If the representational theory of the mind says that plants can’t perform intelligent, cognitive behaviors, and the evidence shows that plants do perform intelligent, cognitive behaviors, maybe it’s time to rethink the theory. “We have plants doing amazing things and they have no neurons,” Paco Calvo says. “So maybe we should question the very premise that neurons are needed for cognition at all.”
What do the QBist interpretation of quantum mechanics and the enactive approach to cognitive science have in common? Lots! A series of talks and discussion with Chris Fuchs, Ezequiel Di Paolo, and Hanne De Jaegher.
I had the pleasure of contributing the first chapter to this biography of the late, great physicist Freeman Dyson, edited by David Kaiser. Dyson was famous worldwide for his groundbreaking work in quantum electrodynamics, his design of a nuclear reactor, his plans for interstellar spacecraft and his imaginings of alien civilizations, not to mention his beloved popular books. This collection covers it all, with chapters by leading historians, scientists, and writers, as well as Dyson's colleagues and children.
"Finite, flawed, flesh and blood creatures, we are pieces of the universe, and everything we do requires us to grab hold of other pieces and shake them until something new falls out. A measurement outcome. A life. A past. A future. Uncertainty, unpredictability, and randomness — they’re the costs of being part of the world. The price we pay to have an impact." My latest piece, on the physics of the future, for The Distance.
Schrodinger's cat, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, nuclear war...David Kaiser explores it all in his book Quantum Legacies. I had the privilege of chatting with him in this event for the Harvard Book Store.
There are many tales (tails?) to be told about Schrödinger's cat, depending on your interpretation of quantum mechanics. At the Institute of Art and Ideas, I give the classic story a QBist twist. It was an honor to participate along with Carlo Rovelli, Jenann Ismael, Sheldon Goldstein, Alyssa Ney, Chiara Marletto, Tim Maudlin, Lev Vaidman, and Tim Palmer. Find your favorite interpretation here
Caslav Brukner and colleagues have worked out a theory of quantum reference frames, allowing us to translate from one perspective to another even when superpositions and entanglement are involved. This is helping to solve practical problems with high-speed quantum communication. But it also sheds light on whether there exists a shared reality in quantum mechanics. Intriguingly, the answer seems to be no - until we start talking to each other. You can read the article (paywalled, sorry) here
Is consciousness fundamental in the universe? (No.) Does quantum mechanics force us to rethink the meaning of "observer"? (Yes.) A lively debate with Brian Greene, Patricia Churchland, and Laura Mersini-Houghton on the relationship between the mind and the universe. Part of the 2021 How the Light Gets In festival. You can watch the full video here
"The central lesson of quantum mechanics,” Gefter told me, “is that “subject and object can never be decoupled.”...Maybe, Gefter speculates, we don’t live in either a first-person world or a third-person world, as implied by idealism and materialism, respectively. Maybe we live in a second-person world, and the fundamental entity of existence is not “I” or “It” but “You.”
I'm honored to be mentioned in this deep and thoughtful piece by John Horgan in Scientific American.
"Greetings from my desk—Watertown, Massachusetts, Pandemic USA—where I have now spent some vague eternity writing, reading, thinking, dreaming, pulling strands of thought like silk threads from the pages of books. I play them like some polyphonic instrument—notes of Niels Bohr, Martin Buber, George Herbert Mead, Peter Putnam, Marjorie Grene, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Mikhail Bakhtin—and listen for unexpected melodies in the tunes of quantum mechanics, enactivism, pragmatism, language, the mind..."
- Summer Postcards to Edge.org
"He proposed on a beach and it was 2:00 in the morning, and we were basically the only people there. It was so meaningful to me that he had proposed during my day — that this thing that had almost broken us, the biggest challenge in our relationship, had led to this beautiful moment where it felt like we had the entire universe to ourselves."Miya Lee of the New York Times interviewed me about the new episode of Modern Love based on my story, "The Night Girl Finds a Day Boy."
"The Night Girl Finds a Day Boy" now streaming on Amazon Prime!
The amazing Zoe Chao and Gbenga Akinnagbe play myself and my now husband, Justin Smith, in the TV adaptation of my 2016 Modern Love essay about love and circadian rhythms. With a screenplay by Sarah Heyward, directed by Jesse Peretz, the episode is a sensitive portrayal of life with DSPD. It has been incredibly surreal to watch our story play out on the screen!
“Declaring something impossible leads to more things being possible,” writes the physicist Chiara Marletto. “Bizarre as it may seem, it is commonplace in quantum physics.” Marletto tells me about constructor theory and the role of counterfactuals in the nature of reality in this new Q&A in Quanta.
The mind, the universe, and everything in between. I loved this conversation with the always curious and thoughtful John Horgan on Meaning of Life TV