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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, ...
 
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Human beings like to divide themselves into groups, and then cooperate, socialize, and reproduce with members of their own group. But they’re not very absolutist about it; groups tend to gradually (or suddenly) intermingle, as people explore, intermarry, or conquer each other. David Reich has pioneered the use of genetic data in uncovering the hist…
 
Are numbers real? What does that even mean? You can’t kick a number. But you can talk about numbers in useful ways, and we use numbers to talk about the real world. There’s surely a kind of reality there. On the other hand, Luke Skywalker isn’t a real person, but we talk about him all the time. Maybe we can talk about unreal things in useful ways. …
 
As each December comes to a close, we wrap up another year of podcasts with the Mindscape Holiday Message. Nothing too profound, just some thoughts that wouldn’t fit easily into a regular podcast. This year we’re talking about academic disciplines and cocktails. What do they have in common, you may ask? Listen and find out! Support Mindscape on Pat…
 
Welcome to the December 2021 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). I take the large number of questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable size — based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not…
 
When it comes to thinking about quantum mechanics, there are levels. One level is shut-up-and-calculate: find a wave function, square it to get a probability. One level is foundational: dig deeply into the underlying ontology. But there’s a level in between, long neglected but recently coming to life. In this level you think about — or do experimen…
 
We all know you can’t derive “ought” from “is.” But it’s equally clear that “is” — how the world actual works — is going to matter for “ought” — our moral choices in the world. And an important part of “is” is who we are as human beings. As products of a messy evolutionary history, we all have moral intuitions. What parts of the brain light up when…
 
We’ve talked about the very origin of life, but certain transitions along its subsequent history were incredibly important. Perhaps none more so than the transition from unicellular to multicellular organisms, which made possible an incredible diversity of organisms and structures. Will Ratcliff studies the physics that constrains multicellular str…
 
Mathematics is often thought of as the pinnacle of crisp precision: the square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle isn’t “roughly” the sum of the squares of the other two sides, it’s exactly that. But we live in a world of messy imprecision, and increasingly we need sophisticated techniques to quantify and deal with approximate statistical relati…
 
Welcome to the November 2021 Ask Me Anything episode of Mindscape! These monthly excursions are funded by Patreon supporters (who are also the ones asking the questions). I take the large number of questions asked by Patreons, whittle them down to a more manageable size — based primarily on whether I have anything interesting to say about them, not…
 
It’s a well-worn cliché that oceans cover seventy percent of the surface of Earth, but we tend to give them secondary consideration when thinking about the environment. But climate change is wreaking havoc on the oceans, not to mention pollution and overfishing — 90% of the world’s marine fish stocks are fully exploited or depleted. Today’s guest, …
 
During the 1-900 number craze of the Nineties, one company provided the vast majority of phone sex. American Telnet was an empire founded by the man who called himself “The Telephone Pimp.” He ran the company “like General Motors” and got filthy rich doing it. But for the (mostly) women who answered the calls and delivered fantasies 24-7, it was a …
 
Science and storytelling have a long and tumultuous relationship. Scientists sometimes want stories to be just an advertisement for how awesome science is; storytellers sometimes want to use science for a few cheap thrills before abandoning it in the morning. But science is about ideas, and ideas can make for thrilling stories when done well. David…
 
As the holidays approach, we are being reminded of the fragility of the global supply chain. But at the same time, the supply chain itself is a truly impressive and fascinating structure, made as it is from multiple components that must work together in synchrony. From building an item in a factory and shipping it worldwide to transporting it local…
 
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