Mr. Eccles Presents | Mindscape: David Chalmers on Consciousness, Etc.

Blog post with show notes, audio player, and transcript:…


The “Easy Problems” of consciousness have to do with how the brain takes in information, thinks about it, and turns it into action. The “Hard Problem,” on the other hand, is the task of explaining our individual, subjective, first-person experiences of the world. What is it like to be me, rather than someone else? Everyone agrees that the Easy Problems are hard; some people think the Hard Problem is almost impossible, while others think it’s pretty easy.

Today’s guest, David Chalmers, is arguably the leading philosopher of consciousness working today, and the one who coined the phrase “the Hard Problem,” as well as proposing the philosophical zombie thought experiment. Recently he has been taking seriously the notion of panpsychism.

We talk about these knotty issues (about which we deeply disagree), but also spend some time on the possibility that we live in a computer simulation. Would simulated lives be “real”? (There we agree — yes they would.)

David Chalmers got his Ph.D. from Indiana University working under Douglas Hoftstadter.

He is currently University Professor of Philosophy and Neural Science at New York University and co-director of the Center for Mind, Brain, and Consciousness.

He is a fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities, the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Among his books are The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory, The Character of Consciousness, and Constructing the World.

He and David Bourget founded the PhilPapers project.

Mr. Eccles Presents | Thought, Language, and How to Understand the Brain

Blog post with show notes:…


Language comes naturally to us, but is also deeply mysterious. On the one hand, it manifests as a collection of sounds or marks on paper. On the other hand, it also conveys meaning – words and sentences refer to states of affairs in the outside world, or to much more abstract concepts. How do words and meaning come together in the brain?

David Poeppel is a leading neuroscientist who works in many areas, with a focus on the relationship between language and thought. We talk about cutting-edge ideas in the science and philosophy of language, and how researchers have just recently climbed out from under a nineteenth-century paradigm for understanding how all this works.

David Poeppel is a Professor of Psychology and Neural Science at NYU, as well as the Director of the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics in Frankfurt, Germany. He received his Ph.D. in cognitive science from MIT. He is a Fellow of the American Association of Arts and Sciences, and was awarded the DaimlerChrysler Berlin Prize in 2004. He is the author, with Greg Hickok, of the dual-stream model of language processing.

TED – Neil Burgess: How your brain tells you where you are

Burgess offers a look at the neural mechanisms that map space in our brains, and how these relate to our memories…and our very imaginations.

TED – Daniel Wolpert: Why We Have Brains

What is the true purpose(s) of the brain? — Perception? Thinking? Speaking? — Dr. Wolpert argues that these are hardly the case, that in fact the main evolutionary purpose of the brain to control and produce complex adaptive movements, all the ways we interact with the world and control it through the actions our brains generate, using the processing of information from our perception and prior knowledge to select and undertake physical actions, even speech and looking about by moving our eyeballs, to gather more data from and affect the reality around us.

He makes a sound case that the ultimate reason we have brains is to affect the world around us to aid survival, and in the most direct way through physical acts.

Ode to the Brain! by Symphony of Science

Uploaded by on Mar 23, 2011

mp3: “Ode to the Brain” is the ninth episode in the Symphony of Science music video series. Through the powerful words of scientists Carl Sagan, Robert Winston, Vilayanur Ramachandran, Jill Bolte Taylor, Bill Nye, and Oliver Sacks, it covers different aspects the brain including its evolution, neuron networks, folding, and more. The material sampled for this video comes from Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, Jill Bolte Taylor’s TED Talk, Vilayanur Ramachandran’s TED Talk, Bill Nye’s Brain episode, BBC’s “The Human Body”, Oliver Sachs‘ TED Talk, Discovery Channel’s “Human Body: Pushing the Limits”, and more.

Special thanks to everybody who’s donated to keep the project alive and to those who helped track down the material used in this video.

To download and watch more videos visit



[Robert Winston]
It’s amazing to consider that I’m holding in my hands
The place where someone once felt, thought, and loved
For centuries, scientists have been battling to understand
What this unappealing object is all about

[Vilayanur Ramachandran]
Here is this mass of jelly
You can hold in the palm of your hands
And it can contemplate the vastness of interstellar space

[Carl Sagan]
The brain has evolved from the inside out
It’s structure reflects all the stages through which it has passed

[Jill Bolte Taylor]
Information in the form of energy
Streams in simultaneously
Through all of our sensory systems

And then it explodes into this enormous collage
Of what this present moment looks like
What it feels like
And what it sounds like

And then it explodes into this enormous collage
And in this moment we are perfect
We are whole and we are beautiful

[Robert Winston]
It appears rather gruesome
Wrinkled like a walnut, and with the consistency of mushroom

[Carl Sagan]
What we know is encoded in cells called neurons
And there are something like a hundred trillion neural connections
This intricate and marvelous network of neurons has been called
An enchanted loom

The neurons store sounds too, and snatches of music
Whole orchestras play inside our heads

20 million volumes worth of information
Is inside the heads of every one of us
The brain is a very big place
In a very small space

No longer at the mercy of the reptile brain
We can change ourselves
Think of the possibilities

[Bill Nye]
Think of your brain as a newspaper
Think of all the information it can store
But it doesn’t take up too much room
Because it’s folded

[Oliver Sacks]
We see with the eyes
But we see with the brain as well
And seeing with the brain
Is often called imagination


[Robert Winston]
It is the most mysterious part of the human body
And yet it dominates the way we live our adult lives
It is the brain

The 10% of the Brain Myth

The idea that only a small portion of our brains, like say, 10%, is actually used, can be found throughout our culture, and the idea implies that most of it goes unused, allegedly about 90%.

It’s difficult to pin down the exactly whence this comes, with many possibilities to consider. It may be from misquotes of Einstein, perhaps even statements by William James, or any number of other well-known authoritative figures. As may be expected, alleged psychics sometimes claim that psi-abilities come from the remaining 90% and this maintains the general public’s continued belief in psi.

The idea’s been kept going over the years by advertisers, credulous journalists, self-help gurus, a lot of popular fiction.

In actual brain-scans using the most recent techniques, it’s obvious that ALL of the brain is in use, with to each region its own uses, like unconscious activity crucially needed just to maintain life, thought, perception, and memory among many other important functions.

Removing parts of the brain inevitably disables function. The entire thing has some use, with some regions less active than others at any given moment. The brain is a ravenous organ, taking about 20% of the body’s energy usage, tremendous resources for a single organ allegedly mostly unused.

If the other 90% weren’t used at some time, then it just wouldn’t grow. That’s because the brain grows according to how it’s used, and such a brain would be a mere 10% of what it really is. Bodily use maps upon the growth and plasticity of the brain.

Brain regions never used, like the visual cortex for those blind throughout life, never get the opportunity to grow. Even with the functioning of the eyes, such brains don’t have the processing power to let them use what the eyes ‘see.’

The brain is an absolutely amazing organ; it’s a three pound mass of jelly that lets us ponder the nature of the universe, contemplate meaning and infinity, and can even think about itself thinking. So it’s a myth that only about 10% – 12% is ever used, no matter how popular that myth may be.

Source: The Skeptics’ Guide 5×5 | The 10% of the Brain Myth

Keith Barry does brain magic

This is an awesome display of mentalism at its best, and not pretending to be anything paranormal, but just good psychology.