
Welcome to the October 2021 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). I take the large number of questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable size — based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not …
 
Those of us who think that that the laws of physics underlying everyday life are completely known tend to also think that consciousness is an emergent phenomenon that must be compatible with those laws. To hold such a position in a principled way, it’s important to have a clear understanding of “emergence” and when it happens. Anil Seth is a leadin…
 
Traditional physics works within the “Laplacian paradigm”: you give me the state of the universe (or some closed system), some equations of motion, then I use those equations to evolve the system through time. Constructor theory proposes an alternative paradigm: to think of physical systems in terms of counterfactuals — the set of rules governing w…
 
In the question to understand the biology of life, we are (so far) limited to what happened here on Earth. That includes the diversity of biological organisms today, but also its entire past history. Using modern genomic techniques, we can extrapolate backward to reconstruct the genomes of primitive organisms, both to learn about life’s early stage…
 
It's pretty clear that our genes affect, though they don't completely determine, who we grow up to be; children’s physical and mental characteristics are not completely unrelated to those of their parents. But this relationship has been widely abused throughout history to underwrite racist and sexist ideas. So there has been a counter-reaction in t…
 
Welcome to the September 2021 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). I take the large number of questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable size — based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, no…
 
How human beings behave is, for fairly evident reasons, a topic of intense interest to human beings. And yet, not only is there much we don’t understand about human behavior, different academic disciplines seem to have developed completely incompatible models to try to explain it. And as today’s guest Herb Gintis complains, they don’t put nearly en…
 
Physics is extremely good at describing simple systems with relatively few moving parts. Sadly, the world is not like that; many phenomena of interest are complex, with multiple interacting parts and interesting things happening at multiple scales of length and time. One area where the techniques of physics overlap with the multi-scale property of …
 
There is no general theory of problem-solving, or even a reliable set of principles that will usually work. It’s therefore interesting to see how our brains actually go about solving problems. Here’s an interesting feature that you might not have guessed: when faced with an imperfect situation, our first move to improve it tends to involve adding n…
 
Economies in the modern world are incredibly complex systems. But when we sit down to think about them in quantitative ways, it’s natural to keep things simple at first. We look for reliable relations between small numbers of variables, seek equilibrium configurations, and so forth. But those approaches don’t always work in complex systems, and som…
 
Plato and Aristotle founded much of what we think of as Western philosophy during the fourth and fifth centuries BCE. Interestingly, that historical period also witnessed the foundation of some of the major schools of Chinese philosophy, especially Confucianism and Daoism. This is a long-overdue discussion of ancient Chinese ideas, featuring philos…
 
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