An Interview With Lisa Randall

LisaRaTo understand all of time and space is to leave no stone or dark stone unturned. A key element of this is understanding the current state of the universe, and how time has progressed. Our minds work in minutes or hours or days or years, but the Earth has operated on millions or billions of these time units, and it takes perspective to see broadly. Scientists bring this broad perspective to what they do because truth has no boundaries.

Is there a regularity to the extinction events of the Earth? What is the dark matter and energy that comprises over 90% of the universe made of? How do we examine that which can’t be seen using current equipment? This is the domain of Harvard theoretical physics Professor Lisa Randall.  She discusses these topics in her book Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs, and has discussed other universal issues in previous books. Her list of accomplishments is longer than the DNA in all your cells connected end to end.

Dark MatterIn Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs, Professor Randall takes us through discussion about comets, meteroids, our solar system as part of larger pieces that are still yet small pieces of the entire, somewhat flat, universe. She discusses past extinction events, and how comets or asteroids are sent hurling over large distances, with the word large being an understatement. Dark matter is discussed extensively, and you come out with an idea about the content that we are not able to see, but which is the majority of everything that is.

The following is my interview with Professor Randall about concepts from the book, and related content, followed by auxiliary links:

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An Interview With Michael Shermer

SkepticQuestioning accepted opinions is the art of a skeptic, and a cornerstone of scientific progress. A picture of Dr. Michael Shermer would fit next to the word “skeptic” in the dictionary, because he embodies the nature of not accepting anything said without supporting evidence. This is very important to keep the trajectory of discourse towards signal, and away from noise.

Dr. Shermer is author of various scientific books, including his comprehensive work The Moral Arc: How Science Makes Us Better People, and more recently, Skeptic, a compilation of his published Scientific American articles. The Moral Arc takes the reader through how morality is driven by science and reason, to an analysis of women’s, gay, and animal rights, to how morality can progress to allow for freedom and justice.

The Moral ArcHe is also editor-in-chief of Skeptic magazine, and founder of the over 55000-member Skeptics Society, which is involved in a number of activities. These include hosting various media online, as well as running a lecture series at the California Institute of Technology with guests such as scientists Richard Dawkins and Steven Pinker.

In reaching out and providing lectures and media, the research at the heart of science can be spread to more layers of society, whether for practical use or for more abstract understanding.

The following is my interview with Dr. Shermer, including a few more questions than usual(since content from two books is involved), followed by relevant related links:

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An Interview With Eliezer Sternberg

NeuroLogicThe world of our minds makes the world around us. Understanding this world is vital, and Dr. Eliezer Sternberg deals with the minds and sensory faculties of patients for a living.

He is a resident neurologist at Yale-New Haven Hospital, and has a background in neuroscience and philosophy. In his book NeuroLogic: The Brain’s Hidden Rationale Behind Our Irrational Behavior, he presents findings from fMRI scans and EEG tests, descriptions about patients with disorders, and connects what we see in behavior to what goes on behind the scenes.

In reading this book, I came away with a greater understanding of some aspects of my behavior and where it comes from. This was priceless, and though the book could be thought to be about the brains of others, you as the reader are compelled to relate it back to yourself. The brain activation descriptions presented let you know how our neurons light up based on a disconnect between brain lobes, or when the brain is working hard to process a challenging input. Seeing the internal logic is refreshing.

Here is my interview with Dr. Sternberg about Neurologic and aspects of our minds, followed by links to some topics that came up:

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An Interview With Justin Peters

The IdealistWhat does a free internet mean to you? To Aaron Swartz, it was important that the internet remained a place where content was accessible to all people, and that copyrights didn’t keep information from reaching the minds of the many. He was a “programmer, writer, entreprenuer, political organizer”(Wikipedia), and all at a young age. He wanted more than net neutrality, in that he wanted to release research papers to anyone who wanted them, obviating the need to deal with a paywall. He created Creative Commons, allowing people to let their works be used by others without infringing on any copyright. He was also a part of Reddit as it formed into the site we now know of.

His time ended when he hung himself in 2013, after years of FBI investigation and a strong copyright case against him and his efforts/mission. His departure was a surprise to many, as can be expected, but possibly not surprising as he was living within systems counter to his own. In The Idealist, author Justin Peters takes us through Aaron’s life, exploring all that he was able to do in the technology and copyright space in a small amount of time. Justin writes for Slate, and spent months doing detailed microfiche research to bring a high level of accuracy to this story. What follows is my interview with Justin about The Idealist, followed by some links about topics that were mentioned:

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