Photo of glasses on newspaper with crossword puzzle
Photo of glasses on newspaper with crossword puzzle

Cosmic Queries: Absolutely Puzzled with Heather Berlin and Soleil Saint-Cyr

stevepb, Public Domain, via Pixnio
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About This Episode

Got a problem? On this episode, Neil deGrasse Tyson and comic co-host Chuck Nice explore the world of puzzles and problem-solving with neuroscientist and clinical psychologist Heather Berlin featuring Soleil Saint-Cyr, the youngest woman to publish a crossword puzzle in the New York Times.

First, we dive into crossword puzzles with Soleil. What makes people want to construct them? How do you make one? Find out what it takes to get a crossword puzzle into the New York Times. We explore the connection between crossword puzzles, vocabulary, and pattern recognition. Why do people even like crosswords? 

Next, we get to our patron questions with Dr. Berlin. What goes on in the minds of people who do puzzles? Why does anyone want to solve them? Discover our problem-solving roots and why our brains crave it. How far do games and puzzles go back? How does this activate our reward centers? We look into primary and secondary reinforcers and how different games and puzzles work within our minds. Are our brains hardwired for certain games? Why do puzzles seem to have a calming effect?

We continue with our patron questions, learning how doing puzzles and gaming connects to addiction. Why can’t we stop playing games on our phones? Is this linked to gambling and other addictions? We break down how easy or hard puzzles are and what they do to our brain. Do brain games help us keep our mind sharp as we age? Which ones? How come some puzzles seem to get easier over time? How does the unconscious mind help us solve problems? All that, and we break down the different parts of the brain involved in different types of problem-solving! Plus, hear a special announcement from Chuck!

Thanks to our Patrons Ken Abe, Oscar h, Travis Mansfield, Skyler Pierce, C Hough, Sunny Day, Ashlynn Iglesias, Shain Dholakiya, Joy Jane, and Elena Grab for supporting us this week.

NOTE: StarTalk+ Patrons can watch or listen to this entire episode commercial-free.

About the prints that flank Neil in this video:
“Black Swan” & “White Swan” limited edition serigraph prints by Coast Salish artist Jane Kwatleematt Marston. For more information about this artist and her work, visit Inuit Gallery of Vancouver.

In This Episode

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