An interview with David Eagleman, neuroscientist

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20 Responses to “An interview with David Eagleman, neuroscientist”

  1. IamInnocent says:

    His take on NDE is refreshing.
    I always thought of déjà vu experiences as a feeling of familiarity, of having lived the same situation. People who I know and who experienced it also never saw it a premonition. Is this a cultural difference ?
    His other answers are intelligent and stimulating: they also reveal how much, in spite of all his experience and knowledge, he has to rely on speculation as we really know precious little of most things.

  2. Ben Ehlers says:

    Oh Man! So this is the guy that wrote Sum? 

    If you an track them down, look for episodes of Wiretap (Jonathan Goldstein – CBC Radio) from I think around Season 6 which has loads of excerpts read as introductions to the episode. The stories are some of the most tragic and poetic allegories for our small,  intimate existence I have ever heard. 

    One of my favorites was about how when we die, Heaven is populated only with people that we met in life. At first we are happy to be with all these people for eternity, but then a deeper sadness inevitably sets in as we come to the realization that we could have met more…

  3. hypnosifl says:

    A few weeks ago I watched a really fascinating presentation by Eagleman on the nature of subjective time and how we “live in the past” (we don’t see things until about 80 ms after the light reaches our eyes, and a perception at one moment is actually influenced by slightly later events): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkANniH8XZE. Definitely recommend checking it out if you find this stuff interesting.

  4. Doc Trauma says:

    “Time is a rubbery thing.”  …so what he’s saying is that time is “wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey?”

    • pduggie says:

      Only from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint. 

      (Actually, according to the OP, its wibblly wobbly from a SUBJECTIVE viewpoint. But the OP isn’t a timelord)

  5. t3kna2007 says:

    He gave a really great talk over at Commonwealth Club a few months back.  You have got to hear how he structured his experiments in how we experience time slowing down in a crisis.  (Being this man’s grad student would be fascinating, but not for the faint of heart.)
    I think this is the right one: http://www.commonwealthclub.org/events/2011-06-23/brains-behind-mind

  6. Diego Fernetti says:

    Interesting. A common experience of the elasticity of time depending on subjetivity is why ten minutes of waiting the bus in the rain on a monday morning seem ethernal compared to the ten minutes one spends awake just after the alarm clock buzzed.

  7. Aleknevicus says:

    Time may indeed be a rubbery thing, but Eagleman seems to be discussing our *perception* of time rather than the *nature* of time. 

  8. Jeffety says:

    This is too ‘duh’ to be tolerable. Anyone who has sat through a three hour lecture, run a race, had a first kiss – let alone dropped acid – could tell you that.

  9. Dawn Groves says:

    As someone who helps folks use their time more effectively, the concept of time as an active construction of the brain, is quite liberating. I’m going to think about ways to apply this in the workplace. How strange! 
    Great article and links. 
    dawn groves

  10. bklynchris says:

    huh.  So that’s what he looks like.  The New Yorker did an amazing profile of him 2-3 mos. back.  Apparently it was a fall from the roof as an adolescent that kind of fixated him on the subject of time.  Kind of like a reverse Newton’s apple.

  11. Hopeful_Greis says:

    His description of déjà vu is very limited and ill-informed. In my experience, and it those  I’ve heard, there is no such thing as “I am experiencing déjà vu” except as the disorienting aftertaste of the experience in which events seemed locked, known, predictable, utterly inevitable and during which no such discussion (e.g. the $20 bet) would be possible. So it’s a bit of a straw man.

    • ultranaut says:

       I’ve had deja vu many times, sometimes even recursive deja vu (I’m having deja vu I’m having deja vu I’m having deja vu, ad infinitum). In my experience there is such a thing as “I am experiencing deja vu”, I’ve said those very words while experiencing deja vu. There are two specific scenarios I can distinctly remember doing this more than once. In one I’m in a hallway alone and say it to myself. In the other I’m in the kitchen with someone else, I find this one the most interesting because I have recursive deja vu of telling the other person I’m having deja vu. It’s like my memory and my subjective experience of the moment are two mirrors that line up into an infinite reflection of self-awareness. Having done this a few times around the same person I know each experience is distinct because they remember previous incidents, but even though it has actually happened before they don’t remember the specifics well enough to share my subjective experience of deja vu. It’s almost like being in a dream, there’s that kind of sense that the other person is not entirely real but doesn’t know it.

  12. Cowicide says:

    Great interview, Avi.  Thank you.  Love the last question and answer.  I think some of the more ornery people in this thread should take that answer more to heart.  ^_^

  13. Amtram says:

    Ever since William Dembski, I can’t take anything that comes out of Baylor too seriously.

  14. Robert Oliver says:

    I’ve looked around on google for this, but I have yet to really figure out what it is…Does anyone else have this happen to them where you are just minding your own business (basically doing any random task or activity) and then a past thought/memory just POPS into your consciousness?  I have that happen from time to time and these memories seem to come out of the blue.

    For instance, I will be bending over to pick up my son and then a memory of walking down my high school’s hallway will just APPEAR in my consciousness and I have NO IDEA where that came from.  (That is just a random example; it is not what happens every time I have one of these events.  The memory can be absolutely anything from my past.)

    They’re usually pretty mundane details of my past; they’re nothing traumatic or memorable whatsoever…

    What the hell is that called? 

  15. wylkyn says:

    Interesting. I have been having this weird illusion when I punch in the code to enter our gate. If I do it without really paying attention, it seems as if the display reacts before I press the last button. I’ve done it slowly just to test, and it of course waits until I enter the last digit of the code before it displays the “Access Granted” text. But when I am punching buttons quickly without really thinking about it, it seems as if the display happens right before I press the last digit. Nice to have somewhat of an explanation of this illusion.

  16. Either I’m misunderstanding Eagleman entirely, or the following is patently false:

    “Our brains simply weren’t built to understand the fabric of reality at the very small scales (quantum mechnics) or the very large (the cosmos). …”

    Molecular theory has existed since the 5th century BCE. In the early 19th century, Amedeo Avogadro was speculating about what we now call “atoms.”

    In other words, for more than 2000 years, humanity was able to apprehend the “fabric of reality at the very small scales” without having the technological means for *directly* observing the “fabric of reality” in question.

    If the general public has difficulty “seeing” the world in terms of quantum mechanics, it’s simply because this way of seeing the world is comparatively new. The pathogenic theory of medicine seemed counter-intuitive to a world that traditionally regarded disease as having to do with evil spirits and/or the displeasure of Almighty God.

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