Twitter: @seanmcarroll (followed by 144 science writers)
2018 to present
Average episode: 93 minutes
Open in Apple Podcasts • RSS
Categories: Interview-Style • Multidisciplinary • Physics
Podcaster's summary: 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.
Discover other podcasts.
|2022-Dec-05 • 196 minutes|
AMA | December 2022
Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape for December 2022.
|2022-Nov-28 • 63 minutes|
219 | Dani Bassett and Perry Zurn on the Neuroscience and Philosophy of Curiosity
I talk with neuroscientist Dani Bassett and philosopher Perry Zurn about how curiosity works and what forms it takes.
|2022-Nov-21 • 82 minutes|
218 | Raphael Bousso on Black Holes and the Holographic Universe
I talk with physicist Raphael Bousso about black holes, holography, and what we know about quantum spacetime.
|2022-Nov-14 • 81 minutes|
217 | Margaret Levi on Moral Political Economy
I talk with political scientist Margaret Levi about trust in government and how we can make our political systems more responsive to moral concerns.
|2022-Nov-07 • 180 minutes|
AMA | November 2022
Ask Me Anything episode for November 2022.
|2022-Nov-01 • 6 minutes|
Introducing - The Vanished
Trailer for the true crime podcast, The Vanished.
|2022-Oct-31 • 71 minutes|
216 | John Allen Paulos on Numbers, Narratives, and Numeracy
I talk with John Allen Paulos about what math everybody should know, and how to make it more widely known.
|2022-Oct-24 • 94 minutes|
215 | Barry Loewer on Physics, Counterfactuals, and the Macroworld
I talk with philosopher Barry Loewer about how statistical mechanics underlies cause and effect, the flow of time, and more.
|2022-Oct-17 • 76 minutes|
214 | Antonio Padilla on Large Numbers and the Scope of the Universe
I talk with theoretical physicist Antonio Padilla about ultra-large numbers and how they compare to the universe.
|2022-Oct-10 • 181 minutes|
AMA | October 2022
Ask Me Anything episode for October 2022.
|2022-Oct-03 • 5 minutes|
Introducing - The ReWatcher: Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Welcome to the Hellmouth Weirdos! Your favorite Morbid hosts Ash and Alaina are branching out from true crime and heading to Sunnydale for the ultimate Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch podcast! Alaina is a Buffy superfan and Ash has never watched a single episode, so whether you’re Team Angel, Team Spike, or have no clue who those people are…they’ve got you covered! Join them each week as they slay their way through the series, episode by episode, re-watching, and watching for the very first time. They’ll b...
|2022-Oct-03 • 76 minutes|
213 | Timiebi Aganaba on Law and Governance in Space
Space needs lawyers! I talk with Timiebi Aganaba, an expert on space law and governance.
|2022-Sep-26 • 87 minutes|
212 | Chiara Mingarelli on Searching for Black Holes with Pulsars
I talk with physicist Chiara Mingarelli about how we can use pulsar timing to detect gravitational waves and black holes.
|2022-Sep-19 • 111 minutes|
211 | Solo: Secrets of Einstein's Equation
Solo podcast explaining Einstein's Equation of general relativity, to celebrate publication of The Biggest Ideas in the Universe.
|2022-Sep-12 • 68 minutes|
210 | Randall Munroe on Imagining What If...?
I talk with Randall Munroe, creator of xkcd, about the art and science of answering wild hypothetical questions.
|2022-Sep-05 • 84 minutes|
209 | Brad DeLong on Why the 20th Century Fell Short of Utopia
I talk with economist Brad DeLong about his new economic history of the long 20th century.
|2022-Aug-29 • 210 minutes|
AMA | September 2022
Ask Me Anything episode for September 2022.
|2022-Aug-22 • 71 minutes|
208 | Rick Beato on the Theory of Popular Music
I talk with musician/producer/educator Rick Beato about music theory and how it affects our appreciation of popular songs.
|2022-Aug-15 • 102 minutes|
207 | William MacAskill on Maximizing Good in the Present and Future
I talk with philosopher William MacAskill about utilitarianism and longtermism.
|2022-Aug-08 • 77 minutes|
206 | Simon Conway Morris on Evolution, Convergence, and Theism
Simon Conway Morris argues that there are some myths in the popular understanding of evolution.
|2022-Aug-01 • 187 minutes|
AMA | August 2022
Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape for August 2022.
|2022-Jul-25 • 79 minutes|
205 | John Quiggin on Interest Rates and the Information Economy
I talk with economist John Quiggin about how the information economy has affected the use of interest rates to influence economic activity.
|2022-Jul-18 • 75 minutes|
204 | John Asher Johnson on Hunting for Exoplanets
I talk with astronomer John Johnson about how we can detect planets outside the solar system.
|2022-Jul-11 • 84 minutes|
203 | N.J. Enfield on Why Language is Good for Lawyers and Not Scientists
I talk with linguistic anthropologist N.J. Enfield on how language was originally developed for social, rather than descriptive, purposes.
|2022-Jul-04 • 206 minutes|
AMA | July 2022
Ask Me Anything episode for July 2022.
|2022-Jun-27 • 75 minutes|
202 | Andrew Papachristos on the Network Theory of Gun Violence
I talk with sociologist Andrew Papachristos about using applied network theory to understand patterns of gun violence.
|2022-Jun-20 • 6 minutes|
Wondery Presents: The Execution of Bonny Lee Bakley
Trailer for the new Wondery podcast, The Execution of Bonny Lee Bakley.
|2022-Jun-20 • 69 minutes|
201 | Ed Yong on How Animals Sense the World
I talk with science writer Ed Yong about the world of animals with very different senses from our own.
|2022-Jun-13 • 185 minutes|
AMA | June 2022
Ask Me Anything episode for June 2022.
|2022-Jun-06 • 135 minutes|
200 | Solo: The Philosophy of the Multiverse
A solo discussion of issues at the intersection of cosmology and philosophy, especially on making predictions in a multiverse.
|2022-May-30 • 73 minutes|
199 | Elizabeth Cohen on Time and Other Political Values
I talk with political scientist Elizabeth Cohen on the role of time in government and politics.
|2022-May-23 • 85 minutes|
198 | Nick Lane on Powering Biology
I talk with biochemist Nick Lane about the Krebs cycle, which helps distribute energy through our cells, and its connection to the origin of life.
|2022-May-16 • 68 minutes|
197 | Catherine Brinkley on the Science of Cities
I talk with Catherine Brinkley about the structure and growth of cities, and how humans life in them.
|2022-May-12 • 216 minutes|
AMA | May 2022
Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape for May 2022.
|2022-May-09 • 77 minutes|
196 | Judea Pearl on Cause and Effect
I talk to Judea Pearl, a founder of the "causal revolution" that is shaking up the social sciences, artificial intelligence, and philosophy.
|2022-May-02 • 79 minutes|
195 | Richard Dawkins on Flight and Other Evolutionary Achievements
I talk with Richard Dawkins about the origin of flight, as well as conceptual issues at the heart of evolutionary biology.
|2022-Apr-25 • 68 minutes|
194 | Frans de Waal on Culture and Gender in Primates
I talk with Frans de Waal about culture, empathy, morality, politics, and gender in various primate species.
|2022-Apr-18 • 69 minutes|
193 | Daniels on Everything, Everywhere, All at Once
I talk with filmmakers Daniels about chaos and the multiverse in their new movie Everything Everywhere All at Once.
|2022-Apr-14 • 207 minutes|
AMA | April 2022
Ask Me Anything episode for April 2022.
|2022-Apr-11 • 77 minutes|
192 | Nicole Yunger Halpern on Quantum Steampunk Thermodynamics
I talk with physicist Nicole Yunger Halpern about the emerging frontier of quantum thermodynamics.
|2022-Apr-04 • 82 minutes|
191 | Jane McGonigal on How to Imagine the Future
I talk with futurist and game designer Jane McGonigal about using social simulations to understand the future.
|2022-Mar-28 • 64 minutes|
190 | Lea Goentoro on Regrowing Limbs
Regrowing limbs is an obvious medical goal, toward which there hasn't been much tangible progress. Is biology finally providing some clues?
|2022-Mar-21 • 82 minutes|
189 | Brian Klaas on Power and the Temptation of Corruption
I talk with political scientist Brian Klaas about corruption in politics: where it comes from and how to prevent it.
|2022-Mar-17 • 199 minutes|
AMA | March 2022
Ask Me Anything episode for March 2022.
|2022-Mar-14 • 81 minutes|
188 | Arik Kershenbaum on What Aliens Will Be Like
I talk with zoologist Arik Kershenbaum about the likely forms of alien biology.
|2022-Mar-07 • 81 minutes|
187 | Andrew Leigh on the Politics of Looming Disasters
I talk with Andrew Leigh of the Australian Parliament about how we can politically act to protect against existential risks.
|2022-Feb-28 • 72 minutes|
186 | Sherry Turkle on How Technology Affects Our Humanity
I talk with Sherry Turkle about how our ubiquitous connection to devices affects how we see and relate to ourselves and other people.
|2022-Feb-21 • 86 minutes|
185 | Arvid Ågren on the Gene’s-Eye View of Evolution
I talk with biologist Arvid Ågren about the relative merits of genes and organisms as the drivers of evolution.
|2022-Feb-14 • 84 minutes|
184 | Gary Marcus on Artificial Intelligence and Common Sense
I talk with Gary Marcus about how AI needs to think more symbolically to better think like a human.
|2022-Feb-10 • 256 minutes|
AMA | February 2022
Ask Me Anything episode, February 2022.
|2022-Feb-07 • 100 minutes|
183 | Michael Dine on Supersymmetry, Anthropics, and the Future of Particle Physics
I talk with Michael Dine about the current state of particle physics, and where it might go next.
|2022-Jan-31 • 98 minutes|
182 | Sally Haslanger on Social Construction and Critical Theory
I talk with philosopher Sally Haslanger about the social construction of (certain aspects of) reality.
|2022-Jan-24 • 77 minutes|
181 | Peter Dodds on Quantifying the Shape of Stories
I talk with Peter Dodds about how we can use big data to characterize words and how they're deployed in stories and news.
|2022-Jan-17 • 64 minutes|
180 | Camilla Pang on Instructions for Being Human
Camilla Pang uses her experience as a scientist and a person with autism to construct an instruction manual for being human.
|2022-Jan-10 • 73 minutes|
179 | David Reich on Genetics and Ancient Humanity
I talk with geneticist David Reich about what ancient DNA has taught us about the history of humankind.
|2022-Jan-03 • 75 minutes|
178 | Jody Azzouni on What Is and Isn't Real
I talk with philosopher Jody Azzouni about the reality (or otherwise) of mathematical and other concepts.
|2021-Dec-20 • 59 minutes|
Holiday Message 2021 | On Disciplines & Cocktails
Holiday Message 2021 from Mindscape.
|2021-Dec-15 • 218 minutes|
AMA | December 2021
Ask Me Anything episode for December 2021.
|2021-Dec-13 • 71 minutes|
177 | Monika Schleier-Smith on Cold Atoms and Emergent Spacetime
I talk to physicist Monika Schleier-Smith about experimental quantum mechanics, including models of emergent spacetime.
|2021-Dec-06 • 86 minutes|
176 | Joshua Greene on Morality, Psychology, and Trolley Problems
I talk with psychologist/philosopher Joshua Greene about where morality comes from and how we should think about it.
|2021-Nov-29 • 87 minutes|
175 | William Ratcliff on Multicellularity, Physics, and Evolution
I talk with William Ratcliff about the transition to multicellular life, in nature and in the lab.
|2021-Nov-22 • 82 minutes|
174 | Tai-Danae Bradley on Algebra, Topology, Language, and Entropy
I talk with Tai-Danae Bradley about applying high-level mathematical concepts to the messiness of human language.
|2021-Nov-17 • 235 minutes|
AMA | November 2021
Ask Me Anything episode for November 2021.
|2021-Nov-15 • 72 minutes|
173 | Sylvia Earle on the Oceans, the Planet, and People
I talk with Sylvia Earle about the state of our oceans and what we can do to preserve them.
|2021-Nov-08 • 77 minutes|
172 | David Goyer on Televising the Fall of the Galactic Empire
I talk with screenwriter David Goyer, creator of a new TV adaptation of Isaac Asimov's Foundation series.
|2021-Nov-01 • 87 minutes|
171 | Christopher Mims on Our Interconnected Industrial Ecology
I talk with Christopher Mims about the production and distribution of goods in the modern world, and its role in our everyday lives.
|2021-Oct-25 • 88 minutes|
170 | Priya Natarajan on Galaxies, Black Holes, and Cosmic Anomalies
I talk with Priya Natarajan about how gravitational lensing and other techniques are changing our views of galaxies and black holes.
|2021-Oct-18 • 84 minutes|
169 | C. Thi Nguyen on Games, Art, Values, and Agency
I talk with C. Thi Nguyen about the philosophy of games, and how the clarity of value associated with gamification can lead us astray.
|2021-Oct-14 • 179 minutes|
AMA | October 2021
Ask Me Anything episode for October 2021.
|2021-Oct-11 • 85 minutes|
168 | Anil Seth on Emergence, Information, and Consciousness
I talk with neuroscientist Anil Seth about how higher-level descriptions emerge from lower ones, and what that has to do with consciousness.
|2021-Oct-04 • 95 minutes|
167 | Chiara Marletto on Constructor Theory, Physics, and Possibility
I talk with physicist Chiara Marletto about constructor theory, a novel approach to fundamental physics.
|2021-Sep-27 • 74 minutes|
166 | Betül Kaçar on Paleogenomics and Ancient Life
With astrobiologist Betül Kaçar, I talk about how we can use modern genetic analysis to learn about ancient life on Earth.
|2021-Sep-20 • 85 minutes|
165 | Kathryn Paige Harden on Genetics, Luck, and Fairness
I talk with psychologist Kathryn Paige Harden about how our genes affect who we become, and what that means for questions of fairness.
|2021-Sep-16 • 219 minutes|
AMA | September 2021
Ask Me Anything episode for September 2021.
|2021-Sep-13 • 90 minutes|
164 | Herbert Gintis on Game Theory, Evolution, and Social Rationality
I talk with economist and behavioral scientist Herbert Gintis about a unified theory of human behavior based on game theory and social rationality.
|2021-Sep-06 • 92 minutes|
163 | Nigel Goldenfeld on Phase Transitions, Criticality, and Biology
I talk with physicist Nigel Goldenfeld about how we understand the complex things that occur in systems with many particles.
|2021-Aug-30 • 74 minutes|
162 | Leidy Klotz on Our Resistance to Subtractive Change
I talk with engineer Leidy Klotz on how our brains prefer to fix problems by adding things rather than subtracting them.
|2021-Aug-23 • 96 minutes|
161 | W. Brian Arthur on Complexity Economics
I talk with economist Brian Arthur about how complex-systems theory provides new insights into economic behavior.
|2021-Aug-16 • 84 minutes|
160 | Edward Slingerland on Confucianism, Daoism, and Wu Wei
I talk with Edward Slingerland about the major ideas of ancient Chinese philosophy, and how they relate to ideas from modern science.
|2021-Aug-12 • 191 minutes|
AMA | August 2021
Ask Me Anything episode for August 2021.
|2021-Aug-09 • 110 minutes|
159 | Mari Ruti on Lack, Love, and Psychoanalysis
I talk with critical theorist Mari Ruti about psychoanalysis, existentialism, and human life.
|2021-Aug-02 • 108 minutes|
158 | David Wallace on the Arrow of Time
I talk with philosopher/physicist David Wallace about entropy, the arrow of time, and quantum mechanics.
|2021-Jul-26 • 78 minutes|
157 | Elizabeth Strychalski on Synthetic Cells and the Rules of Biology
I talk with synthetic biologist Elizabeth Strychalski about the minimal genetic requirements to make a functioning cell.
|2021-Jul-19 • 88 minutes|
156 | Catherine D’Ignazio on Data, Objectivity, and Bias
I speak with data scientist Catherine D'Ignazio about the ways in which data and algorithms can be biased, and the ways in which data can be used to correct against bias.
|2021-Jul-12 • 161 minutes|
155 | Stephen Wolfram on Computation, Hypergraphs, and Fundamental Physics
I talk with Stephen Wolfram about his project to base fundamental physics on simple computational rules.
|2021-Jul-09 • 229 minutes|
AMA | July 2021
Monthly Ask Me Anything episode.
|2021-Jul-05 • 86 minutes|
154 | Reza Aslan on Religion, Metaphor, and Meaning
I talk with Reza Aslan about religion as a vocabulary for thinking about the transcendent.
|2021-Jun-28 • 93 minutes|
153 | John Preskill on Quantum Computers and What They’re Good For
I talk with John Preskill about how quantum computers work, and what problems they will be able to effectively address.
|2021-Jun-21 • 80 minutes|
152 | Charis Kubrin on Criminology, Incarceration, and Hip-Hop
I talk with criminologist Charis Kubrin on who we put in jail and why, including the role of what the defendant's favorite music is.
|2021-Jun-14 • 84 minutes|
151 | Jordan Ellenberg on the Mathematics of Political Boundaries
I talk with mathematician Jordan Ellenberg about how random walks and Markov chains help us understand political gerrymandering.
|2021-Jun-10 • 199 minutes|
AMA | June 2021
Mindscape Ask Me Anything episode for June 2021.
|2021-Jun-07 • 93 minutes|
150 | Simon DeDeo on How Explanations Work and Why They Sometimes Fail
I talk with Simon DeDeo about the competing values of different kinds of explanations, from science to conspiracy theories.
|2021-May-31 • 89 minutes|
149 | Lee Smolin on Time, Philosophy, and the Nature of Reality
I talk with physicist Lee Smolin about time, the universe, and the future of physics.
|2021-May-24 • 87 minutes|
148 | Henry Farrell on Democracy as a Problem-Solving Mechanism
I talk with political scientist Henry Farrell about ways in which democracy is a good algorithm for solving problems.
|2021-May-17 • 77 minutes|
147 | Rachel Laudan on Cuisine, Culture, and Empire
I talk with science historian Rachel Laudan about the rise of world cuisines and how they intersect with politics and society.
|2021-May-13 • 179 minutes|
AMA | May 2021
Ask Me Anything episode for May 2021.
|2021-May-10 • 77 minutes|
146 | Emily Riehl on Topology, Categories, and the Future of Mathematics
I talk with mathematician Emily Riehl about what topology and category theory are all about.
|2021-May-03 • 85 minutes|
145 | Niall Ferguson on Histories, Networks, and Catastrophes
I talk with historian Niall Ferguson about human society as a complex network, and what that means for how we deal with catastrophes.
|2021-Apr-26 • 72 minutes|
144 | Solo: Are We Moving Beyond the Standard Model?
I talk about the recent anomalies in particle physics, whether we should trust them and what they might mean for physics beyond the Standard Model.
|2021-Apr-19 • 92 minutes|
143 | Julia Galef on Openness, Bias, and Rationality
I talk with Julia Galef about why rationality is a good thing, and how we can all get better at it.
|2021-Apr-14 • 162 minutes|
AMA | April 2021
Ask Me Anything episode for April 2021.
|2021-Apr-12 • 86 minutes|
142 | Charlie Jane Anders on Stories and How to Write Them
I talk with writer Charlie Jane Anders about the techniques that go into good storytelling.
|2021-Apr-05 • 78 minutes|
141 | Zeynep Tufekci on Information and Attention in a Networked World
I talk with sociologist Zeynep Tufekci about how we get information and what we pay attention to in our networked age.
|2021-Mar-29 • 88 minutes|
140 | Dean Buonomano on Time, Reality, and the Brain
I talk with neuroscientist Dean Buonomano about how the brain reconstructs time and other aspects of reality.
|2021-Mar-22 • 79 minutes|
139 | Elizabeth Anderson on Equality, Work, and Ideology
I talk with philosopher Elizabeth Anderson about what equality should mean, and how it applies to employment and the work ethic.
|2021-Mar-15 • 77 minutes|
138 | Daryl Morey on Analytics, Psychology, and Basketball
I talk with Daryl Morey about the theory of being an NBA general manager, from analytics and game theory to psychological biases.
|2021-Mar-10 • 191 minutes|
AMA | March 2021
Ask Me Anything episode for March 2021.
|2021-Mar-08 • 93 minutes|
137 | Justin Clarke-Doane on Mathematics, Morality, Objectivity, and Reality
I talk with Justin Clarke-Doane about the philosophical similarities and differences between mathematics and morality.
|2021-Mar-01 • 83 minutes|
136 | Roderick Graham on Cyberspace, Race, and Cultural Conservatism
I talk with sociologist Roderick Graham about how hot-button issues, from race to cultural conservatism, play out in cyberspace.
|2021-Feb-22 • 80 minutes|
135 | Shadi Bartsch on Plato, Vergil, Confucius, and Modernity
I talk to classicist Shadi Bartsch about the classics in the modern world, from Vergil's Aeneid to how China thinks about Plato.
|2021-Feb-17 • 174 minutes|
AMA | February 2021
Ask Me Anything episode for February 2021.
|2021-Feb-15 • 89 minutes|
134 | Robert Sapolsky on Why We Behave the Way We Do
I talk with psychoneurobiologist Robert Sapolsky about why human beings behave the way they do.
|2021-Feb-08 • 98 minutes|
133 | Ziya Tong on Realities We Don't See
I talk with science journalist Ziya Tong about how what we see and think about shapes how we live in the world.
|2021-Feb-04 • 242 minutes|
Bonus | AIP Oral History Interview
I am interviewed by David Zierler for the Oral History Project of the American Institute of Physics.
|2021-Feb-01 • 82 minutes|
132 | Michael Levin on Growth, Form, Information, and the Self
I talk with biologist Michael Levin about how a combination of genetic information and physical constraints shape an organism.
|2021-Jan-25 • 101 minutes|
131 | Avi Loeb on Taking Aliens Seriously
I talk with astronomer Avi Loeb about interstellar interloper Oumuamua and how to think about detecting advanced alien life.
|2021-Jan-18 • 76 minutes|
130 | Frank Wilczek on the Present and Future of Fundamental Physics
I talk with Nobel Laureate Frank Wilczek about what fundamental physics is, and where it's likely to go in the future.
|2021-Jan-11 • 104 minutes|
129 | Solo: Democracy in America
I reflect on what recent events imply for the bigger questions of democracy and society.
|2021-Jan-04 • 87 minutes|
128 | Joseph Henrich on the Weirdness of the West
I talk to anthropologist Joseph Henrich about the origin of WEIRD societies -- Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic.
|2020-Dec-21 • 91 minutes|
Holiday Message 2020 | The Screwy Universe
Bonus episode in which I talk about the possibility that photons might rotate as they travel through the universe, and what that means for dark energy.
|2020-Dec-14 • 76 minutes|
127 | Erich Jarvis on Language, Birds, and People
I talk with neurobiologist Erich Jarvis about the rare ability in species to learn how to make new sounds.
|2020-Dec-09 • 204 minutes|
AMA | December 2020
December 2020 Ask Me Anything episode.
|2020-Dec-07 • 86 minutes|
126 | David Stasavage on the Origin and History of Democracy
I talk with political scientist David Stasavage about where democracy came from, with implications for where it's going.
|2020-Nov-30 • 75 minutes|
125 | David Haig on the Evolution of Meaning from Darwin to Derrida
I talk with evolutionary biologist David Haig about how purposes and meanings can arise in the natural world.
|2020-Nov-23 • 162 minutes|
124 | Solo: How Time Travel Could and Should Work
A solo episode on the physics and fiction of time travel.
|2020-Nov-20 • 192 minutes|
AMA | November 2020
Monthly Ask Me Anything episode.
|2020-Nov-16 • 77 minutes|
123 | Lisa Feldman Barrett on Emotions, Actions, and the Brain
I talk with psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett about the origin and use of emotions in the brain.
|2020-Nov-09 • 77 minutes|
122 | David Eagleman on Tapping Into the Livewired Brain
I talk with neuroscientist David Eagleman about our pliable brains, and how to communicate with them in unusual ways.
|2020-Nov-02 • 82 minutes|
121 | Cornel West on What Democracy Is and Should Be
I talk to philosopher and activist Cornel West about the nature and current status of democracy.
|2020-Oct-26 • 89 minutes|
120 | Jeremy England on Biology, Thermodynamics, and the Bible
I talk with biophysicist Jeremy England about the statistical mechanics of life, and what the Hebrew Bible has to say about it.
|2020-Oct-19 • 76 minutes|
119 | Musa al-Gharbi on the Value of Intellectual Diversity
I talk with sociologist Musa al-Gharbi about the importance of intellectual diversity in academia and elsewhere.
|2020-Oct-12 • 78 minutes|
118 | Adam Riess on the Expansion of the Universe and a Crisis in Cosmology
I talk with astronomer Adam Riess about a puzzling discrepancy between measurements of the early universe and our local surroundings.
|2020-Oct-05 • 81 minutes|
117 | Sean B. Carroll on Randomness and the Course of Evolution
I talk with biologist Sean B. Carroll about the role of random events in the course of life and evolution.
|2020-Sep-28 • 104 minutes|
116 | Teresa Bejan on Free Speech, Civility, and Toleration
I talk with political theorist Teresa Bejan about the history of free speech and what it teaches us about contemporary concerns.
|2020-Sep-21 • 87 minutes|
115 | Netta Engelhardt on Black Hole Information, Wormholes, and Quantum Gravity
I talk with physicist Netta Engelhardt about recent progress in understanding how information is preserved when black holes evaporate.
|2020-Sep-14 • 69 minutes|
114 | Angela Chen on Asexuality in a Sex-Preoccupied World
I talk with author Angela Chen about asexuality and what it teaches us about humanity.
|2020-Sep-07 • 80 minutes|
113 | Cailin O'Connor on Game Theory, Evolution, and the Origins of Unfairness
I talk with philosopher Cailin O'Connor about using game theory to analyze biological evolution as well as the origins of discrimination in human behavior.
|2020-Aug-31 • 80 minutes|
112 | Fyodor Urnov on Gene Editing, CRISPR, and Human Engineering
I talk with biologist Fyodor Urnov about the present and future prospects for gene editing in humans.
|2020-Aug-24 • 81 minutes|
111 | Nick Bostrom on Anthropic Selection and Living in a Simulation
I talk with philosopher Nick Bostrom about how to judge scenarios of very large universes, including the possibility that we live in a computer simulation.
|2020-Aug-17 • 84 minutes|
110 | Neil Johnson on Complexity, Conflict, and Infodemiology
I talk with physicist Neil Johnson about complex systems, information networks, and radicalization.
|2020-Aug-10 • 78 minutes|
109 | Jason Torchinsky on Our Self-Driving Future
I talk with writer, artist, and car enthusiast Jason Torchinsky about what life will be like with self-driving cars.
|2020-Aug-03 • 84 minutes|
108 | Carl Bergstrom on Information, Disinformation, and Bullshit
I talk with biologist Carl Bergstrom about the essence of bullshit: what it is, why it's so prevalent, and how to combat it.
|2020-Jul-27 • 91 minutes|
107 | Russ Shafer-Landau on the Reality of Morality
I talk with philosopher Russ Shafer-Landau, who defends realism about moral truths.
|2020-Jul-20 • 86 minutes|
106 | Stuart Bartlett on What "Life" Means
I talk with astrobiologist Stuart Bartlett about how to best define life.
|2020-Jul-13 • 78 minutes|
105 | Ann-Sophie Barwich on the Science and Philosophy of Smell
I talk with philosopher/neuroscientist Ann-Sophie Barwich about how our sense of smell affects how we perceive the world.
|2020-Jul-06 • 86 minutes|
104 | David Rosen and Scott Miles on the Neuroscience of Music and Creativity
I talk with neuroscientist/musicians David Rosen and Scott Miles about how creativity works in the brain.
|2020-Jun-29 • 75 minutes|
103 | J. Kenji López-Alt on Cooking As and With Science
I talk with chef and writer Kenji López-Alt about the science of cooking.
|2020-Jun-22 • 80 minutes|
102 | Maria Konnikova on Poker, Psychology, and Reason
I talk with writer and poker player Maria Konnikova about how poker illuminates the challenges of thinking rationally.
|2020-Jun-15 • 74 minutes|
101 | David Baltimore on the Mysteries of Viruses
I talk with virologist and Nobel Laureate David Baltimore about what viruses are and how they work.
|2020-Jun-08 • 93 minutes|
100 | Solo | Life and Its Meaning
I muse about what life is and what meaning it can have.
|2020-Jun-01 • 113 minutes|
99 | Scott Aaronson on Complexity, Computation, and Quantum Gravity
I talk with Scott Aaronson about computational complexity, quantum computers, and what they might have to do with the nature of spacetime.
|2020-May-25 • 62 minutes|
98 | Olga Khazan on Living and Flourishing While Being Weird
I talk with writer Olga Khazan about her exploration of what it means to be weird.
|2020-May-18 • 83 minutes|
97 | John Danaher on Our Coming Automated Utopia
I talk with lawyer/philosopher John Danaher on why work is becoming outmoded, and why that's a good thing.
|2020-May-11 • 82 minutes|
96 | Lina Necib on What and Where the Dark Matter Is
I talk with physicist Lina Necib about the nature and distribution of dark matter in the universe.
|2020-May-04 • 96 minutes|
95 | Liam Kofi Bright on Knowledge, Truth, and Science
I talk with philosopher Liam Kofi Bright about the nature of truth, how science gets there, and how it could do so more effectively.
|2020-Apr-27 • 87 minutes|
94 | Stuart Russell on Making Artificial Intelligence Compatible with Humans
I talk with Artificial Intelligence expert Stuart Russell on how we can best ensure that AI has motivations that are compatible with our own.
|2020-Apr-20 • 62 minutes|
93 | Rae Wynn-Grant on Bears, Humans, and Other Predators
I talk with carnivore ecologist Rae Wynn-Grant about the lives of apex predators, and how they can live with humans.
|2020-Apr-13 • 116 minutes|
92 | Kevin Hand on Life Elsewhere in the Solar System
I talk with astrobiologist and planetary scientist Kevin Hand about the search for life elsewhere in our Solar System.
|2020-Apr-06 • 79 minutes|
91 | Scott Barry Kaufman on the Psychology of Transcendence
I speak with psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman about his theory of transcendence, an updating of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
|2020-Mar-30 • 95 minutes|
90 | David Kaiser on Science, Money, and Power
I talk with physicist and historian David Kaiser about the confluence of physics, politics, and funding in the twentieth century.
|2020-Mar-23 • 89 minutes|
89 | Lera Boroditsky on Language, Thought, Space, and Time
I talk with cognitive scientist and psychologist Lera Boroditsky about how language shapes our thought, including how we conceive of space and time.
|2020-Mar-18 • 81 minutes|
Tara Smith on Coronavirus, Pandemics, and What We Can Do
I talk with epidemiologist Tara Smith about the current coronavirus pandemic.
|2020-Mar-16 • 93 minutes|
88 | Neil Shubin on Evolution, Genes, and Dramatic Transitions
I talk with paleontologist Neil Shubin about how evolution achieves dramatic transitions, from walking on land to flying through the air.
|2020-Mar-09 • 90 minutes|
87 | Karl Friston on Brains, Predictions, and Free Energy
I speak with neuroscientist Karl Friston about the "free energy principle," an information-based unified theory of how the brain works.
|2020-Mar-02 • 100 minutes|
86 | Martin Rees on Threats to Humanity, Prospects for Posthumanity, and Life in the Universe
I talk with astrophysicist Lord Martin Rees about extreme risks to humanity and the Earth, and also about prospects for life elsewhere in the universe.
|2020-Feb-24 • 74 minutes|
85 | L.A. Paul on Transformative Experiences and Your Future Selves
I talk with philosopher L.A. Paul about how to rationally judge how you will feel when you make a choice that changes your life in a profound way.
|2020-Feb-17 • 87 minutes|
84 | Suresh Naidu on Capitalism, Monopsony, and Inequality
I talk with economist Suresh Naidu about capitalism, labor markets, the minimum wage, inequality, and basically all of economics.
|2020-Feb-10 • 99 minutes|
83 | Kwame Anthony Appiah on Identity, Stories, and Cosmopolitanism
I talk with philosopher and cultural theorist Kwame Anthony Appiah about identity and cosmopolitanism.
|2020-Feb-03 • 78 minutes|
82 | Robin Carhart-Harris on Psychedelics and the Brain
I talk with neuroscientist Robin Carhart-Harris about how psychedelics act on the brain, and how we might use them for therapy and self-growth.
|2020-Jan-27 • 82 minutes|
81 | Ezra Klein on Politics, Polarization, and Identity
I talk with Ezra Klein about the forces and choices that have polarized our political identities and discourse.
|2020-Jan-20 • 87 minutes|
80 | Jenann Ismael on Connecting Physics to the World of Experience
I talk with philosopher Jenann Ismael about how to think of free will, consciousness, and value in a world governed by the laws of physics.
|2020-Jan-13 • 83 minutes|
79 | Sara Imari Walker on Information and the Origin of Life
I talk with astrobiologist Sara Imari Walker about what life is, and how information makes it go.
|2020-Jan-06 • 122 minutes|
78 | Daniel Dennett on Minds, Patterns, and the Scientific Image
I talk with philosopher Daniel Dennett about the emergence of people and patterns in the natural world.
|2019-Dec-22 • 66 minutes|
Holiday Message 2019: On Publishing Books
I ramble a bit and talk about the process of writing and publishing a popular book.
|2019-Dec-16 • 82 minutes|
77 | Azra Raza on The Way We Should Fight Cancer
I talk with oncologist and researcher Azra Raza on why we should devote more effort to finding and curing cancer in its earliest stages.
|2019-Dec-09 • 86 minutes|
76 | Ned Hall on Possible Worlds and the Laws of Nature
I talk with philosopher Ned Hall about possible worlds, cause and effect, and whether or not the laws of nature have an independent reality.
|2019-Dec-02 • 72 minutes|
75 | Max Tegmark on Reality, Simulation, and the Multiverse
I talk with physicist Max Tegmark about the multiverse, mathematics, and artificial intelligence.
|2019-Nov-25 • 66 minutes|
74 | Stephen Greenblatt on Stories, History, and Cultural Poetics
I talk with literary scholar Stephen Greenblatt about what stories tell us about history, and vice-versa.
|2019-Nov-18 • 78 minutes|
73 | Grimes (c) on Music, Creativity, and Digital Personae
I talk with musician/producer Grimes about creativity, intelligence, and identity in the digital age.
|2019-Nov-11 • 77 minutes|
72 | César Hidalgo on Information in Societies, Economies, and the Universe
I talk to physicist-turned-economist-turned-data-v... César Hidalgo about how information drives complex systems, from living organisms to entire economies.
|2019-Nov-04 • 95 minutes|
71 | Philip Goff on Consciousness Everywhere
I talk with philosopher Philip Goff about panpsychism, the idea that consciousness or mentality are ubiquitous in the universe.
|2019-Oct-28 • 83 minutes|
70 | Katie Mack on How the Universe Will End
I talk with cosmologist Katie Mack about the various ways the world might end, from gentle fade-out to dramatic kaboom.
|2019-Oct-21 • 78 minutes|
69 | Cory Doctorow on Technology, Monopoly, and the Future of the Internet
Like so many technological innovations, the internet is something that burst on the scene and pervaded human life well before we had time to sit down and think through how something like that should work and how it should be organized. In multiple ways — as a blogger, activist, fiction writer, and more — Cory Doctorow has been thinking about how the internet is affecting our lives since the very beginning. He has been especially interested in legal issues surrounding copyright, publishing, and free speech, ...
|2019-Oct-14 • 82 minutes|
68 | Melanie Mitchell on Artificial Intelligence and the Challenge of Common Sense
I talk with computer scientist Melanie Mitchell about artificial intelligence, deep learning, and why computers struggle with common sense.
|2019-Oct-07 • 73 minutes|
67 | Kate Jeffery on Entropy, Complexity, and Evolution
I talk with neuroscientist Kate Jeffery about the rise and fall of complexity in biology and cosmology.
|2019-Sep-30 • 113 minutes|
66 | Will Wilkinson on Partisan Polarization and the Urban/Rural Divide
I talk with policy analyst Will Wilkinson about the increasing sorting of liberal voters into urban areas and conservatives into suburban/rural areas.
|2019-Sep-23 • 77 minutes|
65 | Michael Mann on Why Our Climate Is Changing and How We Know
I talk with climate scientist Michael Mann on how we study the Earth's temperature over time, and how it's changing now.
|2019-Sep-16 • 77 minutes|
64 | Ramez Naam on Renewable Energy and an Optimistic Future
I talk with technologist and author Ramez Naam about how renewable energy could help us save the environment.
|2019-Sep-09 • 110 minutes|
63 | Solo -- Finding Gravity Within Quantum Mechanics
A solo episode explaining the idea that we shouldn't be trying to quantize gravity, we should be trying to find gravity within quantum mechanics.
|2019-Sep-02 • 72 minutes|
62 | Michele Gelfand on Tight and Loose Societies and People
I talk with psychologist Michele Gelfand about the differences between tight and loose societies, and how to live within them.
|2019-Aug-26 • 70 minutes|
61 | Quassim Cassam on Intellectual Vices and What to Do About Them
I talk with philosopher Quassim Cassam about intellectual vices -- personal attributes that needlessly prevent us from being correct.
|2019-Aug-19 • 76 minutes|
60 | Lynne Kelly on Memory Palaces, Ancient and Modern
I talk with memory expert Lynne Kelly about the use of memory palaces, both today and in prehistoric societies.
|2019-Aug-12 • 100 minutes|
59 | Adam Becker on the Curious History of Quantum Mechanics
I talk with Adam Becker about how and why physicists in the 20th century abandoned the idea of trying to understand quantum mechanics.
|2019-Aug-05 • 72 minutes|
58 | Seth MacFarlane on Using Science Fiction to Explore Humanity
I talk with Seth MacFarlane about his episodic science fiction show, The Orville, and its use of allegory to explore real-world situations.
|2019-Jul-29 • 84 minutes|
57 | Astra Taylor on the Promise and Challenge of Democracy
A conversation with filmmaker, author, and activist Astra Taylor, on what democracy is and why it matters.
|2019-Jul-22 • 72 minutes|
56 | Kate Adamala on Creating Synthetic Life
A conversation with synthetic biologist Kate Adamala on constructing artificial cells, and what that tells us about life on Earth and elsewhere.
|2019-Jul-15 • 86 minutes|
55 | A Conversation with Rob Reid on Quantum Mechanics and Many Worlds
I am interviewed by Rob Reid about quantum mechanics and the Many-Worlds formulation.
|2019-Jul-08 • 75 minutes|
54 | Indre Viskontas on Music and the Brain
It doesn’t mean much to say music affects your brain — everything that happens to you affects your brain. But music affects your brain in certain specific ways, from changing our mood to helping us learn. As both a neuroscientist and an opera singer, Indre Viskontas is the ideal person to talk about the relationship between music and the brain. Her new book, How Music Can Make You Better, digs into why we love music, how it can unite and divide us, and how music has a special impact on the very young and th...
|2019-Jul-01 • 125 minutes|
53 | Solo -- On Morality and Rationality
What does it mean to be a good person? To act ethically and morally in the world? In the old days we might appeal to the instructions we get from God, but a modern naturalist has to look elsewhere. Today I do a rare solo podcast, where I talk both about my personal views on morality, a variety of “constructivism” according to which human beings construct their ethical stances starting from basic impulses, logical reasoning, and communicating with others. In light of this view, I consider two real-world exam...
|2019-Jun-24 • 65 minutes|
52 | Frank Lantz on the Logic and Emotion of Games
Games play an important, and arguably increasing, role in human life. We play games on our computers and our phones, watch other people compete in games, and occasionally break out the cards or the Monopoly set. What is the origin of this human impulse, and what makes for a great game? Frank Lantz is both a working game designer and an academic who thinks about the nature of games and gaming. We discuss what games are, contrast the challenges of Go and Poker and other games, and investigate both the “dark e...
|2019-Jun-17 • 92 minutes|
51 | Anthony Aguirre on Cosmology, Zen, Entropy, and Information
Cosmologists have a standard set of puzzles they think about: the nature of dark matter and dark energy, whether there was a period of inflation, the evolution of structure, and so on. But there are also even deeper questions, having to do with why there is a universe at all, and why the early universe had low entropy, that most working cosmologists don’t address. Today’s guest, Anthony Aguirre, is an exception. We talk about these deep issues, and how tackling them might lead to a very different way of thi...
|2019-Jun-10 • 72 minutes|
50 | Patricia Churchland on Conscience, Morality, and the Brain
It’s fun to spend time thinking about how other people should behave, but fortunately we also have an inner voice that keeps offering opinions about how we should behave ourselves: our conscience. Where did that come from? Today’s guest, Patricia Churchland, is a philosopher and neuroscientist, one of the founders of the subfield of “neurophilosophy.” We dig into the neuroscience of it all, especially how neurochemicals like oxytocin affect our attitudes and behaviors. But we also explore the philosophical ...
|2019-Jun-03 • 114 minutes|
49 | Nicholas Christakis on Humanity, Biology, and What Makes Us Good
It’s easy to be cynical about humanity’s present state and future prospects. But we have made it this far, and in some ways we’re doing better than we used to be. Today’s guest, Nicholas Christakis, is an interdisciplinary researcher who studies human nature from a variety of perspectives, including biological, historical, and philosophical. His most recent book is Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society, in which he tries to pinpoint the common features of all human societies, something he du...
|2019-May-27 • 71 minutes|
48 | Marq de Villiers on Hell and Damnation
If you’re bad, we are taught, you go to Hell. Who in the world came up with that idea? Some will answer God, but for the purpose of today’s podcast discussion we’ll put that possibility aside and look into the human origins and history of the idea of Hell. Marq de Villiers is a writer and journalist who has authored a series of non-fiction books, many on science and the environment. In Hell & Damnation, he takes a detour to examine the manifold ways in which societies have imagined the afterlife. The idea o...
|2019-May-20 • 98 minutes|
47 | Adam Rutherford on Humans, Animals, and Life in General
Most people in the modern world — and the vast majority of Mindscape listeners, I would imagine — agree that humans are part of the animal kingdom, and that all living animals evolved from a common ancestor. Nevertheless, there are ways in which we are unique; humans are the only animals that stress out over Game of Thrones (as far as I know). I talk with geneticist and science writer Adam Rutherford about what makes us human, and how we got that way, both biologically and culturally. One big takeaway lesso...
|2019-May-13 • 67 minutes|
46 | Kate Darling on Our Connections with Robots
Most of us have no trouble telling the difference between a robot and a living, feeling organism. Nevertheless, our brains often treat robots as if they were alive. We give them names, imagine that they have emotions and inner mental states, get mad at them when they do the wrong thing or feel bad for them when they seem to be in distress. Kate Darling is a research at the MIT Media Lab who specializes in social robotics, the interactions between humans and machines. We talk about why we cannot help but ant...
|2019-May-06 • 74 minutes|
45 | Leonard Susskind on Quantum Information, Quantum Gravity, and Holography
For decades now physicists have been struggling to reconcile two great ideas from a century ago: general relativity and quantum mechanics. We don’t yet know the final answer, but the journey has taken us to some amazing places. A leader in this quest has been Leonard Susskind, who has helped illuminate some of the most mind-blowing ideas in quantum gravity: the holographic principle, the string theory landscape, black-hole complementarity, and others. He has also become celebrated as a writer, speaker, and ...
|2019-Apr-29 • 72 minutes|
44 | Antonio Damasio on Feelings, Thoughts, and the Evolution of Humanity
When we talk about the mind, we are constantly talking about consciousness and cognition. Antonio Damasio wants us to talk about our feelings. But it’s not in an effort to be more touchy-feely; Damasio, one of the world’s leading neuroscientists, believes that feelings generated by the body are a crucial part of how we achieve and maintain homeostasis, which in turn is a key driver in understanding who we are. His most recent book, The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feeling, and the Making of Cultures, is ...
|2019-Apr-22 • 106 minutes|
43 | Matthew Luczy on the Pleasures of Wine
Some people never drink wine; for others, it’s an indispensable part of an enjoyable meal. Whatever your personal feelings might be, wine seems to exhibit a degree of complexity and nuance that can be intimidating to the non-expert. Where does that complexity come from, and how can we best approach wine? To answer these questions, we talk to Matthew Luczy, sommelier and wine director at Mélisse, one of the top fine-dining restaurants in the Los Angeles area. Matthew insisted that we actually drink wine rath...
|2019-Apr-15 • 60 minutes|
42 | Natalya Bailey on Navigating Earth Orbit and Beyond
The space age officially began in 1957 with the launch of the Sputnik 1 satellite. But recent years have seen the beginning of a boom in the number of objects orbiting Earth, as satellite tracking and communications have assumed enormous importance in the modern world. This raises obvious concerns for the control and eventual fate of these orbiting artifacts. Natalya Bailey is pioneering a novel approach to satellite propulsion, building tiny ion engines at her company Accion Systems. We talk about how sate...
|2019-Apr-08 • 75 minutes|
41 | Steven Strogatz on Synchronization, Networks, and the Emergence of Complex Behavior
One of the most important insights in the history of science is the fact that complex behavior can arise from the undirected movements of small, simple systems. Despite the fact that we know this, we’re still working to truly understand it — to uncover the mechanisms by which, and conditions under which, complexity can emerge from simplicity. (Coincidentally, a new feature in Quanta on this precise topic came out while this episode was being edited.) Steven Strogatz is a leading researcher in this field, a...
|2019-Apr-01 • 63 minutes|
40 | Adrienne Mayor on Gods and Robots in Ancient Mythology
The modern world is full of technology, and also with anxiety about technology. We worry about robot uprisings and artificial intelligence taking over, and we contemplate what it would mean for a computer to be conscious or truly human. It should probably come as no surprise that these ideas aren’t new to modern society — they go way back, at least to the stories and mythologies of ancient Greece. Today’s guest, Adrienne Mayor, is a folklorist and historian of science, whose recent work has been on robots a...
|2019-Mar-25 • 80 minutes|
39 | Malcolm MacIver on Sensing, Consciousness, and Imagination
Consciousness has many aspects, from experience to wakefulness to self-awareness. One aspect is imagination: our minds can conjure up multiple hypothetical futures to help us decide which choices we should make. Where did that ability come from? Today’s guest, Malcolm MacIver, pinpoints an important transition in the evolution of consciousness to when fish first climbed on to land, and could suddenly see much farther, which in turn made it advantageous to plan further in advance. If this idea is true, it mi...
|2019-Mar-18 • 77 minutes|
38 | Alan Lightman on Transcendence, Science, and a Naturalist’s Sense of Meaning
Let’s say, for sake of argument, that you don’t believe in God or the supernatural. Is there still a place for talking about transcendence, the sacred, and meaning in life? Some of the above, but not all? Today’s guest, Alan Lightman, brings a unique perspective to these questions, as someone who has worked within both the sciences and the humanities at the highest level. In his most recent book, Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine, he makes the case that naturalists should take transcendence seriousl...
|2019-Mar-11 • 91 minutes|
37 | Edward Watts on the End of the Roman Republic and Lessons for Democracy
When many of us think “Ancient Rome,” we think of the Empire and the Caesars. But the Empire was preceded by the Roman Republic, which flourished for a full five centuries. Why, after such a long and prosperous run, would an essentially democratic form of government change — with a good deal of approval from its citizens — into an autocracy? That’s the question I discuss with today’s guest, historian Edward Watts. It’s a fascinating story with many contemporary resonances, especially how reformers choose to...
|2019-Mar-04 • 103 minutes|
36 | David Albert on Quantum Measurement and the Problems with Many-Worlds
Quantum mechanics is our best theory of how reality works at a fundamental level, yet physicists still can’t agree on what the theory actually says. At the heart of the puzzle is the “measurement problem”: what actually happens when we observe a quantum system, and why do we apparently need separate rules when it happens? David Albert is one of the leading figures in the foundations of quantum mechanics today, and we discuss the measurement problem and why it’s so puzzling. Then we dive into the Many-Worlds...
|2019-Feb-25 • 69 minutes|
35 | Jessica Yellin on The Changing Ways We Get Our News
Everything we think about the world outside our immediate senses is shaped by information brought to us by other sources. In the case of what’s currently happening to the human race, we call that information “the news.” There is no such thing as “unfiltered” news — no matter how we get it, someone is deciding what information to convey and how to convey it. And the way that is happening is currently in a state of flux. Today’s guest, journalist Jessica Yellin, has seen the news business from the perspective...
|2019-Feb-18 • 71 minutes|
34 | Paul Bloom on Empathy, Rationality, Morality, and Cruelty
Within every person’s mind there is on ongoing battle between reason and emotion. It’s not always a battle, of course; very often the two can work together. But at other times, our emotions push us toward actions that our reason would counsel against. Paul Bloom is a well-known psychologist and author who wrote the provocatively-titled book Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion, and is currently writing a book about the nature of cruelty. While I sympathize with parts of his anti-empathy stance,...
|2019-Feb-11 • 67 minutes|
33 | James Ladyman on Reality, Metaphysics, and Complexity
Reality is a tricky thing. Is love real? What about the number 5? This is clearly a job for a philosopher, and James Ladyman is one of the world’s acknowledged experts. He and his collaborators have been championing a view known as “structural realism,” in which real things are those that reflect true, useful patterns in the underlying reality. We talk about that, but also about a couple of other subjects in the broad area of philosophy of science: the history and current status of materialism/physicalism, ...
|2019-Feb-04 • 70 minutes|
32 | Naomi Oreskes on Climate Change and the Distortion of Scientific Facts
Our climate is in the midst of dramatic changes, driven largely by human activity, with potentially enormous consequences for humanity and other species. That’s why science tells us, anyway. But there is an influential contingent, especially in the United States, who deny that reality, and work hard to prevent policy action that might ameliorate it. Where did this resistance come from, and what makes it so successful? Naomi Oreskes is a distinguished historian of science who has become, half-reluctantly, th...
|2019-Jan-28 • 72 minutes|
31 | Brian Greene on the Multiverse, Inflation, and the String Theory Landscape
String theory was originally proposed as a relatively modest attempt to explain some features of strongly-interacting particles, but before too long developed into an ambitious attempt to unite all the forces of nature into a single theory. The great thing about physics is that your theories don’t always go where you want them to, and string theory has had some twists and turns along the way. One major challenge facing the theory is the fact that there are many different ways to connect the deep principles ...
|2019-Jan-21 • 89 minutes|
30 | Derek Leben on Ethics for Robots and Artificial Intelligences
It’s hardly news that computers are exerting ever more influence over our lives. And we’re beginning to see the first glimmers of some kind of artificial intelligence: computer programs have become much better than humans at well-defined jobs like playing chess and Go, and are increasingly called upon for messier tasks, like driving cars. Once we leave the highly constrained sphere of artificial games and enter the real world of human actions, our artificial intelligences are going to have to make choices a...
|2019-Jan-14 • 75 minutes|
29 | Raychelle Burks on the Chemistry of Murder
Sometimes science is asking esoteric questions about the fundamental nature of reality. Other times, it just wants to solve a murder. Today’s guest, Raychelle Burks, is an analytical chemist at St. Edward’s University in Texas. Before becoming a full-time academic, she worked in a crime lab using chemistry to help police track suspects, and now she does research on building new detectors for use in forensic analyses. We talk about how the real world of forensic investigation differs from the version you see...
|2019-Jan-07 • 95 minutes|
28 | Roger Penrose on Spacetime, Consciousness, and the Universe
Sir Roger Penrose has had a remarkable life. He has contributed an enormous amount to our understanding of general relativity, perhaps more than anyone since Einstein himself -- Penrose diagrams, singularity theorems, the Penrose process, cosmic censorship, and the list goes on. He has made important contributions to mathematics, including such fun ideas as the Penrose triangle and aperiodic tilings. He has also made bold conjectures in the notoriously contentious areas of quantum mechanics and the study of...
|2018-Dec-24 • 45 minutes|
Holiday Message 2018
There won't be any regular episodes of Mindscape this week or next, as we take a holiday break. Regular service will resume on Monday January 7, 2019. In the meantime, here is a special Holiday Message. Most likely it will be of interest to very few people -- there's no real substantive content, just me talking about the State of the Podcast and some other things I've been doing. Thanks to everyone for listening, here's looking toward great things in 2019! Support Mindscape on Patreon or Paypal. See Priv...
|2018-Dec-17 • 69 minutes|
27 | Janna Levin on Black Holes, Chaos, and the Narrative of Science
It's a big universe out there, full of an astonishing variety of questions and puzzles. Today's guest, Janna Levin, is a physicist who has delved into some of the trippiest aspects of cosmology and gravitation: the topology of the universe, extra dimensions of space, and the appearance of chaos in orbits around black holes. At the same time, she has been a pioneer in talking about science in interesting and innovative ways: a personal memoir, a novelized narrative of famous scientific lives, and a journalis...
|2018-Dec-10 • 71 minutes|
26 | Ge Wang on Artful Design, Computers, and Music
Everywhere around us are things that serve functions. We live in houses, sit on chairs, drive in cars. But these things don't only serve functions, they also come in particular forms, which may be emotionally or aesthetically pleasing as well as functional. The study of how form and function come together in things is what we call "Design." Today's guest, Ge Wang, is a computer scientist and electronic musician with a new book called Artful Design: Technology in Search of the Sublime. It's incredibly creati...
|2018-Dec-03 • 82 minutes|
25 | David Chalmers on Consciousness, the Hard Problem, and Living in a Simulation
The "Easy Problems" of consciousness have to do with how the brain takes in information, thinks about it, and turns it into action. The "Hard Problem," on the other hand, is the task of explaining our individual, subjective, first-person experiences of the world. What is it like to be me, rather than someone else? Everyone agrees that the Easy Problems are hard; some people think the Hard Problem is almost impossible, while others think it's pretty easy. Today's guest, David Chalmers, is arguably the leadin...
|2018-Nov-26 • 80 minutes|
24 | Kip Thorne on Gravitational Waves, Time Travel, and Interstellar
I remember vividly hosting a colloquium speaker, about fifteen years ago, who talked about the LIGO gravitational-wave observatory, which had just started taking data. Comparing where they were to where they needed to get to in terms of sensitivity, the mumblings in the audience after the talk were clear: “They’ll never make it.” Of course we now know that they did, and the 2016 announcement of the detection of gravitational waves led to a 2017 Nobel Prize for Rainer Weiss, Kip Thorne, and Barry Barish. S...
|2018-Nov-19 • 67 minutes|
23 | Lisa Aziz-Zadeh on Embodied Cognition, Mirror Neurons, and Empathy
Brains are important things; they're where thinking happens. Or are they? The theory of "embodied cognition" posits that it's better to think of thinking as something that takes place in the body as a whole, not just in the cells of the brain. In some sense this is trivially true; our brains interact with the rest of our bodies, taking in signals and giving back instructions. But it seems bold to situate important elements of cognition itself in the actual non-brain parts of the body. Lisa Aziz-Zadeh is a p...
|2018-Nov-12 • 88 minutes|
22 | Joe Walston on Conservation, Urbanization, and the Way We Live on Earth
There's no question that human activity is causing enormous changes on our planet's environment, from deforestation to mass extinction to climate change. But perhaps there is a tiny cause for optimism -- or at least, the prospect of a new equilibrium, if we can manage to ameliorate our most destructive impulses. Wildlife conservationist Joe Walston argues that -- seemingly paradoxically, but not really -- increasing urbanization provides hope for biodiversity preservation and poverty alleviation moving forw...
|2018-Nov-05 • 81 minutes|
21 | Alex Rosenberg on Naturalism, History, and Theory of Mind
We humans love to tell ourselves stories about why things happened the way they did; if the stories are sufficiently serious, we label this activity "history." Part of getting history right is simply an accurate recounting of the facts, but part of it is generally taken to be some kind of explanation about why. How much should we trust these explanations? This is a question with philosophical implications as well as historical ones, and philosopher Alex Rosenberg's new book How History Gets Things Wrong cla...
|2018-Oct-29 • 83 minutes|
20 | Scott Derrickson on Cinema, Blockbusters, Horror, and Mystery
Special Halloween edition? Scott Derrickson is a film-lover first and a director second, but he's been quite successful at the latter -- you may know him as the director and co-writer of Marvel's Doctor Strange. (When I was younger, Doctor Strange was one of my favorite comic characters, along with Green Lantern. At least one of them got a great movie.) Scott was gracious enough to take time from a very busy schedule to sit down for a chat about a wide number of topics. Using Doctor Strange as a template, w...
|2018-Oct-22 • 60 minutes|
19 | Tyler Cowen on Maximizing Growth and Thinking for the Future
Economics, like other sciences (social and otherwise), is about what the world does; but it's natural for economists to occasionally wander out into the question of what we should do as we live in the world. A very good example of this is a new book by economist Tyler Cowen, Stubborn Attachments. Tyler will be well-known to many listeners for his long-running blog Marginal Revolution (co-created with his colleague Alex Tabarrok) and his many books and articles. Here he offers a surprising new take on how s...
|2018-Oct-15 • 72 minutes|
18 | Clifford Johnson on What's So Great About Superstring Theory
String theory is a speculative and highly technical proposal for uniting the known forces of nature, including gravity, under a single quantum-mechanical framework. This doesn't seem like a recipe for creating a lightning rod of controversy, but somehow string theory has become just that. To get to the bottom of why anyone (indeed, a substantial majority of experts in the field) would think that replacing particles with little loops of string was a promising way forward for theoretical physics, I spoke with...
|2018-Oct-08 • 72 minutes|
17 | Annalee Newitz on Science, Fiction, Economics, and Neurosis
The job of science fiction isn't to predict the future; it's to tell interesting stories in an imaginative setting, exploring the implications of different ways the world could be different from our actual one. Annalee Newitz has carved out a unique career as a writer and thinker, founding the visionary blog io9 and publishing nonfiction in a number of formats, and is now putting her imagination to work in the realm of fiction. Her recent novel, Autonomous, examines a future in which the right to work is n...
|2018-Oct-01 • 64 minutes|
16 | Coleen Murphy on Aging, Biology, and the Future
Aging -- everybody does it, very few people actually do something about it. Coleen Murphy is an exception. In her laboratory at Princeton, she and her team study aging in the famous C. Elegans roundworm, with an eye to extending its lifespan as well as figuring out exactly what processes take place when we age. In this episode we contemplate what scientists have learned about aging, and the prospects for ameliorating its effects -- or curing it altogether? -- even in human beings. Coleen Murphy received her...
|2018-Sep-08 • 84 minutes|
15 | David Poeppel on Thought, Language, and How to Understand the Brain
Language comes naturally to us, but is also deeply mysterious. On the one hand, it manifests as a collection of sounds or marks on paper. On the other hand, it also conveys meaning – words and sentences refer to states of affairs in the outside world, or to much more abstract concepts. How do words and meaning come together in the brain? David Poeppel is a leading neuroscientist who works in many areas, with a focus on the relationship between language and thought. We talk about cutting-edge ideas in the sc...
|2018-Sep-08 • 69 minutes|
14 | Alta Charo on Bioethics and the Law
To paraphrase Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park, scientists tend to focus on whether they can do something, not whether they should. Questions of what we should do tend to wander away from the pristine beauty of science into the messy worlds of ethics and the law. But with the ongoing revolutions in biology, we can’t avoid facing up to some difficult should-questions. Alta Charo is a world expert in a gamut of these issues, working as a law professor and government official specializing in bioethics. We hit all ...
|2018-Sep-08 • 67 minutes|
13 | Neha Narula on Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, and the Future of the Internet
For something of such obvious importance, money is kind of mysterious. It can, as Homer Simpson once memorably noted, be exchanged for goods and services. But who decides exactly how many goods/services a given unit of money can buy? And what maintains the social contract that we all agree to go along with it? Technology is changing what money is and how we use it, and Neha Narula is a leader in thinking about where money is going. One much-hyped aspect is the advent of blockchain technology, which has led ...
|2018-Sep-04 • 62 minutes|
12 | Wynton Marsalis on Jazz, Time, and America
Jazz occupies a special place in the American cultural landscape. It's played in elegant concert halls and run-down bars, and can feature esoteric harmonic experimentation or good old-fashioned foot-stomping swing. Nobody embodies the scope of modern jazz better than Wynton Marsalis. As a trumpet player, bandleader, composer, educator, and ambassador for the music, he has worked tirelessly to keep jazz vibrant and alive. In this bouncy conversation, we talk about various kinds of music, how they might relat...
|2018-Aug-27 • 78 minutes|
11 | Mike Brown on Killing Pluto and Replacing It with Planet 9
Few events in recent astronomical history have had the worldwide emotional resonance as the 2006 announcement that Pluto was no longer considered a planet, at least as far as the International Astronomical Union was concerned. The decision was a long time coming, but no person deserves more credit/blame for forcing the astronomical community's hand than Caltech astronomer Michael Brown. He and his team discovered a number of objects in the outer Solar System -- Eris, Haumea, Sedna, and others -- any of whic...
|2018-Aug-20 • 70 minutes|
10 | Megan Rosenbloom on the Death Positive Movement
We're all going to die. But while we are alive, it's up to us how we understand and deal with that fact. In the United States especially, there is a tendency to not face up to the reality of death, and to assume that our goal should be to struggle at all costs to squeeze every last minute out of life. The Death Positive movement aims to change that, helping people to both face up to death on a personal and cultural level, and to give themselves more control over the manner of their own deaths. One of the le...
|2018-Aug-13 • 82 minutes|
9 | Solo -- Why Is There Something Rather than Nothing?
It's fun to be in the exciting, chaotic, youthful days of the podcast, when anything goes and experimentation is the order of the day. So today's show is something different: a solo effort, featuring just me talking without any guests to cramp my style. This won't be the usual format, but I suspect it will happen from time to time. Feel free to chime in below on how often you think alternative formats should be part of the mix. The topic today is "Why Is There Something Rather than Nothing?", or equivalentl...
|2018-Aug-06 • 91 minutes|
8 | Carl Zimmer on Heredity, DNA, and Editing Genes
Our understanding of heredity and genetics is improving at blinding speed. It was only in the year 2000 that scientists obtained the first rough map of the human genome: 3 billion base pairs of DNA with about 20,000 functional genes. Today, you can send a bit of your DNA to companies such as 23andMe and get a report on your personal genome (ancestry, health risks) for about $200. Technologies like CRISPR are allowing scientists to edit genes, not just map them. Science writer Carl Zimmer has been following ...
|2018-Jul-30 • 65 minutes|
7 | Yascha Mounk on Threats to Liberal Democracy
Both words in the phrase "liberal democracy" carry meaning, and both concepts are under attack around the world. "Democracy" means that they people rule, while "liberal" (in this sense) means that the rights of individuals are protected, even if they're not part of the majority. Recent years have seen the rise of an authoritarian/populist political movement in many Western democracies, one that scapegoats minorities in the name of the true "will of the people." Yascha Mounk is someone who has been outspoken...
|2018-Jul-23 • 70 minutes|
6 | Liv Boeree on Poker, Aliens, and Thinking in Probabilities
Poker, like life, is a game of incomplete information. To do well in such a game, we have to think in terms of probabilities, unpredictable strategies, and Bayesian inference. These are ideas that play a central role in physics and rationality as well as in poker, which makes Liv Boeree such a great person to talk about them. Liv is a professional poker player who studied physics as a university student, and maintains an active interest in science generally and astrophysics in particular. We talk about poke...
|2018-Jul-16 • 84 minutes|
5 | Geoffrey West on Networks, Scaling, and the Pace of Life
If you scale up an animal to twice its height, keeping everything else proportionate, its volume and weight become eight times as much. Such a scaling relation was used by J.B.S. Haldane in his famous essay, "On Being the Right Size," to help explain certain features of living organisms. But scaling relations go much deeper than that, and they are often much more subtle than the volume going as the cube of the length. Geoffrey West is a particle physicist turned complexity theorist, who studies how features...
|2018-Jul-12 • 61 minutes|
4 | Anthony Pinn on Humanism, Theology, and the Black Community
According to atheism, God does not exist. But religions have traditionally done much more than simply proclaim God's existence: they have provided communities, promoted the arts, handed down moral guidance, and so on. Can atheism, or perhaps humanism, replicate these roles? Anthony Pinn grew up as a devout Methodist, but became a humanist when he felt that religion wasn't really helping the communities that he cared about. Today he is a professor of religion who works to bring together atheism and the black...
|2018-Jul-11 • 81 minutes|
3 | Alice Dreger on Sexuality, Truth, and Justice
The human mind loves nothing more than to build mental boxes -- categories -- and put things into them, then refuse to accept it when something doesn't fit. Nowhere is this more clear than in the idea that there are men, and there are women, and that's it. Alice Dreger is an historian of science, specializing in intersexuality and the relationship between bodies and identities. She is also a successful activist, working to change the way that doctors deal with newborn children who are born intersex. We talk...
|2018-Jul-10 • 72 minutes|
2 | Carlo Rovelli on Quantum Mechanics, Spacetime, and Reality
Quantum mechanics and general relativity are the two great triumphs of twentieth-century theoretical physics. Unfortunately, they don't play well together -- despite years of effort, we currently lack a completely successful quantum theory of gravity, although there are some promising ideas out there. Carlo Rovelli is a pioneer of one of those ideas, loop quantum gravity, as well as the bestselling author of such books as Seven Brief Lessons on Physics and the recent The Order of Time. We talk about how to ...
|2018-Jul-04 • 71 minutes|
1 | Carol Tavris on Mistakes, Justification, and Cognitive Dissonance
For the first full episode of Mindscape, it's an honor to welcome social psychologist Carol Tavris. Her book with co-author Eliot Aronson, Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me), explores the effect that cognitive dissonance has on how we think. We talk about the fascinating process by which people justify the mistakes that they make, and how that leads to everything from false memories to political polarization. [smart_track_player url="http://traffic.libsyn.com/seancarro... social_email="true" hashtag="minds...
|2018-Jul-01 • 16 minutes|
Welcome to the Mindscape Podcast!
I've decided to officially take the plunge into the world of podcasting. The new show will be called Mindscape, and will mostly consist of me talking to smart people about interesting ideas. (Occasionally it will be me talking by myself about ideas of questionable merit.) I'm a grizzled veteran at appearing on other podcasts, and it's past time I sat in the director's chair here. [smart_track_player url="http://traffic.libsyn.com/seancarro... artist="Sean Carroll" social_gplus="false" social_email="true" t...