About Inquiring Minds
Each week we bring you a new, in-depth exploration of the space where science and society collide. We’re committed to the idea that making an effort to understand the world around you though science and critical thinking can benefit everyone—and lead to better decisions. We want to find out what’s true, what’s left to discover, and why it all matters.
This week we talk to pioneering art & science researcher Susan Magsamen along with vice president of design for hardware products at Google, Ivy Ross, about their new book Your Brain on Art: How the Arts Transform Us. While sometimes considered opposites, art and science are unequivocally linked in ways we’re still figuring out. Not only does our way of thinking and living impact our art, but art also has an impact on how we think and live.
This week, with guest co-host Majel Connery, we talk to author and researcher Karen Bakker about her new book The Sounds of Life: How Digital Technology Is Bringing Us Closer to the Worlds of Animals and Plants. The book explores incredible stories of nonhuman sound along with the often overlooked impact human sound has on the natural world. Plus, things like: What do plants hear? How likely is interspecies communication? Will we one day be able to talk to dolphins? More info on Majel Connery, our guest host this week, can be found on her website.
This week we talk to neuroscientist and author Patrick House about his new book Nineteen Ways of Looking at Consciousness. The book explores the complexity of consciousness and how it’s possible that it has thus far eluded explanation. To do so he examines one single study about consciousness nineteen different ways. It’s unorthodox, accessible, and remarkable.
This week we talk to cognitive neuroscientist and multi-platinum record producer Susan Rogers about her new book This Is What It Sounds Like: What the Music You Love Says About You. In this episode: The science behind how we perceive and process music and how it can affect our emotions and sense of self How our brains develop the ability to process sound and how formal music training can help us become "auditory athletes," or people who can analyze sound on a deeper level The concept of the "default mode network," a group of brain structures that are active when we are “in our own heads,” and how our favorite records can light up this network and create a private, emotional connection with us. Rogers talks about her time as Prince’s full-time recording engineer during which she worked on albums like Purple Rain. (!)
This week we talk to behavioral scientist Michael Slepian about secrets: keeping them, telling them, and the powerful ways in which they influence our lives. His new book is The Secret Life of Secrets: How Our Inner Worlds Shape Well-Being, Relationships, and Who We Are.
The show this week features an interview with science writer Maria Konnikova about her book The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It . . . Every Time. We recorded this interview back when the book first came in out in 2016, but it is, perhaps depressingly, still as relevant as ever. While it hasn’t always involved pillow salesmen and crypto billionaires, there have always been people trying to con you. So there’s no better time than right now to brush up on all the ways people get conned, the psychology of why it works, and what you can do to avoid it.
This week we welcome back theoretical physicist and philosopher Sean Carroll to talk about how his most recent book, The Biggest Ideas in the Universe: Space, Time, and Motion, attempts to bridge the gap between how scientists talk about physics and how they usually go about explaining it to non-scientists. The goal is to help you understand what physicists are talking about—equations and all—without needing to know much more than some algebra.
This week: new research into using nanoparticles and programmable magnets to clean your teeth; a potentially breakthrough study on a drug for Alzheimer's disease featuring the first positive trial ever for a disease of aging; recapping NASA’s recent Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission; and a look into how much control you actually have over what Youtube decides to show you.
This week we talk to theoretical physicist and cosmologist Antonio Padilla about his new book Fantastic Numbers and Where to Find Them: A Cosmic Quest from Zero to Infinity. It’s a book about nine unusual numbers that, once understood, can help you grasp how the universe actually works—from black holes, to gravity, to the passing of time itself.
This week we talk to Alexandra Horowitz from the Dog Cognition Lab at Barnard College about her new book The Year of the Puppy: How Dogs Become Themselves. Horowitz’s book examines how a dog’s brain works and develops—how it dramatically changes during their first 12 months of life, her shifting perspective on dog cognition, and the vast differences between humans and dogs that we tend to overlook. Support the show: https://www.patreon.com/inquiringminds
This week we talk to cognitive neuroscientist Chantel Prat about her new book The Neuroscience of You: How Every Brain is Different and How to Understand Yours. The book is the result of Prat’s decades of work on the biological basis of individual differences in cognition—what makes you you. Support the show: https://www.patreon.com/inquiringminds
This week we talk to philosopher and animal ethicist David Peña-Guzmán about his new book When Animals Dream: The Hidden World of Animal Consciousness. David explores the idea that there really is a subjective world—a dream world—that lights up when animals sleep, what that actually looks like, and its moral implications. Support the show: https://www.patreon.com/inquiringminds
This week we’re joined by podcaster, journalist, and author David McRaney to discuss his latest book How Minds Change: The Surprising Science of Belief, Opinion, and Persuasion. It’s a deep look at what we know about what it takes to change someone’s mind and why it’s more complicated than you might think. Support the show: https://www.patreon.com/inquiringminds
This week we welcome back James Beard award winning food science writer J. Kenji López-Alt. He talks about growing up around science, studying architecture at MIT, and how, strangely enough, both subjects pertain to cooking. Kenji is the author of the bestselling The Food Lab and the recently released The Wok: Recipes and Techniques. Support the show: https://www.patreon.com/inquiringminds
You might not be aware of it, but the UK is experiencing a wildlife crisis. Ecologist Derek Gow joins us this week to talk about what we ought to do about it and how he’s trying to rewild the country with his farm-turned-wildlife breeding center. Gow wrote the bestselling Bringing Back the Beaver and will soon release his latest book Birds, Beasts and Bedlam: Turning My Farm into an Ark for Lost Species. Support the show: https://www.patreon.com/inquiringminds
On the show this week we’re joined by naturalist, author, and returning guest Sy Montgomery. Throughout her career, Montgomery has repeatedly shown an incredible ability to understand, befriend, and interact with animals. We last heard from her in episode #128 where she talked about her 2016 book The Soul of an Octopus, but she’s written about everything from tigers to snakes to hummingbirds. In this episode we explore her latest book, where she covers her perhaps most challenging animal yet, The Hawk’s Way: Encounters with Fierce Beauty. Support the show: https://www.patreon.com/inquiringminds
On the show this week we’re joined by Brian Butterworth, emeritus professor of cognitive neuropsychology and author of the new book Can Fish Count? What Animals Reveal About Our Uniquely Mathematical Minds. He’s spent his career looking at the genetics and neuroscience of mathematical ability—and not just in humans. Support the show: https://www.patreon.com/inquiringminds
How do you feel fear and be creative anyway? How is letting your mind wander key to coming up with, and following through on, creative ideas? Returning to the show this week is journalist Matt Richtel, winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for a series on distracted driving, and author of numerous books. His latest book, Inspired: Understanding Creativity: A Journey Through Art, Science, and the Soul, is devoted to a deeper understanding of creativity and he joins us this week to talk about it. Support the show: https://www.patreon.com/inquiringminds
How do you define how painful something is? On the show this week we welcome back physician, writer, and clinical researcher Haider Warraich to talk about his new book The Song of Our Scars: The Untold Story of Pain. Warraich explores the idea that far from being something objective and easily defined, pain is complex, misunderstood, and culturally influenced. The book delves into the history of pain and explains how our understanding of it has been “shaped not just by science but by politics and power, by whose suffering mattered and whose didn’t.” Support the show: https://www.patreon.com/inquiringminds
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