The human brain is puzzling -- it is curiously large given the size of our bodies, uses a tremendous amount of energy for its weight and has a bizarrely dense cerebral cortex. But: why? Neuroscientist Suzana Herculano-Houzel puts on her detective's cap and leads us through this mystery. By making "brain soup," she arrives at a startling conclusion.
There's an irony behind the latest efforts to extend human life: It's no picnic to be an old person in a youth-oriented society. Older people can become isolated, lacking meaningful work and low on funds. In this intriguing talk, Jared Diamond looks at how many different societies treat their elders -- some better, some worse -- and suggests we all take advantage of experience.
Up to 100,000 people died in drug-related violence in Mexico in the last 6 years. We might think this has nothing to do with us, but in fact we are all complicit, says Yale professor Rodrigo Canales in this unflinching talk that turns conventional wisdom about drug cartels on its head. The carnage is not about faceless, ignorant goons mindlessly killing each other but is rather the result of some seriously sophisticated brand management.
Math is logical, functional and just ... awesome. Mathemagician Arthur Benjamin explores hidden properties of that weird and wonderful set of numbers, the Fibonacci series. (And reminds you that mathematics can be inspiring, too!
In a wide ranging radio interview, SFI Distinguished Fellow Murray Gell-Mann discusses what it means to think like a scientist, the value of rejecting orthodoxy, beauty and simplicity, reductionism vs. interdisciplinarity, complex systems science and theory, and intelligent life on other planets, among other topics.
ECCO/GBI seminar: Modular evolution and adaptation in complex systems
Prof. Peter Csermely (LINK-Group, Semmelweis University, Department of Medical Chemistry email@example.com)
Abstract: Our multidisciplinary group (www.linkgroup.hu) uses networks as 'highways' making the transfer of concepts between various disciplines. This allows the utilization of the 'wisdom' of biological systems surviving crisis events for many billions of years. The community structure of the protein-protein interaction network of yeast cells became more condensed upon stress. However, vital inter-community bridges were maintained and novel inter-community bridges were formed (PLoS Comput. Biol. 7, e1002187). Community reorganization emerged as general and novel systems level way of cost-efficient adaptation and evolution. Inter-community, highly dynamic 'creative nodes' not only determine the systems potential for fast adaptation, but also serve as a 'life insurance' in crisis. This is highly similar of the role of creative, gifted people in society. Creative transitions are served by an increased flexibility of the complex system. In other words: flexibility-increase increases the learning potential of the system. However, an 'over-flexible' system will not have a memory, and will unable to keep changes. An increase in system rigidity increases the memory storing ability of the system. Alternating changes of flexibility and rigidity emerge as a highly efficient optimization strategy of evolutionary changes.
What does real scientific work look like? As neuroscientist Stuart Firestein jokes: It looks a lot less like the scientific method and a lot more like "farting around … in the dark." In this witty talk, Firestein gets to the heart of science as it is really practiced and suggests that we should value what we don’t know -- or “high-quality ignorance” -- just as much as what we know.
Lisa Jardine traces the evolution of scientific endeavour in Britain over the last four centuries. We often hear how science has changed our world. In this series of seven programmes, Lisa explores how our world has changed science: pushing it in new directions, creating new disciplines and pioneering new approaches to scientific understanding. It’s a history of science that weaves science back into the fabric of everyday life and shows how the concerns of the scientist are the concerns of us all.
Is it possible that time is real, and that the laws of physics are not fixed? Lee Smolin, A C Grayling, Gillian Tett, and Bronwen Maddox explore the implications of such a profound re-think of the natural and social sciences, and consider how it might impact the way we think about surviving the future.
Renowned educationalist Sir Ken Robinson delivers the long-awaited follow-up to his now legendary Changing Education Paradigms talk. He addresses the fundamental economic, cultural, social and personal purposes of education, and argues that education should be personalised to every student's talent, passion, and learning styles, and that creativity should be embedded in the culture of every single school.
Philosopher John Searle lays out the case for studying human consciousness -- and systematically shoots down some of the common objections to taking it seriously. As we learn more about the brain processes that cause awareness, accepting that consciousness is a biological phenomenon is an important first step. And no, he says, consciousness is not a massive computer simulation.
We've known big data has had big impacts in business, and in lots of prediction tasks. I want to understand, what does big data mean for what we do for science? Specifically, I want to think about the following context: You have a scientist who has a hypothesis that they would like to test, and I want to think about how the testing of that hypothesis might change as data gets bigger and bigger. So that's going to be the rule of the game. Scientists start with a hypothesis and they want to test it; what's going to happen?
In a series of three lectures over three nights September 10-12, 2013 in Santa Fe, SFI’s Stephanie Forrest revealed surprising commonalities between computers and networks and organisms and ecosystems, then described new research that blurs the distinction further.
It's called the "Flynn effect" -- the fact that each generation scores higher on an IQ test than the generation before it. Are we actually getting smarter, or just thinking differently? In this fast-paced spin through the cognitive history of the 20th century, moral philosopher James Flynn suggests that changes in the way we think have had surprising (and not always positive) consequences.
Laura Mersini-Houghton is on the trail of, quite literally, the biggest secret code going. Her analysis of the faint microwave radiation that permeates the sky, called the Cosmic Microwave Background, reaches a startling conclusion: She believes that it (along with recent particle physics data) provides definitive, empirical evidence that our universe is just one of many. If proven to be true, this would change our understanding of what nature is and where its laws come from. When we caught up with Mersini-Houghton in Ann Arbor, Michigan, we found someone who carried the weight of her work lightly. Quick to smile and full of anecdotes, Mersini-Houghton took us from the farthest reaches of the multiverse to her family home in communist Albania.
What do 24,000 ideas look like? Ecologist Eric Berlow and physicist Sean Gourley apply algorithms to the entire archive of TEDx Talks, taking us on a stimulating visual tour to show how ideas connect globally.
They're millions of digits long, and it takes an army of mathematicians and machines to hunt them down -- what's not to love about monster primes? Adam Spencer, comedian and lifelong math geek, shares his passion for these odd numbers, and for the mysterious magic of math.
Russell Foster is a circadian neuroscientist: He studies the sleep cycles of the brain. And he asks: What do we know about sleep? Not a lot, it turns out, for something we do with one-third of our lives. In this talk, Foster shares three popular theories about why we sleep, busts some myths about how much sleep we need at different ages -- and hints at some bold new uses of sleep as a predictor of mental health.
Scaremongers play on the idea that robots will simply replace people on the job. In fact, they can become our essential collaborators, freeing us up to spend time on less mundane and mechanical challenges. Rodney Brooks points out how valuable this could be as the number of working-age adults drops and the number of retirees swells. He introduces us to Baxter, the robot with eyes that move and arms that react to touch, which could work alongside an aging population -- and learn to help them at home, too.