Meditation Lab: Empathy and Energy

We all know what meditation looks like, and many of us know what it feels like. But what does it provide us in return for these brief periods of mental and physical stillness? Join Robert and Joe as they talk to Emory University meditation researcher Dr. Jennifer Muscaro about the challenges of objective scientific meditation research and the empathetic potential of compassion meditation. Plus they’ll check in with Vedic meditation instructor Jill Wener and discuss stress and adaptation energy.

The Secret Intellect of Animals, Part 2

In the second of two episodes, Christian and Joe continue their discussion of animal cognition, including animal morality, tool use, mental time travel, culture, and other strange clues to the intellectual complexity of our cousins in the animal kingdom. Afterwards, they speak to Dutch-American primatologist Frans de Waal about his book and his thoughts on the future of animal intelligence research.

The Secret Intellect of Animals, Part 1

In the 18th century, David Hume wrote that “no truth appears to me more evident than that beasts are endow’d with thought and reason as well as men.” Yet animal cognition has remained a controversial subject in science ever since. In the first of two episodes, Christian and Joe discuss the work of Dutch-American primatologist Frans de Waal, and ask the question of not just whether animals are smarter than we understand, but why the evidence of animal cognition is often so difficult for we humans to grasp.

MDMA: Pharmacological Ecstasy

Some of you have tried the ecstasy. Others have merely heard about the drug on a TV sitcom, or heard about it in a news report. Either way, MDMA's power resonates through our culture -- and sometimes it's hard to distinguish the truth form the misinformation. But what exactly is this psychoactive agent? Where does it come from and what sort of effect does it have on the human experience? Join Robert and Christian as they explore the origins and properties of MDMA.

Respect the Rat

You may think rats are just vermin, but the fact is they own huge metropolitan cities like New York. And when it comes to science they've contributed an immense amount of data (although not voluntarily). Find out how similar rats are to humans and whether or not they're capable of empathy in this episode of the Stuff to Blow Your Mind podcast.

Empathic Elephants

Empathic Elephants: The elephant is Earth's largest surviving land creature and an example of nature at its most majestic. But these amazing creatures also boast self awareness, a high intelligence and a startling capacity for empathy. Join Robert and Julie as they discuss humanity's troubled relationship with elephant kind. Image source: Neil Emmerson/Robert Harding World Imagery/Getty

New Study Peeks Inside the Psychopathic Brain

What do fMRI scans tell us about the psychopathic brain?

So my wife and I were discussing Josh and Chuck's recent podcast on our culture's dire need for innovators, teleportation and a universal language. We both agreed on the first count, but were split on the other two. Setting aside the ethical and possibly gene-splicing issues of teleportation, I just couldn't get behind the idea of a universal language. Recently, I finally got around to reading Neal Stephenson's cyberpunk classic "Snow Crash" and there's a great deal of interesting stuff in the book about human language as an operating system and how the trend toward divergence in language actually prevents and protects us from widespread harm. If a farmer grows only one crop, then his entire farm is susceptible to devastation from a single parasite. Stephenson makes a case that destructive movements such as Nazism are cultural viruses. If more of us had the same operating system in our brains, then something like that would be much harder to contain. So in that sense, a universal language might mean that a truly dangerous idea could spread throughout human culture, largely unchecked.