Stuff To Blow Your Mind

Stuff To Blow Your Mind

United States

Deep in the back of your mind, you’ve always had the feeling that there’s something strange about reality. There is. Join Robert, Joe and Christian as they examine neurological quandaries, cosmic mysteries, evolutionary marvels and our transhuman future on Stuff To Blow Your Mind, a podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.

Episodes

Summer Reading: Aliens, Microbes, Cocktails and More  

It's time once again for Robert, Joe and Christian to share a selection of fiction, nonfiction and comic book reads to enhance your summer travels -- or simply boost your reading list. Join your Stuff to Blow Your Mind hosts as they discuss volumes about alien worlds, space vampires, nuclear war, content creation, cocktails and more.

The Biophilia Hypothesis  

Why are humans so drawn to the natural world of biodiverse organisms? Is this longing merely part of our culture or do we possess an innate and even genetic tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes? Join Robert and Joe as they discuss Edward O. Wilson’s biophilia hypothesis and explore arguments for and against this captivating view of nature lovers.

Artificial Gravity: Cosmic Wheels and Hurtling Towers  

Humans are creatures of gravity. We’re born into it. Life as we know it evolved to thrive in it. So what’s a gravitational organism to do in the low-gravity and zero-gravity expanses beyond Earth? You can’t bring it with you, but scientists have cooked up a few different schemes to replicate its effects. Join Robert and Joe for a full exploration in this episode of the Stuff to Blow Your Mind podcast.

Order out of Chaos: How to Create a Universe  

Numerous mythologies speak to the birth of our universe out of darkness and chaos, but can humans follow in the footsteps of the gods? Can we create a universe in the lab? In this episode of the Stuff to Blow Your Mind podcast, Robert and Joe explore the primordial darkness of multiple cosmologies as well as the theoretical depths of human-created universes and simulated realities.

Cultural Appropriation  

We’ve all heard charges of cultural appropriation in everything from fashion and music to personal world view, but what’s actually at stake here? What is cultural misappropriation, when does it have negative consequences and how does it fit into our historical and scientific understanding of the human experience? Robert and Christian explore.

Sword of the Samurai  

Appreciation for the katana cuts across cultures and genres, slicing into the hearts of history buffs, japanophiles, comic book fans and more. But what’s so special about the sword of the Samurai? In this episode of the Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Robert and Christian discuss the science of this most skillful blade, the grisly test for its sharpness and its importance in Japanese culture.

Ticks, Mites and Mysterious Lone Star Illnesses  

Ticks are, in the words of Pliny the Elder, 'the foulest and nastiest creature that be.' If these blood sucking arachnids and their mite brethren weren’t horrible enough, they’re second only to the mosquito in the risk of blood borne human pathogens. In this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Robert and Joe discuss ticks, chiggers and the mysterious illnesses associated with the lone star tick -- one of which generates a meat allergy in the host.

CRISPR and the Genetic Astronaut  

In 1960, scientists Nathan Kline and Manfred Clynes envisioned a spacefaring cyborg, technologically augmented to endure the rigors of space travel. The subsequent six decades of space exploration largely ignored this radical suggestion, but the advent of gene editing tools like CRISPR present raise new questions. Might genetic alterations give future astronauts the 'right stuff?' What would the physiology of a genetically-augmented space traveler even look like? Robert and Joe explore in this episode of the Stuff to Blow Your Mind podcast.

Extended Cognition: Brain, Fingers, Web and Krang  

It’s easy to think yourself a mere brain within a human body -- a cognitive machine making sense out of all the incoming sense data from outside world. But what if other parts of the body and even objects beyond the body serve a vital role in our cognition? In this episode of the Stuff to Blow Your Mind podcast, Robert and Joe discuss the concept of extended cognition and how it relates to the human condition, number systems, spider webs, octopuses, mantises and even a fictional alien brain monster.

Name Thy Demons: The Roots of Human Violence  

Is human civilization growing less violent? Cognitive scientist Steven Pinker argued the point in his 2011 book 'The Better Angels of Our Nature,' in which he also defined the 'five inner demons' that push us to wrath. Know them -- speak their true names -- and you have the power to undermine their influence. In this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Robert and Christian explore Pinker's thesis and draw in supporting research and dissenting opinions.

AI, Machine Learning and Human Creativity  

Just as manufacturing automation cuts into human jobs, the prospect of creative artificial intelligence raises the specter of robot writers, robot artists and robot musicians who never sleep and always agree with their patron. But paranoia aside, where will creative machine learning take us? Robert and Christian discuss some possibilities in this episode of the Stuff to Blow Your Mind podcast.

Science Communication Breakdown  

Science enabled humans to ascend out of the darkness and tackle life’s problems with systematic, self-correcting rigidity. Yet, when faced with scientific consensus on climate change and other issues, some citizens, politicians and even scientists dig in their heels and deny the shape of our current understand. Why do some people doubt scientific consensus? What’s wrong in science communication? Robert and Joe attempt to find an answer.

There But For Science: Blood Navigation  

Imagine a world in which sailing ships navigate by the yelps of tormented dogs and nuclear submarines whisper to each other via the screams of rabbits and their murdered young? In both of these cases, science won out over magical thinking -- and actual scientific advances stepped in to solve the problems. Join Robert and Joe as the discuss the powder of sympathy and 20th century state-sponsored paranormal research.

The Tower of Babel  

An ancient people build a tower to touch the heavens. A vengeful god disrupts the project through the splintering of human language. Everyone’s left to pick up the pieces. The Tower of Babel myth resonates out from the Mesopotamian cradle of civilization, but what does it mean? Was there really a tower? Join Robert and Joe as they discuss everything from the art of Bruegel the Elder to 'Snow Crash.'

Neurosecurity: Dawn of the Brain Hackers  

While hackers and malware can certainly cause a great deal of damage and misery, these dangers can’t hurt us physically, right? In this episode of the Stuff to Blow Your Mind podcast, Robert and Joe are sorry to say you’re wrong -- and as more biotechnology and brain-computer interface creeps into our lives, the risk will only go up. Tune in for a discussion on inherent vulnerability, looming technology and what needs to happen to protect us.

Height, Health and Human Happiness  

Tall people. Short People. Somewhere-in-between people. What are we to make of human height and its relationship to overall health and personality? Robert and Christian explore in this episode of the Stuff to Blow Your Mind podcast. All heights welcome.

Five Reasons to Never Take Your Space Helmet Off  

You've consumed enough science fiction to know something the average red shirt doesn't: Never take your space helmet off on a foreign planet. But if you're still tempted to breathe deep the gathering gloom, how about five compelling scientific reasons not to? Join Robert and Joe as they discuss 'Alien: Covenant' and explore some very compelling biological and radiological reasons to remain helmeted on an alien hell world.

R. Scott Bakker: On Alien Philosophy & Dark Fantasy  

Canadian author R. Scott Bakker is best known for his Second Apocalypse saga, a series of dark fantasy novels that explore philosophical and even neuroscientific ideas through a world of sorcery, holy wars and inhuman evil. In this episode of the Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Robert and Joe chat with Bakker about his recent paper 'On Alien Philosophy,' published in the The Journal of Consciousness Studies. Plus, as a long-time fan, Robert throws in a few questions about Bakker’s approach to fiction and the strange creatures that occupy his created worlds.

Hook Suspension and the Complexity of Pain  

Hook suspension challenges our perceptions of pain. We see practitioners, pierced through the flesh with hooks, suspended by chains and yet smiling as if lost to a state of bliss. What are they feeling? Where does this practice come from and how does it fit into the larger human experience? Join Robert and Christian as they explore this most-outsider form of masochistic performance art.

Escape Velocity: Jack Parsons and the New Magick  

Jack Parsons wanted to break free, from both the limits of Earth and the boundaries of traditional early 20th century American thought. He devoted his short life to the scientific pursuit of rocket engineering and the occult exploration of magick. As such, Parsons is a contradiction -- a counterculture figure that continues to fascinate us with his mystery. In this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Robert and Christian explore the work and wonder that moved his life.

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