Alva Noë

Lawrence Weschler's new book Waves Passing in the Night: Walter Murch in the Land of the Astrophysicists is part scientific detective story and part reflection on science and its relation to its own history and social reality.

It's also a celebration of the life and personality of its central character, the acclaimed 73-year-old sound and film editor — and polymath-extraordinaire — Walter Murch.

Can We Trust Science?

Feb 10, 2017

Science is knowledge.

The practice of science is nothing more, and nothing less, than the earnest and thoughtful work of figuring things out, of trying to understand, of learning how things work.

Scientists are people committed to this practice, or to a community of shared practice. They work together to understand. And understanding is a thing of immense power. If you understand why the car has stalled, for example, you can fix it. And if you know when the tide will ebb, you can escape the harbor.

Blood is red to the naked eye. Under a microscope, it depends.

This isn't because it isn't really red, but rather because its redness is a macroscopic feature. Human blood is red because hemoglobin, which is carried in the blood and functions to transport oxygen, is iron-rich and red in color.

Octopuses and horseshoe crabs have blue blood. This is because the protein transporting oxygen in their blood, hemocyanin, is actually blue.

Whether you travel for work or pleasure, you have probably experienced travel fatigue — the distinct exhaustion that comes from too little leg room, bad air, bad food and stress endured while traveling.

Art and science can seem so different. Scientists work in teams, in the laboratory; their progress is piecemeal and, by-and-large, they know how to measure its occurrence. Art, so often at least, in contrast, is personal; it's about the signature achievement of the individual artist. And as for progress, well, that question doesn't really come up.

Philosophy isn't natural science, that much is certain. But its relation to the sciences has been fraught — at least since science broke off from philosophy and became its own family of disciplines back in the 17th century.

A few years ago, my son, who was 11, showed me a little captioned photo that he had found online; he referred to it as a meme.

The standard definition of drug or alcohol addiction is that it's a chronic, incurable disease of the brain.

In a comprehensive report on the topic, published last month, the surgeon general gives this familiar definition a more positive spin. He eschews the "cure" word and focuses instead on the fact that, as with other chronic diseases such as diabetes, there are effective treatments. There are methods for managing and reducing symptoms.

Are we conscious during dreamless sleep?

According to an opinion piece in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences published last month, scientists interested in the topic have tended to assume that the answer is no. We lose consciousness when we fall asleep, at least until we start to dream.

The Oxford Dictionary announced a couple weeks ago that "post-truth" is its 2016 word of the year.

According to the dictionary's website, the word is "an adjective defined as 'relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.' "

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