Nautilus has a fascinating article about the psychologist Julian Jaynes, author of the influential cult classic The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. In it, he argues that ancient peoples were not conscious; one half of their mind spoke to the other with ugidance in the voice of the gods until about 3000 years ago, when self-awareness emerged. Jaynes conducted animal behavior research as a graduate student at Yale before moving to England to become a playwright and actor. “O, what a world of unseen visions and heard silences,” his only book begins, “this insubstantial country of the mind!” Jaynes’ theory treats consciousness as a cultural rather than biological phenomenon, which is not a popular view these days. However, more than one neuroscientist that I know has cited Julian Jaynes and his The Origin of Consciousness as an inspiration for entering the field.
Happy Birthday to Santiago Ramón y Cajal, “the father of modern neuroscience,” who would be 163 today. Cajal was born in Petilla de Aragón, a tiny village high in the mountains of northern Spain. On this same date, when he turned 36, Cajal declared the independence of the nerve cell in his self-published journal Revista Trimestral de Histología normal y patológia. (Images courtesy of the Cajal Institute in Madrid.)
For those of you who haven’t heard of SciArt in America, a new organization founded by Julia Buntaine, check it out! They have a magazine (submit to their Flash Fiction contest) and put on events based in New York City.
(The famous patient H.M. as a young man.)
The new STEM podcast Transistor, presented by the Public Radio Exchange (PRX) and funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, has released new neuroscience episodes called Totally Cerebral. The host, Wendy Suzuki, is a scientist at NYU who studies learning, memory, and cognition. In a review of the first two episodes, The A.V. Club called the show “gripping and immediate the way the best sort of storytelling podcast can be, as these scientists are not only bright but personable and emotionally connected to their studies.” Part 1 is titled “Untangling the Mystery of Memory,” and Part 2 is titled “The Man Without a Memory.” Earlier podcasts feature astrophysicist Michele Thaller and biologist Christina Agapakis.
Over at Nautilus, there is an interview with superstar curator Hans-Ulrich Obrist, the co-director of London’s Serpentine Gallery. Obrist has worked with some of the most famous artists in the world, but he has collaborated with scientists in the past. Most recently, he has collaborated with John Brockman of the Edge to present an event called “Extinction Marathon,” which asked artists, writers, scientists, filmmakers, theorists, and musicians to present on the topic of Extinction. Obrist seems determined to bring interdisciplinary creativity back to life. “I often start with the idea of what’s missing in the world,” he explains. “Artists would often tell me they have a desire to work with scientists, engineers, and inventors. They encouraged me to make that happen.” Behold, the dodo bird.