Our current models of the universe are remarkably close to telling us where the universe came from, and the answer is amazing, fascinating, and perhaps to some, disconcerting. They suggest that it came from nothing, and spell out just how this could occur.
The answer is nothing short of amazing, but also remarkably complex. The task of explaining it to everyday people is not an enviable one, which is one of many reasons I admire Professor Lawrence M. Krauss: an internationally recognized theoretical physicist, and the author of A Universe from Nothing.
I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about the book and the implications for the universe. Here’s what we talked about.
About a year ago, I had an opportunity to speak with Dr. Cliff Pickover about our shared fascination for the fundamental forces of the universe. I thought we had an interesting discussion, so when I got in touch for help with a project, I was happy when he offered another interview.
With a Ph.D. in molecular biology from Yale, Dr. Pickover has over 80 patents to his name and more than 45 books under his belt. His latest, The Medical Book: From Witch Doctors to Robot Surgeons, explores some of the most interesting breakthroughs in medical science throughout history.
Here’s what he had to say.
Black holes are a place where the universe goes to die. General relativity predicts that they carry you to the end of time and then deposit you inside the event horizon, where it becomes impossible to escape.
And yet Dr. Caleb Scharf, the Director of Astrobiology at Columbia University, wanted to tell me about a different side of black holes. Their intense gravitational fields are also a source of energy, and they may have played a part in the fact that our galaxy had the right ingredients for life.
While the field of psychiatry has helped us understand disorders that affect millions of people around the world, Dr. Jordan Smoller argues that it has also failed us in many ways. In particular, he argues that we should be focusing more of our efforts on how the “normal” brain works.
Only then, he believes, can we truly understand what disorders really are. In fact, we are beginning to understand that disorders are often mere exaggerations or variations in “normal” brain function.
I’ll keep this intro short so you can dive right into the intro. Madeline Ashby is on the cutting edge of written SF. (That’s “science fiction” or “speculative fiction” for those of you who are more familiar with “sci-fi,” a phrase that’s flamed by some in the SF community.)
So far she’s played mostly in the short story realm, but her first novel’s due at the end of the month, and it’s already proven worthy of highly positive reviews from sites like i09. Here’s what she has to say about her book, vN, and a number of interesting topics.
I’ve said it here before: the human mind is not infinite. We can’t perceive everything. Even those of us who realize this can still be surprised by just how limited our perception really is.
Daniel Simons has explored how our brain sifts through reality for the important bits, and how this can sometimes end up backfiring. Together with Christopher Chabris, he wrote The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us.
The book is based on an experiment he conducted, in which people failed to see a woman dressed up in a Gorilla costume.
Why? Here’s what he had to say on the subject.
Social media is everywhere now, but there was a time not so long ago that it wasn’t much more than an abstract theory. In the 1980s, a few academics theorized about virtual worlds, and Howard Rheingold was among them.
Rheingold has written extensively about the capacity of technology to act as a “mind amplifier.” His latest book, Net Smart, discusses how the “social web,” a term that he coined in 1996, is making us smarter, and more distracted. He discusses the “knowledge divide” and the myth that all young people are digital wizards.
Between launching a book and teaching students how to set up blogs, Rheingold is a very busy man. He didn’t have a lot of time for me, but what he had to say was very intriguing.
Traditional economists and financial professors like to pretend that we live in a rational world, but a growing body of evidence challenges many of these basic assumptions. Evidence from psychology demonstrates that there are limits to human rationality, and that cognitive and emotional biases are a part of the package. Thankfully, a growing number of economists and financial experts are starting to incorporate some of this knowledge into their theories.
Victor Ricciardi is a Finance Professor at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland. He is an expert in behavioral finance and recently, I had the pleasure of reading several book chapters he has written on the psychology of risk. Professor Ricciardi posts behavioral finance news and research on his Twitter account.
The brain is not yet fully understood, and this is one of the reasons why there’s almost always something to say about it. There are times when it seems like neuroscience offers up a new breakthrough every day.
By the same token, it’s important to realize that some of the stories we hear about the brain and human behavior are still in experimental territory, even when they are presented as established science.
I got a chance to talk to Tom Stafford, who coauthored Mind Hacks with Matt Webb. He has a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience and performs research for the Department of Psychology, University of Sheffield, works as an editor for Psychologist magazine, and has done research for the BBC.
We talked about his book and some of the more experimental subjects in cognitive science.
For the uninitiated, math is the boring exercise of manipulating numbers, a practice that most people would consider outdated ever since the invention of the calculator.
To Alex Bellos, author of Here’s Looking at Euclid, math is a fascinating subject that can be used to evaluate almost any problem that can be solved using a series of rigid rules.
It is a system that we can use in order to discover why the real world defies common sense, and even to explore realms outside the universe as we know it.
Here’s what he has to say about it.