Why do we feel melancholy when immersed in Nature’s majesty?

                    La Vie antérieure

J’ai longtemps habité sous de vastes portiques
Que les soleils marins teignaient de mille feux,
Et que leurs grands piliers, droits et majestueux,
Rendaient pareils, le soir, aux grottes basaltiques.
Les houles, en roulant les images des cieux,
Mêlaient d’une façon solennelle et mystique
Les tout-puissants accords de leur riche musique
Aux couleurs du couchant reflété par mes yeux.
C’est là que j’ai vécu dans les voluptés calmes,
Au milieu de l’azur, des vagues, des splendeurs
Et des esclaves nus, tout imprégnés d’odeurs,
Qui me rafraîchissaient le front avec des palmes,
Et dont l’unique soin était d’approfondir
Le secret douloureux qui me faisait languir.

Les Fleurs du Mal, par Charles Baudelaire


                    Former Life

I’ve lived beneath huge portals where marine
Suns coloured, with a myriad fires, the waves;
At eve majestic pillars made the scene
Resemble those of vast basaltic caves.
The breakers, rolling the reflected skies,
Mixed, in a solemn, enigmatic way,
The powerful symphonies they seem to play
With colours of the sunset in my eyes.
There did I live in a voluptuous calm
Where breezes, waves, and splendours roved as vagrants;
And naked slaves, impregnated with fragrance,
Would fan my forehead with their fronds of palm:
Their only charge was to increase the anguish
Of secret grief in which I loved to languish.

— rendering of Baudelaire by Roy Campbell
Poems of Baudelaire (New York: Pantheon Books, 1952)

1 September 2010

On the subject of censorship...

Suppose we could expel sin by these means; look how much we thus expel of sin, so Much we expel of virtue: for the matter of them both is the same; remove that, and ye remove them both alike. This justifies the high providence of God, who, though he commands us temperance, justice, continence, yet pours out before us, even to profuseness, all desirable things, and gives us minds that can wander beyond all limit and satiety. Why then should we affect a rigor contrary to the manner of God and nature, by abridging or scanting those means, which books freely permitted are, both to the trial of virtue, and the exercise of truth? It would be better done, to learn that the law must needs be frivolous, which goes to restrain things, uncertainly and yet equally working to good and to evil. 

— John Milton, from a speech to House of Commons on censorship, 1645
Quoted in A Multicolored Glass, by Freeman Dyson

Life, like a dome of many-colored glass,
Stains the white radiance of eternity.      
—Shelley

2 September 2010

Physics seems heady and abstract to everyone...
but is there such a thing as ‘too abstract’?

Following in the footsteps [of Einstein and Heisenberg], I went to graduate school in England to pursue this intellectual Holy Grail and worked on superstring theories, the epitome of the unification dream.

But as the years passed I watched with growing apprehension as hundreds of my colleagues published papers on ideas so far-removed from reality that they couldn't (and still can't) be tested: papers proposing six invisible dimensions of space curled up in a ball a trillionth of a trillionth of a billionth of an inch; or proposing that there are an infinitude of universes out there popping in and out of existence throughout eternity, ours being only one of them; papers suggesting that whenever a measurement is made, reality forks into separate paths, each a different universe.

Were they playing intellectual games? Were they delusional, pursuing a fantasy? Had they lost their sense of commitment to their true vocation, the description of natural phenomena? Were they even physicists? Surely, there are natural laws, and they reflect observed patterns of organised behavior. But are these laws the true blueprints of physical reality? Or are they logical descriptions that we create to represent it? I realised that the order we see in Nature is the order we seek in ourselves. And this can be a dangerously misleading game to play.
...
Neither symmetry nor perfection should be our guiding principle, as they have been for millennia...The time has come to shift our focus. A new way of thinking about the natural world is emerging that emphasises change and transformation rather than stasis and perfection.

— Marcelo Gleiser   (read more here)

3 September 2010

They will do it if we demand it...

The U.S. government subsidizes oil, beef, new construction, speculative banking, nuclear power, and, far above all war.  Disinformation campaigns by corporations are fully tax deductible as a cost of doing business.

What if our government instead subsidized conservation, renewable energy, family farms, bicycle transit, and the truth?

  1. More family farms, less agribusiness.
  2. More repair, fewer products.
  3. More recycling, less mining.
  4. More renovations, less construction.
  5. More restoration, less destruction.
  6. More bike paths, fewer highways.
  7. More local businesses, fewer megastores.
  8. More dishwashing, fewer throw-aways.
  9. More education, less advertising. Let’s face it. Advertising is about making us feel inadequate for something we don’t yet have. What if we stopped subsidizing advertising with tax breaks and focused on educating people to lead satisfying lives?
  10.  More clean energy, less fossil fuel.

— List by Fran Korten, writing in Yes Magazine

When politicians offer false dichotomies and limited choices, change the subject.
When newspapers cover Tweedle-dee vs Tweedle-dum, read more widely.             
When Democrats are the lesser of two evils, vote Green.                                             

4 September 2010

‘Now’ is a pregnant moment

It was Galileo who first put time on the horizontal axis and plotted movement on the vertical axis.  Time was linearized.  Four hundred years later, Einstein completed the transformation of time into a special form of space. 

The present moment is just one frame of the movie.  We may stand outside time, regarding an entire history, seeing it as a whole and reserving judgment about the virtues and pitfalls of its individual parts.  There is wisdom in this perspective.

Quantum physics arrived in the wake of Einstein.  The possibility of newness in each moment* was re-inserted into the clockwork.  The world moves forward in time in two very different ways.  One is like the linear time of Einstein and Galileo.  The other is an immense collection of discontinuities, every time an observation is made.

The eternal present is a collision between awareness and machinery, and in this encounter is all newness, all creation found.  There is wisdom in this perspective, as well.

— Josh Mitteldorf

*called collapse of the wave function

5 September 2010

So what’s this got to do with Labor Day, anyway?

‘Imagine a proud father of a girl whose team has just won a hard-fought league soccer game.  Soccer Dad says, “Samantha, you were awesome.  You played so well, we’re going to get ice cream.”...a considerable body of research suggests that Dad may unwittingly kill his daughter’s interest in soccer...

‘In a classic study published in 1973, psychologists at Stanford University told preschool children who had already shown an interest in drawing with magic markers that they would receive fancy certificates stamped with gold seals and ribbons in return for drawing pictures for the experimenters.  Children who received the certificates actually grew substantially less interested in drawing, and produced pictures of significantly poorer quality than children who received no certificate.  The rewards actually drained the children’s previous enthusiasm for drawing...’

—read The Perils of Praise, by Zach Dundas, reviewing research by Jennifer Corpus of Reed College

What is the relationship we would like to have with work?  We want it to be fulfilling for its own sake.  We want to feel good about the contribution we make to our community and the institutions we believe in.  How has ‘economic reality’ undermined our felicitous relationship to work?  It’s not so much that our work is onerous; rather that our freedom and pride and ownership of the fruits of our labor has been taken from us.  Ask yourself this Labor Day: How would I organize my efforts if I were free to work on projects that I believe in, in ways that I enjoy?

And what of the way I reward myself with food for completing a fitness routine?
  Am I training myself to hate exercise while addicting myself to food?                

6 September 2010

Ritual combat

Is it a dog-eat-dog world out there, nature premised on unrestrained violence?  Perhaps it was that way at one time, but it has been hundreds of millions of years since most animals have learned to substitute displays of force and ritual combat for the costly, wasteful practice of violence.  Predators mark their hunting ground with scent, and respect the territories of others of the same species.  Wolves posture and swagger to determine the leader of the pack.  Birds stake out the territory about their nest and announce their presence with a song.  They will seldom challenge another bird’s claim, but will move in immediately if an area is vacated.

Ants hills will engage in wars for territory, but only if there is a lopsided advantage for one side.  In fact, competing ant hills will cooperate to create military parades in the border zones, in which they display their size and their numbers, permitting the other side to assess their strength.  When one side perceives it is at a disadvantage, it will retreat closer to the home nest, ceding territory to the other, while changing the balance of numbers at the margin.  In this way, a new line can be drawn without an all-out war, which hurts both sides.

E. O. Wilson’s novel, Anthill,  contains a vivid description of the conflict-avoidance mechanism in which competing colonies negotiate for territory, rather than duking it out.

The scouts were soon joined by contingents of the more massively-built soldiers.  The opposing forces were careful not to start a battle.  Their strategy was the opposite.  Their displays were the equivalent of competing military parades by human armies.  They wanted their performance to be viewed by the enemy. 

As the tournament unfolded, the individual performers made themselves appear as large as possible.  They inflated their abdomens by pumping them up with fluid.  They straightened their legs to form stilts, and strutted around every foreign worker they encountered, sometimes bumping against them.   Still others climbed up and posed on top of pebbles, exaggerating their size still more.  They never threatened to attack.  The effort they were making was intended to persuade the other side that their colony had a great many soldiers.  A few small workers served as counters, not engaged in displays themselves...

It is inevitable that human diplomats will eventually learn this lesson, and conduct international relations in a manner every bit as intelligent as ant colonies.

*In a curious parallel to human excesses of the current era, there is an atavistic mutant strain of ant (also described in Wilson’s novel) that does not respect shows of strength, but wages unrestrained warfare.  This rogue race lives not in individual hills but extended supercolonies.  Their massive numbers constitute a devastating competitor in the short run, but the reason the mutation has not gained dominance in the long haul is that the supercolony population grows unrestrained, devastating the ecosystem of bugs and other tiny creatures, and eventually bringing down the empire.  Such a mutant empire is currently spreading through California (no joke).

7 September 2010

Empiricism

Aristotle could have avoided the mistake of thinking that women have fewer teeth than men, by the simple device of asking Mrs. Aristotle to keep her mouth open while he counted.  

— Bertrand Russell, An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish (1943)

Aristotle is acclaimed in the history of philosophy as the Father of Empiricism.

8 September 2010

Who needs ’em?

‘That this social order with its pauperism, famines, prisons, gallows, armies, and wars is necessary to society; that still greater disaster would ensue if this organization were destroyed; all this is said only by those who profit by this organization, while those who suffer from it – and they are ten times as numerous – think and say quite the contrary.’

‘In all history there is no war which was not hatched by the governments, the governments alone, independent of the interests of the people, to whom war is always pernicious even when successful.’

Lyev Nicolayevich Tolstoy, born this day in 1828

In a time of despotism and oppression, Tolstoy cleaved to utopian ideals.  He gave hope to his people, and was widely beloved.

“The earth is the general possession of all humanity and cannot be the property of individuals”

9 September 2010

Empiricism reconsidered
(see 8 Sept)

I think it’s worth exploring the hypothesis that Aristotle wasn’t stupid.  If he wrote that women have fewer teeth than men, perhaps that’s what he saw.  Perhaps he actually did look inside his wife’s mouth.  Perhaps he found 28 teeth there, because her wisdom teeth had impacted.  Perhaps he was too quick to generalize from a single example.  Maybe a gene for impacted wisdom teeth was common in Athens of the 4th century BC, so that he was actually generalizing from two or even three examples.

It is, perhaps, too easy to feel smug about the many times when other people (it’s always other people) have clung to their ideologies in the face of plain evidence that contradicts them.  Murray Gell-Mann,, speaking at TED, reminds us that observations, too, can be mistaken or even biased.  A beautiful (=simple, elegant, widely applicable) theory is worthy of our faith, and is a good reason to take a second look at experiments that seem to contradict it.

In an anecdote, Einstein was approached by his assistant after Eddington’s famous observation measuring the deflection of starlight passing close to the sun: ‘Professor, aren’t you excited? They’ve proven your theory. What if it would've been wrong?’ Einstein is reported to have replied, ‘Then I would feel sorry for the dear Lord. The theory is correct anyway.’

Gell-Mann describes the provenance of his 1957 theory uniting the weak nuclear force with electromagnetism.  At the time he proposed it, there were seven experiments with which it disagreed.  He stuck his neck out, and eventually all seven were proven to be errors.

10 September 2010

Introspection

“This is what I believe: That I am I. That my soul is a dark forest. That my known self will never be more than a little clearing in the forest. That gods, strange gods, come forth from the forest into the clearing of my known self, and then go back. That I must have the courage to let them come and go. That I will never let mankind put anything over me, but that I will try always to recognize and submit to the gods in me and the gods in other men and women. There is my creed.”

– D. H. Lawrence, born this day in 1885

The world is wonderful and beautiful and good beyond one’s wildest imagination.
Never, never, never could one conceive what love is, beforehand, never.                  

11 September 2010

Transparent

In my adolescence, I was a Utilitarian. I believed that whatever people may claim about their motives, the real reason for all they did was their own happiness.

One day I was in my twenties and my uncle was in his forties, he lay dying of cancer, I was fasting and transparent to the fear and the grief that passed through me.

From long introspection, I have learned that I am drawn not to happiness, not peace or joy or even well-being.  My deepest wish is to be present with authenticity and immediacy, responding from a full spectrum of mind and emotion.  Rapture and terror, joy, love and grief when appropriate, and sometimes not so appropriate.  Able to feel fear or embarrassment or fatigue without succumbing to numbness.

I will not cling to the familiar.  I will not avoid intensity.  My soul is open.

— Josh Mitteldorf

12 September 2010

The odd couple

This story convinced me in a way I had never considered before that animals experience love.

13 September 2010

This is not a Photoshop mock-up

Species: (biology) A taxonomic group whose members can interbreed.  

By definition, animals don’t share genes across species boundaries.  But it seems that in the real world, there are occasional animals who blur the lines. 

Sean Carroll (the biologist, not the astrophysicist) reports in today’s Science Times about the zebra/horse hybrid at left, and describes the false killer whale who impregnated a bottlenose dolphin, sharing a tank at a Hawaii aquarium.

An enduring puzzle in evolutionary biology is how new species are formed.  Some changes are so radical, and the in-between stages so improbable, that it is difficult to imagine gradual entry into a new niche.  Horizontal gene transfer (through virus and bacteria intermediaries) may be part of the answer.  Lynn Margulis has been telling us for decades that whole genomes have been swallowed up and merged at crucial points in evolutionary history. 

Odd hybridizations may be another path by which nature produces novelty.

14 September 2010

My shadow, myself

Five times I saw the Shadow
And greeted her as we passed,
But the sixth time
In a narrow alley of the lower city
Suddenly she stood before me
Barring my way
And began to revile me
In the coarsest language
Then she asked:
“Why have you rejected me?
Why have you not lain with your Shadow?
Am I so repulsive?”
To which I answered:
“How can a man lie with his Shadow?
It is customary
To let it walk two paces behind him
Until the evening.”
She smiled scornfully
And pulled her black shawl tighter about her face:
“And after sunset?”
“Then a wanderer has two shadows,
One from the lantern he has just left behind him
And one from the lantern he is just approaching:
They keep changing places.”
She smiled scornfully and laid her hand on the neighboring wall:
“Then I am not your Shadow?”
I said: “I do not know whose shadow you are”
And meant to walk on
But, lifting her hand, she showed its black impression
In the moonlight on the white wall
And said again:
“Then I am not your Shadow?”
To which I answered:
“I see who you are.
It is for you to take me
Not for me to take you”
She smiled scornfully. “Beloved,” she said
“At your place? Or at mine?”
“At yours,” I answered.

Gunnar Ekelöf, born this day in 1907

I live in another world but you live in it too.

15 September 2010

This is a favorite cartoon
remembered from childhood and rediscovered now on Youtube

Fights would not last, if only one side was wrong.
—François de la Rochefoucauld

16 September 2010


“We’re happy when we're sad.”

Panspermia

No less a luminary than Francis Crick wrote a book believes that life on earth arrived as a diaspora of hardy bacterial spores, broadcast hopefully into space by an ancient, advanced civilization on the other side of our galaxy.

Proponents of panspermia believe that the most improbable step in life’s evolution is the first one: that the simplest living thing is a quantum leap more complex than any non-living thing.  Occasional volcanic explosions send terrestrial matter into space, presumably carrying microorganisms with them. 

Crick’s variant on the theory is the connection to intelligent life, and the belief that the seeding was deliberate. 

Here’s the best part:  Crick thinks it likely that the alien civilization would have sent a message to us, their descendants, coded into the bacterial DNA in such a way that it would not be lost over billions of years of evolution.  If he is right, the SETI project can turn their telescopes homeward, and use computer algorithms to scan maps of bacterial DNA or our own (since we are descended from bacteria) for coded messages in a universal language.

17 September 2010

תיקון עולם

This is the voice of spiritual awakening: He is I and I am He!  It is an ecstatic overcoming of ego-centered consciousness by a greater boundaryless awareness.  It is not so much that the ego is gone for good, but that it is no longer in opposition to anything.  The self defines itself no longer in terms of the other, but as a manifestation of the whole. 

Being a manifestation of the whole obligates you to the whole.  Knowing that you are not separate from the rest of creation awakens you to the fact that you are responsible to creation.  Too often, people imagine that being empty of separate selfhood means that nothing matters; the world is a game, an illusion, a worthless place from which the soul seeks to escape.  This is not the Jewish view.

The fact that you are a temporary manifestation of God does not mean you are unimportant.  On the contrary, you are a unique and unreproducible expression of the Divine that is endowed with irreducible value and holiness.  You are a vehicle of godliness placed here to bring godliness to bear on every aspect of life as you encounter it.  And that means recognizing and honoring the godliness of all other things.

— from Minyan by Rami Shapiro

18 September 2010

Catch the wind

     Listening to your body’s rhythms means taking a day off when you need a rest. That’s the easy part.

     Even more important is to push yourself when your energies are freshest, to take a victory lap while you have a second wind.  When inspiration calls, put aside routine obligations in favor of creation.

     And when you feel strong, optimistic and confident in your judgment — that’s the time to make major decisions.

—Josh Mitteldorf

19 September 2010

Law without law

It is difficult to see what else than that can be the plan of physics. It is preposterous to think of laws of physics as installed by a Swiss watchmaker to endure from everlasting to everlasting when we know that the universe began with a big bang. The laws must have come into being along with space and matter....That means that they are derivative, not primary....Events beyond law. Events so numerous and so uncoordinated that, flaunting their freedom from formula, they yet fabricate firm form...The universe is a self-excited circuit. As it expands, cools and develops, it gives rise to observer-participancy. Observer-participancy in turn gives what we call tangible reality to the universe...Of all strange features of the universe, none are stranger than these: time is transcended, laws are mutable, and observer-participancy matters.

— John Archibald Wheeler,
cited by Freeman Dyson in Science and Ultimate Reality, ed. Barrow, Davies & Harper

Translation: Wheeler offers us a perspective broader than merely ‘universal’.  After all, the universe is only our particular big bang.  There must be other universes, popping in and out of existence, each with its own laws.

Wheeler was the first (~1979) to relate the two ways in which human consciousness is implicit in physics.  1) Quantum mechanics traces the evolution of a probability wave between one observation and the next.  Each time a (conscious?) observer pins down the state of an object it is known exactly.  The odd thing, which Wheeler calls ‘participancy’, is that this observation causes the whole system to change direction and evolve differently — even parts of the system which were never touched are affected.  2) Maybe there are many different universes with many different laws and collections of particles, many kinds of physics, and the reason that we find ourselves in the one that we do is that ours is one of those rare universes with physics of just the right kind to support the evolution of life.

20 September 2010

Who’s training whom?

One of the first dolphins I ever worked with was Circe. I’d bring her a fish when I wanted her to do certain things. If she didn’t do them, I did a “time-out” where I turned my back and walked away. Well, there was a certain type of fish that Circe loathed because it had a spiny tail. So I accommodated her by cutting the spines off of the tail. One day, I forgot to do that. Circe spat it out, swam to the other side of the pool and put herself into a vertical position that mimicked my time-out.

I wanted to test this. I gave her untrimmed fish on four different days. Whenever I gave her fish with spiny tails, she gave me a time-out.

— from an interview in today’s Science Times of Diana Reiss

21 September 2010

Fall song

Another year gone, leaving everywhere
its rich spiced residues: vines, leaves,

the uneaten fruits crumbling damply
in the shadows, unmattering back

from the particular island
of this summer, this NOW, that now is nowhere

except underfoot, moldering
in that black subterranean castle

of unobservable mysteries - roots and sealed seeds
and the wanderings of water. This

I try to remember when time's measure
painfully chafes, for instance when autumn

flares out at the last, boisterous and like us longing
to stay - how everything lives, shifting

from one bright vision to another, forever
in these momentary pastures.

— Mary Oliver  (with thanks, once again, to Joe Riley at Panhala.net)

Mystery is God’s other name.

22 September 2010

Peacekeepers of the Animal World

Here’s another example (see Sept 7) of violence evolving for its selfish advantage, and, later, mechanisms evolving that keep the violence largely symbolic and avoiding the dangers and costs to all parties.

In chimpanzees, both males and females actively broker community relations. In a large zoo colony that I studied, females would occasionally disarm males who were gearing up for a display. Sitting with their hair erect, hooting and swaying from side to side, male chmps may take up to ten minutes before launching a charge. This gives a female time to go over to the angry male and pry open his hand to remove heavy branches and rocks. Remarkably, the males let them do so.

Females also bring males together if they seem incapable of reconciling after a fight. The males sit opposite each other, looking at each other only obliquely, and a female approaches one, then the other, until she has brought them together and then they groom each other. We have seen mediating females literally take a male by the arm to drag him toward his rival.

— from The Age of Empathy by Frans de Waal

The violence common in primitive human societies seems to be an aberration, from which civilization is backing away, though you might not know this from the evening news.  — JJM

23 September 2010

Can Americans share?

This article in the NYTimes Week in Review surveys the advance of capitalism into the realm of sharing.  Beyond coop apartments and time-share vacations, the article is about sharing bicycles, applicances, zipcars, and various user accounts.

In my lifetime, the public library has dwindled in importance compared to bookstores, private video libraries, online music services, audio book internet services, etc.  Could we be seeing a swing back toward sharing, or even to Ben Franklin’s idea of government-sponsored free access to information and culture?

...some scholars say that the Internet — by fostering collaboration on a communal, open platform — has changed the way Americans think about sharing and ownership. Collaborative habits online are beginning to find expression in the real world. 

24 September 2010

Happy birthday, Dmitri

Shostakovich was adept at writing music in many styles.  He wrote entertaining movie music for the Revolution, and abstract pieces that require much more education to appreciate.

In this polka, (piano by Leif Ove Andsnes) he keeps surprising us, and shows us a good time.  Here is the same polka in a full orchestration.

25 September 2010

Attention!

 This moment encloses the miracle, if you can be present to apprehend it.

— Josh Mitteldorf

26 September 2010

Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth that ’round every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning; that there is always another dawn risen on mid-noon, and under every deep a lower deep opens.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

27 September 2010

From a dream to an Israeli folk dance, and back again...Listen to Meira Warshauer’s ballade for orchestra, Like Streams in the Desert.

 

28 September 2010

Throw yourself like seed

Shake off this sadness, and recover your spirit;
Sluggish you will never see the wheel of fate
That brushes your heel as it turns going by,
The man who wants to live is the man in whom life is abundant.

Now you are only giving food to that final pain
Which is slowly winding you in the nets of death,
But to live is to work, and the only thing which lasts
Is the work; start there, turn to the work.

Throw yourself like seed as you walk, and into your own field,
Don’t turn your face for that would be to turn it to death,
And do not let the past weigh down your motion.

Leave what’s alive in the furrow, what’s dead in yourself,
For life does not move in the same way as a group of clouds;
From your work you will be able one day to gather yourself. 

Miguel de Unamuno, born this day in 1864
(tr Robert Bly)

The truth is that my work — I was going to say my mission — is to shatter the faith of men here, there, and everywhere, faith in affirmation, faith in negation, and faith in abstention in faith, and this for the sake of faith in faith itself; it is to war against all those who submit, whether it be to Catholicism, or to rationalism, or to agnosticism; it is to make all men live the life of inquietude and passionate desire.
— MdU

At times to be silent is to lie.

29 September 2010

Does your brain know something you don’t?

– By looking at your brain scan, we can predict your decision six seconds before you are aware of it.

– But then my conscious decision becomes a very secondary thing to my brain activity.

– Absolutely. Unconscious activity is shaping your decisions, and your consciousness comes in at a very late stage in your brain activity.

– That’s a frightening idea – that I’m hostage to my brain activity that took place six seconds earlier.

– I wouldn’t call it a hostage situation. This implies a dualism between your conscious mind and your brain activity. But your conscious mind is encoded in your brain activity. ...The unconscious in harmony with your basic beliefs and desires, so in most cases it’s not going to force you to do something you don’t want to do...If we find that a person’s thoughts are very closely encoded in their brain activity, we can’t make a distinction between the thoughts and the brain activity. They are different aspects of the same physical process.

Watch Marcus du Sautoy and John Dylan-Haynes on BBC TV

In these fMRI experiments, the ‘decisions’ being tracked are both simple and arbitrary.  The interesting question is to what extent our more meaningful decisions and behaviors are also generated unconsciously, and rationalized by our conscious minds after the fact.  Understanding of the relationship between neuron and thought is not well enough developed to ask this question experimentally.  Will it ever be?

30 September 2010

Queen of Hearts — Archive of past entries. Bullfrog Design