Live at the Bell House: “The Space Between Your Ears” (Part 1)

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About This Episode

Are the mind and the brain the same? Can we theoretically download our memories and perceptions onto a computer to live forever? Or is there more to the story of consciousness? For our third StarTalk Live! show at the Bell House in Brooklyn, New York, recorded on February 17, 2012, we peer into the vast and mysterious cosmos of consciousness. Neuroscientist Heather Berlin, science communicator Cara Santa Maria, comedian Wyatt Cenac, and co-host Eugene Mirman join host Neil deGrasse Tyson to speculate on head-scratchers such as what makes us human, whether we have free will, and how this tiny ball of meat we call the human brain can contemplate the unbounded expanse of the universe. Neil has many questions, starting off with, “What is considered ‘normal’ in terms of mental disorders?” For instance, when animals do strange things every day we consider them cute, but if humans did them they’d definitely be committed. Join us as we ponder the definition of abnormality, along with the idea that religion just may be a mass delusion, but so many people are deluded by it that it doesn’t qualify as a mental disorder. Gain some insight on extreme emotions, like love, hate, rage, and Bieber Fever, and learn about some intense treatments for depression. Is it possible to make someone smarter, or even change their political opinion? Can you make someone love you? This opens a whole new can of worms on what intelligence actually is — as Cara says, “we have to understand it before we can try to manipulate it.” You’ll hear about a measure of intelligence called the “g-factor,” or as Neil calls it, the “g-spot for the brain.” Interested in hearing Neil contemplate the neurological basis of consciousness? You’ve come to the right place. Neil asks questions such as: “Why are you, you? Why am I, me?” (Of course, Eugene just wants to know if Neil is high.) Speaking of high, the panel dives into the impact of drugs on the brain. You may be surprised to discover some intriguing facts about LSD, dreaming, hypnosis, and the suppression of hallucinations in which our natural mind is constantly involved. We’ll also dissect the neuro-scientific accuracy of Saw and Hannibal, and the mindblowing fact that your brain actually can’t feel pain (so eating your own brain may not hurt so bad after all!) Enjoy the debate on stage when Neil and Cara disagree about how well humans understand our universe. They also disagree on whether aliens could be more evolved humans who are either coming back to understand us… or not coming back and ignoring us all together. Finally, we contemplate the consciousness of computers in the future, artificial intelligence, and whether computers are really smarter than us. One podcast just isn’t enough to allow us to understand it all, so join us for part 2 of The Space Between Your Ears to engage in some more mind-boggling discussion of the brain.

NOTE: All-Access subscribers can listen to this entire episode commercial-free here: Live at the Bell House: “The Space Between Your Ears” (Part 1).

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