Beauty at Work explores how beauty shapes our lives and the work that we do. In this interview-based podcast, sociologist Brandon Vaidyanathan interviews leaders and experts across many fields to reveal new insights into how beauty shapes our brains, behaviors, organizations, and societies. Learn how to harness the power and promise of beauty in your life and work, while avoiding its pitfalls and perils. New episodes drop on the 1st and 15th of each month. The first season is about beauty in science.
Episode 8: The science of awe and the awe of science with Dacher Keltner
Dacher Keltner is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and the faculty director of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. A renowned expert in the science of human emotion, Dr. Keltner studies compassion and awe, how we express emotion, and how emotions guide our moral identities and search for meaning. His research interests also span issues of power, status, inequality, and social class. He is the author of The Power Paradox and the bestselling book Born to be Good, and the co-editor of The Compassionate Instinct. His latest book is titled Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life.
In this episode we talk about:
What drew Dacher to the scientific study of awe How awe differs from wonder and beauty What has surprised him the most about what he learned through his research What are the causes and triggers of awe, and why it matters for us to experience it How might experiences of awe facilitate scientific inquiry? And conversely, can scientific work deepen our sense of awe and mystery? Can awe lead us to both action as well as contemplation? Are there problems with the structure or culture of science that inhibit experiences of awe? How can we nurture awe in research culture? What is the relationship between awe and spirituality? How can we practically cultivate awe in our daily lives? To learn more about Dr. Keltner’s work, visit: www.dacherkeltner.com
Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your LifeEdmund Burke on the Sublime and the BeautifulCharles Darwin’s The Origin of SpeciesThe Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf
Episode 7: Beauty, Desire, and Rivalry in Science and Technology with Luke Burgis
Luke Burgis began his career on Wall Street in investment banking and private equity and went on to found multiple companies in technology, consumer products, and wellness. He is Entrepreneur-in-Residence and Director of Programs at the Ciocca Center for Principled Entrepreneurship at The Catholic University of America, where he is also a professor of business. He graduated from New York University’s Stern School of Business with a degree in Finance and Accounting and later studied philosophy and theology at a pontifical university in Rome.
Luke is the co-author of the book Unrepeatable: Cultivating the Unique Calling of Every Person, with Dr. Joshua Miller, and the bestselling book Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life (St. Martin’s Press), inspired by the ideas of the social theorist René Girard on the mimetic or imitative nature of human desire.
In our conversation, we talked about what beauty has to do with mimetic desire and rivalry, especially in the worlds of science and technology.
In this episode, we explore:
1. What attracted Luke to pursue finance, entrepreneurship, and then to study philosophy and theology
2. What is mimetic desire, and why does it matter?
3. The work of Rene Girard on mimetic desire
4. How mimetic rivalry relates to unhealthy competition in science
5. How to foster healthy competition instead of mimetic rivalry
6. Comparing the worlds of technology and academia when it comes to mimetic desire
7. Luke’s conceptual framework called The Three-City Problem, examining the relationship between reason, faith, and technology
9. How one can focus on deeper beauty rather than mimetic desire
10. The scapegoating mechanism and the mimetic crisis
11. How to become anti-mimetic
To learn more about his work, visit his website and subscribe to his newsletter
Check out his book:
Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life
Episode 6: Does Nature Prefer Symmetry? Beauty at the Intersection of Physics and Biology with Ard Louis
Ard Louis is a Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Oxford where he leads an interdisciplinary research group studying problems on the border between chemistry, physics, and biology.
He was born in the Netherlands, was raised in Gabon, and received his first degree from the University of Utrecht and his PhD in theoretical physics from Cornell University. Prior to teaching at Oxford he taught theoretical chemistry at the University of Cambridge.
In this episode we explore:
1. What drew Ard to study physics
2. Where he encounters beauty in his work
3. What beauty means to scientists in the fields of biology and physics
4. The role of awe and the sublime in science
5. Ard’s recent research of the frequency of symmetry in nature
6. Is there beauty in asymmetry?
7. The significance of beauty in science
8. Can beauty be misleading—a source of bias?
9. How does beauty in science relate to the beauty we encounter in art?
10. Why should the public care about beauty in science?
Visit Dr. Louis’s research group website:
Episode 5: Beauty and the Brain: The Science of Neuroaesthetics with Anjan Chatterjee
Our guest today is Anjan Chatterjee, MD, FAAN. He is a Professor of Neurology, Psychology, and Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania and has served as the Chair of Neurology at Pennsylvania Hospital. While his clinical work focuses on cognitive disorders, the focal points of his research are in neuroaesthetics, spatial cognition, language, and neuroethics. His multidisciplinary knowledge has won him recognition and awards. It has led him to author his book, The Aesthetic Brain, a study on how art has embedded itself into the human mind as investigated through the lens of neuroscience and evolutionary psychology.
Dr. Chatterjee joins us to discuss the following:
Dr. Chatterjee’s academic path from philosophy, to neuroscience, to neuroaesthetics.Are humans hard-wired for beauty?Individuals are influenced by culture, and culture is influenced by the collective.The Aesthetic Triad and how it is affected by moral judgments.Using beauty as a heuristic.Why humans can find beauty in non-sensory subjects.The questions asked by neuroaesthetics.What can we learn from exploring aesthetics in Science?Visit Dr. Chatterjee’s blog on Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/brain-behavior-and-beauty
Check out his books:
The Aesthetic Brain: How we evolved to desire beauty and enjoy art and co-edited Brain, Beauty, and Art: Bringing Neuroaesthetics in Focus as well as Neuroethics in Practice: Mind, Medicine, and Society, and The Roots of Cognitive Neuroscience: Behavioral Neurology and Neuropsychology.
Brain, Beauty, and Art: Essays Bringing Neuroaesthetics into Focus (With Eileen Cardillo)
Neuroethics in Practice (With Martha J. Farah)
The Roots of Cognitive Neuroscience: Behavioral Neurology and Neuropsychology (With H. Branch Coslett)
Episode 4: Beauty and Innovation: Science, art, and entrepreneurship in Italy with Luca Cottini
Today’s guest is Dr. Luca Cottini, a scholar, associate professor at Villanova University, and the host and creator of the YouTube show Italian Innovators. Although trained as a classical philologist and cultural historian, his interests go beyond Italian art throughout history. Through his show, Dr. Cottini explores the present artistic contributions of Italy through entrepreneurship and innovation across multiple disciplines. His books include The Art of Objects: The Birth of Italian Industrial Culture and a monograph on Italo Calvino.
Dr. Cottini joins us to discuss the following:
What attracted Dr. Cottini to study design and innovation.His thoughts on Galileo being the father of modern science.How Italy’s humanities-focused education influences science.How different ideas contribute to each other and create innovation.Some examples of encounters with Beauty that spurred innovation.Could aesthetic principles also hinder innovation? How?The role of beauty in the future of science.How to cultivate intellectual humility and drive in the face of failure.To learn more about Dr. Cottini’s work, visit https://www.italianinnovators.com/
Check out his book:
The Art of Objects: The Birth of Italian Industrial Culture, 1878-1928
Visit his YouTube channel:
Episode 3: Beauty and Mental Health with Dr. Eloise Ballou
Dr. Eloise Ballou is a psychiatrist specializing in psychotherapy for adolescents and hospital-based emergency psychiatry. She received her medical degree from the University of Ottawa in the French stream and completed her Psychiatry residency at the University of Toronto. She enjoys supervising Psychiatry residents in psychodynamic psychotherapy at the University of Toronto, and also works as a locum psychiatrist in Northern Ontario in acute care and emergency room settings. She studied Art History and Psychology at the University of Toronto prior to starting her medical training and has a particular interest in applying insights from the humanities to her medical practice.
In our interview, we explore:
What drew Eloise to medicine/psychiatry in the first placeWhere she encounters beauty in her work as a psychotherapistThe obstacles to encountering beauty in her work and in the medical profession generallyHow beauty might be relevant to mental healthWhat it might look like for scientists, physicians, and the healthcare field more generally to take beauty more seriously or to cultivate the conditions for professionals to encounter beauty in their workTo learn more about her work, visit