Carl Zimmer - This is Your Brain on iPad

October 22, 2010

Host: Chris Mooney

On the show this week, Point of Inquiry features one of our most distinguished science writers—Carl Zimmer. He's the author of many acclaimed books, including Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea, and now he’s taken on an experiment: Publishing his next book, Brain Cuttings, as an e-book, digital only.

The book collects Carl’s many writings about the brain—including essays about why we zone out, whether Google is making us stupid, and perhaps most memorable of all, the Singularity folks who think our brains will soon be downloadable. Needless to say, Zimmer isn’t quite so sure.

In a wide-ranging conversation, Zimmer also discussed why science’s biggest undiscovered continent is inside our heads—and what our growing understanding of the brain means for the future of religion.

Carl Zimmer has been called "as fine a science essayist as we have" by the New York Times Book Review. He contributes regularly the New York Times science section, as well as numerous other publications, and blogs for Discover magazine’s Discover Blogs site. In addition, he’s the author of seven books, including Microcosm: E. Coli and the New Science of Life, and teaches science and environmental writing at Yale University.

Books Mentioned in This Episode:


Related Episodes

Steven Pinker - The Stuff of Thought
October 26, 2007

Comments from the CFI Forums

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Good podcast/good interview.

I recently took microcosm on a trip and it made for great reading.

In this interview I guess I disagreed with the description of science as basically reductionist and only a “take it apart so we can understand it” sort of approach.

Posted on Oct 25, 2010 at 5:19pm by Jackson Comment #1

I bought the kindle edition of this book.
Carl Zimmer is right about the need for formats in between book and essay.
I read my kindle exclusively on the train for 40min each way, every morning. I don’t need the book to be of any particular length but medium-length articles do balance the trip well.
I can finish 1 article per trip and move onto something else for the remainder of the trip.

Posted on Nov 02, 2010 at 7:55pm by FurryMoses Comment #2

I like what he said the singularity crap but chochlear implants are not into the brain.  There is an electrical stimulator placed deep into the ear and it activates the nerve endings that are already there.

http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/coch.asp

psik

Posted on Nov 03, 2010 at 10:10am by psikeyhackr Comment #3

I like what he said the singularity crap but chochlear implants are not into the brain.  There is an electrical stimulator placed deep into the ear and it activates the nerve endings that are already there.

http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/coch.asp

psik

What do you mean by the brain? The brain and body are so deeply intertwined - with nerves which terminate and originate in the central nervous system extending throughout the body - that drawing a meaningful physical boundary is not a realistic concept (unless you ignore all the bits which leave the brain and go elsewhere). And given that everything the body does modifies the brain structure - as Carl Zimmer mentioned in the podcast - functional separation is even less

So whilst a cochlear implant is “just” in the inner ear, in reality you’re augmenting the brain.

D

Posted on Nov 11, 2010 at 12:24am by DavidW Comment #4

What do you mean by the brain? The brain and body are so deeply intertwined - with nerves which terminate and originate in the central nervous system extending throughout the body - that drawing a meaningful physical boundary is not a realistic concept (unless you ignore all the bits which leave the brain and go elsewhere).

I provided a link.  It said this:

Signals generated by the implant are sent by way of the auditory nerve to the brain, which recognizes the signals as sound.

If you can’t distinguish what is part of the brain from what isn’t that is your problem.

psik

Posted on Nov 11, 2010 at 11:24am by psikeyhackr Comment #5

Wow.

The link you have provided is good provided you don’t want a nuanced understanding of neuroscience.

I was attempting to introduce that nuance, which I thought might be of interest.

Do you talk to everyone like this?

D

Posted on Nov 11, 2010 at 12:26pm by DavidW Comment #6

Wow.

The link you have provided is good provided you don’t want a nuanced understanding of neuroscience.

I was attempting to introduce that nuance, which I thought might be of interest.

Do you talk to everyone like this?

D

“nuanced”?

The cochlear implant isn’t even connected to the nerves in the ear.  A tiny fiber is inserted into the spiral in the ear and stimulates the nerve endings there.

I think your “nuanced” is just plain incorrect.

That is a problem we have here and on a lot of boards.  Getting the semantics correct.  People here say atheist means “not a theist”.  You are expanding the definition of brain and calling it “nuanced”. 

psik

Posted on Nov 11, 2010 at 12:41pm by psikeyhackr Comment #7