"Go Wild" with Dr. John Ratey (podcast)

Episode 55 of Books and Ideas is an interview with Dr. John Ratey, co-author of Go Wild: Free Your Body and Mind from the Afflictions of Civilization. Dr. Ratey has also been featured several times on the Brain Science Podcast. He is an expert on the brain benefits of exercise.

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Exploring Alabama with Roger Reid (BI 46)

Roger ReidRoger Reid has a job that every kid and most adults would find fascinating. He works for the Alabama Museum of Natural History and travels all over Alabama as a writer and producer for the Emmy Award winning TV show, Discovering Alabama with Dr. Doug Phillips . He also shares his passion for natural history in a series of novels written for middle school age readers. I decided to interview him for Books and Ideas because I wanted to share these novels with my listeners. They combine mystery and science in an original way, but they also contain compelling characters that readers will care about.

Episode 46 of Books and Ideas is an unusual episode because we don't just talk about Reid's novels. We also explore some of the little known treasures of Alabama's natural history. I guarantee surprises, even for those of you who call Alabama home. But I also hope that listeners around the world will gain a new appreciation for the natural resources of Alabama.

listen-to-audio-20 Listen to Episode 46 of Books and Ideas

Episode Transcript (Download PDF)

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Books by Roger Reid:

  • Longleaf (2006): set in the Conecuh National Forest
  • Space (2008): set at the Swanson Observatory on Monte Sano in Huntsville, Alabama.
  • Time (2011): set at the Stephen C Menkin Paleozoic Footprint Site, near Jasper, Alabama

References and Links:

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Philosophy of Science with Massimo Pigliucci (podcast 37)

Ginger and Massimo Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk by scientist-turned-philosopher, Massimo Pigliucci is an excellent discussion of the challenges faced by the average non-scientist in today's information-rich world. After explaining what distinguishes science from pseudoscience (a major source of "bunk"), his book gives practical advice about trusting experts. (hint: having a PhD doesn't make one an expert!) Pigliucci also discussed these themes during a talk he gave last month at The Amazing Meeting 8, which was held in Las Vegas, NV. That's where I recorded the interview that I am posting today as Books and Ideas Episode 37. The focus of the interview is the role of philosophy of science in today's complex world.

Listen to Episode 37 of Books and Ideas

Episode Transcript (Download PDF)

Episode 37 Show Notes:

Further Reading: Announcements:
  • The next episode of Books and Ideas will be recorded LIVE at 8:30 PM (Eastern Time) Sunday September 5 at Dragon*Con in Atlanta, Georgia. I will be interviewing novelists Skyler White and Christiana Ellis.
  • I am also scheduled to interview Dr. Scott Lilenfield co-author of 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions about Human Behavior. This interview will be posted in the Brain Science Podcast feed in late September.
  • For updates please subscribe to Ginger Campbell's newsletter.
  • You can now stream or download episodes and transcripts of this podcast directly to your iPhone®, Touch® or iPad® using the Books and Ideas application.
  • Please share Books and Ideas with your friends and don't forget to leave reviews in the iTunes® Store.

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Jaak Panksepp Explores Animal Emotions (BSP 65)

Episode 65 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with Jaak Panksepp, PhD, author of Affective Neuroscience: The Foundations of Human and Animal Emotions. Dr. Panksepp has done pioneering work on the neural origins of emotions. In this interview we discuss how his work challenges some of the common assumptions about emotions and some of the important implications of his discoveries. New listeners may want to go back and listen to Episode 11 for an introduction to the neuroscience of emotion. listen-to-audio Listen to Episode 65
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Our "Big Brain" with Dr. Gary Lynch (BSP 48)

Episode 48 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with Gary Lynch, PhD, co-author of Big Brain: The Origins and Future of Human Intelligence. While it is generally agreed that one of the most striking features of the human brain is its large size, not everyone agrees about how and why our brains came to be so large. In this interview Dr. Lynch presents some rather radical theories about how the human brain evolved. We discuss the pros and cons of his theories as well as the challenges faced by researchers trying to work in this field.

Listen to Episode 48

Visit the Brain Science Podcast website for detailed Show Notes and Links.

The next episode of the Brain Science Podcast will be an interview with Dr. Brenda Milner. This interview will is a follow-up to Marc Pelletier's excellent interview of Dr. Milner on Futures in Biotech: http://www.twit.tv/fib33.

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Dr. Eugenie Scott on Teaching Evolution (B&I 21)

Eugenie Scott, the Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, was interviewed in Episode 21 of Books and Ideas. The focus of our conversation was the importance of teaching evolution in the public schools. Dr. Scott and the NCSE have worked for over 20 years to promote the teaching of evolution because it is an essential component of a modern education in the life sciences. Unfortunately, nearly 150 years after Darwin's On the Origin of Species (1859) many Americans still reject this fundamental idea and much of Scott's work is focused on trying to keep creationism and so-called Intelligent Design out of school curriculum. Recently the NCSE launched a very valuable site called Expelled Exposed, which focuses on exposing the many inaccuracies presented in Ben Stein's recent pro-intelligent design "documentary" Expelled. One of the things that has come out in numerous interviews is that the producers of the film mislead all the pro-evolution guests that appear in the film. We discuss this briefly near the end of the interview, but it was not the focus of our discussion. (see below for more links regarding Expelled) Since Dr. Scott has been interviewed about Expelled and Expelled Exposed on several other podcasts, I wanted to focus our interview more on the importance of accurate science education. Also, we discussed the fact that despite the claims of right-wing fundamentalists there are many Christians and people of other faiths who accept the theory of evolution as scientifically valid. Accepting evolution does not mean one is choosing atheism. I think this is a very important distinction because while atheists are outspoken in their support of evolution they represent a small minority. I was encouraged to learn from Dr. Scott that the NCSE is working closely with religious leaders and scientists of faith to try to educate their members. Since Books and Ideas reaches an international audience I thought that it was important that we discuss the origins of the evolution versus creationism controversy, which is unique to the United States. Scott does an excellent job of explaining how our unique religious heritage along with our locally controlled school systems combine to create a situation that most of the world find's rather mystifying. Her book Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction also provides an excellent overview of the subject from both an historical and scientific prospective. Finally, we talk about the importance of evolution as a basic idea in modern biology. While we didn't dwell on this, I think we are both concerned about the implications for the future if a majority of young Americans are reaching college without a solid foundation in the principles of evolution. We also talked about why intelligent design fails to meet the basic definition of a scientific theory since it provides no testable hypotheses. Dr. Scott also provides a excellent review of the basic writings for those who want to learn more.

Listen to Dr. Scott’s Interview

Episode Transcript (Download PDF)

Links and References: Other Books mentioned by Dr. Scott:
  • Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins by Percival Davis and Dean H. Kenyon : the 1989 textbook that introduced the term “intelligent design”
  • Darwin on Trial by Phillip E. Johnson, 1991.
  • Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution by Michael J. Behe
  • The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance through Small Probabilities by William A. Dembski
  • Behe MJ, Snoke DW. 2004. Simulating evolution by gene duplication of protein features that require multiple amino acid residues. Protein Science 10:2651-64.
Responses to Expelled Exposed by Christians

Listen to Dr. Scott’s Interview

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Could the eye have evolved? The answer is YES!

I have been meaning to recommend the excellent website Expelled Exposed, which documents all the lies and misleading statements in Ben's Stein's creationist "documentary," Exposed. A central claim is that professors who believe in intelligent design are being persecuted, a claim that is totally unfounded. Expelled Exposed was created by the National Center for Science Education. You can hear an excellent interview with Director Eugenie Scott on the April 9th episode of Science Talk, Scientific American's podcast. One of the claims that is popular with ID proponents is the idea that the eye is too complex to have been the product of evolution. Actually, as was pointed in David Bainbridge's excellent book, Beyond the Zonules of Zinn: A Fantastic Journey Through Your Brain, nothing could be further from the truth, because there is evidence that eyes have actually evolved a surprising number of times. (For more on Bainbridge's book listen to Episode 32 of the Brain Science Podcast.) To learn more about the evidence for the evolution of the eye check out this new video which NCSE has posted on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOtP7HEuDYA
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A Brief Introduction to Brain Anatomy (BSP 32)

zonulesofzinn.jpg Episode 32 of the Brain Science Podcast is a whirlwind (55 minute) tour of brain anatomy. It is based on David Bainbridge's new book: Beyond the Zonules of Zinn: A Fantastic Journey Through Your Brain (2008). Within the next few days I will be expanding the show notes to include key illustrations from the book. I want to thank David for sharing these images and I encourage everyone to read the book. Listen to Episode 32 (Transcript coming soon, see below*) Share your comments on the Discussion Forum Audience Survey itunes-chicklet.gif Subscribe via iTunes™ Subscribe in a reader or podcatcher Subscribe to Brain Science Podcast with Dr. Ginger Campbell by Email


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*As of 12/9/08 this episode has not yet been transcribed. When it is transcribed the show notes on the main Brain Science Podcast will be updated. Please send email to docartemis at gmail.com if you would like to be notified when the transcript is ready (it will be several months).

Note: If you would like to comment on this episode please go the the show notes on the Brain Science Podcast website or to the Discussion Forum at http://brainscienceforum.com.

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Embracing the Evidence for Evolution is not Always Easy

This week's Science magazine includes a profile of Canadian paleontologist Stephen Godfrey. What makes his story unusual is that he was raised as a fundamentalist Christian to believe in the creationist dogma of a 6,000 year-old earth. The article highlights why it can be very difficult to make such a transition since it also makes one an outsider. Not only may the young person lose their place in their religious community, but they may find find themselves reluctant to share their past with their new scientist colleagues who generally tend to assume that all creationists are intellectually inferior. This article interested me on two levels. For one thing, I think it makes some points that need to be acknowledged if mainstream scientists hope to win over potential young scientists from the admittedly growing influence of the creationists. On a more personal level, it reminded me of my own personal journey when back in my early 20's (in the late 1970's) I left Jehovah's Witnesses largely because I realized that they had totally misrepresented the scientific evidence about evolution. I reached this conclusion after studying the evidence myself. While I felt a sense of intellectual liberation, I also felt the pain of losing my religious community. I think it is important to realize that since humans are social by nature we have to realize that these ties are extremely powerful and can be a formidable obstacle to getting people to examine their beliefs. EVOLUTION: Crossing the Divide by Jennifer Couzin. Science 22 February 2008: Vol. 319. no. 5866, pp. 1034 - 1036
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The Evolution of Language (BSP 30)

firstword.jpg Episode 30 of the Brain Science Podcast is a discussion of The First Word: The Search for the Origins of Language by Christine Kenneally. We focus mostly on the first part of the book, which tells the story of how the study of language evolution has grown from almost a banned subject to a new field of inquiry called evolutionary linguistics. We also reflect on how recent findings in neuroscience like the importance of plasticity are influencing the field. Listen to Episode 30 Scientists Discussed in the Episode: *References: Pinker, Steven, and Paul Bloom, "Natural Language and Natural Selection," Behavioral and Brains Sciences 13 (1990): 707-84. Marc D. Hauser, Noam Chomsky, and W. Tecumseh Fitch (2002). "The Faculty of Language: What Is It, Who Has It, and How Did It Evolve?" Science 298:1569-1579. Christine Kenneally, The First Word: The Search for the Origins of Language (2007). Stanley I. Greenspan and Stuart G. Shanker, The First Idea: How Symbols, Language, and Intelligence Evolved from our Primate Ancestors to Modern Humans (2004). *Additional references can be found in Kenneally's book and at the websites of the scientists listed above. Listen to this episode now. Share your comments on the Discussion Forum Audience Survey itunes-chicklet.gif Subscribe via iTunes™ Subscribe in a reader or podcatcher Subscribe to Brain Science Podcast with Dr. Ginger Campbell by Email


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Dr. Maryanne Wolf talks about the Reading Brain (BSP 29)

wolff200.jpgDr. Maryanne Wolf, Director of The Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University Brain Science Podcast #29 is an interview with cognitive neuroscientist, Dr. Maryanne Wolf, author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. I discussed her book in Episode 24, so this interview was an opportunity to ask her some follow-up questions, and to focus more on how children learn to read. Dr. Wolf shares her ten years of experience helping children learn to read and developing programs to help children with problems like dyslexia. She shares some practical advice for parents as well as her concerns about how reliance on the internet could influence reading skills. I enjoyed the conversation and, while I especially want to share this episode with parents, I think Dr. Wolf gives everyone some interesting ideas to consider. Listen to the interview. Links: Listen to this episode now. Share your comments on the Discussion Forum Audience Survey itunes-chicklet.gif Subscribe via iTunes™ Subscribe in a reader or podcatcher Subscribe to Brain Science Podcast with Dr. Ginger Campbell by Email


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Mini-Review: Flock of Dodos, a film by Randy Olson

flockofdodos.jpg I bought a DVD of the recent documentary, Flock of Dodos, after hearing director Randy Olson interviewed on Skepticality. What sets this film apart is both its sense of humor and its balance. Olson allows people on both sides of the evolution versus intelligent design controversy to speak for themselves. While he makes his position clear from the beginning I think it is fair to say that this film can be enjoyed by people on both sides. More importantly, there is something to learn for most of us. Even if you are sick of the whole controversy, I highly recommend you check this out, and be sure not to miss the DVD extras .
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Reading and the Brain (BSP 24)

proustandthesquid.jpg Listen to this episode now. Show Notes Dr. Wolf's book Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, is divided into three main topics: the history of how writing and reading developed over the last few thousand years, the developmental stages involved in learning how to read, and what happens when the brain can't learn to read. My podcast concentrates on the main ideas from the first two topics. History of Writing:
  • the discovery of symbols
  • Early writing systems- cuneiform and hieroglyphics
    • why Chinese gives us a window into the past
  • Importance of the Alphabet
    • some claims and conclusions
  • Why Socrates opposed literacy
The Stages of Becoming a Reader:
  • the early pre-reader-with emphasis on language development
  • the novice reader-connecting letters to the sounds of language
  • the decoding reader-
  • the fluent comprehending reader-learning to "read between the lines"
  • the expert reader-why reading continues to change us throughout our lives
What goes wrong when the brain can't learn to read: how new findings are leading to new solutions Links and References
  • FastForward-an successful approach to treating dyslexia
  • Michael Posner-a psychologist who used PET scans to study what happens during shifts of attention (a necessary first step in reading)
Listen to this episode now. Share your comments on the Discussion Forum Audience Survey itunes-chicklet.gif Subscribe via iTunes™ Subscribe in a reader Subscribe to Brain Science Podcast with Dr. Ginger Campbell by Email


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Bonobos with Dr. Stuart Shanker (BSP 7)

kanzi_img06b.jpgKanzi and Sue Savage-Rumbaugh This is the first interview episode of the Brain Science Podcast. As a follow-up to #6, I had the opportunity to interview Stuart Shanker, PhD, one of the co-authors of The First Idea: How Symbols, Language, and Intelligence Evolved From Our Primate Ancestors to Modern Humans . I really wanted to talk about the implications of primate research, but he also tells us more about his work with autistic children and how he thinks what we are learning about brain development will enable early intervention and improved outcomes for children with autism and other learning disabilities. The Brain Science Podcast feed is available here. Listen to this episode now. Subscribe via iTunes™ Subscribe to Brain Science Podcast with Dr. Ginger Campbell by Email Links of Interest: What are Bonobos? More about Kanzi Sue Savage-Rumbaugh-pioneer primate researcher More on Bonobos
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