Japanese Zen Garden, photo by Andreas Øverland Japanese Zen Garden, photo by Andreas Øverland

Meditation Under Investigation

Silicon Valley CEOs, scruffy hippies, and Tibetan monks alike describe meditation as blissful and life-changing, but what does the science say? Can it reduce stress, increase your attention, and improve mental health — or is all this focus on breathing just a bunch of hot air? Sit back, get comfortable, focus your mind and let the experts to sort it out for you. Among them are Tim Ferriss, Professor Gaelle Desbordes, Dr. Clifford Saron, and Dr. Britta Hölzel.

Science Vs

Roman mosaic: Know Thyself Roman mosaic: Know Thyself

Brain Dust

Driven by a hidden agenda, powered by an indecipherable web of neurons, and influenced by other brains, your grey matter is a black box.  To “know thyself” may be a challenge, and free will nonexistent, but maybe more technology can shed light on the goings on in your noggin, and the rest of your body. Find out how tiny implanted sensors called “brain dust” may reveal what really going on. Plus, the day when your brain is uploaded into a computer as ones and zeros. Will you still be you? Guests: David Eagleman – Neuroscientist, Stanford University, author of The Brain: the Story of You. Michel Maharbiz – Electrical engineer, University of California, Berkeley.

Big Picture Science

Left Out: Living In A Right-Handed World

About one of every 10 people is left-handed. That can be profitable if you’re a pitcher – and a pain if you’re an average Joe living in a right-handed world. Howard Kushner – a historian of medicine and neuroscience – explains why so few people are lefties; and about the many ways cultures worldwide discriminate against them. His new book is called “On the Other Hand: Left Hand, Right Brain, Mental Disorder, and History”.

KERA’s Think

How Trauma Lodges in the Body

Human memory is a sensory experience, says psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk. Through his longtime research and innovation in trauma treatment, he shares what he’s learning about how bodywork like yoga or eye movement therapy can restore a sense of goodness and safety. What he’s learning speaks to a resilience we can all cultivate in the face of the overwhelming events.
Bessel van der Kolk is a professor of psychiatry at Boston University Medical School, and he helped found a community-based trauma center in Brookline, Massachusetts. As medical director there, he works with people affected by trauma and adversity to re-establish a sense of safety and predictability in the world, and to reclaim their lives.

On Being with Krista Tippett

How to Become Great at Just About Anything

What if talent is grotesquely overrated? And what if deliberate practice is the secret to excellence? Those are the claims of the research psychologist Anders Ericsson, who has been studying the science of expertise for decades.
One idea you may have heard of that came from Ericsson’s research: the 10,000-hour rule. Stephen Dubner and Ericsson discuss what Ericsson believes people get wrong about his work, and how he feels about this “magic number.” At one point Stephen Dubner speaks with the person who popularized the idea of the 10,000-hour rule — Malcolm Gladwell.

Illustration by Jennifer Austin

Freakonomics Radio | 18th November 2016

Big Unknowns: Is Free Will an Illusion?

“Free will has been debated by philosophers and theologians for centuries. Neuroscientists and psychologists have now entered the fray – but what new light can they shed? And just how free are we when it comes to “free” will?”
“It would appear that we, as conscious agents, are able to make choices that change the world around us, despite many of the known laws of nature being deterministic. But is this freedom of choice all an illusion created by the conscious mind? And ultimately, is it even possible to act outside the bounds of our environment, our upbringing, and our genetic makeup?
To delve into this and more, Ian Sample speaks to neurophilosopher and pragmatist Professor Patricia Churchland – who believes the key to studying free will lies in self-control and intention. We also hear from the University of Ghent’s Dr Marcel Brass how science is attempting to reveal more about the nature of free will through experimentation. Finally, Yale University’s Adam Bear explains how the conscious mind might play a role in the illusory nature of decision-making.”
Illustration by Alex Eben Meyer

The Guardian’s Science Weekly | 15th November 2016