human condition

The Imp of the Perverse

In 1845, Edgar Allan Poe wrote a tale about a man overcome by the compulsion to confess to the heinous crime he sought to keep secret. The conundrum pops up in other Poe tales as well, but the so called “Imp of the Perverse” also invades the human mind with alarming regularity. In this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Robert and Joe attempt to understand just why, considering Freud, neuroscience, Ironic Process Theory and more. 

From the Vault: Eternal Youth, Part 1

Throughout history, humans have faced the inexorable process of aging and death. We’ve dreamt up countless myths to explain why we age and what comes of seeking immortality, but what does science tell us about the process? Why do we age? What purpose does it serve in natural selection? Indeed, what can science offer us in the way of eternal youth? Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick seek to find out in this two-part Stuff to Blow Your Mind exploration. (Originally published Jan. 4, 2018)

Let's Make a List

Why are humans so fascinated by lists? In this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick explore the reason we can’t pass a top 10 clickbait headline and are forever haunted by incomplete lists. 

From the Vault:  Biophilia

Why are humans so drawn to the natural world of biodiverse organisms? Is this longing merely part of our culture or do we possess an innate and even genetic tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes? Join Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick as they discuss Edward O. Wilson’s biophilia hypothesis and explore arguments for and against this captivating view of nature lovers. (Originally published July 18, 2017)

From the Vault: Satanic Panic

What are we to make of alleged ritual satanic abuse and the moral panic that spread in the 1980s and 90s? Robert Lamb and Christian Sager enter a world of religion, fear and demons of the mind. (originally published April 16, 2015)

Motivated Numeracy and the Politics-ridden Brain

If science were a candle in the dark, we’d need only spread its light to combat climate change denial and vaccine conspiracy theories. But what if the problem is more complex than that? What if a quirk of human cognition enables us to remain willingly in the dark, even as we hold the very candle? In this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick explore the concept of motivated numeracy. 

From the Vault: The First Monster

Humans love monsters, but when did we first dare to dream up bestial hybrids and chimerical horrors? In this episode of the Stuff to Blow Your Mind podcast, Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick consider the 35-40 thousand-year-old Löwenmensch statues. Who created these images of lion-headed men? What do they represent and what do they reveal about human cognition? (Originally published October 27, 2017)

Kirk Allen and the Cooperative Illusion

We all daydream and many of us funnel our imagination into creative acts. But what happens when these exercises overpower us? In this two-part Stuff to Blow Your Mind exploration, Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick explore the strange case of nuclear physicist Kirk Allen, whose imagination may have gotten the better of him -- and his psychoanalyst. Dive into the world of cooperative illusions and maladaptive daydreaming. 

Galactic Civilization’s End

If a technological civilization manages to survive itself, how will it fare against the larger challenges of a changing and hostile universe? If humanity ascends the Kardashev scale, how will our unrecognizable and godlike descendants cope with the end of the universe itself? Join Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick for an exploration of the cosmic end times. 

Illusory Truth Effect, Part 2: Fight the Lies

If a lie is repeated often enough, are we more likely to believe it? Sadly, the answer is yes. Psychologists call it the illusory truth effect and it influences both our daily lives and the larger movements of politics and culture. Join Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick for a two-part discussion of untruths, the human mind and just what you can do to fight the big lies at work in your world.