Books which ask the question “what’s wrong with our brains” are a current pop-psychology staple. Cordelia Fine’s A Mind of Its Own was ahead of this trend, as it was first published in 2005.
A Mind of Its Own explores some ways in which our brains don’t make sense, and the cognitive biases which funnel us down faulty mental shortcuts. The books starts with the bias equivalent of little white lies, detailing how almost all of us are biased to see things as a little easier, happier, and less flawed than they really are. From this gentle introduction, Fine talks us through the progressively larger mental failings discovered through social psychology studies.
I first became interested in reading Sapiens because of its polarising reviews; readers seemed divided over whether it was one of the greatest books in existence or one of the most pretentious. With my curiosity piqued, Sapiens jumped to the top of my to-buy list.
As I haven’t studied much biology or early history, I expected that Sapiens might be a challenging read. However, I was surprised by Yuval Harari’s clear writing style- Harari generally restricts his use of jargon, and uses conversational language rather than adding unnecessary complexity. The challenge in reading Sapiens comes from its ideas , not its communication.
“imagined orders are not evil conspiracies or useless mirages. Rather, they are the only way large numbers of humans can cooperate effectively”
“This is why today monogamous relationships and nuclear familes are the norm in the vast majority of cultures, why men and women tend to be possessive of their partners and children, and why even in modern states such as North Korea and Syria political authority passes from father to son” .
I’ve previously read Kean’s third book, The Tale of the Duelling Neurosurgeons, and I found it very informative and fun to read, so I was looking forward to reading The Disappearing Spoon.
At the beginning, the Disappearing Spoon was a more difficult read than Duelling Neurosurgeons, although that’s partly because I have less background knowledge about chemistry than I do about psychiatry or neurology. In comparison to Duelling Neurosurgeons, TDS is denser and more complex. While I could read a chapter of Neurosurgeons in one go and follow its major ideas and mechanics, I couldn’t do the same with TDS. Instead, I needed to stop and retrace my steps frequently to ensure I was keeping track of how new details related to previous information. (This applies most strongly to the early chapters, which focused on the chemistry knowledge needed to make sense of featured elements.)
News from the last three weeks has been bad, to say the least. Both Britain and America have seemingly been bent on destruction and bridge-burning. Yet despite being anxious about just what will happen next, I’m also a little bit curious as well.
One of the few good parts about the previous three weeks is how people have often responded to protect and support others. Social networks have shared resources for contacting politicians, lawyers and advocates, and advice on how best to do so. Widespread protests and calls for mobilisation have made some meaningful changes, called attention to the wrongs which would have remained away from the spotlights, and delayed political decisions. People aren’t taking the changes as quietly as either Trump and co. or May and co. had wanted. And I hope this atmosphere of fighting back will continue, and lead to bigger changes.
Before going to Focus, I finally sat down and asked myself the question of what I want to get out of it. I’d kind of been avoiding that question, as pure curiosity didn’t seem to be the best answer.
Originally, I found the uni magazine project so interesting partly because magazines were a format I’d always written off, for no real reason- spending time actually developing one meant I appreciated what they could do. So I’m interested in exploring them more, to find out if they’re an area of communication I could spend more time with.
I had a very interesting week last week, as I got to spend 5 days at BBC Focus learning more about science magazines and how they’re put together. So, here’s how my week went…
Heading into my first day, I was very nervous, mostly because I didn’t know what to expect or what they expected from me. I wasn’t sure whether they’d be expecting a complete beginner, or someone already knowledgeable. I was worried about being thrown in at the deep end, or doing tasks wrongly. However, I didn’t need to be too worried, as the team seemed friendly and the person in charge of keeping an eye on me was very nice- I was even ok asking him questions about the software by the end of the day.
Last week, I finally got around to volunteering (it took me long enough).
I signed up to help set up for the Festival of Nature; while not technically sci-comm, it’s still useful volunteering experience, and a chance to get used to events in a relatively comfortable environment. So far, I’ve been put off from signing up to most of the volunteering events I’ve seen because of their social aspects, and the potential for making a fool out of myself in talking to new people.