A perfect explanation of what science is…and isn’t

From an interview with David Eagleman that perfectly describes the scientific process and how it is most often fictionalized:

Essentially, this is the heart of science. We always come up with hypotheses and we bring evidence in to weigh for or against those hypotheses. And in science, of course, we never even talk about truth or proofs. We talk about where the weight of evidence suggests at the moment, you know, what we think is the best narrative at the moment. And so, you know, there’s this illusion that all of us learn in high school where we look in textbooks and science seems to proceed in a linear lockstep manner where so-and-so discovers this and then the next person and so on. But science never proceeds that way. Every major advance in science has been a creative leap where someone says, well, gosh, what this really strange story were true? And then what you do is you make a lot of these leaps and you look back to see if you can build a bridge back to what we already know in science. And when you can that’s progress. And when you can’t that’s an interesting hypothesis that you just file away and you keep.

 

The rest of the interview is fascinating as well, discussing topics ranging from how our memory works during a crisis (time doesn’t really slow down) to how keeping secrets increases stress hormones in your body.

 

His book, Incognito: The Secret Lives Of The Brain.

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Jason Bourne didn’t really have amnesia – it was more of a writer’s trick

It turns out Jason Bourne didn’t really have amnesia. That would require a hit on the head or something similar. He would then lose all of his past memories and kind up wake up clueless, maybe even unable to make new memories.

No, Jason Bourne had selective amnesia where he was able to forget all the bad things in his life, but remember how to speak several languages, fight 16 bad guys at once, and generally act like a superhero. This is called ‘dissociative amnesia’ which usually occurs after a traumatic event.

So, it is a form of amnesia just not one that requires you to be bonked on the head. It’s sort of the brains way of dealing with something to hard to handle. You forget that incident but remember pretty much everything else and function normally.

It is the perfect writer’s device. Start your character with nothing but an awesome set of skills and bad guys to foil…fill in the personality later.

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More on this from an engaging post on neuroscience, The Weird History of Amnesia:

The major fascination with amnesia is that it’s so specific. When an amnesiac wakes in a hospital, they may not know who they are or where they are, but they do know that they are in a hospital. They know what hospitals are and what they look like. They retain the ability to talk, to count, to recognize certain aspects of the world they live in, while blanking out personal memories entirely.

 

 

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Science Experiment: How fast can you react?

I love this piece from Scientific American, written in the format of a teaching lesson, instructing you how to perform a science experiment: How Fast Can You React?

Key concepts:
Reaction time
Neuroscience
Gravity

Introduction
Think fast! Have you ever noticed that when someone unexpectedly tosses a softball at you, you need a little time before you can move to catch it (or duck)? That’s because when your eyes see an incoming signal such as a softball, your brain needs to first process what’s happening—and thenyou can take action. In this activity, you can measure just how long it takes for you to react, and compare reaction times with your friends and family.

Materials
·    Ruler (inches or metric)
·    Paper
·    Pencil
·    Chart (below)

 

Keep readingHow Fast Can You React?

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