Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Scientific American Interview

Scientific American 1905
When I was growing up in Columbus, Ohio, I read everything I could get my hands on. One of the most curious books in my home library was my father's pair of bound volumes of reprints from old Scientific American magazine issues from the beginning of the 20th Century. These pages featured giant construction projects, huge airships, early radio accomplishments and predictions of a brighter, more noble and much more electrified future.

Little could Nick imagine that one day he himself would appear in this renowned popular science magazine in a column called Cross-Check (named after an illegal ice hockey move) being interviewed by John Horgan, the author of Rational Mysticism and The End of Science. Besides Nick Herbert, Horgan's interviewees have included physicists David Bohm, Steven Weinberg, Edward Witten, Martin Rees, Sabine Hossenfelder, Lee Smolin and many others, a very distinguished company of thinkers.

Horgan's interview was motivated by my 10th anniversary blog post and by my big role in David Kaiser's recent book How the Hippies Saved Physics.

Among Horgan's questions to me were:
How did you end up as a physicist?
How did you end up as a hippy?
Is quantum mechanics the key to explaining consciousness?

Get the answers to these questions (and more) at John Horgan's Scientific American Cross-Check blog post: Chasing the Quantum Tantra.

Nick Herbert resting from the chase.
 Simultaneous with this blog post, John Horgan had just completed a magnum opus on the nature of consciousness, a book called Mind-Body Problems: Science, Subjectivity & Who We Really Are which he made available for free on the Internet at mindbodyproblems.com. In this book, Horgan interviews nine specialists representing nine different perspectives on human subjectivity. This book is unusual in that Horgan does not just interview these nine people about their ideas but about their personal lives as well. John's curiosity and desire to really know what's going on entangles himself and the reader in a sometimes embarrassingly intimate connection with some of these scientist's personal lives. For that reason, this book is a lot more lively than your typical psychology textbook.

John Horgan, author of Mind-Body Problems.

For my evaluation of this engaging book, I can do no better than echo the opinion of Deepak Chopra in the Discussion section:

"Giving an abstract problem a human voice -- in this case ten voices, counting the author and the nine people he interviewed -- has many rewards. We get something close to the real texture of how ideas are woven into biography. These ten people -- like all people -- lead lives in which mental activity cannot be tweaked out and examined objectively. I envy Horgan his ability to convey the lived-in quality of thinking."

Horgan's logo for Mind-Body Problems

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