Extended Classic: “Are You Out of Your Mind?” with Oliver Sacks

Photo Credit: Adam Scourfield.

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About This Episode

Now extended with exclusive, never-before-heard content, in which Neil and his recently departed friend Oliver Sacks talk about evolution, religion and atheism, and compare a sense of wonder and awe towards the natural world with belief in the supernatural.

The brain’s 100 billion neurons speak to each other by chemical and electrical signaling, and this complicated communication provides us with everything we know and defines who we are. But when it is led astray, we can end up with false memories, hallucinations, and many other misunderstandings of the world around us. Learn about the role of the hippocampus in memory, the effects of LSD on the brain, the possible medical uses of LSD and other psychotropic drugs, and what a 19th century railroad worker named Phineas Gage can teach us about traumatic brain injuries.

Oliver Sacks, author of best-selling books on brain disorders, including Awakenings which was made into an Oscar-nominated film, discusses some strange cerebral shenanigans that can shape our senses. Neil is also joined by Cara Santa Maria, a science educator with a background in neuroscience, and the comedian Chuck Nice, whose mother used to tell him that “he ain’t right in the head.”

NOTE: All-Access subscribers can listen to this entire episode commercial-free here: Extended Classic: “Are You Out of Your Mind?” with Oliver Sacks.

 

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  • Benjamin Heasly

    Ok, gotta call out Dr. Tyson on two points:

    He asks why would I take a psychoactive drug if I want to solve an equation? Caffeine man! The drug that caused the Enlightenment in Europe!

    Also, I think its the case that Dr. Tyson enjoys a glass of red wine. It’s part of a balanced lifestyle for many creative and intellectual people.

    I wanted to yell at my phone.

    I love the show!

  • Tipsy

    Cara Santa Maria? I think Thunderf00t summed up what she does, she is a science fan. TF calculated that that whole plastic out of the air operation Cara did a piece on wouldn’t even manage to offset their own carbon output just from being living organisms. Cara’s response was something to the effect of “He only has his own calculations as proof, this project has been certified carbon negative” which is an argument from authority, and ignores the fact that the certifiers would presumably use the same calculations that TF used, except leaving out the variable of how much carbon they produce. Then Cara blocked anyone on social media who brought this up with her, inviting debate and having an open mind indeed.

    Let’s get Thunderf00t (Phillip Mason) on Star talk, that would be fun.

    • I couldn’t agree more. I can’t stand Cara Santa Maria. She relies on political beliefs to justify her ‘science,’ and (as you said) relies on authority over open discussion. I am about as liberal as you can get and people like her and Bill Maher give rationalism a bad name, because they are rationalists in name only (RINOs).

      Additionally, “an expert on the brain”? Come on NDT, She got a masters and bolted from continuing education. Apparently having gathered enough knowledge for her taste to go lecture others on her nonsense ideas. I have 2 masters in cognitive neuroscience and wouldn’t dream of calling myself an expert.

      “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance. It is the illusion of knowledge.”

      -Daniel J. Boorstin

  • Tipsy

    Cara is also wrong when she says we don’t give people psychotropic drugs to induce hallucinations, we currently are experimenting with this in the U.S.A to mitigate the fear of death in terminal patients, and the results are really exciting. How did she miss that? It was even in the New York Times.

    • Tipsy, just to be clear, this episode was recorded and originally aired in early 2011. When Oliver Sacks passed away, we went back to the original recordings and found unused interview material we added for the “Extended Classic” version. So it is possible, even likely, that there have been advances that happened after Cara was our guest on the show.

      • Tipsy

        Good good.

  • Sand

    Thank you for the lovely interview! I’ve read many books by Oliver Sacks and they blew my mind. They gave me a new perspective on the amazing and mysterious powers of the mind. I have deep respect and admiration for him. He will be greatly missed.

  • Max Pecina

    My daughter, a 15 year old previously uninterested in intellectual discussions, listened to this last night. She is now interested in intellectual discussions. Thank you Dr. Tyson for revisiting this interview.

    • terraton

      I was disappointed to hear the discussion of your guest’s “hotness” — can’t we get beyond that with women scientists? I’m sure it seems like fun to you, but it tarnishes your guest’s authority.

      • DrE

        Looks are everything to so many Americans..

  • Max Pecina

    My daughter, a 15 year old previously uninterested in intellectual discussions, listened to this last night. She is now interested in intellectual discussions. Thank you Dr. Tyson for revisiting this interview.

  • terraton

    I was disappointed to hear the discussion of your guest’s “hotness” — can’t we get beyond that with women scientists? I’m sure it seems like fun to you, but it tarnishes your guest’s authority.

    • DrE

      Looks are everything to so many Americans..

  • danjodon

    Love hearing from Sacks, Tyson, and Maria, but Chuck Nice was really obnoxious in this episode making more off-color jokes than usual. I will say, he’s less obnoxious now.

  • twincannon

    Wow. That sexism though. Hope this “classic” is at least 10 years old…

  • Stephanie Morgan

    I love reading while on LSD.

  • Amir Andelija

    The comic co host being called sexist for making people laugh, never change

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