Alva Noë

Alva Noë is a contributor to the NPR blog 13.7: Cosmos and Culture. He is writer and a philosopher who works on the nature of mind and human experience.

Noë received his PhD from Harvard in 1995 and is a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is also a member of the Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences and the Center for New Media. He previously was a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He has been philosopher-in-residence with The Forsythe Company and has recently begun a performative-lecture collaboration with Deborah Hay. Noë is a 2012 recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship.

He is the author of Action in Perception (MIT Press, 2004); Out of Our Heads (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2009); and most recently, Varieties of Presence (Harvard University Press, 2012). He is now at work on a book about art and human nature.

Major League Baseball has been wrestling with the question of how to shorten the length of baseball games.

A friend of mine, a professor at a university in Canada, confided to me a few days ago that she thinks she might be addicted to email.

She feels compelled to check her email all the time. And she feels bad about it. She experiences anxiety if she doesn't check, and anxiety if she does. Email gets in the way of her productivity at work and makes her feel distracted from family when she is at home.

Yup, sounds like addiction to me.

If you stop and think about it, the idea that you could understand a complex system by detailed description of one its parts is crazy on the face of it.

You are unlikely to get too much insight into the principles organizing flocking behavior in birds by confining your attention to what is going on inside an individual bird. And you aren't very likely to figure out how birds fly in the first place by studying properties of the feather.

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.

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