In this show Stevie interviewed Cameron Ellis, cognitive neuroscience researcher at Princeton University. In the first part of the discussion Cameron explained the different theories of what is/isn’t conscious. Are animals conscious? Light switches? The Internet? How do we know that anything is conscious outside of our own selves?
In part 2, they discussed sensory substitution – this is new, fascinating research showing that we can use our current senses to detect new information, like magnetic fields, and our brain will integrate this in to its neural pathways. This research is extremely promising, and seems likely to be of great importance towards goals of, say, helping a blind person “see.”
In the last section, Cameron answers some great listener questions and delves in to the topic of uploading our consciousness in to computers. Is it still us?
This is the third time Cameron has visited These Vibes. The first and second interviews took place last year, and were all about the scientific and philosophical study, as well as history, of consciousness. These shows are not necessary as pre-requisites to the today’s show, but they are excellent additions. Highly recommend.
Featured image is from Eyewire the connectome project run by Sebastian Seung at Princeton University.
Image in the Mixcloud embed above is from the Human Connectome Project at the University of Southern California.
This show is a little different. The plan was to have author and professor Patrick Phillips on for the first hour, alas there had to be a rescheduling at the last minute. Instead we will be interviewing Patrick Phillips on his book Blood at the Root at the end of next month (January 2017), so stay tuned.
Hour 1: Lots of music and some science news, including self-driving cars. Hour 2:Thomas Macrina on machine learning, neuroscience, and mapping our brain – our connectome. Hour 3: Kasey Wagoner, lecturer in physics at Princeton, on the bedrock scientific principle called the Equivalence Principle. In this discussion, Kasey tells us about the history, the principle’s importance, and current tests.
In this installment of These Vibes, graduate researcher in cognitive neuroscience at Princeton University, Cameron Ellis, joined us in the studio to discuss his work on mental
processing as well as consciousness. In this three part interview Cameron details his research where he images the brains of infants, and what we can learn from it. Additionally, we pick apart what “consciousness” means, from both a scientific and philosophical point of view. We discuss the varying degrees of consciousness and how this relates to the consciousness of animals, like very intelligent animals such as ravens. And we discuss how this conversation can get sticky, particularly if one begins to equate intelligence with consciousness.
Further, Cameron mentions that consciousness wasn’t really studied scientifically until the 1990s, but since then there have been important milestones. For example, doctors are now better at determining the level of consciousness of an individual with “locked-in syndrome,” when someone is aware but cannot communicate verbally due to almost complete paralysis, and they can now make the patient’s time richer even in the face of the debilitating illness.
Then, past guest and doctoral candidate in science history, Ingrid Ockert returned to the studio to review the book Making “Nature”: The History of a Scientific Journal by Melinda Baldwin. She summarizes the book which focuses on the – you guessed it – history of the famous scientific journal Nature – how it began in the late 1800s as a popular science magazine and then developed in to a rigorous peer-reviewed journal. Many topics are explored in the book such as the fractured nature of science research in the 19th century due to, among other things, language barriers, and how pay walls limit peoples access to science and who can do science. We discuss this further and mention Neil Turok’s TED talk on the subject of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), due to his detailing of the skewed nature of scientific research today away from, for example, African countries. Take a look:
Later, we bring this issue to today and discussed how scientific journals contain papers with research primarily funded by taxpayers’ money, yet are behind a paywall. This was discussed towards the end of a prior interview with immunologist Gloria Tavera, last semester.
At the end of Ingrid’s review, she leaves us with some interesting open questions and a few interesting companion books for further reading: