The end of the world, parenting, and stars

Short post:

Ever wonder how to prevent the end of the world? Or how to be a good parent? Or how Newton invented calculus just to prove a point? With characteristic wit and excitement, astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson answers 10 questions for Time Magazine and shares a few gold nuggets of scientific wisdom.

Imagine having him as a professor (why freshman year WHY)? This is how to make science accessible to everyone — by sharing Tyson’s passion for doing science and understanding how reality unfolds. Scientists break nature apart, one unit of reality at a time, and put her back together to figure out how she works… and enthusiastically present the findings with lots of hand motions.

That’s the purpose of science, fa sho.

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Brains, magic tricks, and Neil Tyson

NOVA scienceNOW deserves all the funding it gets. Here’s an absolutely wonderful segment on how the brain works, aptly titled “How does the Brain Work?” It’s 50 minutes long and undoubtedly worth watching, as it is a clear example of science education at its best. Besides, host Neil Tyson is as good of a speaker as it gets, and there are even a bunch of nifty magic tricks that expose the brain’s gullibility (or evolution’s genius, depending on how you look at it.)


There’s also some real life mind-control in humans! And, you know, robots playing jeopardy and stuff, too. Watch here:

Why Neuroscience Will Win

Oh no they deh-ent.

Creationists and Intelligent Design Iterators of “True” Science (IDiots) have given up on attacking evolution and now have taken aim at neuroscience. The article is reproduced fully over at NeuroWhoa! The ring-leader is psychiatrist Jeffrey M. Schwartz, M.D.:

YOU cannot overestimate how threatened the scientific establishment is by the fact that it now looks like the materialist paradigm is genuinely breaking down. You’re gonna hear a lot in the next calendar year about… [how] materialism needs to start fading away and non-materialist causation needs to be understood as part of natural reality.

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Bill and Bill on Religion

I love Bill O’Reilly as much as the next person (omg jk’z), but this is a fantastic back-and-forth between O’Reilly and Maher, in characteristic fashion, on religion and how to interpret the Bible.

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Using light to manipulate thoughts

The video below is exactly what it looks like: a pulse of light is being delivered directly into the mouse’s brain — its motor cortex — and forcing it to turn left. When the light turns off, the mouse returns back to its normal behavior. You’ve now seen first-hand what the emerging branch of science, termed optogenetics, is capable of doing. Fittingly, brain science is undergoing a current revolution at, er, the speed of light. Bah dum tsh!

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The new nature vs nurture: are you your genome or your connectome?

The nature vs nurture debate is over. Scientists and philosophers now know that an interplay between both shapes who we are at the level of the genome. Genes have the magnificent ability of both programing an organism and responding to all sorts of environmental cues.

Today, however, a new kid on the block named “connectomics” is ruffling feathers in many scientific circles. How do we begin to relate the brain’s immensely complicated structure to its function? What can this tell us about human nature that genetics has not? Watch as MIT neuroscientist Sebastian Seung ushers in the age of the Connectome, a complete map of the human brain, in order to advance our understanding of the human story.

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How to get something (the universe) out of nothing (nothing)

When we march backwards along the arrow of time, we reach the point from which everything began, the point that modern science calls the “Big Bang.” Scientists have a wonderful grasp on what happened a billionth of a billionth of a second after the big bang; this, of course, only begs the question “What came before the Big Bang?” Physicist Lawrence Krauss demonstrates in the video below that the answer is “Nothing” and that under our current understanding of physics, and contrary to traditional logic, it is not just probable that we get “something” out of “nothing” — it is absolutely inevitable.

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