IdeaFestival

Will Shortz on the"Grab-bag Brain" - IdeaFestival Conversation

New York Times crossword editor, puzzle master for npr's Weekend Edition Sunday and enigmatologist, Will Shortz, on the "grab bag brain". Filmed in Louisville, Kentucky at the ideafestival, September, 2008.
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One minute video explanation of "dark energy"

A one minute video explaining the concept behind the Nobel-winning physics discovery that the universe is rushing away from us at an accelerating pace? Take it away Sean Carroll.

Sean is a CalTech theoretical physicist. He appeared at the 2010 IdeaFestival, and recorded this video on the arrow of time that you may enjoy.

Wayne

Wikipedia: dark energy

Thank You!

Thank you for making IdeaFestival 2011 so wonderful! We couldn't do it without you, our fans and sponsors, who for four days make the IdeaFestival the most creative and inspiring place to be in the world.

Wayne

Image: Geoff Oliver Bugbee

Sam Van Aken's Tree of Life

Sam Van Aken, an art professor at Syracuse University who grew up on a Pennsylvania farm, will speak on creativity and disruptive thinking at the IdeaFestival.

He was recently profiled on CBS' This Morning program.

His "Tree of Life" project grows 40 varieties of old stone fruits on a single tree using a process known as grafting, a technique used by orchardists to bud sports of desirable fruits and nuts onto a compatible root stock. The root stock supplies energy for growth. The grafted limb bears the desired fruit.

His project, I have to say, has a special poignancy in this summer of violence and conflict. It instantly brought to mind the soundtrack from the film Tree of Life, particularly the haunted and operatic beauty of Lacrimosa. If you get a chance today, listen to it, and then go read Walt Whitman's O Me! O Life! and be reminded that life is good and precious.

I hope to see you at the IdeaFestival! Please be aware that prices for a festival pass will increase on Sept. 2, so if you're planning to attend now is the time to reserve your spot.

Stay curious.

Wayne

You Really CAN Hear Yourself Think

What do you know? You can hear yourself think.

Appearing in the current Nautilus issue on "nothingness," author Daniel Gross writes about the missing modern commodity of silence, and about how neuroscience can map the brain quietly at work during periods of silence, the corrosive effect that consistently high decibel levels have on our states of mind and Finnish efforts to market the quiescence of its legendary Birch expanse.

In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran and colleagues wrote the brain’s default mode network 'is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.' During this time when the brain rests quietly,' wrote Moran and colleagues, 'our brains integrate external and internal information into 'a conscious workspace.'

Freedom from noise and goal-directed tasks, it appears, unites the quiet without and within, allowing our conscious workspace to do its thing, to weave ourselves into the world, to discover where we fit in. That’s the power of silence.

It's a good reminder that we are not mere ordinators for whom more information is always good, but biologies that are always "weaving ourselves into the world," consciously or not. And despite the overwhelming visual nature of contemporary society, throughout history sound has guided creatures through life. Today, the decibel count, even in our own homes, has been raised to levels that would have been alarming just a few decades ago. This is quickly evident in the aftermath of ice storms and power outages, which produce a gulping silence that can be unnerving if you've ever experienced it. Still, it's no coincidence that faith-based traditions call on their adherents to practice quiet, that the benefits of meditation are now widely praised for giving us access to an ever-elusive inner world and quiet is a universal and ritualistic part of public commemorations. I liked how Gross says it "unites the quiet without and within," and elsewhere in his piece describes how silence can produce "thoughts and feelings that aren't audible... in daily life."

Read This is Your Brain on Silence for yourself. I hope to see you at IdeaFestival 2014!

Stay curious.

Wayne

Image: Geoff Oliver Bugbee

 


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