Anyone who thinks science can’t be beautiful or profound should spend an hour in the audio headspace of the latest RadioLab as it tackles life, death and mortality.
It contemplates how death has moved from the heart to the brain, the attempt to weigh souls, delusions of non-existence, digital immortality, neuroimaging for flickers of life, and a man who survived a suicide plunge that has killed almost everyone else who made the leap.
One highlight is a reading of an amazing short story from a book by neuroscientist David Eagleman in which he imagines 40 versions of the afterlife.
In this particular story, people live in a limbo after death where they exist while their names are still remembered by the living. While some leave this realm when they fade the collective consciousness, others become famous and are trapped, slave to their recollected selves that warp slowly over time as the living distort their memories.
Eagleman notes that it was inspired by the neuroscience of memory, which information is kept alive by being constantly re-represented in the brain.
As always, it’s beautifully produced and hits. just. the. right. notes. for such a powerful subject.
There is probably no better way to spend an hour in the underworld.
Link to RadioLab edition ‘After Life’.