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Sunday, December 1, 2013

A good book for curious minds...

From a book highly recommended at BrainPickings. Does My Goldfish Know Who I Am? is absolutely wonderful in its entirety, apparently – a curiosity quencher for all ages and an especially enchanting primer bridging science and everyday life for young minds.

Illusionist Derren Brown, who has previously weighed in on the psychology of gullibility, answers 5-year-old Evie's question about how we can be sure that life isn't just a dream, touching on the limits of our perception of "reality":
Often we have dreams and they feel so real that we might wonder whether we’re dreaming right now too. It feels like you’re wide awake now, but doesn’t it feel like you’re wide awake in dreams too? How on Earth can you tell the difference? Maybe you’ll wake up in a moment and realize you weren’t reading this book – because it never existed!
Well, at least you know you’re probably real. Because even if you were having a dream right now, there would have to be a you somewhere who was having that dream about yourself. But before your head starts spinning too fast, here’s the important thought. We only ever really know about the stuff we see and hear and feel, and that’s only a tiny part of what’s around us. (For example, you can’t see what’s happening in the next room, or in someone else’s head.) We can only guess at what’s real from the little bit we know about – and often we get it very wrong. … So even though you’re probably not dreaming, it’s worth remembering that you’re only aware of a small part of what’s real, too."
When Honor, age 11, asks Noam Chomsky whether new technology is always good, he answers:
Technology is usually fairly neutral. It’s like a hammer, which can be used to build a house or to destroy someone’s home. The hammer doesn’t care. It is almost always up to us to determine whether the technology is good or bad.
In answering 8-year-old Hannah's question about what newspapers do when there is no news, writer and journalist Oliver Burkeman, author of the excellent The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, offers a primer on media literacy – an important caveat on news that even we, as alleged grown-ups, frequently forget:
Newspapers don’t really go out and find the news: they decide what gets to count as news. The same goes for television and radio. And you might disagree with their decisions! (For example, journalists are often accused of focusing on bad news and ignoring the good, making the world seem worse than it is.)
The important thing to remember, whenever you’re reading or watching the news, is that someone decided to tell you those things, while leaving out other things. They’re presenting one particular view of the world – not the only one. There’s always another side to the story.