Sean Carroll's Mindscape: Science, Society, Philosophy, Culture, Arts, and Ideas-logo

Sean Carroll's Mindscape: Science, Society, Philosophy, Culture, Arts, and Ideas

Science Podcasts

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.

Location:

United States

Description:

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.

Language:

English


Episodes
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277 | Cumrun Vafa on the Universe According to String Theory

5/27/2024
String theory, the current leading candidate for a theory of quantum gravity as well as other particles and forces, doesn't connect directly to the world we see. It's possible that there is a large landscape of possible states of theory, with the hope that one of them represents our universe. The existence of a landscape implies the existence of a corresponding swampland -- universes that are not compatible with string theory. I talk with Cumrun Vafa, a respected physicist and originator of the swampland program, about how we might use constraints on what kinds of physics are compatible with string theory to make predictions about cosmology and other experimental regimes. In the conversation we refer to a famous diagram representing different ten-dimensional string theories, as well as 11-dimensional M-theory, as different limits of an underlying fundamental theory. Support Mindscape on Patreon. Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/05/27/277-cumrun-vafa-on-the-universe-according-to-string-theory/ Cumrun Vafa received his Ph.D. in physics from Princeton University. He is currently Hollis Professor of Mathematicks and Natural Philosophy, and Chair of the Physics Department, at Harvard University. He has done fundamental work on the dynamics of superstrings, the entropy of black holes, F-theory, and other topics. Among his awards are the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, the Dirac Medal, and the Dannie Heineman Prize for Mathematical Physics. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences. He is the author of the book Puzzles to Unravel the Universe. Web siteHarvard web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipedia See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:01:22:25

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276 | Gavin Schmidt on Measuring, Predicting, and Protecting Our Climate

5/20/2024
The Earth's climate keeps changing, largely due to the effects of human activity, and we haven't been doing enough to slow things down. Indeed, over the past year, global temperatures have been higher than ever, and higher than most climate models have predicted. Many of you have probably seen plots like this. Today's guest, Gavin Schmidt, has been a leader in measuring the variations in Earth's climate, modeling its likely future trajectory, and working to get the word out. We talk about the current state of the art, and what to expect for the future. Support Mindscape on Patreon. Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/05/20/276-gavin-schmidt-on-measuring-predicting-and-protecting-our-climate/ Gavin Schmidt received his Ph.D. in applied mathematics from University College London. He is currently Director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and an affiliate of the Center for Climate Systems Research at Columbia University. His research involves both measuring and modeling climate variability. Among his awards are the inaugural Climate Communications Prize of the American Geophysical Union. He is a cofounder of the RealClimate blog. NASA web pageColumbia web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipedia See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:01:19:48

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275 | Solo: Quantum Fields, Particles, Forces, and Symmetries

5/13/2024
Publication week! Say hello to Quanta and Fields, the second volume of the planned three-volume series The Biggest Ideas in the Universe. This volume covers quantum physics generally, but focuses especially on the wonders of quantum field theory. To celebrate, this solo podcast talks about some of the big ideas that make QFT so compelling: how quantized fields produce particles, how gauge symmetries lead to forces of nature, and how those forces can manifest in different phases, including Higgs and confinement. Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/05/13/275-solo-quantum-fields-particles-forces-and-symmetries/ Support Mindscape on Patreon. See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:02:12:27

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AMA | May 2024

5/6/2024
Welcome to the May 2024 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). We take questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable number -- based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good -- and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy! Blog post with questions and transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/05/06/ama-may-2024/ Support Mindscape on Patreon. Here is the memorial to Dan Dennett at Ars Technica. See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:03:35:08

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274 | Gizem Gumuskaya on Building Robots from Human Cells

4/29/2024
Modern biology is advancing by leaps and bounds, not only in understanding how organisms work, but in learning how to modify them in interesting ways. One exciting frontier is the study of tiny "robots" created from living molecules and cells, rather than metal and plastic. Gizem Gumuskaya, who works with previous guest Michael Levin, has created anthrobots, a new kind of structure made from living human cells. We talk about how that works, what they can do, and what future developments might bring. Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/04/29/274-gizem-gumuskaya-on-building-robots-from-human-cells/ Support Mindscape on Patreon. Gimez Gumuskaya received her Ph.D. from Tufts University and the Harvard Wyss Institute for Biologically-Inspired Engineering. She is currently a postdoctoral researcher at Tufts University. She previously received a dual master's degree in Architecture and Synthetic Biology from MIT. Web siteGoogle scholar publicationsAnthrobots web siteSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:01:10:09

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273 | Stefanos Geroulanos on the Invention of Prehistory

4/22/2024
Humanity itself might be the hardest thing for scientists to study fairly and accurately. Not only do we come to the subject with certain inevitable preconceptions, but it's hard to resist the temptation to find scientific justifications for the stories we'd like to tell about ourselves. In his new book, The Invention of Prehistory, Stefanos Geroulanos looks at the ways that we have used -- and continue to use -- supposedly-scientific tales of prehistoric humanity to bolster whatever cultural, social, and political purposes we have at the moment. Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/04/22/273-stefanos-geroulanos-on-the-invention-of-prehistory/ Support Mindscape on Patreon. Stefanos Geroulanos received his Ph.D. in humanities from Johns Hopkins. He is currently director of the Remarque Institute and a professor of history at New York University. He is the author and editor of a number of books on European intellectual history. He serves as a Co-Executive Editor of the Journal of the History of Ideas. Web siteNYU web pageAmazon author pageGoogle scholar publications See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:01:19:24

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272 | Leslie Valiant on Learning and Educability in Computers and People

4/15/2024
Science is enabled by the fact that the natural world exhibits predictability and regularity, at least to some extent. Scientists collect data about what happens in the world, then try to suggest "laws" that capture many phenomena in simple rules. A small irony is that, while we are looking for nice compact rules, there aren't really nice compact rules about how to go about doing that. Today's guest, Leslie Valiant, has been a pioneer in understanding how computers can and do learn things about the world. And in his new book, The Importance of Being Educable, he pinpoints this ability to learn new things as the crucial feature that distinguishes us as human beings. We talk about where that capability came from and what its role is as artificial intelligence becomes ever more prevalent. Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/04/15/272-leslie-valiant-on-learning-and-educability-in-computers-and-people/ Support Mindscape on Patreon. Leslie Valiant received his Ph.D. in computer science from Warwick University. He is currently the T. Jefferson Coolidge Professor of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics at Harvard University. He has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Knuth Prize, and the Turing Award, and he is a member of the National Academy of Sciences as well as a Fellow of the Royal Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is the pioneer of "Probably Approximately Correct" learning, which he wrote about in a book of the same name. See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:01:08:17

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AMA | April 2024

4/8/2024
Welcome to the April 2024 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). We take questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable number -- based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good -- and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy! Blog post with questions and transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/04/08/ama-april-2024/ See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:03:14:00

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271 | Claudia de Rham on Modifying General Relativity

4/1/2024
Einstein's theory of general relativity has been our best understanding of gravity for over a century, withstanding a variety of experimental challenges of ever-increasing precision. But we have to be open to the possibility that general relativity -- even at the classical level, aside from any questions of quantum gravity -- isn't the right theory of gravity. Such speculation is motivated by cosmology, where we have a good model of the universe but one with a number of loose ends. Claudia de Rham has been a leader in exploring how gravity could be modified in cosmologically interesting ways, and we discuss the current state of the art as well as future prospects. Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/04/01/271-claudia-de-rham-on-modifying-general-relativity/ Support Mindscape on Patreon. Claudia de Rham received her Ph.D. in physics from the University of Cambridge. She is currently a professor of physics and deputy department head at Imperial College, London. She is a Simons Foundation Investigator, winner of the Blavatnik Award, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her new book is The Beauty of Falling: A Life in Pursuit of Gravity. Imperial College web pageWikipediaPublications at Inspire See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:01:21:43

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270 | Solo: The Coming Transition in How Humanity Lives

3/25/2024
Technology is changing the world, in good and bad ways. Artificial intelligence, internet connectivity, biological engineering, and climate change are dramatically altering the parameters of human life. What can we say about how this will extend into the future? Will the pace of change level off, or smoothly continue, or hit a singularity in a finite time? In this informal solo episode, I think through what I believe will be some of the major forces shaping how human life will change over the decades to come, exploring the very real possibility that we will experience a dramatic phase transition into a new kind of equilibrium. Blog post with transcript and links to additional resources: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/03/25/270-solo-the-coming-transition-in-how-humanity-lives/ Support Mindscape on Patreon. See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:02:09:22

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269 | Sahar Heydari Fard on Complexity, Justice, and Social Dynamics

3/18/2024
When it comes to social change, two questions immediately present themselves: What kind of change do we want to see happen? And, how do we bring it about? These questions are distinct but related; there's not much point in spending all of our time wanting change that won't possibly happen, or working for change that wouldn't actually be good. Addressing such issues lies at the intersection of philosophy, political science, and social dynamics. Sahar Heydari Fard looks at all of these issues through the lens of complex systems theory, to better understand how the world works and how it might be improved. Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/03/18/269-sahar-heydari-fard-on-complexity-justice-and-social-dynamics/ Support Mindscape on Patreon. Sahar Heydari Fard received a Masters in applied economics and a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Cincinnati. She is currently an assistant professor in philosophy at the Ohio State University. Her research lies at the intersection of social and behavioral sciences, social and political philosophy, and ethics, using tools from complex systems theory. Web siteOhio State web pagePhilPeople profileGoogle Scholar publications See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:01:11:01

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AMA | March 2024

3/11/2024
Welcome to the March 2024 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). We take questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable number -- based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good -- and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Big congrats this month to Ryan Funakoshi, winner of this year's Mindscape Big Picture Scholarship! And enormous, heartfelt thanks to everyone who contributed. We're going to keep doing this in years to come. Blog post with questions and transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/03/11/ama-march-2024/ See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:03:55:43

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268 | Matt Strassler on Relativity, Fields, and the Language of Reality

3/4/2024
In the 1860s, James Clerk Maxwell argued that light was a wave of electric and magnetic fields. But it took over four decades for physicists to put together the theory of special relativity, which correctly describes the symmetries underlying Maxwell's theory. The delay came in part from the difficulty in accepting that light was a wave, but not a wave in any underlying "aether." Today our most basic view of fundamental physics is found in quantum field theory, which posits that everything around us is a quantum version of a relativistic wave. I talk with physicist Matt Strassler about how we go from these interesting-but-intimidating concepts to the everyday world of tables, chairs, and ourselves. Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/03/04/267-matt-strassler-on-relativity-fields-and-the-language-of-reality/ Support Mindscape on Patreon. Matt Strassler received his Ph.D. in physics from Stanford University. He is currently a writer and a visiting researcher in physics at Harvard University. His research has ranged over a number of topics in theoretical high-energy physics, from the phenomenology of dark matter and the Higgs boson to dualities in gauge theory and string theory. He blogs at Of Particular Significance, and his new book is Waves in an Impossible Sea: How Everyday Life Emerges from the Cosmic Ocean. Web siteGoogle Scholar publicationsSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:01:30:19

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267 | Benjamin Breen on Margaret Mead, Psychedelics, and Utopia

2/26/2024
The twentieth century was something, wasn't it? Margaret Mead, as well as her onetime-husband Gregory Bateson, managed to play roles in several of its key developments: social anthropology and its impact on sex & gender mores, psychedelic drugs and their potential use for therapeutic purposes, and the origin of cybernetics, to name a few. Benjamin Breen discusses this impactful trajectory in his new book, Tripping on Utopia: Margaret Mead, the Cold War, and the Troubled Birth of Psychedelic Science. We talk about Mead and Bateson, the early development of psychedelic drugs, and how the possibility of a realistic utopia didn't always seem so far away. Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/02/26/267-benjamin-breen-on-margaret-mead-psychedelics-and-utopia/ Support Mindscape on Patreon. Benjamin Breen received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Texas at Austin. He is currently an associate professor of history at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Among his awards are the National Endowment for the Humanities Award for Faculty and the William H. Welch Medal of the American Association for the History of Medicine. He writes on Substack at Res Obscura. Web siteUCSC web pageWikipediaAmazon author page See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:01:13:11

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266 | Christoph Adami on How Information Makes Sense of Biology

2/19/2024
Evolution is sometimes described -- not precisely, but with some justification -- as being about the "survival of the fittest." But that idea doesn't work unless there is some way for one generation to pass down information about how best to survive. We now know that such information is passed down in a variety of ways: through our inherited genome, through epigenetic factors, and of course through cultural transmission. Chris Adami suggests that we update Dobzhansky's maxim "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution" to "... except in the light of information." We talk about information theory as a subject in its own right, and how it helps us to understand organisms, evolution, and the origin of life. Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/02/19/266-christoph-adami-on-how-information-makes-sense-of-biology/ Support Mindscape on Patreon. Christoph Adami received his Ph.D. in physics from Stony Brook University. He is currently professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics as well as Physics and Astronomy at Michigan State University. Among his awards are the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Society for Artificial Life. His new book is The Evolution of Biological Information: How Evolution Creates Complexity, from Viruses to Brains. Web siteMichigan State web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsWikipediaSee Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:01:20:21

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AMA | February 2024

2/12/2024
Welcome to the February 2024 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). We take questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable number -- based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not whether the questions themselves are good -- and sometimes group them together if they are about a similar topic. Enjoy! Blog post with questions and transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/02/12/ama-february-2024/ Support Mindscape on Patreon. See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:03:24:37

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265 | John Skrentny on How the Economy Mistreats STEM Workers

2/5/2024
Universities and their students are constantly being encouraged to produce more graduates majoring in STEM fields -- science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. That's the kind of training that will get you a rewarding job, students are told, while at the policy level it is emphasized how STEM workers are needed to drive innovation and growth. In his new book Wasted Education, sociologist John Skrentny points out that the post-graduation trajectories of STEM graduates are more likely to involve being chewed up and spit out by the tech economy than to end up with stable long-term careers. We talk about why that's the case and what might be done about it. Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/02/05/265-john-skrentny-on-how-the-economy-mistreats-stem-workers/ Support Mindscape on Patreon. John Skrentny received his Ph.D. in sociology from Harvard University. He is currently Professor of Sociology at UC San Diego, and has previously served as the Co-Director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies and Director of the Yankelovich Center for Social Science Research. Web siteUC San Diego web pageGoogle Scholar publicationsAmazon author page See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:01:20:15

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264 | Sabine Stanley on What's Inside Planets

1/29/2024
The radius of the Earth is over 6,000 kilometers, but the deepest we've ever dug below the surface is only about 12 km. Yet we have a quite reliable idea of the structure of the Earth's interior -- inner core, outer core, mantle, crust -- not to mention pretty good pictures of what's going on inside some other planets. How do we know those things, and what new things are we learning in the exoplanet era? I talk with astrophysicist and planetary scientist Sabine Stanley about how we use gravitation, seismology, magnetic fields, and other tools to learn what's happening inside planets. Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/01/29/264-sabine-stanley-on-whats-inside-planets/ Support Mindscape on Patreon. Sabine Stanley received a Ph.D. in geophysics from Harvard University. She is currently a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins University. She has been awarded the William Gilbert Award from the American Geophysical Union. Her recent book is What's Hidden Inside Planets? WebsiteJohns Hopkins web pagePublications from Google ScholarWikipedia See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:01:12:29

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263 | Chris Quigg on Symmetry and the Birth of the Standard Model

1/22/2024
Einstein's theory of general relativity is distinguished by its singular simplicity and beauty. The Standard Model of Particle Physics, by contrast, is a bit of a mess. So many particles and interactions, each acting somewhat differently, with a bunch of seemingly random parameters. But lurking beneath the mess are a number of powerful and elegant ideas, many of them stemming from symmetries and how they are broken. I talk about some of these ideas with Chris Quigg, who with collaborator Robert Cahn has written a new book on the development of the Standard Model: Grace in All Simplicity. Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/01/22/263-chris-quigg-on-symmetry-and-the-birth-of-the-standard-model/ Support Mindscape on Patreon. Chris Quigg received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of California, Berkeley. He is currently Distinguished Scientist Emeritus at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Among his awards is the J.J. Sakurai Prize in theoretical particle physics from the American Physical Society. He is also the author of Gauge Theories of the Strong, Weak, and Electromagnetic Interactions. WebsitePublicationsAmazon author pageWikipedia See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:01:26:09

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262 | Eric Schwitzgebel on the Weirdness of the World

1/15/2024
Scientists and philosophers sometimes advocate pretty outrageous-sounding ideas about the fundamental nature of reality. (Arguably I have been guilty of this.) It shouldn't be surprising that reality, in regimes far away from our everyday experience, fails to conform to common sense. But it's also okay to maintain a bit of skepticism in the face of bizarre claims. Philosopher Eric Schwitzgebel wants us to face up to the weirdness of the world. He claims that there are no non-weird ways to explain some of the most important features of reality, from quantum mechanics to consciousness. Blog post with transcript: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2024/01/15/262-eric-schwitzgebel-on-the-weirdness-of-the-world/ Support Mindscape on Patreon. Eric Schwitzgebel received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley. He is currently a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Riverside. He is the author of several books, including the new The Weirdness of the World. UC Riverside web pageThe Splintered Mind blogGoogle Scholar publicationsPhilPeople profileWikipedia See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Duration:01:20:09