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Science and perspective

5 Books | by rachel tenbergen

End Times

End Times

Books

In this history of extinction and existential risk, a Newsweek and Bloomberg popular science and investigative journalist examines our most dangerous mistakes -- and explores how we can protect and future-proof our civilization.End Times is a compelling work of skilled reportage that peels back the layers of complexity around the unthinkable -- and inevitable -- end of humankind. From asteroids and artificial intelligence to volcanic supereruption to nuclear war, veteran science reporter and TIME editor Bryan Walsh provides a stunning panoramic view of the most catastrophic threats to the human race.In End Times, Walsh examines threats that emerge from nature and those of our own making: asteroids, supervolcanoes, nuclear war, climate change, disease pandemics, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, and extraterrestrial intelligence. Walsh details the true probability of these world-ending catastrophes, the impact on our lives were they to happen, and the best strategies for saving ourselves, all pulled from his rigorous and deeply thoughtful reporting and research.Walsh goes into the room with the men and women whose job it is to imagine the unimaginable. He includes interviews with those on the front lines of prevention, actively working to head off existential threats in biotechnology labs and government hubs. Guided by Walsh's evocative, page-turning prose, we follow scientific stars like the asteroid hunters at NASA and the disease detectives on the trail of the next killer virus.Walsh explores the danger of apocalypse in all forms. In the end, it will be the depth of our knowledge, the height of our imagination, and our sheer will to survive that will decide the future.

How Emotions Are Made

How Emotions Are Made

Books

'How Emotions Are Made did what all great books do. It took a subject I thought I understood and turned my understanding upside down' - Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point.When you feel anxious, angry, happy, or surprised, what's really going on inside of you? Many scientists believe that emotions come from a specific part of the brain, triggered by the world around us. The thrill of seeing an old friend, the fear of losing someone we love – each of these sensations seems to arise automatically and uncontrollably from within us, finding expression on our faces and in our behaviour, carrying us away with the experience.This understanding of emotion has been around since Plato. But what if it is wrong? In How Emotions Are Made, pioneering psychologist and neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett draws on the latest scientific evidence to reveal that our common-sense ideas about emotions are dramatically, even dangerously, out of date – and that we have been paying the price. Emotions aren't universally pre-programmed in our brains and bodies; rather they are psychological experiences that each of us constructs based on our unique personal history, physiology and environment.This new view of emotions has serious implications: when judges issue lesser sentences for crimes of passion, when police officers fire at threatening suspects, or when doctors choose between one diagnosis and another, they're all, in some way, relying on the ancient assumption that emotions are hardwired into our brains and bodies. Revising that conception of emotion isn't just good science, Barrett shows; it's vital to our well-being and the health of society itself.

The Mind is Flat

The Mind is Flat

Books

A radical reinterpretation of how your mind works - and why it could change your life 'An astonishing achievement. Nick Chater has blown my mind' Tim Harford'A total assault on all lingering psychiatric and psychoanalytic notions of mental depths ... Light the touchpaper and stand well back' New StatesmanWe all like to think we have a hidden inner life. Most of us assume that our beliefs and desires arise from the murky depths of our minds, and, if only we could work out how to access this mysterious world, we could truly understand ourselves. For more than a century, psychologists and psychiatrists have struggled to discover what lies below our mental surface.In The Mind Is Flat, pre-eminent behavioural scientist Nick Chater reveals that this entire enterprise is utterly misguided. Drawing on startling new research in neuroscience, behavioural psychology and perception, he shows that we have no hidden depths to plumb, and unconscious thought is a myth. Instead, we generate our ideas, motives and thoughts in the moment. This revelation explains many of the quirks of human behaviour - for example why our supposedly firm political beliefs, personal preferences and even our romantic attractions are routinely proven to be inconsistent and changeable. As the reader discovers, through mind-bending visual examples and counterintuitive experiments, we are all characters of our own creation, constantly improvising our behaviour based on our past experiences. And, as Chater shows us, recognising this can be liberating.

Adventures in Memory

Adventures in Memory

Books

A novelist and a neuroscientist uncover the secrets of human memory. What makes us remember? Why do we forget? And what, exactly, is a memory? With playfulness and intelligence, Adventures in Memory answers these questions and more, offering an illuminating look at one of our most fascinating faculties. The authors—two Norwegian sisters, one a neuropsychologist and the other an acclaimed writer—skillfully interweave history, research, and exceptional personal stories, taking readers on a captivating exploration of the evolving understanding of the science of memory from the Renaissance discovery of the hippocampus—named after the seahorse it resembles—up to the present day. Mixing metaphor with meta-analysis, they embark on an incredible journey: “diving for seahorses” for a memory experiment in Oslo fjord, racing taxis through London, and “time-traveling” to the future to reveal thought-provoking insights into remembering and forgetting. Along the way they interview experts of all stripes, from the world’s top neuroscientists to famous novelists, to help explain how memory works, why it sometimes fails, and what we can do to improve it. Filled with cutting-edge research and nimble storytelling, the result is a charming—and memorable—adventure through human memory.

The Marshmallow Test

The Marshmallow Test

Books

Renowned psychologist Walter Mischel, designer of the famous Marshmallow Test, explains what self-control is and how to master it. A child is presented with a marshmallow and given a choice: Eat this one now, or wait and enjoy two later. What will she do? And what are the implications for her behavior later in life? The world's leading expert on self-control, Walter Mischel has proven that the ability to delay gratification is critical for a successful life, predicting higher SAT scores, better social and cognitive functioning, a healthier lifestyle and a greater sense of self-worth. But is willpower prewired, or can it be taught? In The Marshmallow Test, Mischel explains how self-control can be mastered and applied to challenges in everyday life -- from weight control to quitting smoking, overcoming heartbreak, making major decisions, and planning for retirement. With profound implications for the choices we make in parenting, education, public policy and self-care, The Marshmallow Test will change the way you think about who we are and what we can be.

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