Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘Jad Abumrad’

28 JANUARY, 2013

Science, Storytelling, and “Gut Churn”: Jad Abumrad on the Secrets of Creative Success

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On diving head-first into the unknown.

Since 2004, Radiolab has been sparking a singular kind of magic at the intersection of science and storytelling, redefining not only public radio but also the “role of scientific culture in modern society,” to borrow Richard Feynman’s words.

In this fantastic talk from The 99% Conference, Radiolab mastermind and MacArthur genius Jad Abumrad takes us behind the scenes to explore the tribulations and triumphs of building a novel paradigm from the ground up.

At the heart of it, he argues, is the notion of the “gut churn” — that scrambly, uncomfortable, anxious fight-or-flight feeling that comes with doing something uncontrollably new that could go uncontrollably wrong, at once an intensified version of Rilke’s comfortably philosophical notion of living the questions and a living testament to the idea that uncertainty is what fuels science.

Countering that — and sustaining the creative spirit through it — is the same kind of intuition about the right direction that guides great scientists. Staying the course requires constant creative rejuvenation — Jad recommends beloved graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister’s sabbatical strategy.

Listen and enjoy:

To whatever degree Radiolab represents change, we didn’t plan it. I don’t think change can be planned — I think it’s only something that can be recognized after the fact.

Illustration by Wendy MacNaughton for The 99%

Complement with Jad on sound, science, and mystery and his philosophy of “pointing arrows.” Radiolab, like Brain Pickings, is noncommercial and made possible by audience contributions — I proudly make mine monthly. Join me in supporting them with a donation.

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21 MARCH, 2011

Radiolab’s Jad Abumrad on Sound, Science, and Mystery

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I’m an enormous admirer of WNYC’s Radiolab and its producer, Jad Abumrad. In this excellent talk from PopTech, Abumrad shares some fascinating examples of how sound has been used to facilitate scientific discovery and how audio can serve as the trial-and-error mechanism fundamental to scientific inquiry. From what a monkey brain sounds like when playing rock-paper-sciessors to how crayfish “hear” their way to survival, Abumrad takes us on a delightfully geeky journey into the biological basis of behavior.

You will find scientists who will tell you — and they deeply believe it — that we’re quantifiable. We are knowable. That if I can take a high enough resolution picture of all of you — not just your outsides, but your genes, your DNA, all the way down to your atoms — I can know everything about you and everything that you will be. There are people who believe this. And what this tells me is, no. No! All the way down, to the bottom of our thoughts, there’s just more mystery.

For more on the intersection of sound, science and being human, don’t miss our selection of 7 must-read books about music, emotion and the brain from earlier this morning.

Donating = Loving

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.





You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation in any amount:





Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.