The Tell-Tale Brain By Vilayanur S. Ramachandran

Ramachandran a modern wizard of neuroscience who enlightens us in his new work The Tell-Tale Brain, we see his genius at work, dealing with many extraordinary cases, some of which mark turning points in neuroscientific knowledge. He hypothesizes, experiments, fails, experiences epiphanies, and succeeds as well. In this fantastic account, we see how these cases fit together, and how from a Darwinian point of view our brains, though evolved from those of other animals, become neurologically distinct and fundamentally human.

Neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran has certainly set a new standard with his newest book, The Tell-Tale Brain. He has reffered to some case histories that have been covered in his earlier books, Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind and A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness: From Impostor Poodles to Purple Numbers. Readers will be pleased to see that he has new things to say about his earlier findings and observations. Riding the wave of astonishing advances in Brain science over the past fifteen years, lending fresh perspectives on pretty much the entire shepards pie of earlier “hard” sciences. The age of neuroscience has truly dawned and who better Ramachandran to be our Neuro Vasco de Gama or Columbus?

Ramachandran’s modus operandi is to discover how the normal brain works by studying individuals with abnormal neurological conditions. One might find similarities to Oliver Sacks (The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales and The Mind’s Eye). Some of the ailments Ramachandran covers are: Agnosia (a-gnosis, or loss of knowledge), Anosognosia (being unaware of the existence of his or her disability), Autism (impacting development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills), Capgras Syndrome (delusions that a friend, spouse, parent, or other close family member has been replaced by an identical-looking impostor – Qui estis?), Cotard Syndrome (belief that they are dead-either figuratively or literally), and Synesthesia (stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway), and many other merry conditions.

If you have barely been keep up so far donot be alarmed, Ramachandran does not go on and on rolling out one bizarre disorder after another. He approaches the subject matter from a variety of angles – anatomically, evolutionarily, psychologically, and philosophically without groping at straws, Ramachandran commands a deep knowledge of all these topics in regards to mind, brain, and consciousness. Ramachandran presents all of this in without leaving your head spinning.

In his own words “I presume some degree of interest in science and curiosity about human nature, but I do not presume any sort of formal scientific background or even familiarity with my previous works. I hope this book proves instructive and inspiring to students of all levels and backgrounds, to colleagues in other disciplines, and to lay readers with no personal or professional stake in these topics.”

Strongly recommended reading this book for minds curious about the Brain in all its awesomeness. The writing is entertaining and anything but dry. Major issues in contemporary Mind,Brain,Consciousness literature are covered.

The Tell-Tale Brain By Vilayanur S. Ramachandran (Author),

The Tell-Tale Brain By Vilayanur S. Ramachandran (Author),

The Tell-Tale Brain By Vilayanur S. Ramachandran (Author),

The Tell-Tale Brain By Vilayanur S. Ramachandran (Author),

The Tell-Tale Brain By Vilayanur S. Ramachandran (Author),

The Tell-Tale Brain By Vilayanur S. Ramachandran (Author),

The Tell-Tale Brain By Vilayanur S. Ramachandran (Author),

The Tell-Tale Brain By Vilayanur S. Ramachandran (Author),

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What are you optimistic about? (Todays leading thinkers lighten up) Edited by John Brockman

The outcome of a 2007 EDGE question, put by the editor to prominent scientists all over the world:

“As an activity, as a state of mind, science is fundamentally optimistic. Science figures out how things work and thus can make them work better. Much of the news is either good news or news that can be made good, thanks to ever deepening knowledge and ever more efficient and powerful tools and techniques. Science, on its frontiers, poses more and ever better questions, ever better put. What are you optimistic about? Why? Surprise us!”

There are 153 essays. most with only a half-page to four pages each, not greatly detailed. Certain themes stand out from many contributors:

1. Organized violence is hitting an all time low. One may not believe it by listening/watching the brinwashing happening in the press and on the sensationalized network news channels, but the statistics are clear. In the future, live internet access to anywhere on earth by GPS will cause exploiters of all cloths to have to resort to the Grouch Marx line “Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes.”

2. We’re on the threshold of an era of unbelievable abundance. We will be able to make a self-replicating machine that will absorb energy through solar cells and be working for humanity by the millions. We will figure out ways to harness solar energy more efficiently and not need to use carbon/nuclear energy sources that pollute the environment.

3. Research in physics has been dominated by string theory in recent years which so far is untestable. New technologies will produce astounding insights very soon. The LHC (Large Hadron Collider) will advance the Standard Model and will find the Higgs boson or perhaps something unexpected. The new LIGO detectors may find gravitational waves. Arrays of wide-field telescopes on earth are being programmed to rapidly scan the universe. PLANCK is Europe’s first space mission to study the relic radiation from the Big Bang, cosmic microwave background radiation. The AUGER array in Argentina will collect and quantify this same radiation. The GLAST satellite placed in orbit in May, 2008 to study the extreme universe without having to deal with earth’s atmosphere. All these projects involve multiple nations and are guaranteed to provide astronomers and physicists with a new plethora of evidence to glean over for years.

4. On the many mentions of religion, a few of which are sympathetic, all of them seeing a decrease in the conflict between science and religion: “The number of people who realize how much of religious belief is non-sensical will continue to grow…I expect to live to see the evaporation of the powerful mystique of religion…a final scientific enlightenment will deal an overdue deathblow to religion and other juvenile superstitions…we will learn to shed the unessential dogmas, rules, definitions, and prejudices that religions have built up over the centuries and millennia…people will begin to see science as a vehicle for mutual understanding and for respecting life. Science will teach people these lessons, instead of simply trying to rob them of their faith and offering nothing in return.”

5. Climate change and its solutions draw much attention. The consensus is that technology exists now to reverse the trend with fairly simple engineering techniques. Unfortunately, getting the politicians to steer the world in the correct direction will be like herding cats. At the same time, the political winds are blowing the right way thanks to tragedies like the BP Oil spill and the onset of the current economic crisis, people are beginning to see the benefit of more efficient systems and once we pass a tipping point, we will solve the problem. Solar power capturing technologies of the future will eventually do away with the need for polluting fuels.

Every reader will undoubtedly find some articles that might seem too optimistic, too unrealistic, too uninteresting, or just wrong. However, most provide good food for thought and every third or fourth one provides a nice “aha!”. The book covers such a wide plethora of topics, I have barely touched the surface in this review. Most anyone should find parts of it fascinating and this book is especially meant for cynics who are in need of a realistic dose of optimism from minds that will shape a better cleaner more thinking future.

Large Hadron Collider (LHC)

Large Hadron Collider (LHC)

Beautiful clean energy Solar Array Nellis

Higgs Boson

Satellite

Richard Dawkins – The Greatest Show on Earth.

Dawkins lays out evidence that evolution is true. Science is full of tested assumptions, and just as physicists must assume the truth of gravity before moving on to quantum mechanics, so do biologists depend on the reality of evolution. Dawkins states that a large proportion of the public in the west do not share his enthusiasm for evolution, since it seemed to contradict the Bible and diminish the role of God. So this is his take for history-deniers. He repeatedly compares creationists and Holocaust deniers, which is a peculiar way of reaching out to the other side. Elsewhere, Dawkins calls those who don’t subscribe to evolution ignorant, fatuously ignorant and ridiculous. Is Dawkins preaching to the choir or trying to convert the uninformed? While The Greatest Show on Earth might fail as a work of persuasive rhetoric— It succeeds as an encyclopedic summary of evolutionary biology. If Charles Darwin walked into a 21st-century bookstore and wanted to know how his theory had fared, this is the book he should pick up. Dawkins remains a superb translator of complex scientific concepts. Dawkins has a way of making the drollest details feel like a revelation. Even if one already believes in the survival of the fittest, there is something thrilling about learning that the hoof of a horse is homologous to the fingernail of the human middle finger, or that some dinosaurs had a second brain of ganglion cells in their pelvis, which helped compensate for the tiny brain in their head. As Darwin famously noted, There is grandeur in this view of life. Dawkins demonstrates is that this view of life isn’t just grand: it’s also undeniably true.

The Greatest Show on Earth - Richard Dawkins

The God Delusion – Richard Dawkins

A bestselling from the chair for public understanding od science at the University of Oxford.

The primary focus of the book is that a supernatural creator does not exist and a persistent belief in the same is a delusion. Dawkins makes a strong case that Athiests can be happy, balanced, moral, and intellectually fulfilled individuals with healthy individual minds, natural selection and evolution are superior to the “God hypothesis”. Children should not be labeled as per their parents beliefs.

Dawkins puts theological doctrines to the same kind of scrutiny that any scientific theory must withstand.

The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins