Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘science’

21 OCTOBER, 2011

The Divided Brain, Animated

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A hemispheric history of the making of the Western world, or why abstraction is necessary for empathy.

The metaphor of the “left-brain”/”right-brain” divide has permeated pop culture as one of the defining dichotomies of how we think about and describe ourselves. But this metaphor is rooted in a number of neuropsychological realities of how our brains operate — the right hemisphere (the “master”), with its flexibility and capacity for empathy and abstraction but lack of certainty, and the detail-oriented left (the “emissary”), with its preference for mechanisms over living things, its inability to see past the literal, and its propensity for self-interest.

In The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, the product of 20 years of research, renowned psychiatrist and writer Iain McGilchrist delves into the world of difference between our two hemispheres and argues that the formal structures of modern society significantly — and dangerously — prioritize the left brain, resulting in a culture shackled by rigidity and bureaucracy, driven by self-interest, and ultimately incapacitated by its own imbalance.

This book tells a story about ourselves and our world, and about how we got to be where we are now. While much of it is about the structure of the human brain — the place where mind meets matter — ultimately it is an attempt to understand the structure of the world that the brain has in part created.” ~ Iain McGilchrist

In this lovely sketchnote animation by The RSA (whose previous animated gems you might recall), McGilchrist talks about the science and philosophy of his work, and makes a passionate case for reprioritizing the right hemisphere.

This organ, which is all about making connections, is profoundly divided… and it’s gotten more divided over the course of human evolution.”

Provocative and fascinating, The Master and His Emissary will give you pause — 600 pages worth of it — about the origin and making of today’s dominant worldviews, both ours as individuals as those of our collective cultural narrative.

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19 OCTOBER, 2011

Six Famous Thought Experiments, Animated in 60 Seconds Each

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From Ancient Greece to quantum mechanics, or what a Chinese room and a cat have to do with infinity.

From the fine folks at the Open University comes 60-Second Adventures in Thought, a fascinating and delightfully animated series exploring six famous thought experiments.

The Paradox of the Tortoise and Achilles comes from Ancient Greece and explores motion as an illusion:

The Grandfather Paradox grapples with time travel:

Chinese Room comes from the work of John Searle, originally published in 1980, and deals with artificial intelligence:

Hilbert’s paradox of the Grand Hotel, proposed by German mathematician David Hilbert, tackles the gargantuan issue of infinity:

The Twin Paradox, first explained by Paul Langevin in 1911, examines special relativity:

Schrödinger’s Cat, devised by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935, is a quantum mechanics mind-bender:

For more such fascination and cognitive calisthenics, you won’t go wrong with Peg Tittle’s What If….Collected Thought Experiments in Philosophy .

via Open Culture

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Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes hundreds of hours each month. If you find any joy and stimulation here, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner:





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18 OCTOBER, 2011

Sound Is…

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Tssss chktchktchkt dubdubdub oeyyy.

The fine folks at SoundCloud have put together a beautiful meditation on what sound is and how it connects us to our environment, featuring sound experts like Imogen Heap, Moby, Radiolab producer and MacArthur “genius” Jad Abumrad, TED speaker Julian Treasure, and multimedia artist Ben Rubin.

Listening to all this random, disparate noise and sound that’s going on around us right now … when you actually tune it in and listen to it, you hear pitches that are like singing together, you hear harmonies, you hear weird textures. It’s about paying attention to the individual components more than the overall effect. The more differences you perceive, the better your life is.”

For some related fascination, see Jad Abumrad’s fantastic PopTech talk on sounds, science and mystery and these 7 fascinating books on music, emotion and the brain.

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