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Why?: What Makes Us Curious
Astrophysicist and author Mario Livio investigates perhaps the most human of all our characteristics - curiosity - as he explores our innate desire to know why.Experiments demonstrate that people are more distracted when they overhear a phone conversation - where they can know only one side of the dialogue - than when they overhear two people talking and know both sides. Why does half a conversation make us more curious than a whole conversation?In the ever-fascinating Why? Mario Livio interviewed scientists in several fields to explore the nature of curiosity. He examined the lives of two of history’s most curious geniuses, Leonardo da Vinci and Richard Feynman. He also talked to people with boundless curiosity: a superstar rock guitarist who is also an astrophysicist; an astronaut with degrees in computer science, biology, literature, and medicine. What drives these people to be curious about so many subjects? Curiosity is at the heart of mystery and suspense novels. It is essential to other forms of art, from painting to sculpture to music. It is the principal driver of basic scientific research. Even so, there is still no definitive scientific consensus about why we humans are so curious, or about the mechanisms in our brain that are responsible for curiosity.Mario Livio - an astrophysicist who has written about mathematics, biology, and now psychology and neuroscience - explores this irresistible subject in a lucid, entertaining way that will captivate anyone who is curious about curiosity.
Me, Myself, and Why: Searching for the Science of Self
In Me, Myself, and Why, Jennifer Ouellette dives into the miniscule ranges of variation to understand just what sets us apart.
Psychiatry has ignored the normal. The focus on defining abnormal behavior has obscured what turns out to be a more fundamental question - how does the biology of the brain give rise to the mind, which in turn gives rise to everything we care about: thoughts, feelings, desires, and relationships? InThe Other Side of Normal, Harvard psychiatrist Jordan Smoller shows us that understanding what the mind was designed to do in the first place demystifies mental illness and builds a new foundation for defining psychiatric disorders - from autism to depression. Smoller argues there are no bright lines between normal and abnormal. Psychiatric disorders are variations of the same brain systems that evolved to help us solve the challenges of everyday life. How do we become who we are? Smoller explains where our personalities come from, and how the temperaments we had as infants actually stay with us into adulthood. Why do we choose to date, love, and marry the people we do? Why do some of us form healthy relationships while others form unstable ones? Our relationships are shaped by the biology that drives two imperatives: maternal-child bonding and child-parent attachment. Along the way, Smoller tackles an even greater question - what do we mean by "normal"? as he explores the puzzles behind the epidemics of multiple personalities and koro, the shocking phobia that one's penis is shrinking. He also looks at the controversial history of psychiatric classification and the explosive debates over how much early experiences influence our minds and to what degree genetics affect our temperaments, personalities, and emotional lives. Throughout this examination, Smoller explores the hidden sides of such questions as: How are trust and love rooted in biology? How much does sexual attraction stem from biology rather than culture? And what can the scientific study of normal behavior tell us about what it means to be human? Based on the author's groundbreaking research and personal experiences treating psychological disorders, The Other Side of Normal changes the way we think about the human condition.
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