Is the brain a sort of quantum computer? What is consciousness? Marcelo Gleiser's brain is buzzing with big questions after participating in a conference that asked if quantum physics plays a role in how we think.
Science asks big questions about the nature of the universe, the nature of the mind and what it means to be human. Understanding how to interpret the answers often takes us into the realm of philosophy, the underpinning of scientific exploration.
What is a brain but a cloud of elementary particles? If that's the case, then isn't the world a just figment, an image or a confabulation? Commentator Alva Noë asks if our world, the world described by science, is any more real than the stories in the Bible.
Life on Earth is connected to the stars in ways we couldn't imagine a thousand years ago. Physicist Marcelo Gleiser says the journey to understanding our relationship with the cosmos has transformed how we see ourselves and all that surrounds us.
When Philip Gould knew the end was coming, he managed to use his predicament as a catalyst for seeing life more clearly. A film documenting his final days also opened commentator Adam Frank's eyes. What will it do for you?
Must an artist have actually painted a piece for it to be their work? Can a forger carry another artist's work forward? Commentator Alva Noë says questions of authorship are complicated and at the heart of an ongoing dialogue across the ages.
Carl Sagan, an astronomer with the soul of a poet, liked to remind us that we were all made of "star stuff." It was, without a doubt, one of his most beautiful images. Astrophysicist Adam Frank says it's not just an abstract concept; you can reach out and feel it in the space dirt covering your ride.
The Earth has existed for nearly 5 billion years and, to this point, no other forms of life have been identified in the seemingly boundless expanse of outer space. Commentator Marcelo Gleiser says this simple fact has deep implications for who we are and how we should treat life here on our home world.
Do dogs think and feel? Are they persons? And if you are unsure, would the results of brain studies on dogs help you make up your mind? Alva Noë argues that, while an MRI can tell us many things about a dog's brain, it can't tell us more than we already know through our relationships with these wonderful animals.
Can everything that happens in the universe (like the working of your mind) be understood merely as an expression of interactions at the level of elementary particles? Astrophysicist Adam Frank doesn't think so. He's skeptical of reductionism and takes heart from a new theory that sees cause-and-effect flowing both ways.
How can we think we've made sense of the world if we can't make sense of the role of values in it? Commentator and philosopher Alva Noë says this is one of the fundamental problems of our time and starts in on it by trying to tease out the intimate relationship between science and values.
How far can humans go? Farther than we know. That's one of the lessons we can learn from the Voyager spacecraft, says physicist Marcelo Gleiser. He sees these missions as the embodiment of our hope that we are not alone in the universe, that there may be other beings out there who embrace life and beauty.
The authority claimed by science rests on an ever-growing foundation of demonstrable facts. Values, on the other hand, are squishy and human; they have no place in science. But philosopher Alva Noë says it's not quite that simple. Look a little closer and you'll see the entanglement of facts and values shaping science.
We find ourselves drawn to the belief that physics alone investigates the basis of the universe, reality as it really is, beyond parochial human interests and values. Alva Noë asks if we can actually accept this, or if there is more to the universe than the particles and fields of physics.
Chaos rules the universe. But life fights back, nurturing order and structure within the maelstrom. Astrophysicist Adam Frank says that our struggles against the inexorable forces of entropy are a gift to the cosmos.
Boiling the Universe down to its essence is an age-old dream. But does the notion that we can sum up everything in a single, hopefully elegant, theory make sense? Physicist Marcelo Gleiser doesn't think so, saying that the very idea of a final theory clashes with the essential premise of science.