The Jeff Wise Blog

The Ecology of Misinformation

It’s the paradox of the internet age: never before has so much information been available so effortlessly, so quickly — and never before has so much of it been completely erroneous. How do we decide what is true? Who do we trust to verify the information that we consume?

Here I would like to offer a small case study from my own experience.

I first came across the above video clip on Tuesday on Kottke.org. Soon after, I stumbled across it again on NASA’s excellent Astronomy Picture of the Day site. Clearly, it had gone viral in a big way. The clip is described as an animation based on thousands of photos taken by the Cassini space probe stitched together to form a movie of the spacecraft’s visit to Saturn. What’s really remarkable about it is that it is pointedly not a computer animation. As the credits at the beginning clearly state, “no CGI, no 3D models.” Or, as Kottke put it, “There is no 3-D CGI involved in this amazing Saturn fly-by video.”

I watched the clip and immediately became suspicious. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Culture, , , ,

The Neuro-Nonsense of Inception

Christopher Nolan’s Inception has been a box-office smash, a critical darling, and the recipient of four Academy Awards. But does it make any sense? More specifically, is it based on a conception of the human mind that bears any semblance to reality?

Some very intelligent people think so. Yesterday, geek haven io9 ran a piece entitled “Rise of the Neurothriller” that says of films such as Inception and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind that their “genius lies in their ability to extrapolate what the world will be like when brain-tweaking comes in the form a gadget you can pick up at Best Buy.” The New Scientist’s blog CultureLab offers a similarly breathless endorsement of the film’s technology, which apparently is just around the corner.

Well, actually, it’s not. To put it in Wolfgang Pauli’s memorable phrasing, the mental universe of Inception isn’t even wrong. From a scientific and a philosophical point of view, Inception doesn’t make any sense at all. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Culture

Thinking About Fear & the Brain

If I find myself in a severe crisis, will I be able to keep it together? How can I control anxiety and panic? Is it possible to lead a life less bounded by fear? These are the sorts of questions that I'll be exploring in this blog, an offshoot of my book, Extreme Fear: The Science of Your Mind in Danger, published on December 8, 2009 by Palgrave Macmillan.

Video Introduction

Also by Jeff Wise