Month: April 2011

133. Dr. Stuart Hameroff On Quantum Consciousness and Moving Singularity Goal Posts

Human consciousness researcher Dr. Stuart Hameroff describes how discoveries are revealing more brain complexity than artificial intelligence (AI) experts suspected. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Dr. Stuart Hameroff. Dr. Hameroff is Professor Emeritus in the Departments of Anesthesiology and Psychology at the University of Arizona, where he also serves as the Director of the Center for Consciousness Studies. During the interview Mr. Tsakiris and Dr. Hameroff discuss whether DMT-based psychedelic experiences provide evidence that our consciousness exists outside of the brain: Alex Tsakiris: Your understanding of the quantum mechanics of the neuron really stirs up a lot of angst among the AI singularity crowd. Tell us a little bit about that controversy. Dr. Stuart Hameroff: To look at our brain as 100 billion simple switches -- to look at a neuron as a switch or gate -- it's an insult to neurons. It's just not that simple. If you study biology you realize this.  But a lot of biologists get bogged down with the details and lose the big picture. They see the information processing in the cell as a minestrone soup of chemicals when they're ignoring the solid state system in the microtubules. The bit with the AI and the singularity, there's actually a couple of points of friction here. As I said, I spent 20 years studying microtubule information processing. The AI approach would be, roughly speaking, that a neuron fires or it doesn't. It's roughly comparable to a bit, 1 or 0. It's more complicated than that but roughly speaking.  I was saying no, each neuron has roughly 10-8 tubulins switching at roughly 10-7 per second, getting 10-15 operations per second per neuron. If you multiply that by the number of neurons you get 10 to the 26th operations per second per brain. AI is looking at neurons firing or not firing, 1,000 per second, 1,000 synapses. Something like the 10 to the 15th operations per second per brain... and that's without even bringing in the quantum business. So that alone was pushing the goalpost way, way downstream into the future. Dr. Stuart Hameroff's website Play it: Download MP3 (34:00 min.) Read it: Today we welcome Dr. Stuart Hameroff to Skeptiko. Dr. Hameroff is Professor Emeritus in the Departments of Anesthesiology and Psychology at the University of Arizona, where he also serves as the Director of the Center for Consciousness Studies. Dr. Hameroff, thank you so much for joining me today on Skeptiko. Dr. Stuart Hameroff: You're welcome, Alex. It's nice to be here.


132. Deborah Blum On the Taboo of Paranormal Science Reporting

Pulitzer Prize winning author Deborah Blum discusses the challenges of science reporting and the paranormal taboo. Skeptiko guest host Steve Volk welcomes Deborah Blum author of, Ghost Hunters - William James and the Hunt for Scientific Proof of Life After Death. During the interview Ms. Blum discusses her approach to covering the paranormal: Steve Volk: This is one of the hardest things. Who do we believe? Who do we trust? I want to see somehow people in the middle pick this stuff up and look at it, but that's a very, very rare occurrence. Deborah Blum: I agree. Like I said, I'm a mainstream science journalist and daughter of a chemist. But what was fascinating to me when I started working on Ghost Hunters is that I'd go and give talks at different universities. I mean literally, I was at the University of Florida and they said, 'Oh, let us tell you about our haunted laboratory.' Or I was at a meeting with a bunch of animal researchers and I was sitting next to a very respected scientist from Stanford who immediately started telling me about the telepathic experiences she'd had with a friend of hers who is a scientist at Southwestern University. I thought to myself, 'This whole world exists that really those of us in the skeptic/science community never see because people just don't tell you about it. Steve Volks's website Fringe-ology Trailer Deborah Blum - Ghost Hunters Play it: Download MP3 (58:00 min.) Read it: Welcome to Skeptiko, where we explore controversial science with leading researchers, thinkers, and their critics. I'm your host, Alex Tsakiris. On this episode, as you just heard, there's a new voice behind the interview so before we get started I thought we'd take a minute and introduce that voice, that being the voice of journalist and author, Steve Volk, who's joining me right now.