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Inner Cosmos with David Eagleman
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Inner Cosmos with David Eagleman

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Neuroscientist and author David Eagleman discusses how our brain interprets the world and what that means for us. Through storytelling, research, interviews, and experiments, David Eagleman tackles wild questions that illuminate new facets of our lives and our realities.
67 Episodes
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Why do we have so much circuitry in the brain devoted to faces? Why does your electrical plug seem to look like a little face? Did aliens plant a signal for us on Mars, or are we looking at a quirk of our own brains? What is face blindness and what is a super recognizer? What does any of this have to do with looking at a magazine upside down, or why computer algorithms sometimes think a jack-o'-lantern is a person? Join Eagleman for a deep dive into something so fundamental as to be typically invisible.
The brain easily forms ingroups and outgroups – and shows different responses when viewing one or the other. At the extreme, the brain stops seeing outgroup members as people, but more like objects. But are there ways to rehumanize? And in this context, what do heroes look like? In this episode, Eagleman talks with two men -- Maoz Inon and Aziz Abu Sarah -- one Israeli and one Palestinian. The two men, full of pain and sorrow, are fighting. But they are fighting side by side. They are fighting to repair the future. Learn what peacebuilders are, how they function, and what this has to do with the neuroscience of dehumanization, ingroups, outgroups, and the possibilities -- both political and neural -- for rehumanization.
Why do you sometimes feel that you trust this person but not that one -- for reasons you can't quite put your finger on? What signals does the brain vacuum up in your daily life, and what fraction of those does your conscious mind have access to? When does intuition steer us wrong? And what is the future of intuition, as we build new technologies to take the myriad signals racing around in the dark of our brains and bodies and bring them to light? Join Eagleman and his guest, cognitive neuroscientist Joel Pearson, to unpack when to trust and when to ignore the signals of intuition.
Why do we believe our own truths so strongly? What is steel-manning, and why is it so important? What does any of this have to do with F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Keats, or the future of our society? This week's episode deals with polarization and what we might do about it. Join Eagleman and his guest Isaac Saul, who works to represent different points of view in his newsletter Tangle -- all in the name of the intellectual humility that can blossom from grappling with conflicting ideas.
How do brains picture things internally, and how might you and I imagine differently? How have recent discoveries completely changed the debate and the way we understand internal experience? What does this have to do with Disney's Fantasia, or Pixar's aphantasia? Strap in for some very wild surprises today about our internal experiences, with guest Ed Catmull, founder of Pixar Studios. 
From a neuroscience point of view, what is creativity? How does it shine light on the current lawsuits over large language models and whether they produce anything fundamentally new... or are simply remixing the old? How do the arts expose something important about what's happening in the human brain? What do we know about the cultural evolution of ideas? And what does any of this have to do with how cell phones got their names, and why koala bears don’t write novels? Join Eagleman and his guest, composer Anthony Brandt, as they uncover the surprises about creativity.
Can we measure a lie from a blood pressure test, or pedophilia from a brain scan? And how should a judge decide whether the technology is good enough? What does this have to do with Ronald Reagan, or antisocial personality disorder, or how the television show CSI has impacted courtrooms? Today’s episode lives at the intersection of brains and the legal system. When are new neuroscience techniques allowed in courts, and when should they be?
David is taking his birthday week off and wanted to re-share this episode due to it's ongoing relevance. Modern AI is blowing everyone’s mind. But is it intelligent like humans, or is it just playing impressive statistical games? Could AI reach or exceed our level of intelligence, and how would we know when it gets there? Traditional tests for intelligence (Turing test, Lovelace test, etc) have long been surpassed, so Eagleman proposes a new kind of test. 
Why does a cold pool feel warmer the second time you dip your toes in? Why does a safecracker run his fingers over sandpaper? Why do Mediterranean cultures touch each other more than Scandinavian cultures? Would it be great -- or not so great -- if you were unable to feel physical pain? Why does stubbing your toe have different sensations through time? And what does any of this have to do with cuddle puddles, NBA players bumping chests, or puppies sleeping in dog piles? Today’s episode is a love story about our sense of touch: what it is, how it works, and why it plays such a critical role in our lives.
Could you instantaneously learn to fly a helicopter -- not by practicing, but instead by uploading instructions directly to your brain? What would society do if children no longer had to go to school? And what does any of this have to do with suntan booths, nanorobots, or what a cowboy on a hill is not able to see? Join Eagleman to learn about the possibility of modifying the microscopic structure of your brain and leapfrogging education. What are the possibilities, the caveats, and the unexpected complexities?
From the brain’s point of view, what is the self? How do 30 trillion cells come to feel like a single entity? Does the "self" of a blind person include the tip of her walking stick? How flexible is our sense of self? And what does any of this have to do with psychedelics, trauma, synchronized swimmers, religious rituals, cheerleaders, or why soldiers across time and place love to march in lockstep? Join Eagleman for this week's episode of surprises about how the brain computes the self.
Presumably we're not going to solve the problem of conflict between groups of people -- but what would better conflict look like? And what does that have to do with brains, the spread of homo sapiens, social media recommender algorithms, tribalism, intellectual humility, or the Iroquois Native Americans? Join this week's episode with guest Jonathan Stray -- a conflict researcher -- for an episode about brain science, war, empathy, outgroups, and how we might do better.
Can you become conscious inside a dream? Can a researcher convey information to a dreamer, and can the dreamer find some way to answer back? Does 10 seconds inside a dream equal 10 seconds in real life? Could taking a drug inside a dream give you a placebo effect? Can you prompt your brain like a large language model? And if so, what would you pose to your unconscious brain? Join David Eagleman and guest Jonathan Berent to discover the what, why, and how of lucid dreaming.
Ep 51 "Why do brains dream?"

Ep 51 "Why do brains dream?"

2024-03-1801:02:373

Why do brains dream, and why are dreams so bizarre? Why doesn't your clock work in your dreams? And even though you spend much of your working day looking at your cell phone and computer – why do they almost never make appearances in your dream content? Is dream content the same across cultures and across time? Are dreams experienced in black & white, or in color? Are dreams the strange love child of brain plasticity and the rotation of the planet? What is the relationship between schizophrenia and dreaming? In the future, will we be able to read out the content of somebody's dream? Join Eagleman this week to learn why and how we spend a fraction of our sleep time locked in different realities, swimming in plots which aren't real but which compel us entirely nonetheless.
Why do we spend 1/3 of our lives in the strange doppelganger state of sleep? Can we die from a lack of sleep? How long is it possible to keep yourself awake (and why does the Guinness Book of World Records no longer track that)? Why are some people night owls and some morning larks? What does any of this have to do with lightless underground caves, or with the length of a day on Mars? Join this week's episode to learn everything you've ever wanted to know about sleep and what your brain is actually doing during this time. This is the first of a 3-parter: next week we'll dive into dreams, and the week after that into lucid dreams.
Could you get convicted of a crime based on your brain activity? Are brain scan lie detectors accepted in court, or would that count as illegal search and seizure? And what does this have to do with your mouth getting dry, the orbits under your eyes getting hot, and your voice constricting when you deceive? Join Eagleman to dive into the fascinating topic of whether societies can use technology to figure out whether a person is telling the truth -- and under what circumstances we would even want to go there.
What is depression? Why are brains able to slip into it? Is depression detectable in animals? Do animals have options beyond fight or flight? And what does any of this have to do with measuring depression medications in city water supplies, reward pathways in the brain, the prevalence of tuberculosis, and zapping the head with magnetic stimulation? Join today's episode with David Eagleman and his guest -- psychiatrist Jonathan Downar -- for a deep dive into the brain science behind depression and what new solutions are on the horizon.
Do our visual systems see in frames like a movie camera or instead analyze the world continuously? Why do you see multiple hands when you clap under yellow street lamps? How did Hollywood launch from the question of whether all four legs of a galloping horse come off the ground at once? And what is the very surprising thing that happens if you stare at your ceiling fan for a long time while it turns? This week’s episode is about visual perception -- and a series of eye-opening revelations about how the brain takes in information from the world.
Can a person be declared legally dead even though he is very much alive? In December of 2010, why did a number of families choose to pull their loved ones off life support just before the new year? How do doctors decide when you've died, and how is it different from how lawyers decide? How is death a process rather than an event? What does any of this have to do with getting buried alive, your family's religious beliefs, or whether a head stays alive after the guillotine? Join Eagleman and guest Jacob Appel, an emergency room psychiatrist and head of ethics, for an episode about the science and the questions about death -- including who's domain it is to call it, and where this is all heading.
Who is the most disappointed medalist at the Olympics? How do brains simulate what might have been? How can you get your kid to wear a jacket in the cold? What if you had to face more successful versions of yourself? And what does any of this have to do with why menus should be shorter, why empires divide, and why you should always put yourself in the shoes of future people? Join Eagleman to learn the capstone secrets of mental time travel, and what these have to do with the emotions of regret and relief.
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Comments (23)

Tony Rosasco

This was so good!

Jun 18th
Reply

snosaer

when i used to do drugs i was up for like 6 days i think. forsure 5 days. but i met a guy who was up 28 days more or less he said. i believe him.

Mar 12th
Reply

Stephen Bau

1:11:38 This is your brain doing what it was meant to do: simulating the future

Mar 4th
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Stephen Bau

1:09:19 Memories beautify life, but the capacity to forget makes it bearable.

Mar 4th
Reply

Stephen Bau

1:02:02 the birth of artificial neural networks

Mar 4th
Reply

Stephen Bau

59:54 Cells that fire together wire together

Mar 4th
Reply

Stephen Bau

51:53 memory palace

Mar 4th
Reply

Stephen Bau

43:20 grid cells

Mar 4th
Reply

HC Art

how can he talk about Palestinians and Israelis like there's an equal balance of power?

Jan 18th
Reply

Jeffrey Maahs

I think you may be missing the point on Wikipedia. That isn't just a bunch of viewpoints on "both sides" of issues. Key is that there is only one page and one reality for any topic. That is achieved by constantly weeding out misinformation and falsehoods by administrators. In contrast, social media amplifies emotionality and feeds the known biases of the human brain. I think your mental model of how much people hear opposing views is way too optimistic. But I hope you're right.

Jan 16th
Reply

snosaer

my favorite part of this episode is when david eagleman starts talking shit about how others animals dont know anything. Haha great burn eagleman!

Nov 28th
Reply

Sama Aghlmand

09:02 You're absolutely right. I think when he is 7, he has an imaginary friend. but when 13, he has an imaginary monster *nothing changed in outside world The main topic is inside world.. the "line" means line. But friend and monster have different opinion

Aug 22nd
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Sama Aghlmand

I really wanna to be a participant of that experiment and say lie.. after it, scream Ohhhhh! electrical shock really hurted me, it was funny buddy... I'll continue to lie and you can't put me under pressure and convince me to tell the truth. just enjoy this awesome pain😂

Aug 15th
Reply

Sama Aghlmand

In addition to the existing content, you choose the title of each episode in the best way. It makes your podcast unique (If we don't consider the ads in the middle of each episode!)

Aug 8th
Reply

Sama Aghlmand

07:40 I have to note this quote

Aug 8th
Reply

Sama Aghlmand

30:42 Oh mannnn🤯 how amazing and scary!

Jul 28th
Reply

Sama Aghlmand

27:32 That's the darkest part. So, in my opinion we can't enjoy the future (10:25) now!

Jul 28th
Reply

snosaer

good one! I laughed how the episode en

Jun 23rd
Reply

Eric Magnuson

David Eagleman is by far my favorite science communicator. And this podcast definitely doesn’t disappoint!

May 29th
Reply

Parsa Habibi

a nice and complet episode 👌 🦆

May 11th
Reply