Silhouette of person pointing a flashlight up into a purple-tone night sky

The Art & Science of Searching for Meaning

DAVID BOHM ON SCIENCE, SPIRITUALITY, AND CULTURE Late in his career, acclaimed physicist David Bohm (1917–1992), was a scholar in residence at the Fetzer Institute. A student of Robert Oppenheimer and a colleague of Albert Einstein, Bohm proposed that all parts of the universe are fundamentally interconnected, forming what he called “an unbroken flowing whole.” […]

Earbud next to a drawing of a group of little heart shapes

Feel the Beat: Music, Emotion & the Rhythm of the Heart

A cardiologist, a medical historian, and a musicologist analyzed several of Beethoven’s compositions for clues of a heart condition some have speculated he had … The rhythms of certain parts of renowned works, researchers say, may in fact reflect the irregular rhythms of Beethoven’s own heart caused by cardiac arrhythmia. [S]ays lead author Zachary D. Goldberger […]

Image grid with night to day spectrum

Moments in Time: How A picture can change the way we look at time

A photograph is a physical representation of a specific moment in time. Day to Night is a photography technique developed by Stephen Wilkes that involves integrating multiple moments into a single photograph. Going right to left, left to right, or sometimes bottom to top, his images show the passing of time from day to night. […]

Animation of a molecular structure

It’s a Small World: Visualizing How Biologists See the Molecular Universe

I think biologists feel [a] sense of awe when they think about things that are happening at the molecular scale. There’s this whole universe in here, this tiny universe, that we’re just beginning to understand … I imagine biologists walking around with these movies in their heads … Creating an animation is basically trying to […]

Chalkboard style sign reading subject to technical issues

It’s Not a Flaw, It’s a Feature: Why we shouldn’t be biased about cognitive biases

Sometimes the human brain can seem really stupid. Even with all our impressive mental powers, we still have trouble accurately interpreting everything from our own perceptions to social interactions to statistical probabilities. It’s like each of us is wearing an invisible pair of eyeglasses that manipulate what we think we see by filtering out, highlighting, […]

Three examples of multistable perceptions

Look at It This Way: How our brains influence how we see the world

Whether it’s physical objects or a mental ideas, we know that there’s always more than one way to see things. Yet the brain’s job is to make sense of everything, so we often aren’t conscious of just how ambiguous the world really is. To the extent that mental conception emerges from physical perception, what and […]

Pencil and pieces of eraser

To Err is Human: Science & the Art of Finding Our Mistakes

Everybody makes mistakes. Even scientists. It’s part of being human. That’s actually why science is so invaluable — it’s a collaborative practice that requires us to continually test, share, and reevaluate the evidence upon which we’ve based our interpretations of reality. The problem researchers have uncovered is simple: the computer programs designed to sift through […]

Screenshot from language and cognition video

The Power of Words: An overview of theories of language and cognition

If you’ve ever learned another language, then you know that some words don’t translate exactly. For example, there’s a language in New Guinea that only has two words for color — mola, meaning “bright,” and milli, meaning “dark.” Now compare that to English. We have lots of words for color … But does the fact […]

Outline of human head with tree branch pattern inside

Found In Translation: How our understanding of language transcends languages

From the representation of individual words as concepts to collective words as sentences, there are patterns in the ways we understand language that transcend the organization of individual languages. One of the new insights emerging about human brain function … is that individual concepts have identifiable neural signatures … [and] that there is a high […]

A Sentence as a Story: Patterns and scales of language

Every sentence is a story. That is, the organizing principles of a sentence are very similar to those of a story. Although it isn’t clear which came first, the shared abstract structures of grammar and narrative suggest an underlying pattern that informs the organization of language (and perhaps cognition as well) at multiple scales. The […]

Dark figure pointing finger at reader

You’re the Enemy: How resisters play a supporting role in populist movements

When “We the People” becomes “You the Enemy” In his article about “how to let a populist beat you, again and again,” Andrés Miguel Rondón describes “four easy steps” to productively (and unproductively) working against a Trump-style populist movement. For many, however, those steps will seem very counterintuitive. Why is that? At least part of […]

Angel figurine partially in shadows

A psychological problem of the highest moral significance…

Bringing the shadow to consciousness is a psychological problem of the highest moral significance. It demands that the individual hold himself accountable not only for what happens to him, but also for what he projects. . . Without the conscious inclusion of the shadow in daily life there cannot be a positive relationship to other […]

Silhoutte of person waving US flag

US and Our Shadow

These are dark times. Do you know where your shadow is? With Groundhog’s Day approaching and the current state of the world, I’ve been thinking a lot about Carl Jung’s description of the shadow and the ways we project our own unconscious tendencies onto others. This video describes how the shadow, when “ignored or misunderstood,” […]

In Your Mind’s Eye: Looking at the perception and conception of body metaphors

When two people are seeing eye to eye, they’re usually not literally standing face to face and staring at each other. However, new research suggests that hearing the previous sentence would probably activate an area of your brain responsible for the visual perception of body parts. Almost as if you were actually looking at two […]

Mental Fingerprints: The brain as a form of ID

The structural connections in your brain are unique to you, say scientists, who have developed a way to “fingerprint” the human brain … “This confirms something that we’ve always assumed in neuroscience—that connectivity patterns in your brain are unique to you … This means that many of your life experiences are somehow reflected in the […]

I see what you mean: Perceiving and conceiving with the mind’s eye

[T]hinking…is no more and no less an organ of perception than the eye or ear. Just as the eye perceives colours and the ear sounds, so thinking perceives ideas. — Rudolf Steiner REFERENCE Goethean Science | Rudolf Steiner Although it is the brain rather than the sensory organs that perceives colors and sounds, it is […]

Finding the Third Way: A Creative Approach to Revolutionary Thinking

When trying to come up with creative strategies for approaching everyday problems, we sometimes confuse an emergent “third way” with a linear “middle way.” Unlike more linear approaches, an emergent systems perspective isn’t just about compromises or common ground. It is also about synergies and the bigger picture. To be emergent, a third way approach […]

Three ballerinas in group pose

Feeling Our Bodies: Physical, emotional, and social awareness

There’s one thing always connecting us to our physical environment, our emotional experience, and our social relationships: our bodies. But what does this mean? How does the body simultaneously inform our physical, emotional, and social awareness? The research paper entitled “The specificity of the link between alexithymia, interoception, and imitation” offers a few insights into […]

Body-Mind Alignment: Yoga and the cultivation of voice

We’ve all heard about the mind-body connection. But what about body-mind alignment? In this interview, yoga and voice instructor Jurian Hughes describes yoga as the practice of unifying or aligning our feelings, thoughts, words, and actions. This alignment is essential to what she calls our authentic voice, or the “full, deep expression of ourselves.” Her […]

Empathy in Action: Why listening speaks louder than words

The interesting thing today is that in so many ways we’re more connected than we’ve ever been, but the thing that is missing from that equation is empathy… It’s being connected, but it isn’t connecting. — Benjamin Mathes REFERENCE Who We Are: The Urban Confessional Story (video) | Urban Confessional Urban Confessional is an organization […]


Once a photograph of the Earth, taken from the outside, is available – once the sheer isolation of the Earth becomes plain – a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose. — Sir Fred Hoyle REFERENCE Gaither’s Dictionary of Scientific Quotations | Carl C. Gaither • Alma E. Cavazos-Gaither I […]

Turbulent Times: The adolescence of teenagers, technology & the human tribe

REVKIN: In The Descent of Man, in 1871, Darwin wrote a passage about how we were fundamentally tribal, but that the more that humans were interrelating with each other … the more our sense of tribe would expand. Then he said, only an artificial barrier stands before we will become essentially one tribe, not just […]

Transformational Change and Revolutionary Love

TIPPETT: You’ve said … an animating question for you is “How does transformational change happen…?” ALEXANDER: I think very often people are waiting for the next great leader to emerge, not recognizing that that’s actually not how the history unfolded … Throughout history you see that when ordinary people begin to believe that their own […]

It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it: Behavior and design as communication

[O]ne cannot not behave. Now, if it is accepted that all behavior in an interactional situation has message value, i.e., is communication, it follows that … one cannot not communicate. Activity or inactivity, words or silence all have message value: they influence others and these others, in turn, cannot not respond to these communications and […]

Searching for meaning

I felt like I was digging up ancient treasure. Word archaeology. I began to see an analogy between words and computer icons. The way you can click on something and it opens up a whole world you couldn’t have imagined before you clicked. — Susan Carpenter Sims REFERENCE Found in Translation | On Being

The art of music

A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence. — Leopold Stokowski REFERENCE Addressing an audience at Carnegie Hall, as quoted in The New York Times (11 May 1967) | Wikiquote Music is the color of sound. — Unknown Melissa McCracken thought everyone associated colors with music the same way she […]

Theories, maps & territories: Navigating the worlds of science

To say something is a map is not to say it’s a hunch,” said Dr. Godfrey-Smith, a professor at the City University of New York and the University of Sydney. “It’s an attempt to represent some territory.” A theory, likewise, represents a territory of science. Instead of rivers, hills, and towns, the pieces of the […]

Body as Soul

Body and soul are not two different things, but only two different ways of perceiving the same thing. Similarly, physics and psychology are only different attempts to link our experiences together by way of systematic thought. — Albert Einstein REFERENCE Albert Einstein, The Human Side: New Glimpses From His Archives (1979) | Helen Dukas • […]

The art of perception: Seeing a poor neighborhood as a work of art

Amid Cairo’s brick buildings and heaping piles of trash is a sprawling work of art, which, at first, looks messy and incoherent. But when you stand on the nearby hillside and read the spray-painted Arabic “calligraffiti,” as its creator Tunisian-French artist eL Seed calls it, the message reads loud and clear: “If one wants to […]

Managing yourself: Trick yourself into breaking a bad habit | Joseph Grenny

Most of what we do, feel, and think happen outside of our conscious awareness. To the extent that we are not directly aware of the cognitive processes that inform our physical, emotional, and mental behaviors, we can’t directly affect them. However understanding the way these processes work means we can indirectly affect them by designing […]

Meditation and Multi-tasking

When we talk about learning, we’re normally talking about transactional learning or the learning of information. However, we also learn behaviors, which include ways of understanding information that affect/effect how we interpret concepts (mental patterns of behavior) as well as ways of responding to information that affect/effect how we act in the world (physical patterns of […]

The Power of Networks: Complexity, patterns, fractals, and scale | Gaia Marcus • Manuel Lima

Gaia Marcus: Something we’re examining is how people need to understand complexity… We’re taught that A plus B equals C but that’s not actually how that works at the more complex level. And something you touch on… was how order and disorder, or order and complexity are actually two poles of the same phenomena and […]

The stories we tell ourselves: Cognition, brain networks, and points of view

What if networks in the brain correspond to different ways of interpreting information? In their article about a large-scale brain networks framework of cognition, Bressler and Menon describe three major networks: central executive, default mode, and salience. The executive network is “responsible for high-level cognitive functions, notably the control of attention and working memory”, the […]

Large-scale networks in cognition: Emerging methods and principles | Steven Bressler • Vinod Menon

The study of cognition is moving beyond the idea that specific areas of the brain are independently responsible for the full range of cognitive functions. Scientists are learning more about how the coordinated activity of areas across the brain also plays a role in thought, feeling, and behavior. This network perspective involves exploring larger scales […]

Buckner • Andrews-Hanna • Schacter | The brain’s default network: Anatomy, function, and relevance to disease

A shared human experience is our active internal mental life. Left without an immediate task that demands full attention, our minds wander jumping from one passing thought to next—what William James (1890) called the “stream of consciousness.” We muse about past happenings, envision possible future events, and lapse into ideations about worlds that are far […]

Evolution and wonder: Understanding Charles Darwin | James Moore • Krista Tippett

Darwin has a vision of nature and it takes quite a while studying Darwin from when he was in his 20s really until, at the end of his life, he’s working on earthworms, of all things. I do have the most profound respect for the way he doggedly pursued his vision of the history of […]

Dan Lundquist (The Chronicle of Higher Education) | When trying harder doesn’t work

Ken Burns’s recent documentary tells the story of the Dust Bowl, blow by blow: the brutally unrelenting natural challenges, the grim perseverance and astonishingly unfailing hope of Depression-era farm families, and the glimmers of actual relief that were quickly followed by even worse calamities. Staring straight at the camera, one stoic survivor states the prevailing […]

Google Earth Outreach | A planetary perspective: With Landsat and Google Earth Engine

Since July 1972, NASA’s Landsat satellites have gathered images over the entire land surface of the Earth, creating the most complete record ever assembled. These images, archived at USGS, reveal dynamic changes over time due to human activity (deforestation, urbanization) and natural processes (volcanic eruptions, wildfire). Now, Google Earth Engine allows scientists, researchers and the […]

Our species thinks in metaphors and learns through stories…

“Wherever a story comes from, whether it is a familiar myth or a private memory, the retelling exemplifies the making of a connection from one pattern to another: a potential translation in which narrative becomes parable and the once upon a time comes to stand for some renascent truth. This approach applies to all the […]

Krista Tippett • Kevin Kling (OnBeing) | The losses and laughter we grow into

By telling a story, things don’t control me anymore. It’s in my vernacular; it’s the way I see the world. And I think that’s why our stories ask our questions, our big questions like: “Where do we come from — before life, after life?” “What’s funny in this world or sacred?” And even more importantly, […]

A tale of two apes: Elaine Morgan and the aquatic ape hypothesis

Elaine Morgan was a tenacious proponent of a theory that is not widely accepted. The aquatic ape hypothesis lays out the idea that humans evolved from primate ancestors who dwelt in watery habitats. Hear her spirited defense of the idea — and her theory on why science doesn’t take it seriously Well, this is 2009. […]

What makes us human? Answers from evolutionary anthropology

[W]e are biocultural animals…no other species has evolved as we have: human evolution is not simply a biological process, but truly a biocultural process. Our biology cannot be understood outside of the aforementioned cultural and cognitive reality, and culture cannot be fully understood without biology. REFERENCE What makes us human? Answers from evolutionary anthropology | […]

Chicago Humanities Festival 2013 | Animal: What makes us human

Are humans animals? Not long ago, the question produced a predictable standoff. Now it is the start of a fascinating conversation. The 24th Chicago Humanities Festival takes this new exchange of ideas out of the academy and into the public. We explore what it means to think about culture biologically, about biology culturally, and about […]

Julie Cohen (UC Santa Barbara • Futurity) | Using fewer brain ‘tools’ may speed learning

With the neurological correlates of the learning process coming into focus, the scientists were able to delve into the differences among participants in order to explain why some learned the sequences faster than others. Counterintuitive as it may seem, the participants who showed decreased neural activity learned the fastest. The critical distinction was in areas […]

Gail Gallessich (Futurity) | Brain’s flexibility predicts learning

There are flexible brain regions with allegiances that change through time. “That flexibility seems to be the factor that predicts learning,” says Bassett. “So, if you are very flexible, then you will end up learning better on the second day, and if you are not very flexible, then you learn less…”A brain’s flexibility is determined […]

Planetary Collective: The Overview Effect

On the 40th anniversary of the famous ‘Blue Marble’ photograph taken of Earth from space, Planetary Collective presents a short film documenting astronauts’ life-changing stories of seeing the Earth from the outside – a perspective-altering experience often described as the Overview Effect. The Overview Effect, first described by author Frank White in 1987, is an […]

Claudia Wallis (Futurity) | New theory upends view of how the brain is wired

The long-held view of how signals move through the cerebral cortex of the human brain may be incorrect…Looking at how sensory information is processed in rats, Columbia University neuroscientist Randy Bruno found that signals are processed in two parts of the cortex simultaneously rather than in series—almost as if there are two brains…One possibility, suggests […]

Finding the simple patterns in a complex world | Michael Barnsley

Professor Michael Barnsley has developed a new way to uncover simple patterns that might underlie apparently complex systems, such as clouds, cracks in materials or the movement of the stockmarket. The method, named fractal Fourier analysis, is based on new branch of mathematics called fractal geometry. The method could help scientists better understand the complicated […]

Simon Levin (Ecology) | The problem of pattern and scale in ecology

It is argued that the problem of pattern and scale is the central problem in ecology, unifying population biology and ecosystems science, and marrying basic and applied ecology. Applied challenges, such as the prediction of the ecological causes and consequences of global climate change, require the interfacing of phenomena that occur on very different scales […]

On the distinction between work groups and teams

Groups do not become teams simply because that is what someone calls them…A working group’s performance is a function of what its members do as individuals. A team’s performance includes both individual results and what we call “collective work products.”…Whatever it is, a collective work product reflects the joint, real contribution of team members…The essence […]

Isabel Behncke (TED) | Evolution’s gift of play, from bonobo apes to humans

Bonobos, like humans, love to play throughout their entire lives. Play is not just child’s games. For us and them, play is foundational for bonding relationships and fostering tolerance. It’s where we learn to trust and where we learn about the rules of the game. Play increases creativity and resilience, and it’s all about the […]

Alex “Sandy” Pentland (Harvard Business Review) | The new science of building great teams

When we set out to document the behavior of teams that “click,” we noticed we could sense a buzz in a team even if we didn’t understand what the members were talking about. That suggested that the key to high performance lay not in the content of a team’s discussions but in the manner in […]

Avaaz | Stories of us

Avaaz—meaning “voice” in several European, Middle Eastern and Asian languages—launched in 2007 with a simple democratic mission: organize citizens of all nations to close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want. Stories are incredibly powerful. They bring us closer together and heighten our sense of shared humanity. Meet […]

Bruce Cameron | Informal Sociology: A casual introduction to sociological thinking

It would be nice if all of the data which sociologists require could be enumerated because then we could run them through IBM machines and draw charts as the economists do. However, not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.     Reference Informal Sociology: A Casual Introduction […]

Antwerp Central Station – Belgium | Sound of Music Flash Mob

More than 200 dancers were performing their version of “Do Re Mi”, in the Central Station of Antwerp. with just 2 rehearsals they created this amazing stunt! Those 4 fantastic minutes started the 23 of march 2009, 08:00 AM. It is a promotion stunt for a Belgian television program, where they are looking for someone […]