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Monday, November 28, 2011

8 Science Lectures that Prevent You from Looking Dumb

I love a good, passionate science lecture. However, I'll be the first to admit that there are a lot of scientific terms and intricacies that I don't understand. So my favorite science lectures end up being of the educational/philosophical variety rather than the technical kinds. I still believe you can get a lot of value and learn some interesting things from the more general science lectures, but it does very much depend on the lecturer. The videos below are my favorite science videos that make me feel more informed and able to talk about science.

This is a guest post from Jacelyn Thomas. Jacelyn writes about identity theft for IdentityTheft.net. She can be reached at: jacelyn.thomas@gmail.com.


Beyond Belief 2006 – Neil deGrasse Tyson Speaks on Intelligent Design

Lecture description:
While the picture quality of this video leaves something to be desired, the sound quality is definitely good enough to capture the clear and eloquent language of Neil deGrasse Tyson. I will not hide any biases here; I have a huge crush on Tyson, both mentally and physically. Mostly mentally. He always goes through great lengths to make his scientific principle incredibly clear and understandable. In this video, Tyson talks through the history of the greatest scientific minds invoking intelligent design when they believed they had reached the limits of human understanding of the universe. His argument, politics aside, is that intelligent design is a philosophy of ignorance that has historically stifled scientific inquiry.


Death by Black Hole – Explained by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Lecture description:
Though this lecture is not aimed at a scientific community, Tyson still makes interesting and valuable points about the physics of a black hole by explaining what would happen to you if you fell into one. While black holes are incredibly complex and hard to understand, Tyson explains the phenomenon in a way that anyone could understand.


Scale of Small – By the Khan Academy

Lecture description:
One of the most commonly misinterpreted and misunderstood aspects of science usually involve ranges of scale much variant from what we normally deal with day to day. This video goes through great lengths to demonstrate the magnitude of difference between various objects and matter when you observe it on different scales of small.


Correlation and Causality – By the Khan Academy

Lecture description:
Similar to people misunderstanding scales of small, people also seem to have an equally (if not more widespread) time determining the difference between correlation and causality. While this is more of a statistics lesson, statistics (and specifically correlation studies) are used all the time in science, commercial studies, and policy studies as well. Overall, this article teaches people to have a healthy skepticism over journalism that takes scientific studies and suggests causality from their correlation results.


David Eagleman on Afterlife

Lecture description:
If there is any scientist I might love to hear lecturing more than Tyson, it would be neurologist David Eagleman. In this interview on the Guardian, Eagleman talks about his first work of fiction relating to the afterlife. When questioned why a scientist would write a work of fiction about the afterlife, Eagleman answers how it’s not really about the afterlife, but rather an exploration of the joys and complexities of being human. Being one of the most humble scientists I’ve ever heard, Eagleman constantly emphasizes the lack of knowledge that he and the scientific community has.


David Eagleman on Possibilianism

Lecture description:
While this video is similarly related to his interview on afterlives, Eagleman uses much more scientific ideas and concepts to illustrate his “possibilian” views that there are billions of possibilities that one must consider before subscribing to a scientific toolset to rule out which possibilities are valid and which aren’t. He argues that staunch atheist scientists are too quick to subscribe to a belief that there is no God or higher power considering the huge gaps of knowledge we currently have about the universe. Yet he also argues that scientific and historic evidence has ruled out the possibility of most organized religions.


Will We Ever Understand the Brain? – David Eagleman

Lecture description:
Of the Eagleman videos I’ve linked, this is his most scientific lecture. Focusing less on philosophy and more on how we understand the brain, Eagleman examines what consciousness is and how it relates to other functions and components of the brain. Interestingly, Eagleman hypothesizes that there is a rather large gap between what your mind has access to and what the rest of your brain knows. Your conscious mind is a very small proportion of your brain activity. Eagleman also explains the practical issues we have with programming artificial intelligence, and how neurology is such a huge pillar in this issue.


The Perception of Time – Robert M. Dittler

Lecture description:
I’m a huge fan of science lectures concerning perception and reality. Dittler’s lecture is one of the most detailed and precise lectures I’ve heard on the topic. He tends to question even the most basic held assumptions of reality. The illusion of life is that he is standing there speaking; the reality of life is that each of viewers is making him up inside of their own heads.


Enjoy!


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