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Localization was critical, as, indeed, it may prove to be for brain function. Crick and Watson didn't just describe DNA's structure, they explained its significance. They saw the analogy between the complementarity of molecular strands and the complementarity of parent and offspring—why pigs beget pigs and not sheep. At that moment modern biology was born. I believe there are similar correlations between brain structure and mind function, between neurons and consciousness. I am stating the obvious here only because there are some philosophers, called "new mysterians," who believe the opposite.

The erudite Colin McGinn has written, for instance, "The brain is only tangentially relevant to consciousness. Churchland, Dennett, and Searle. After his triumph with heredity, Crick turned to what he called the "second great riddle" in biology—consciousness. There were many skeptics. He'd barely started when a gentleman in attendance raised a hand and said, "But Doctor Crick, you haven't even bothered to define the word consciousness before embarking on this. We leave matters of semantic hygiene to you philosophers. Crick did not, in my opinion, succeed in solving consciousness whatever that might mean.

Nonetheless, I believe he was headed in the right direction. He had been richly rewarded earlier in his career for grasping the analogy between biological complementarities, the notion that the structural logic of the molecule dictates the functional logic of heredity. Given his phenomenal success using the strategy of structure-function analogy, it is hardly surprising that he imported the same style of thinking to study consciousness.

He and his colleague Christoff Koch did so by focusing on a relatively obscure structure called the claustrum. The claustrum is a thin sheet of cells underlying the insular cortex of the brain, one on each hemisphere. It is histologically more homogeneous than most brain structures, and intriguingly, unlike most brain structures which send and receive signals to and from a small subset of other structures , the claustrum is reciprocally connected with almost every cortical region. The structural and functional streamlining might ensure that, when waves of information come through the claustrum, its neurons will be exquisitely sensitive to the timing of the inputs.

What does this have to do with consciousness? But one attribute that stands out is subjective unity: you experience all your diverse sense impressions, thoughts, willed actions and memories as being a unity—not jittery or fragmented. This attribute of consciousness, with the accompanying sense of the immediate "present" or "here and now," is so obvious that we don't usually think about it; we regard it as axiomatic. So a central feature of consciousness is its unity—and here is a brain structure that sends and receives signals to and from practically all other brain structures, including the right parietal involved in polysensory convergence and embodiment and anterior cingulate involved in the experience of "free will".

Thus the claustrum seems to unify everything anatomically, and consciousness does so mentally. Crick and Koch recognized that this may not be a coincidence: the claustrum may be central to consciousness; indeed it may embody the idea of the " Cartesian theater" that's taboo among philosophers—or is at least the conductor of the orchestra. This is this kind of childlike reasoning that often leads to great discoveries. Obviously, such analogies don't replace rigorous science, but they're a good place to start.

Crick and Koch may be right or wrong, but their idea is elegant. If they're right, they've paved the way to solving one of the great mysteries of biology. Even if they're wrong, students entering the field would do well to emulate their style. Crick has been right too often to ignore. I visited him at his home in La Jolla in July of He saw me to the door as I was leaving and as we parted, gave me a sly, conspiratorial wink: "I think it's the claustrum, Rama; it's where the secret is. Humans are a story telling species. Throughout history we have told stories to each other and ourselves as one of the ways to understand the world around us.

Every culture has its creation myth for how the universe came to be, but the stories do not stop at the big picture view; other stories discuss every aspect of the world around us. We humans are chatterboxes and we just can't resist telling a story about just about everything. However compelling and entertaining these stories may be, they fall short of being explanations because in the end all they are is stories. For every story you can tell a different variation, or a different ending, without giving reason to choose between them.

If you are skeptical or try to test the veracity of these stories you'll typically find most such stories wanting. One approach to this is forbid skeptical inquiry, branding it as heresy. This meme is so compelling that it was independently developed by cultures around the globes; it is the origin of religion—a set of stories about the world that must be accepted on faith, and never questioned. Somewhere along the line a very different meme got started. Instead of forbidding inquiry into stories about the world people tried the other extreme of encouraging continual questioning.

Stories about aspect of the world can be questioned skeptically, and tested with observations and experiments.


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If the story survives the tests then provisionally at least one can accept it as something more than a mere story; it is a theory that has real explanatory power. It will never be more than a provisional explanation—we can never let down our skeptical guard—but these provisional explanations can be very useful. We call this process of making and vetting stories the scientific method. For me, the scientific method is the ultimate elegant explanation. Indeed it is the ultimate foundation for anything worthy of the name "explanation". It makes no sense to talk about explanations without having a process for deciding which are right and which are wrong, and in a broad sense that is what the scientific method is about.

All of the other wonderful explanations celebrated here owe their origin and credibility to the process by which they are verified—the scientific method. This seems quite obvious to us now, but it took many thousands of years for people to develop the scientific method to a point where they could use it to build useful theories about the world. It was not, a priori, obvious that such a method would work. At one extreme, creation myths discuss the origin of the universe, and for thousands of years one could take the position that this will never be more than a story—how can humans ever figure out something that complicated and distant in space and time?

It would be a bold bet to say that people reasoning with the scientific method could solve that puzzle. Well, it has taken us a while but by now enormous amounts are known about the composition of stars and galaxies and how the universe came to be. There are still gaps in our knowledge and our skepticism will never stop , but we've made a lot of progress on cosmology and many other problems. Indeed we know more about the composition of distant stars than many questions about things here on earth.

The scientific method has not conquered all great questions - other issues remain illusive, but the spirit of the scientific method is that one does shrink from the unknown. It is OK to say that we have no useful story for everything we are curious about, and we comfort ourselves that at some point in the future new explanations will fill the gaps in our current knowledge, as often raise new questions that highlight new gaps. It's hard to overestimate the importance of the scientific method. Human culture contains much more than science—but science is the part that actually works—the rest is just stories.

The rationally based inquiry the scientific method enables is what has given us science and technology and vastly different lifestyles than those of our hunter-gatherers ancestors. In some sense it is analogous to evolution. The sum of millions of small mutations separate us from single celled like blue-green algae. Each had to survive the test of selection and work better than the previous state in the sense of biological fitness.

Human knowledge is the accumulation of millions of stories-that-work, each of which had to survive the test of the scientific method, matching observation and experiment more than the predecessors. Both evolution and science have taken us a long way, but looking forward it is clear that science will take us much farther. A great example how a great deal of amazing insight can be gained from some very simple considerations is the explanation of atomic forces by the 18th century Jesuit polymath Roger Boscovich, who was born in Dubrovnik.

One of the great philosophical arguments at the time took place between the adherents of Descartes who—following Aristotle—thought that forces can only be the result of immediate contact and those who followed Newton and believed in his concept of force acting at a distance. Newton was the revolutionary here, but his opponents argued—with some justification—that "action at a distance" brought back into physics "occult" explanations that do not follow from the "clear and distinct" understanding that Descartes demanded.

In the following I am paraphrasing reference works. Boscovich, a forceful advocate of the Newtonian point of view, turned the question around: Let's understand exactly what happens during the interaction that we would call immediate contact? His arguments are very easy to understand and extremely convincing.

Let's imagine two bodies, one of which is traveling at a speed of, say, 6 units, the other at a speed of 12 with the faster body catching up with the slower one along the same straight path. We imagine what transpires when the two bodies collide. By conservation of the "quantity of motion," both bodies should continue after collision along the same path, each with a speed of 9 units in the case of inelastic collision, or in case of elastic collision for a brief period right after the collision.

But how did the velocity of the faster body come to be reduced from 12 to 9, and that of the slower body increased from 6 to 9? Clearly, the time interval for the change in velocities cannot be zero, for then, argued Boscovich, the instantaneous change in speed would violate the law of continuity. Furthermore, we would have to say that at the moment of impact, the speed of one body is simultaneously 12 and 9, which is patently absurd. It is therefore necessary for the change in speed to take place in a small, yet finite, amount of time.

But with this assumption, we arrive at yet another contradiction. Suppose, for example, that after a small interval of time, the speed of the faster body is 11, and that of the slower body is 7. But this would mean that they are not moving at the same velocity, and the front surface of the faster body would advance through the rear surface of the slower body, which is impossible because we have assumed that the bodies are impenetrable. It therefore becomes apparent that the interaction must take place immediately before the impact of the two bodies and that this interaction can only be a repulsive one because it is expressed in the slowing down of one body and the speeding up of the other.

Moreover, this argument is valid for arbitrary speeds, so one can no longer speak of definite dimensions for the particles that were until now thought of as impenetrable, namely, for the atoms. An atom should rather be viewed as a point source of force, with the force emanating from it acting in some complicated fashion that depends on distance. According to Boscovich, when bodies are far apart, they act on each other through a force corresponding to the gravitational force, which is inversely proportional to the square of the distance.

But with decreasing distance, this law must be modified because, in accordance with the above considerations, the force changes sign and must become a repulsive force. Boscovich even plotted fanciful traces of how the force should vary with distance in which the force changed sign several times, hinting to the existence of minima in the potential and the existence of stable bonds between the particles—the atoms. With this idea Boscovich not only offered a new picture for interactions in place of the Aristotelian-Cartesian theory based on immediate contact, but also presaged our understanding of the structure of matter, especially that of solid bodies.

It is a fundamental principle of economics that a person is always better off if they have more alternatives to choose from. But this principle is wrong. There are cases when I can make myself better off by restricting my future choices and commit myself to a specific course of action. The idea of commitment as a strategy is an ancient one. Odysseus famously had his crew tie him to the mast so he could listen to the Sirens' songs without falling into the temptation to steer the ship into the rocks.

And he committed his crew to not listening by filling their ears with wax. But although the idea is an old one, we did not begin to understand its nuances until Nobel Laureate Thomas Schelling's wrote his masterpiece: "An Essay on Bargaining". It is well known that thorny games such as the prisoner's dilemma can be solved if both players can credibly commit themselves to cooperating, but how can I convince you that I will cooperate when it is a dominant strategy for me to defect? And, if you and I are game theorists, you know that I know that you know that I know that defecting is a dominant strategy.

Schelling gives many examples of how this can be done, but here is my favorite. A Denver rehabilitation clinic whose clientele consisted of wealthy cocaine addicts, offered a "self-blackmail" strategy. Patient were offered an opportunity to write a self- incriminating letter that would be delivered if and only if the patient, who is tested on a random schedule, is found to have used cocaine. Most cocaine addicts will probably have no trouble thinking of something to write about, and will now have a very strong incentive to stay off drugs. They are committed. Many of society's thorniest problems, from climate change to Middle East peace could be solved if the relevant parties could only find a way to commit themselves to some future course of action.

They would be well advised to study Tom Schelling in order to figure out how to make that commitment. The deepest, most elegant, and most beautiful explanations are the ones we find so overwhelmingly compelling that we don't even realize they're there. It can take years of philosophical training to recognize their presence and to evaluate their merits. We explain the success of our scientific theories by appeal to what philosophers call realism—the idea that they are more or less true.

In other words, chemistry "works" because atoms actually exist, and hand washing prevents disease because there really are loitering pathogens. We explain why people act the way they do by positing that they have minds more or less like our own. We assume that they have feelings, beliefs, and desires, and that they are not for instance zombie automata that convincingly act as if they have minds. This requires an intuitive leap that engages the so-called "problem of other minds. We explain the predictable relationship between some events we call causes and others we call effects by appeal to a mysterious power called causation.

Yet, as noted by 18th century philosopher David Hume, we never "discover anything but one event following another," and never directly observe "a force or power by which the cause operates, or any connexion between it and its supposed effect. These explanations are at the core of humans' understanding of the world—of our intuitive metaphysics. They also illustrate the hallmarks of a satisfying explanation: they unify many disparate phenomena by appealing to a small number of core principles.

In other words, they are broad but simple. Realism can explain the success of chemistry, but also of physics, zoology, and deep-sea ecology. A belief in other minds can help someone understand politics, their family, and Middlemarch. And assuming a world governed by orderly, causal relationships helps explain the predictable associations between the moon and the tides as well as that between caffeine consumption and sleeplessness.

Nonetheless, each explanation has come under serious attack at one point or another. Take realism, for example. While many of our current scientific theories are admittedly impressive, they come at the end of a long succession of failures: every past theory has been wrong. Ptolemy's astronomy had a good run, but then came the Copernican Revolution. Newtonian mechanics is truly impressive, but it was ultimately superseded by contemporary physics.

Modesty and common sense suggest that like their predecessors, our current theories will eventually be overturned. But if they aren't true, why are they so effective? Intuitive realism is at best a metaphysical half-truth, albeit a pretty harmless one. From these examples I draw two important lessons. First, the depth, elegance, and beauty of our intuitive metaphysical explanations can be a liability. These explanations are so broad and so simple that we let them operate in the background, constantly invoked but rarely scrutinized. As a result, most of us can't defend them and don't revise them.

Metaphysical half-truths find a safe and happy home in most human minds. Second, the depth, elegance, and beauty of our intuitive metaphysical explanations can make us appreciate them less rather than more. Like a constant hum, we forget that they are there. It follows that the explanations most often celebrated for their virtues—explanations such as natural selection and relativity—are importantly different from those that form the bedrock of intuitive beliefs.

Celebrated explanations have the characteristics of the solution to a good murder-mystery. Where intuitive metaphysical explanations are easy to generate but hard to evaluate, scientific superstars like evolution are typically the reverse: hard to generate but easy to evaluate. We need philosophers like Hume to nudge us from complacency in the first case, and scientists like Darwin to advance science in the second. Is there a single explanation that can account for all of human behavior? Of course not. But, I think there is one that does darn well. Human beings are motivated to see themselves in a positive light.

We want, and need, to see ourselves as good, worthwhile, capable people. And fulfilling this motive can come at the expense of our being "rational actors. It can blind us to truths that would otherwise be obvious. For example, while we can readily recognize who among our friends and neighbors are bad drivers, and who among us is occasionally sexist or racist, most of us are deluded about the quality of our own driving and about our own susceptibility to sexist or racist behavior.

The motive to see oneself in a positive light can have profound effects. The work of Claude Steele and others shows that this motive can lead children who underperform in school to decide that academics are unimportant and not worth the effort, a conclusion that protects self-esteem but at a heavy price for the individual and society.

More generally, when people fail to achieve on a certain dimension, they often disidentify from it in order to preserve a positive sense of self. That response can come at the expense of meeting one's rational best interest. It can cause some to drop out of school after deciding that there are better things to do than "be a nerd" , and it can cause others to ignore morbid obesity after deciding that other things are more important than "being skinny".

Another serious consequence of this motive involves prejudice and discrimination. A wide array of experiments in social psychology have demonstrated how members of different ethnic groups, different races, and even different bunks at summer camp see their "own kind" as better and more deserving than "outsiders" who belong to other groups—a perception that leads not only to ingroup favoritism but also to blatant discrimination against members of other groups.

And, people are especially likely to discriminate when their own self-esteem has been threatened. For example, one study found that college students were especially likely to discriminate against a Jewish job applicant after they themselves had suffered a blow to their self-esteem; notably, their self-esteem recovered fully after the discrimination.

The motive to see oneself in a positive light is so fundamental to human psychology that it is a hallmark of mental health. Shelley Taylor and others have noted that mentally healthy people are "deluded" by positive illusions of themselves and depressed people are sometimes more "realistic". But, how many of us truly believe that this motive drives us? It is difficult to spot in ourselves because it operates quickly and automatically, covering its tracks before we detect it.

As soon as we miss a shot in tennis, it is almost instantaneous that we generate a self-serving thought about the sun having been in our eyes. The automatic nature of this motive is perhaps best captured by the fact that we unconsciously prefer things that start with the same letter as our first initial so people named Paul are likely to prefer pizza more than people named Harry, whereas Harrys are more likely to prefer hamburgers. Herein, though, lies the rub. I know a Lee who hates lettuce, and a Wendy who will not eat wheat. Both of them are better at tennis than they realize, and both take responsibility for a bad serve.

Simple and elegant explanations only go so far when it comes to the complex and messy problem of human behavior. My favorite deep, elegant and beautiful explanation is Albert Einstein's proposal that light consists of energy quanta, today called photons. Actually, it is little known, even among physicists, but extremely interesting how Einstein came to this position.

It is often said that Einstein invented the concept to explain the photoelectric effect. Certainly, that is part of Einstein's publication, but only towards its end. The idea itself is much deeper, more elegant and, yes, more beautiful. Imagine a closed container whose walls are at some temperature. The walls are glowing, and as they emit radiation, they also absorb radiation.

After some time, there will be some sort of equilibrium distribution of radiation inside the container. This was already well known before Einstein. Max Planck had introduced the idea of quantization that explained the energy distribution of the radiation inside such a volume. Einstein went a step further.

He studied how orderly the radiation is distributed inside such a container. For physicists, entropy is a measure of disorder. To consider a simple example, it is much more probable that books, notes, pencils, photos, pens etc. Or, if we consider a million atoms inside a container, it is much more probable that they are more or less equally distributed all over the volume of the container than that they are all collected in one corner.

In both cases, the first state is less orderly: when the atoms fill a larger volume they have a higher entropy than the second one mentioned. The Austrian physicist Ludwig Boltzmann had shown that the entropy of a system is a measure of how probable its state is. Einstein then realized in his paper that the entropy of radiation including light changes in the same mathematical way with the volume as for atoms. In both cases, the entropy increases with the logarithm of that volume. For Einstein this could not just be a coincidence.

Since we can understand the entropy of the gas because it consists of atoms, the radiation consists also of particles that he calls energy quanta. Einstein immediately applied his idea for example to his well-known application of the photoelectric effect. But he also realizes very soon a fundamental conflict of the idea of energy quanta with the well-studied and observed phenomenon of interference. The problem is simply how to understand the two-slit interference pattern. This is the phenomenon that, according to Richard Feynman, contains "the only mystery" of quantum physics. The challenge is very simple.

When we have both slits open, we obtain bright and dark stripes on an observation screen, the interference fringes. When we have only one slit open, we get no stripes, no fringes, but a broad distribution of particles. This can easily be understood on the basis of the wave picture. Through each of the two slits, a wave passes, and they extinguish each other at some places of the observation screen and at others, they enforce each other.

That way, we obtain dark and bright fringes. But what to expect if the intensity is so low that only one particle at a time passes through the apparatus? Following Einstein's realist position, it would be natural to assume that the particle has to pass through either slit. We can still do the experiment by putting a photographic plate at the observation screen and sending many photons in, one at a time. After a long enough time, we look at the photographic plate.

According to Einstein, if the particle passes through either slit, no fringes should appear, because, simply speaking, how should the individual particle know whether the other slit, the one it does not pass through, is open or not. This was indeed Einstein's opinion, and he suggested that the fringes only appear if many particles go through at the same time, and somehow interact with each other such that they make up the interference pattern.

Today, we know that the pattern even arises if we have such low intensities that only one, say, photon per second passes through the whole apparatus. If we wait long enough and look at the distribution of all of them, we get the interference pattern. The modern explanation is that the interference pattern only arises if there is no information present anywhere in the Universe through which slit the particle passes.

But even as Einstein was wrong here, his idea of the energy quanta of light, today called photons pointed far into the future. In a letter to his friend Habicht in the same year of , the miraculous year where he also wrote his Special Theory of Relativity, he called the paper proposing particles of light "revolutionary". As far as is known, this was the only work of his that he ever called revolutionary. And therefore it is quite fitting that the Nobel Prize was given to him for the discovery of particles of light.

This was the Nobel Prize of That the situation was not as clear a few years before is witnessed by a famous letter signed by Planck, Nernst, Rubens and Warburg, suggesting Einstein for membership in the Prussian Academy of Sciences in They wrote: "the fact that he Einstein occasionally went too far should not be held too strongly against him. Not even in the exact natural sciences can there be progress without occasional speculation. It may sound odd, but for as much as I loathe airport security lines, I must admit that while I'm standing there, stripped down and denuded of metal, waiting to go through the doorway, part of my mind wanders to oceans that likely exist on distant worlds in our solar system.

These oceans exist today and are sheltered beneath the icy shells that cover worlds like Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto moons of Jupiter , and Enceladus and Titan moons of Saturn. The oceans within these worlds are liquid water H2O , just as we know and love it here on Earth, and they have likely been in existence for much of the history of the solar system about 4. The total volume of liquid water contained within these oceans is at least 20 times that found here on Earth. From the standpoint of our search for life beyond Earth, these oceans are prime real estate for a second origin of life and the evolution of extraterrestrial ecosystems.

But how do we know these oceans exist? The moons are covered in ice and thus we can't just look down with a spacecraft and see the liquid water. That's where the airport security comes into play. You see, when you walk through an airport security door you're walking through a rapidly changing magnetic field. The laws of physics dictate that if you put a conducting material in a changing magnetic field electric currents will arise and those electric currents will then create a secondary magnetic field.

This secondary field is often referred to as the induced magnetic field because it is induced by the primary field of the doorway. Also contained within the doorway are detectors that can sense when an induced field is present. When these sensors detect an induced field, the alarm goes off, and you get whisked over to the 'special' search line.

The same basic principle, the same fundamental physics, is largely responsible for our knowledge of oceans on some of these distant worlds. Jupiter's moon Europa provides a good example. Back in the late 's the NASA's Galileo spacecraft made several flybys of Europa and the magnetic field sensors on the spacecraft detected that Europa does not have a strong internal field of its own, instead it has an induced magnetic field that is created as a result of Jupiter's strong background magnetic field.

In other words, the alarm went off. But in order for the alarm to go off there needed to be a conductor. And for Europa the data indicated that the conducting layer must be near the surface. With the magnetic field data, however, ice doesn't work—it's not a good conductor. Liquid water with salts dissolved in it, similar to our ocean, does work. A salty ocean is needed to explain the data. Beneath that is a rocky seafloor that may be teeming with hydrothermal vents and bizarre other-wordly organisms. So, the next time your in airport security and get frustrated by that disorganized person in front of you who can't seem to get it through their head that their belt, wallet, and watch will all set off the alarm, just take a deep breathe and think of the possibly habitable distant oceans we now know of thanks to the same beautiful physics that's driving you nuts as you try to reach your departing plane.

A few years ago, I heard said only old-fashioned folk wear watches. But I thought I would always wear a watch. Today I don't wear a watch. How do I find the time? Either I do without or I keep my eyes fixed on a screen that has the time in the upper-right corner. It's gotten so that I resent that reality doesn't dispay the time in the upper-right corner. An elegant and beautiful explanation is, to me, one that corrals a herd of seemingly unrelated facts within a single unifying concept. In our explorations of the worlds, including our own, that orbit the Sun, and in our attempts to find from these efforts what is special and what is commonplace about our own planet, I can think of two examples of this.

The first is an idea that was originally offered in the but met with such extreme hostility from the scientific establishment—not an unusual response, by the way, to an original idea—that it wasn't generally accepted until 50 years later.


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  • By that time, the sheer weight of evidence supporting it became so overwhelming that the notion was rendered irrefutable. And that notion was plate tectonics.

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    It could be said that the first indications of plate motions, though of course not recognized as such at the time, came from the observations of the early explorers, like Magellan, who noticed the puzzle-like fit of the continents, Africa and South America, for instance, on their maps. Fast forward to the early 20th century…Alfred Wegener, a German geophysicist, proposes movement of the continents continental drift , to explain this hand-in-glove fit. Having no explanation, however, for how the continents could actually move, he was laughed out of the room. But the evidence continued to mount: fossils, rock types, ancient climates were shown to be similar within widely separated geographical regions, like the east coast of South America and the west coast of Africa.

    Studies of magnetized rocks, which if stationary will always indicate a consistent direction to the north magnetic pole regardless where on the globe they form, indicated that either the north pole location varied throughout time or that the rocks themselves were not formed where they are found today.

    Finally, by the s, it was clear that many of the Earth's presently active geological phenomena, such as the strongest earthquakes and volcanoes, were found within distinct, sinuous belts that wrapped around the planet and carved the Earth's surface into distinct bounded regions. We now know that the tectonic forces driving the motions of the Earth's crustal plates arise from the convective upwelling and downwelling currents of molten rock in the Earth's mantle that drag around the solid plates sitting atop them. In the end, the notion that bits of the Earth's surface can drift over time is a glorious example of a simple, efficient and even elegant idea that was eventually proven correct yet so radical for its time, it was scorned.

    The second is more or less an extraterrestrial version of the same. And the images they returned provided humanity its first detailed views of these planets and the moons and rings surrounding them. Jupiter was the gateway planet, the first of the four encountered, and it was there that we learned just how complex and presently active other planetary bodies could be.

    Along with the stunningly active moon, Io, which sported at the time about 9 large volcanic eruptions, Voyager imaged the surface of Jupiter's icy moon, Europa. Just a bit smaller than our own Moon, Europa's surface was clearly young, rather free of craters, and scored with a complex pattern of cracks and fractures that were cycloidal in shape and continuous, with many 'loops', like the scales on a fish. From these discoveries and others, it was inferred that Europa might have a thin crust overlying either warm, soft ice or perhaps even liquid water, though how the fracture pattern came to look the way it does was a mystery.

    The idea of a sub-surface ocean was enticing for the implicit possibility of a habitable zone for extraterrestrial life. A follow-on spacecraft, Galileo, arrived at Jupiter in and before too long got an even better look at Europa's cracked ice shell and its cycloidal fractures. It became clear to researchers at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Lab that the cycloidal fractures, and even their detailed characteristics, like the shapes of the cycloidal segments, and the existence of, the distance between, and orientations of the cusps, could all be explained by the stresses across the moon's thin ice shell created by the tides raised on it by Jupiter.

    Europa's distance to Jupiter varies over the course of its orbit because of gravitational resonances with the other Jovian moons. And that varying separation causes the magnitude and direction of the tidal stresses on its surface to change. Under these conditions, if a crack in the thin ice shell is initiated at any location by these stresses, then that crack will propagate across the surface over the course of a Europan day and will take the shape of a cycloid.

    This will continue, day in and day out, scoring the surface of Europa in the manner that we find it today. Furthermore, tidal stresses would be inadequate to affect these kinds of changes to the moon's surface if its ice shell did not overlie a liquid ocean…an exciting possibility by anyone's measure. And so, a whole array of features on the surface of one of Jupiter's most fascinating moons, the enormous complexity of the patterns they form, and the implication of a subterranean liquid water ocean in which extraterrestrial life might have taken hold, were explained and supported with one very simple, very easily demonstrated, and very elegant idea….

    I play this game with my kids. It's a 'guess-who' game: Think of an animal, person, object and then try to describe it to another person without giving away the real identity. You have to get in character and tell a story: What do you do, how do you feel, what do you think and want? Let's have a go. Mum says I'm getting in the way, I'm a lay-about and she can't afford for me to stay with her any more.

    But I like being in a big family, and I don't want to leave. Mum says that if I am to stay home, we'd need some kind of 'glue' to keep us from drifting apart. Glue is costly and she says she hasn't the energy to make it since she's busy making babies. But then I had this brilliant idea: how about I make the glue using a bit of cell wall mum won't mind , add some glycoproteins they're a bit sticky, so I have to promise mum I'll wash my hands afterwards and bingo! Job done: we've got ourselves a nice cosy extracellular matrix! I'm happy doing the bulk of the work, so long as mum keeps giving me more siblings.

    I suggested this to mum last night, and guess what? She said yes! But she also said I'm out the door if I don't keep up my side of the bargain: no free-riders…. If I group with my relatives then someone needs to pay the cost of keeping us together—the extracellular matrix. I don't mind paying that cost if I benefit from the replication of my own genes through my relatives. Ok, that was a tough one. Try this one:. I like having babies, and I seem to be pretty good at it. I love them all equally, obviously. Damn hard work though, especially since their father didn't stick around.

    I can't see my latest babies surviving unless I get some help around the place. So I said to my oldest the other day, fancy helping your old Ma out? Here's the deal: you go find some food whilst I squeeze out a few more siblings for you. Remember, kid, I'm doing this for you—all these siblings will pay off in the long run. One day, some of them will be Mas just like me, and you'll be reaping in the benefits from them long after you and I are gone. This way you don't ever have to worry about sex, men or any of that sperm stuff. Your old Ma's got everything you need, right here. All you have to do is feed us, and clear out the mess!

    If I nest alone I have to find food which means leaving my young unprotected. If some of my grown-up children stay home and help me, they can go out foraging whilst I stay home to protect the young. I can have even more babies this way, which my children love as this means more and more of their genes are passed on through their siblings. Anyway, it's a pretty tough world out there right now for youngsters; it's much less risky to stay at home. I am part of the same, fundamental event in evolution's playground.

    I am the evolution of helping and cooperation. I am the major transition that shapes all levels of biological complexity.

    On The Mountain - Selah

    The reason I happen is because I help others like me, and we settle on a division of labour. I don't help because, paradoxically, I benefit. My secret? I'm selective: I like to help relatives because they end up also helping me, by passing on our shared genes. I've embraced the transition from autonomy to cooperation. And it feels good! The evolution of cooperation and helping behaviour is a beautiful and simple explanation of how nature got complex, diverse and wonderful. It's not restricted to the charismatic Meerkats, or fluffy bumble-bees.

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    It is a general phenomenon which generates the biological hierarchies that characterise the natural world. Groups of individuals genes, prokaryotes, single-celled and multicellular organisms that could previously replicate independently, form a new, collective individual that can only replicate as a whole. Hamilton's inclusive fitness theory is an elegant and simple explanation why sociality evolves. It was more recently formalised conceptually as unified framework to explain the evolution of major transitions to biological complexity in general e.

    Bourke's Principles of Social Evolution. Entities cooperate because it increases their fitness—their chance of passing on genes to the next generation. Beneficiaries get enhanced personal reproduction; helpers benefit from the propagation of the genes they share with the relatives they help. But the conditions need to be right: the benefits must outweigh the costs and this sum is affected by the options available to independent replicating entities before they commit to their higher-level collective.

    Ecology and environment play a role, as well as kinship. The resulting division of labour is the fundamental basis to societal living, uniting genes into genomes, mitochondria with prokaryotes to produce eukaryotes, unicellular organisms into multicellular ones, and solitary animals into eusocieties. This satisfyingly simple explanation makes the complexities of the world less mysterious, but no less wonderful.

    If only adults indulged a bit more in children's games, perhaps we'd stumble across simple explanations for the complexities of life more often. The fact that a person is contemplating whether she exists, Descartes argued, is proof that she, indeed, actually does exist. With this single statement, Descartes knit together two central ideas of Western philosophy: 1 thinking is powerful, and 2 individuals play a big role in creating their own I's—that is, their psyches, minds, souls, or selves.

    Most of us learn "the cogito" at some point during our formal education. Yet far fewer of us study an equally deep and elegant idea from social psychology: Other people's thinking likewise powerfully shapes the I's that we are. Indeed, in many situations, other people's thinking has a bigger impact on our own thoughts, feelings, and actions than do the thoughts we conjure while philosophizing alone.

    In other words, much of the time, " You think, therefore I am. An everyday instance of how your thinking affects other people's being is the Pygmalion effect. Psychologists Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson captured this effect in a classic study. After giving an IQ test to elementary school students, the researchers told the teachers which students would be "academic spurters" because of their allegedly high IQs.

    In reality, these students' IQs were no higher than those of the "normal" students. At the end of the school year, the researchers found that the "spurters'" had attained better grades and higher IQs than the "normals. Teachers had expected more from the spurters, and thus given them more time, attention, and care. And the conclusion? Expect more from students, and get better results. A less sanguine example of how much our thoughts affect other people's I's is stereotype threat.

    Stereotypes are clouds of attitudes, beliefs, and expectations that follow around a group of people. A stereotype in the air over African Americans is that they are bad at school. Women labor under the stereotype that they suck at math. As social psychologist Claude Steele and others have demonstrated in hundreds of studies, when researchers conjure these stereotypes—even subtly, by, say, asking people to write down their race or gender before taking a test—students from the stereotyped groups score lower than the stereotype-free group.

    But when researchers do not mention other people's negative views, the stereotyped groups meet or even exceed their competition. The researchers show that students under stereotype threat are so anxious about confirming the stereotype that they choke on the test. With repeated failures, they seek their fortunes in other domains. In this tragic way, other people's thoughts deform the I's of promising students. As the planet gets smaller and hotter, knowing that "You think, therefore I am" could help us more readily understand how we affect our neighbours and how our neighbours affect us.

    Not acknowledging how much we impact each other, in contrast, could lead us to repeat the same mistakes. Eratosthenes BCE , the head of the famous Library of Alexandria in Ptolemaic Egypt, made ground-breaking contributions to mathematics, astronomy, geography, and history. He also argued against dividing humankind into Greeks and 'Barbarians'. What he is remembered for however is having provided the first correct measurement of the circumference of the Earth a story well told in Nicholas Nicastro's recent book, Circumference. How did he do it?

    Eratosthenes had heard that, every year, on a single day at noon, the Sun shone directly to the bottom of an open well in the town of Syene now Aswan. This meant that the Sun was then at the zenith. For that, Syene had to be on the Tropic of Cancer and the day had to be the Summer solstice our June He knew how long it took caravans to travel from Alexandria to Syene and, on that basis, estimated the distance between the two cities to be stades.

    He assumed that Syene was due south on the same meridian as Alexandria. Actually, in this he was slightly mistaken—Syene is somewhat to the east of Alexandria—, and also in assuming that Syene was right on the Tropic; but, serendipitously, the effect of these two mistakes cancelled one another. He understood that the Sun was far enough to treat as parallel its rays that reach the Earth.

    When the Sun was at the zenith in Syene, it had to be south of the zenith in the more northern Alexandria. By how much? He measured the length of the shadow cast by an obelisk located in front of the Library says the story—or cast by some other, more convenient vertical object , and, even without trigonometry that had yet to be developed, he could determine that the Sun was at an angle of 7. That very angle, he understood, measured the curvature of the Earth between Alexandria and Syene see the figure.

    Since 7. Eratosthenes brought together apparently unrelated pieces of evidence—the pace of caravans, the Sun shining to the bottom of a well, the length of the shadow of an obelisk—, assumptions—the sphericity of the Earth, its distance from the Sun—, and mathematical tools to measure a circumference that he could only imagine but neither see nor survey.

    His result is simple and compelling: the way he reached it epitomizes human intelligence at its best. Was Eratosthenes thinking concretely about the circumference of the earth in the way he might have been thinking concretely about the distance from the Library to the Palace in Alexandria? I believe not. He was thinking rather about a challenge posed by the quite different estimates of the circumference of the Earth that had been offered by other scholars at the time. He was thinking about various mathematical principles and tools that could be brought to bear on the issue. He was thinking of the evidential use that could be made of sundry observations and reports.

    He was aiming at finding a clear and compelling solution, a convincing argument. In other terms, he was thinking about representations—theories, conjectures, reports—, and looking for a novel and insightful way to put them together. In doing so, he was inspired by others, and aiming at others. His intellectual feat only makes sense as a particularly remarkable link in a social-cultural chain of mental and public events.

    To me, it is a stunning illustration not just of human individual intelligence but also and above all of the powers of socially and culturally extended minds. For centuries, neuroscience attempted to neatly assign labels to the various parts of the brain: this is the area for language, this one for morality, this for tool use, color detection, face recognition, and so on. This search for an orderly brain map started off as a viable endeavor, but turned out to be misguided.

    The deep and beautiful trick of the brain is more interesting: it possesses multiple, overlapping ways of dealing with the world. It is a machine built of conflicting parts. It is a representative democracy that functions by competition among parties who all believe they know the right way to solve the problem. As a result, we can get mad at ourselves, argue with ourselves, curse at ourselves and contract with ourselves. We can feel conflicted.

    These sorts of neural battles lie behind marital infidelity, relapses into addiction, cheating on diets, breaking of New Year's resolutions—all situations in which some parts of a person want one thing and other parts another.

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    These are things which modern machines simply do not do. Your car cannot be conflicted about which way to turn: it has one steering wheel commanded by only one driver, and it follows directions without complaint. Brains, on the other hand, can be of two minds, and often many more. We don't know whether to turn toward the cake or away from it, because there are several sets of hands on the steering wheel of behavior. Take memory. Under normal circumstances, memories of daily events are consolidated by an area of the brain called the hippocampus. But in frightening situations—such as a car accident or a robbery—another area, the amygdala, also lays down memories along an independent, secondary memory track.

    Amygdala memories have a different quality to them: they are difficult to erase and they can return in "flash-bulb" fashion—a common description of rape victims and war veterans. In other words, there is more than one way to lay down memory. We're not talking about memories of different events, but different memories of the same event.

    The unfolding story appears to be that there may be even more than two factions involved, all writing down information and later competing to tell the story. The unity of memory is an illusion. And consider the different systems involved in decision making: some are fast, automatic and below the surface of conscious awareness; others are slow, cognitive, and conscious. And there's no reason to assume there are only two systems; there may well be a spectrum.

    Some networks in the brain are implicated in long-term decisions, others in short-term impulses and there may be a fleet of medium-term biases as well. Attention, also, has also recently come to be understood as the end result of multiple, competing networks, some for focused, dedicated attention to a specific task, and others for monitoring broadly vigilance. They are always locked in competition to steer the actions of the organism. Even basic sensory functions—like the detection of motion—appear now to have been reinvented multiple times by evolution.

    This provides the perfect substrate for a neural democracy. On a larger anatomical scale, the two hemispheres of the brain, left and right, can be understood as overlapping systems that compete. We know this from patients whose hemispheres are disconnected: they essentially function with two independent brains. For example, put a pencil in each hand, and they can simultaneously draw incompatible figures such as a circle and a triangle.

    The two hemispheres function differently in the domains of language, abstract thinking, story construction, inference, memory, gambling strategies, and so on. The two halves constitute a team of rivals: agents with the same goals but slightly different ways of going about it. To my mind, this elegant solution to the mysteries of the brain should change the goal for aspiring neuroscientists.

    Instead of spending years advocating for one's favorite solution, the mission should evolve into elucidating the different overlapping solutions: how they compete, how the union is held together, and what happens when things fall apart. Part of the importance of discovering elegant solutions is capitalizing on them. The neural democracy model may be just the thing to dislodge artificial intelligence.

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    We human programmers still approach a problem by assuming there's a best way to solve it, or that there's a way it should be solved. But evolution does not solve a problem and then check it off the list. Instead, it ceaselessly reinvents programs, each with overlapping and competing approaches. Money is one of the most frustrating things in life when you don't have enough of it.

    Maybe you've been hustling all day six days a week and still not making enough. Maybe your income has plateaued, or maybe it's rising but so slowly it's driving you u. Clean Ep 41 — Healing After Relationships. Oftentimes it's so easy to say, "It was their fault. Explore the different components of what creates the reality that we all experience and how to experience a reality that is in alignment from a place of love rather than a place of fear.

    Understand the power of transparency and a deep vulnerability in. Sometimes disputes can't be resolved. Some things can't be unsaid and actions can't be taken back. Sometimes, the best thing you can do with a relationship is walk away from it. But that can be hard. It can be painful. With the advent of mobile dating putting thousands of choices into everybody's hands, cheating is more prevalent than ever.

    But why do we cheat? Are you sick and tired of being afraid all the time, and looking to erase anxiety once and for all? Are you ready to access your true potential?


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