The New Yorker has a fantastic profile of neuroscientist David Eagleman that captures both his playful approach to science and his intriguing work on how we perceive time.
Eagleman is one of the most engaging thinkers in neuroscience – equally at home tackling fascinating areas of cognitive science and writing playful books about the afterlife.
The New Yorker article manages to both his wide ranging enthusiasm and the science behind his work into offbeat but essential brain functions.
Time isn’t like the other senses, Eagleman says. Sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing are relatively easy to isolate in the brain. They have discrete functions that rarely overlap: it’s hard to describe the taste of a sound, the color of a smell, or the scent of a feeling. (Unless, of course, you have synesthesia—another of Eagleman’s obsessions.) But a sense of time is threaded through everything we perceive. It’s there in the length of a song, the persistence of a scent, the flash of a light bulb. “There’s always an impulse toward phrenology in neuroscience—toward saying, ‘Here is the spot where it’s happening,’ ” Eagleman told me. “But the interesting thing about time is that there is no spot. It’s a distributed property. It’s metasensory; it rides on top of all the others.”
An entertaining article that tackles everything from time stretch during life threatening incidents to a study on drummers with Brian Eno. Great fun and throught-provoking.
Link to New Yorker profile of David Eagleman.
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