Media & Events

Do you laugh enough?

GTY elderly man laughing jt 140419 16x9 992






Laughing Makes Your Brain Work Better, New Study Finds 

Ever have trouble remembering where you just left your keys? Just laugh it off. New research suggests that humor can improve short-term memory in older adults.

Read the abc News article, via Good Morning America, April 20, 2014





World’s Greatest Crime against Humanity and Nature





The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity









JAMES HANSEN, 2007 laureate, warns that nuclear energy is our only hope and is here to stay

"If we burn all fossil fuels, the carbon dioxide added to the air will have enormous effects. Sea level will 
rise many meters, submerging thousands of coastal cities. Hundreds of millions of refugees will be 
driven from coastal regions and island nations. A large fraction of the world’s species will be 
exterminated by shifting climate zones that amplify other human-made stresses. Summer heat waves, 
droughts and fires will be more extreme. Rain, when and where it occurs, will be heavier and floods will 
be more devastating. Storms will be stronger.

We had knowledge 25 years ago that should have allowed
climate change and air pollution to be manageable problems, not tragedies. However, we failed to
communicate the implications well enough with political leaders and we did not achieve effective action.
We must try harder now, because it is still possible to minimize the climate change effects and it is
possible to solve the air pollution problem.

...nuclear energy creates nuclear waste and the danger of a possible accident.

Today’s nuclear reactors, “slow” reactors that utilize less than 1% of the nuclear fuel, can be 
made passively safe, so they shut down in an emergency such as an earthquake and cool themselves 
without outside power. “Fast” reactors, which utilize more than 99% of the nuclear fuel and can “burn” 
nuclear waste, will be needed several decades in the future as easily available uranium is used up. 
Nuclear reactors can also be made more resistant to weapons proliferation than today’s reactors. This is 
important because nuclear power is here to stay, existing in more than 30 nations. 

“Green” organizations had indoctrinated themselves in anti-nuclear fervor, and their intransigence blinded them to the fact that they were nearly eliminating the one option for abundant clean electricity with inexhaustible fuel and a small planetary footprint. The enormity of anti-nuclear policy decisions would be difficult to exaggerate.  

We scientists should have made clearer that there is a limited “carbon budget” for the world, i.e., a limit on the amount of fossil fuels that could be burned without assuring disastrous future consequences. We should have made clear that diffuse renewables cannot satisfy energy needs of countries such as China and India. It seems we failed to make that clear enough."

Read the article, Columbia University, 10 March 2014




Do you have free will?

determinism 1newsome





William T. Newsome, 2004 laureate, discusses Neuroscience, Explanation, and the Problem of Free Will

Are we "all simply pawns in the brain’s elaborate chess game"? Are constructs for human behavior such as beliefs, values, goals, and choices are in reality “nothing but” brain activations, neural circuit computations, collections of action potentials, neurochemical modulation, expression of genetic predispositions, ...

"I argue that mental states and processes, like many other complex processes in our world, are organizational entities instantiated in high-level neural systems within the brain, which resist explanation through eliminative reduction. Understanding organizational entities and processes requires engagement at multiple phenomenal levels and elucidation of the mechanisms that link phenomena at different levels.

I believe that my mental states have causes (I would be worried if they didn’t!)—the key issue is what counts as a cause? For me, the essence of freedom is that my actions are caused, at least in part, by my beliefs, my values, my memories, my choices, my aspirations.

I am most free when my behavior originates in those propositions I consider to be true about the world, and those values and aspirations that I have selected to guide my journey through the flux of events. I readily admit, of course, that much of my behavior is not free. I am subject to all of the negative qualifiers above and more (except, so far as I know, neurological disease)—this is simply part of the human condition. Importantly, however, “free” and “unfree” are not either/or conditions; most of the time our choices and actions lie somewhere along a scale between these poles, influenced to some extent by both. I consider personal growth and maturity to be a life-long effort to move from the “unfree” side of that scale toward the “free”."

Read the article


Judaism - Religion or Civilization?

 Abrahamwoody allen













AMOS OZ, 2008 laureate, discusses this question in 'Jews and Words', as reviewed in Haaretz.

They claim that Judaism is not as a religion only or even primarily, but a civilization, a heritage much more than a faith-based belief system. “The heritage,” Oz said, “contains first and foremost books [and] texts, and religion is only one of the components.”

The authors, 'atheists of the book' feel entitled to be “lovingly selective” from within Jewish continuum, a 'Jewish intertextuality' generated from the early religious books,  But to be selective, lovingly or otherwise, presupposes scriptural literacy. Odds are, however, that typical non-observant Jews (outside the world of scholars and the literati) rarely read or think about the Bible or the Talmud or anything else in the “text line” of which the Ozes are so fond.

Do these values retain a unique, or at the very least distinct, Jewish flavor without some substantial knowledge, not just of any books, even those defined as “Jewish,” but of Jewish religious texts and history?

Late in their book the authors say that a Jew is anyone who wrestles with the question, “Who is a Jew?” Jean Paul Sartre, not in any way a Jew, involved himself in that age-old chestnut in the 1940s, and many anti-Semites have as well.


READ THE ARTICLE, by Gerald Sorin, Haaretz, January 27, 2013 'Reading between the lines: How Amos Oz views Jewish identity'


Let's end with an excerpt from Annie Hall in which Woody Allen speaks of an existential dread with a Jewish twist:

NINE-YEAR-OLD ALVY: The universe is expanding.

DOCTOR: The universe is expanding?

ALVY: Well, the universe is everything, and if it’s expanding, someday it will break apart and that would be the end of everything!

ALVY’S MOTHER: What is that your business? [To the doctor:] He stopped doing his homework!

ALVY:  What’s the point?

ALVY’S MOTHER: What has the universe got to do with it? You’re here in Brooklyn! Brooklyn is not expanding!



Adam Michnik: The threat of authoritarian regimes in Eastern Europe and the decline of the region's political culture















In the wake of the Crimea crisis, Adam Michnik, 2006 laureate, warns that "This is the real end of history – the history of dreams about a world governed by democratic values and the market economy. Unless the democratic world understands that now is not the time for faith in diplomatic compromise, and that it must respond strongly enough to stop ... imperial designs, events could follow a logic that is too dreadful to contemplate. 

... we must recognize that the best quarter-century in the last 400 years of Polish history is about to end before our very eyes. A time of tectonic shifts has begun. We must appreciate what we have managed to achieve – and learn to protect it."

Read the article: Project Syndicate, March 20, 2014, 'The Russian Godfather'


"We lack a political culture, a culture of compromise. We inPoland, as well as the Hungarians, have never learned this sort of thing. Although there is a strong desire for freedom in the countries of Eastern Europe, there is no democratic tradition, so that the risk of anarchy and chaos continues to exist. Demagoguery and populism are rampant. We are the illegitimate children, the bastards of communism. It shaped our mentality.

A part of society in our countries would still prefer an authoritarian regime today. 

The democratic institutions in the West are more deeply embedded in the West than in Eastern Europe. Democracy can defend itself there. Everything is still fragile in our countries, even two decades after the end of communism."

Read the article: Spiegel Online, July 31, 2013



Bionics, Transhumanism, and the end of Evolution

 by paraghostmen

'Transhumanists' are planning to upload your mind to a memory stick…

"Transhumanists include life extensionists, techno-optimists, Singularitons, bio-hackers, roboticists, Artificial Intelligence proponents and futurists who embrace radical science and technology to improve the human condition

If we can upgrade ourselves with technology, why not replace the body entirely? Plenty of Transhumanists plan to do exactly that. Ideas range from life-extension genetics to moving beyond our fleshy constraints entirely. Many think the big win is "mind uploading", which is sometimes called "Whole Brain Emulation". It is what it sounds like: mapping out all your brain’s neural pathways and putting them all on a memory stick that you can carry about with you.

The whole project throws up very difficult ethical and philosophical challenges. Is an uploaded mind still human? Should we give "human rights" to an artificial intelligence with a superior intellect to a human? Then there’s the bread-and-butter social problems. Presumably, human enhancement technologies would be disproportionately available to those with greater financial resources, creating a genetic divide. And if you lived forever, are you taking up the place of another generation? What about the more mundane things: what would be a fair prison sentence for murder if we could all live for 200 years? Or the right retirement age. I’m guessing it won’t be 70 if we can all make thirty score and ten. Above all: are we happy about all of this, and can we stop it?

Marvin Minsky, 2014 laureate, is considered the inventor of artificial intelligence, and is a prominent Transhumanist."

Read the article in The Telegraph, April 3rd 2014