Interesting Articles

Philosophy’s Great Experiment (Prospect, March 2009) – A dynamic new school of thought is emerging that wants to kick down the walls of recent philosophy and place experimentation back at its centre. It has a name to delight an advertising executive: x-phi. [(Experimental Philosophy)]

Pakistan’s Sufis Preach Faith and Ecstasy (Smithsonian magazine, December 2008) – Sufism is not a sect, like Shiism or Sunnism, but rather the mystical side of Islam—a personal, experiential approach to Allah, which contrasts with the prescriptive, doctrinal approach of fundamentalists like the Taliban.

Is time an illusion? (New Scientist, 19 January 2008) – Physicists have long struggled to understand what time really is. In fact, they are not even sure it exists at all. In their quest for deeper theories of the universe, some researchers increasingly suspect that time is not a fundamental feature of nature, but rather an artefact of our perception. One group has recently found a way to do quantum physics without invoking time, which could help pave a path to a time-free ‘theory of everything.’ If correct, the approach suggests that time really is an illusion, and that we may need to rethink how the universe at large works. ‘It is not reality that has a time flow, it is our very approximate knowledge of reality that has a time flow. Time is the effect of our ignorance.’

Dial H for Happiness: How Neuroengineering May Change Your Brain (Wired.com, March 3, 2009) – Schneider has agreed to give me TMS. Specifically, he will use it on a part of my brain that controls movement: the motor cortex. He ushers me into an overly large black leather chair. Except for the large, two-lobed paddle hanging from the back, which is connected to an impressive power supply, the chair resembles something a therapist might use. A few inches over my ear is the part of my brain that controls my hand and arm. Schneider holds the coil there and activates it. The muscles in my scalp contract automatically, and it stings. My hand is jumping with each loud snap from the TMS machine.

13 Unsolved scientific puzzles (Times Online, February 27, 2009) – Author Michael Brooks has investigated some of the most puzzling anomalies of modern science, those intractable problems that refuse to conform to the theories. Here he counts down the 13 strangest.

Doubting Darwin: Debate Over The Mind’s Evolution (All Things Considered, February 20, 2009) – [S]ome Darwin skeptics are focusing on the human brain. They say a higher power must be involved; otherwise, how could a bunch of cells produce such complicated mental processes as consciousness or subjective experiences? How could something like free will be the result of evolution?

Are Our Brains Becoming ‘Googlized?” (Search Engine Land, Nov 14, 2008) – ’emerging computerized technologies may have physiological effects and potential benefits for middle aged and older adults,’ and that ‘internet searching engages complicated brain activity, which may help exercise and improve brain function.’ This is a long way of saying that being online helps keep those little gray cells busy. The level of brain activity was compared to that of reading a book. With internet usage, a significantly bigger piece of neural real estate lit up on the fMRI indicating that more parts of the brain were engaged.

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