The Michael Shermer Show

Michael Shermer

The Michael Shermer Show is a series of long-form conversations between Dr. Michael Shermer and leading scientists, philosophers, historians, scholars, writers and thinkers about the most important issues of our time. read less
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Episodes

UFOs: What We Know (And Don’t Know)
5d ago
UFOs: What We Know (And Don’t Know)
Robert Powell, a founding Board member of the Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies, has studied the UFO subject for 17 years. His work is encapsulated in UFOs: A Scientist Explains What We Know (And Don’t Know)which provides a scientific rationale for the reality of non-terrestrial craft that are intelligently controlled. Powell begins his book by familiarizing the reader with the history of UFOs and he identifies the more enigmatic and interesting UFO sightings. He examines the characteristics of these sightings that argue against a prosaic explanation: extreme acceleration, electromagnetic interference, bending light, no obvious propulsion mechanisms, and a lack of interaction with the atmosphere. Powell discusses the recent events that have caused our government to change the term from UFO to UAP. Included is information never before released indicating the government possesses not just two videos but five videos from 2015 of UFOs operating in the vicinity of the USS Roosevelt nuclear aircraft carrier. Powell also discuss the extraterrestrial hypothesis considering the thousands of exoplanets that have been discovered in the last twenty years. Powell challenges the reader to consider all the implications that must be considered if intelligent life discovers us first. He looks at how we as individuals and as a society react to UFOs. He documents actions taken by our military that include instances when we have fired on UFOs. Powell argues that it is time for a change in the study of UFOs. The phenomenon has been with us for 75 years and we have learned very little as the decades have passed. The author makes the case for what needs to be done going forward. The solution he proposes will require a paradigm shift in our thinking and his book provides the information needed to understand that paradigm shift. Robert Powell is a founding Board member of the Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies (SCU). He was the Director of Research at MUFON from 2007–2017 and created MUFON’s Science Review Board in 2012. Robert is one of two authors of the detailed radar/witness report on the “Stephenville Lights” as well as the SCU report “UAP: 2013 Aguadilla, Puerto Rico”. He is also the primary author on the recently published paper, “A Forensic Analysis of Navy Carrier Strike Group Eleven’s Encounter with an Anomalous Aerial Vehicle” and a secondary author of a paper published in the journal Entropy entitled, “Estimating Flight Characteristics of Anomalous Unidentified Aerial Vehicles.” Robert is a member of the Society for Scientific Exploration, the UFODATA project, and the National Space Society. Shermer and Powell discuss: • technosignatures and biosignatures • convergent vs. contingent evolution • SETI science vs. UFO/UAP science • Are they out there? Have they come here? • what alien intelligence might be like (biological, digital, or otherwise) • Bayesian reasoning about UFOs and UAPs • the U.S. military UAP videos and what they represent • The Disclosure Project from the U.S. government • Projects Sign, Blue Book, Cyclops, Grudge • AATIP (Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program) • directionality and teleology in evolution of life • interstellar travel • Dyson spheres, rings, and swarms.
Religion as Make-Believe: A Theory of Belief, Imagination, and Group Identity
Jun 11 2024
Religion as Make-Believe: A Theory of Belief, Imagination, and Group Identity
We often assume that religious beliefs are no different in kind from ordinary factual beliefs—that believing in the existence of God or of supernatural entities that hear our prayers is akin to believing that May comes before June. Neuroscientist and philosopher Neil Van Leeuwen shows that, in fact, these two forms of belief are strikingly different. Our brains do not process religious beliefs like they do beliefs concerning mundane reality; instead, empirical findings show that religious beliefs function like the imaginings that guide make-believe play. Van Leeuwen argues that religious belief―which he terms religious “credence”―is best understood as a form of imagination that people use to define the identity of their group and express the values they hold sacred. When a person pretends, they navigate the world by consulting two maps: the first represents mundane reality, and the second superimposes the features of the imagined world atop the first. Drawing on psychological, linguistic, and anthropological evidence, Van Leeuwen posits that religious communities operate in much the same way, consulting a factual-belief map that represents ordinary objects and events and a religious-credence map that accords these objects and events imagined sacred and supernatural significance. It is hardly controversial to suggest that religion has a social function, but Religion as Make-Believe breaks new ground by theorizing the underlying cognitive mechanisms. Once we recognize that our minds process factual and religious beliefs in fundamentally different ways, we can gain deeper understanding of the complex individual and group psychology of religious faith. Neil Van Leeuwen is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Neuroscience at Georgia State University and a recipient of the European Commission’s Marie Curie Fellowship. His research has been featured in The New York Times and The Atlantic and on NPR. His new book is Religion as Make-Believe: A Theory of Belief, Imagination and Group Identity. Shermer and Van Leeuwen discuss: his own personal religious journey (or lack thereof) • “believe,” “make-believe,” and “pretend play” • “taking God seriously” • 4 Principles of Factual Belief • Tanya Luhrmann’s How God Becomes Real: Kindling the Presence of Invisible Others • willing suspension of disbelief • group identity • sacred values • The Puzzle of Religious Rationality • that voice we all hear in our heads • “hearing the voice of God” • hallucinations and psychoses • sleep paralysis • angels and demons • sensed presences • witches and witchcraft.
Vulnerable Minds: The Harm of Childhood Trauma and the Hope of Resilience
Jun 8 2024
Vulnerable Minds: The Harm of Childhood Trauma and the Hope of Resilience
Each year at least a billion children around the world are victims of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) that range from physical abuse and racial discrimination to neglect and food deprivation. The brain plasticity of our most vulnerable makes the adverse effects of trauma only that much more damaging to mental and physical development. Those dealt a hand of ACEs are more likely to drop out of school, have a shorter life, abuse substances, and suffer from myriad mental health and behavioral issues. The crucial question is: How do we intervene to offer these children a more hopeful future? Neurobiologist and educator Dr. Marc Hauser provides a novel, research-based framework to understand a child’s unique response to ACEs that goes beyond our current understanding and is centered around the five Ts—the timing during development when the trauma began, its type, tenure, toxicity, and how much turbulence it has caused in a child’s life. Using this lens, adults can start to help children build resilience and recover—and even benefit—from their adversity through targeted community and school interventions, emotional regulation tools, as well as a new frontier of therapies focused on direct brain stimulation, including neurofeedback and psychedelics. While human suffering experienced by children is the most devastating, it also presents the most promise for recovery; the plasticity of young people’s brains makes them vulnerable, but it also makes them apt to take back the joy, wonder, innocence, and curiosity of childhood when given the right support. Vulnerable Minds is a call to action for parents, policymakers, educators, and doctors to reclaim what’s been lost and commit ourselves to our collective responsibility to all children. Marc Hauser is an educator, neuroscientist, and the founder of Risk Eraser, a program that helps at-risk kids lead healthier lives. He is a former professor of evolutionary biology and psychology at Harvard University and the author of over three hundred papers. His books include Wild Minds: What Animals Really Think, Moral Minds: The Nature of Right and Wrong, Evilicious: Cruelty = Desire + Denial, and his new book Vulnerable Minds: The Harm of Childhood Trauma and the Hope of Resilience. Shermer and Hauser discuss: • Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) • Hauser’s personal adversities • types of adversity • LeBron James story from childhood trauma to NBA triumph • The Dark Triad: psychopathy, machiavellianism, narcissism • Attachment Theory • Disorganized Attachment • Borderline Personality Disorder • sexual abuse and eating disorders • substance abuse, suicide, obesity, depression, liver disease, school dropout, lower life expectancy • timing, duration, severity, and predictability of ACEs.
How to Achieve Peace in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Jun 4 2024
How to Achieve Peace in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Dr. Einat Wilf is a leading intellectual and original thinker on matters of foreign policy, economics, education, Israel, and the Jewish people. She was a member of the Israeli Parliament from 2010-2013 on behalf of the Labor and Independence parties. Dr. Wilf has a BA in Government and Fine Arts from Harvard University, an MBA from INSEAD in France (Institut Européen d’Administration des Affaires), and a PhD in Political Science from the University of Cambridge. Born and raised in Israel, Dr. Wilf served as an Intelligence Officer in the Israel Defense Forces. Dr. Wilf is also the author of six books including: My Israel, Our Generation, Back to Basics: How to Save Israeli Education (At No Additional Cost), It’s NOT the Electoral System, Stupid, Winning the War of Words, Telling Our Story (a collection of Wilf’s essays on Israel, Zionism and the path to peace,) and The War of Return: How Western Indulgence of the Palestinian Dream Has Obstructed the Path to Peace. Shermer and Wilf discuss: Why Israel? Why the Jews? Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism • Karim Khan • accusations of genocide, induced famine, and war crimes against Netanyahu • who will recognize a Palestinian state? • why, after 7 months of fighting, the IDF has been unable to defeat Hamas • AP story outlining 4 options for Gaza: full scale military occupation; lighter occupation; grand bargain; a deal with Hamas • Zionism, Judaism, and Israel • Palestine, Palestinians, and the Gaza strip • Hamas, Hezbollah, and terrorism in the Middle East • Why students & student groups are pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel • The Abraham Accords • The Two-State Solution.
How Likely Is War Over Taiwan?
Jun 1 2024
How Likely Is War Over Taiwan?
So much of what we hear about China and Russia today likens the relationship between these two autocracies and the West to a “rivalry” or a “great-power competition.” Some might consider it alarmist to say we are in the midst of a second Cold War, but that may be the only responsible way to describe today’s state of affairs. What’s more, we have come a long way from Mao Zedong’s infamous observation that “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” Now we live in an age more aptly described by Vladimir Putin’s cryptic prophecy that “artificial intelligence is the future not only of Russia, but of all mankind, and whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become ruler of the world.” George S. Takach’s incisive and meticulously researched new volume, Cold War 2.0, is the book we need to thoroughly understand these frightening and perilous times. In the geopolitical sphere, there are no more pressing issues than the appalling mechanizations of a surveillance state in China, Russia’s brazen attempt to assert its autocratic model in Ukraine, and China’s increasingly likely plans to do the same in Taiwan. But the key here, Takach argues, is that our new Cold War is not only ideological but technological: the side that prevails in Cold War 2.0 will be the one that bests the other in mastering the greatest innovations of our time. Artificial intelligence sits in our pockets every day—but what about AI that coordinates military operations and missile defense systems? Or the highly sophisticated semiconductor chips and quantum computers that power those missiles and a host of other weapons? And, where recently we have seen remarkable feats of bio-engineering to produce vaccines at record speed, shouldn’t we be concerned how catastrophic it would be if bio-engineering were co-opted for nefarious purposes? Takach thoroughly examines how each of these innovations will shape the tension between democracy and autocracy, and how each will play a central role in this second Cold War. Finally, he crafts a precise blueprint for how Western democracies should handle these innovations to respond to the looming threat of autocracy—and ultimately prevail over it. George S. Takach holds a bachelor’s degree in history, political economy, and philosophy from the University of Toronto; a graduate degree from the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University; and a law degree from the University of Toronto. For forty years, he practiced technology law at McCarthy Tétrault, Canada’s premier law firm. He has written three books on technology law/tech commercial subjects. Cold War 2.0: Artificial Intelligence in the New Battle between China, Russia, and America is his first book for a general audience. Shermer and Takach discuss: Vladimir Putin: “artificial intelligence is the future not only of Russia, but of all mankind, and whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become ruler of the world.” • what AI will be able to do in the coming decades • China’s surveillance state • Russia and Ukraine • Cold War 1.0: Autocracy, Democracy and Technology • Cold War 2.0: AI and Autocracy and Democracy • semiconductor chip supremacy • biotechnology • how China’s invasion of Taiwan is likely to unfold, and what the U.S. can do about it.
Neuroscientist Explains Selective Memory (Charan Ranganath)
May 28 2024
Neuroscientist Explains Selective Memory (Charan Ranganath)
A new understanding of memory is emerging from the latest scientific research. In Why We Remember, pioneering neuroscientist and psychologist Charan Ranganath radically reframes the way we think about the everyday act of remembering. Combining accessible language with cutting-edge research, he reveals the surprising ways our brains record the past and how we use that information to understand who we are in the present, and to imagine and plan for the future. Memory, Dr. Ranganath shows, is a highly transformative force that shapes how we experience the world in often invisible and sometimes destructive ways. Knowing this can help us with daily remembering tasks, like finding our keys, and with the challenge of memory loss as we age. What’s more, when we work with the brain’s ability to learn and reinterpret past events, we can heal trauma, shed our biases, learn faster, and grow in self-awareness. Including fascinating studies and examples from pop culture, and drawing on Ranganath’s life as a scientist, father, and child of immigrants, Why We Remember is a captivating read that unveils the hidden role memory plays throughout our lives. When we understand its power—and its quirks—we can cut through the clutter and remember the things we want to remember. We can make freer choices and plan a happier future. Charan Ranganath is a Professor at the Center for Neuroscience and Department of Psychology and director of the Dynamic Memory Lab at the University of California at Davis. For over 25 years, Dr. Ranganath has studied the mechanisms in the brain that allow us to remember past events, using brain imaging techniques, computational modeling and studies of patients with memory disorders. He has been recognized with a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship. He lives in Davis, California. Outside of neuroscience, Dr. Ranganath is also a songwriter and guitarist with a number of recording credits, including a song on a feature film soundtrack. Shermer and Ranganath discuss: how memories are stored by neurons • forgetting — memory in there somewhere or lost forever? • episodic, semantic, working, flashbulb, long-term, and short-term memory • recovered memories vs. false memories + confabulation, conflation • Alzheimer’s, dementia, senility • PTSD and bad memories • déjá vu • memory triggers • learning as a form of memory • social memories (extended self) • MEMself vs. POVself • uploading memories into the cloud • improving memory: what works, what doesn’t.
Metaracism: How Systemic Racism Devastates Black Lives
May 25 2024
Metaracism: How Systemic Racism Devastates Black Lives
In recent years, condemnations of racism in America have echoed from the streets to corporate boardrooms. At the same time, politicians and commentators fiercely debate racism’s very existence. And so, our conversations about racial inequalities remain muddled. In Metaracism, Brown University Professor of Africana Studies Tricia Rose cuts through the noise with a bracing and invaluable new account of what systemic racism actually is, how it works, and how we can fight back. She reveals how—from housing to education to criminal justice—an array of policies and practices connect and interact to produce an even more devastating “metaracism” far worse than the sum of its parts. While these systemic connections can be difficult to see—and are often portrayed as “color-blind”—again and again they function to disproportionately contain, exploit, and punish Black people. By helping us to comprehend systemic racism’s inner workings and destructive impact, Rose shows how to create a more just America for us all. Tricia Rose is Chancellor’s Professor of Africana Studies and the director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America at Brown University. She has received fellowships from the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, and her research has been funded by the Mellon and Robert Wood Johnson Foundations. She co-hosts with Cornel West the podcast The Tight Rope. She is the author of Longing to Tell: Black Women’s Stories of Sexuality and Intimacy, The Hip Hop Wars: What We Talk About When we Talk About Hip Hop—and Why it Matters, Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America, and her new book Metaracism: How Systemic Racism Devastates Black Lives—and How We Break Free. Shermer and Rose discuss: the policies, practices, laws, and beliefs that are racist in 2024 America and what can be done about them • racism, structural racism, systemic racism, metaracism • Rose’s working-class background growing up in 1960s Harlem • deep-root cause-ism •being “caught up in the system” • Trayvon Martin, Kelley Williams-Bolar, and Michael Brown • Rose’s response to Black conservative authors like Shelby Steele and Thomas Sowell • why she believes Coleman Hughes is wrong about color-blindness • Obama, George Floyd and race relations today • reparations.
How to Think About Social Justice
May 21 2024
How to Think About Social Justice
Those who are pursuing social justice too often fail to incorporate the insights of sociology, and when they do make use of sociology, they often draw heavily from claims that are highly contested, unsupported by the evidence, or outright false. This book shows why learning to think sociologically can help us to think better about social justice, pointing us toward possibilities for social change while also calling attention to our limits; providing us with hope, but also making us cautious. Offering a series of tips for thinking better about social justice, with each chapter giving examples of bad sociological thinking and making the case for drawing from a broader range of sociological theory and research to inform social justice efforts, it advocates an approach rooted in intellectual and moral humility, grounded in the normative principles of classical liberalism. A fresh approach to social justice that argues for the importance of sociological understanding of the world in our efforts to change it, How to Think Better About Social Justice will appeal to scholars and students of sociology with interests in social justice issues and the sociology of morality, as well as those working to bring about social change. Bradley Campbell is a professor of sociology at California State University, Los Angeles. His work examines moral conflict, including violent conflicts such as genocide as well as nonviolent conflicts on college campuses over politics and free speech. He is the author of The Geometry of Genocide: A Study in Pure Sociology and co-author of The Rise of Victimhood Culture: Microaggressions, Safe Spaces, and the New Culture Wars. He has also co-authored op-ed articles about contemporary moral conflicts that have appeared in Time, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and The New York Times. Shermer and Campbell discuss: the telos of sociology: truth or activism? • Can we make people better? • evaluating ideologies • victimhood culture vs. honor culture • conflicting rights and social tradeoffs • CRT, DEI, cancel culture, identity politics • the true motives of woke, progressive leftists • How widespread is the problem of woke ideology? • equality vs. equity • overt racism vs. systemic racism.
Sean Carroll Explains Quantum Field Theory
May 18 2024
Sean Carroll Explains Quantum Field Theory
Sean Carroll is creating a profoundly new approach to sharing physics with a broad audience, one that goes beyond analogies to show how physicists really think. He cuts to the bare mathematical essence of our most profound theories, explaining every step in a uniquely accessible way. Quantum field theory is how modern physics describes nature at its most profound level. Starting with the basics of quantum mechanics itself, Sean Carroll explains measurement and entanglement before explaining how the world is really made of fields. You will finally understand why matter is solid, why there is antimatter, where the sizes of atoms come from, and why the predictions of quantum field theory are so spectacularly successful. Fundamental ideas like spin, symmetry, Feynman diagrams, and the Higgs mechanism are explained for real, not just through amusing stories. Beyond Newton, beyond Einstein, and all the intuitive notions that have guided homo sapiens for millennia, this book is a journey to a once unimaginable truth about what our universe is. Sean Carroll is Homewood Professor of Natural Philosophy at Johns Hopkins University, and Fractal Faculty at the Santa Fe Institute. He is host of the Mindscape podcast, and author of From Eternity to Here, The Particle at the End of the Universe, The Big Picture, and Something Deeply Hidden. He has been awarded prizes and fellowships by the National Science Foundation, NASA, the American Institute of Physics, the Royal Society of London, and many others. He lives in Baltimore with his wife, writer Jennifer Ouellette. His new book series, The Biggest Ideas in the Universe, includes one volume on Space, Time, and Motion, and this new volume on Quanta and Fields. Shermer and Carroll discuss: the measurement problem in physics • wave functions • entanglement • fields • interactions • scale • symmetry • gauge theory • phases • matter • atoms • time • double-slit experiment • superposition • directionality in nature • the multiverse • known unknowables • Is there a place for God in scientific epistemology?
Co-Founder of The Free Press reports on the Culture Wars (Nellie Bowles)
May 14 2024
Co-Founder of The Free Press reports on the Culture Wars (Nellie Bowles)
As a Hillary voter, a New York Times reporter, and frequent attendee at her local gay bars, Nellie Bowles fit right in with her San Francisco neighbors and friends—until she started questioning whether the progressive movement she knew and loved was actually helping people. When her colleagues suggested that asking such questions meant she was “on the wrong side of history,” Bowles did what any reporter worth her salt would do: she started investigating for herself. The answers she found were stranger—and funnier—than she expected. In Morning After the Revolution, Bowles gives readers a front-row seat to the absurd drama of a political movement gone mad. With irreverent accounts of attending a multiday course on “The Toxic Trends of Whiteness,” following the social justice activists who run “Abolitionist Entertainment LLC,” and trying to please the New York Times’s “disinformation czar,” she deftly exposes the more comic excesses of a movement that went from a sideshow to the very center of American life. Deliciously funny and painfully insightful, Morning After the Revolution is a moment of collective psychosis preserved in amber. This is an unmissable debut by one of America’s sharpest journalists. Nellie Bowles is a writer living in Los Angeles. Previously, she was a correspondent at The New York Times where, as part of a team, she won the Gerald Loeb Award in Investigations and the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Journalism Award. Now she is working with her wife, Bari Weiss, to build The Free Press, a new media company, where she also writes the weekly TGIF column which is released every Friday, thank God…or whoever. Shermer and Bowles discuss: what it’s like to work at The New York Times • what it’s like to found a new media company • same-sex marriage • Liberalism vs. Progressivism • the Black Lives Matter, #metoo, and transgender movements • Patrisse Khan-Cullors • White privilege • somatic abolitionism • LGBTQ • IDAHOBIT • BBIPOC • CHAZ • homelessness • anti-racism • cancel culture • defund the police • protests.
The Latest Research on Consciousness (Christof Koch)
May 11 2024
The Latest Research on Consciousness (Christof Koch)
In Then I Am Myself the World, Christof Koch explores the only thing we directly experience: consciousness. At the book’s heart is integrated-information theory, the idea that the essence of consciousness is the ability to exert causal power over itself, to be an agent of change. Koch investigates the physical origins of consciousness in the brain and how this knowledge can be used to measure consciousness in natural and artificial systems. Enabled by such tools, Koch reveals when and where consciousness exists, and uses that knowledge to confront major social and scientific questions: When does a fetus first become self-aware? Can psychedelic and mystical experiences transform lives? What happens to consciousness in near-death experiences? Why will generative AI ultimately be able to do the very thing we can do, yet never feel any of it? And do our experiences reveal a single, objective reality?    Christof Koch is a neuroscientist at the Allen Institute and at the Tiny Blue Dot Foundation, the former president of the Allen Institute for Brain Science, and a former professor at the California Institute of Technology. Author of four previous titles — The Feeling of Life Itself: Why Consciousness Is Widespread but Can’t Be Computed, Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist, and The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach — Koch writes regularly for a range of media, including Scientific American. He lives in the Pacific Northwest. Shermer and Koch discuss: “subjective experience” • the author’s near-death experience changed him • the difficulties of materialism/physicalism • a fundamental theory of consciousness that explains subjective experiences in objective measures • designing a “consciousness detector” for unresponsive patients • why magic mushrooms and Ayahuasca are of so fascinating to neuroscientists • how our minds are shaped by our beliefs, prior experiences, and intentions • insights crucial to those suffering from anxiety, low self-esteem, post-traumatic stress, and depression. • the future of advanced brain-machine interfaces • why digital computers will never be conscious.
Everything is Predictable: How Bayesian Statistics Explain Our World
May 7 2024
Everything is Predictable: How Bayesian Statistics Explain Our World
At its simplest, Bayes’s theorem describes the probability of an event, based on prior knowledge of conditions that might be related to the event. But in Everything Is Predictable, Tom Chivers lays out how it affects every aspect of our lives. He explains why highly accurate screening tests can lead to false positives and how a failure to account for it in court has put innocent people in jail. A cornerstone of rational thought, many argue that Bayes’s theorem is a description of almost everything. But who was the man who lent his name to this theorem? How did an 18th-century Presbyterian minister and amateur mathematician uncover a theorem that would affect fields as diverse as medicine, law, and artificial intelligence? Fusing biography and intellectual history, Everything Is Predictable is an entertaining tour of Bayes’s theorem and its impact on modern life, showing how a single compelling idea can have far reaching consequences. Tom Chivers is an author and the award-winning science writer for Semafor. Previously he was the science editor at UnHerd.com and BuzzFeed UK. His writing has appeared in The Times (London), The Guardian, New Scientist, Wired, CNN, and more. He was awarded the Royal Statistical Society’s “Statistical Excellence in Journalism” awards in 2018 and 2020, and was declared the science writer of the year by the Association of British Science Writers in 2021. His books include The Rationalist’s Guide to the Galaxy: Superintelligent AI and the Geeks Who Are Trying to Save Humanity’s Future, and How to Read Numbers: A Guide to Stats in the News (and Knowing When to Trust Them). His new book is Everything Is Predictable: How Bayesian Statistics Explain Our World. Shermer and Chivers discuss: Thomas Bayes, his equation, and the problem it solves • Bayesian decision theory vs. statistical decision theory • Popperian falsification vs. Bayesian estimation • Sagan’s ECREE principle • Bayesian epistemology and family resemblance • paradox of the heap • Reality as controlled hallucination • human irrationality • superforecasting • mystical experiences and religious truths • Replication Crisis in science • Statistical Detection Theory and Signal Detection Theory • Medical diagnosis problem and why most people get it wrong.
The New Science of Planet Hunting in the Cosmos
May 4 2024
The New Science of Planet Hunting in the Cosmos
For thousands of years, humans have wondered whether we’re alone in the cosmos. Now, for the first time, we have the technology to investigate. But once you look for life elsewhere, you realize it is not so simple. How do you find it over cosmic distances? What actually is life? As founding director of Cornell University’s Carl Sagan Institute, astrophysicist Lisa Kaltenegger has built a team of tenacious scientists from many disciplines to create a specialized toolkit to find life on faraway worlds. In Alien Earths, she demonstrates how we can use our homeworld as a Rosetta Stone, creatively analyzing Earth’s history and its astonishing biosphere to inform this search. With infectious enthusiasm, she takes us on an eye-opening journey to the most unusual exoplanets that have shaken our worldview - planets covered in oceans of lava, lonely wanderers lost in space, and others with more than one sun in their sky! And the best contenders for Alien Earths. We also see the imagined worlds of science fiction and how close they come to reality. With the James Webb Space Telescope and Dr. Kaltenegger’s pioneering work, she shows that we live in an incredible new epoch of exploration. As our witty and knowledgeable tour guide, Dr. Kaltenegger shows how we discover not merely new continents, like the explorers of old, but whole new worlds circling other stars and how we could spot life there. Worlds from where aliens may even be gazing back at us. What if we’re not alone? Lisa Kaltenegger is the Director of the Carl Sagan Institute to Search for Life in the Cosmos at Cornell and Associate Professor in Astronomy. She is a pioneer and world-leading expert in modeling potential habitable worlds and their detectable spectral fingerprint. Kaltenegger serves on the National Science Foundation’s Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee (AAAC), and on NASA senior review of operating missions. She is a Science Team Member of NASA’s TESS Mission as well as the NIRISS instrument on James Webb Space Telescope. Kaltenegger was named one of America’s Young Innovators by Smithsonian magazine, an Innovator to Watch by Time magazine. She appears in the IMAX 3D movie “The Search for Life in Space” and speaks frequently, including at Aspen Ideas Festival, TED Youth, World Science Festival and the Kavli Foundation lecture at the Adler Planetarium. Shermer and Kaltenegger discuss: Carl Sagan and his influence • Sagan’s Dragon • ECREE Principle • how stars, planets and solar systems form • how exoplanets are discovered • Hubble Space Telescope, Kepler Space Telescope, James Webb Space Telescope • The Origin of Life • Fermi’s Paradox: where is everybody (the Great Silence, the Great Filter) • biosignatures • technosignatures • Dyson spheres • Will aliens be biological or AI? • interstellar travel • Kardashev scale of civilizations • how to talk to aliens when we can’t even talk to dolphins • Deities for Atheists, Skygods for Skeptics: aliens as gods and the search as religion • why alien worlds matter.
The Science of Happines
Apr 30 2024
The Science of Happines
We all want to be happier, but our brains often get in the way. When we’re too stuck in our heads we obsess over our inadequacies, compare ourselves with others and fail to see the good in our lives. In The Science of Happiness, world-leading psychologist and happiness expert Bruce Hood demonstrates that the key to happiness is not self-care but connection. He presents seven simple but life-changing lessons to break negative thought patterns and re-connect with the things that really matter. Alter Your EgoAvoid IsolationReject Negative ComparisonsBecome More OptimisticControl Your AttentionConnect With OthersGet Out of Your Own Head Grounded in decades of studies in neuroscience and developmental psychology, this book tells a radical new story about the roots of wellbeing and the obstacles that lie in our path. With clear, practical takeaways throughout, Professor Hood demonstrates how we can all harness the findings of this science to re-wire our thinking and transform our lives. Dr. Bruce Hood is an award-winning Professor of Developmental Psychology at Bristol University and the author of several books including SuperSense, The Self Illusion, The Domesticated Brain, and Possessed. His course, The Science of Happiness, is the most popular course at Bristol University. He has appeared extensively on TV and radio, including co-hosting the BBC podcast The Happiness Half Hour in 2021. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Society, the Royal Institution of Great Britain and the British Psychological Society. Shermer and Hood discuss: psychedelic drugs • defining the “good life” or “happiness” • measuring emotions • happiness as social contagion • eudaimonia (the pursuit of meaning) versus hedonism (the pursuit of pleasure) • genetics and heritability • cultural components • WEIRD people • The Big Five (OCEAN) • marriage and health • exercise and stress reduction • what the ancient Greeks got right about living the good life • how failure may actually be a key to more happiness • how to live the life you want—not necessarily the life expected of you.