In-depth conversations with researchers, explorers and thought leaders from around the world, on cutting edge research and original ideas.
"Learning How to Learn": Techniques to Help You Learn with Dr Barbra Oakley (CLASSIC)
Humans have fundamental ability and cognitive resources to learn new concepts and acquire new skills and knowledge, although this may not seem natural to most of us at first. The key is to understand how the brain works so we can harness its potential by developing and adopting learning techniques that are effective and more rewarding. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps, I speak with Dr Barbara Oakley about “Learning how to learn”. Dr. Oakley encourages learners to recognize that everyone learns differently. Recognizing the benefits and drawbacks of various learning approaches depending on a learner’s natural brain functioning, she argues, is the first step in learning how to handle new information.
Dr Barbara Oakley is a professor of Engineering at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. She is an inaugural “Innovation Instructor” at Coursera, an online course provider, where she co-taught one of the world’s most popular massive open online course “Learning How to Learn”. Her work focuses on the complex relationship between neuroscience and social behavior. She has written many books including “Learning How to Learn: How to Succeed in School Without Spending All Your Time Studying; A Guide for Kids and Teens”. Her book “Mindshift: Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential” is also relevant to this discussion.
We start the conversation by discussing Dr Oakley’s education and professional journey, which led to her developing interest in “Learning how to learn”. We then discussed our present understanding that how learning occurs in the brain and how the brain acquires new knowledge. Dr Oakley explains why it is important to understand the working and functioning of the brain for developing and adopting effective learning techniques. She then explains a number of effective techniques for effective learning such as when to focus and when to take a break, she discusses significance of practice and being persistent. Dr Oakley then discusses in detail the effectiveness of Pomodoro technique. We then discuss the future of MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) and universities in the age of online teaching and learning. We also touch upon the possible impact of over-reliance on and excessive use of technology for online learning.
Complement this discusion with "Growth Mindset: A Must Have Tool for Success with Professor Carol Dweck " available at: https://www.bridgingthegaps.ie/2015/01/growth-mindset-a-must-have-tool-for-success/
And then listen to "Education: What works and what does not, with Professor John Hattie" available at: https://www.bridgingthegaps.ie/2016/11/education-what-works-with-john-hattie/
"The Self-Assembling Brain" and Quest for Improved AI with Professor Peter Robin Hiesinger
How does a network of individual neural cells become a brain? How does a neural network learn, hold information and exhibit intelligence? While neurobiologists study how nature achieves this feat, computer scientists interested in artificial intelligence attempt to achieve it through technology. Are there ideas that researchers in the field of artificial intelligence borrow from their counterparts in the field of neuroscience? Can a better understanding of the development and working of the biological brain lead to the development of improved AI? In his book “The Self-Assembling Brain: How Neural Networks Grow Smarter” professor Peter Robin Hiesinger explores stories of both fields exploring the historical and modern approaches. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps, I speak with professor Peter Robin Hiesinger about the relationship between what we know about the development and working of biological brains and the approaches used to design artificial intelligence systems.
We start our conversation by reviewing the fascinating research that led to the development of neural theory. Professor Hiesigner suggests in the book that to understand what makes a neural network intelligent we must find the answer to the question: is this connectivity or is this learning that makes a neural network intelligent; we look into this argument. We then discuss “the information problem” that how we get information in the brain that makes it intelligent. We also look at the nature vs nurture debate and discuss examples of butterflies that take multigenerational trip, and scout bees that inform the bees in the hive the location and distance of the food. We also discuss the development of the biological brain by GNOME over time. We then shift the focus of discussion to artificial intelligence and explore ideas that the researchers in the field artificial intelligence can borrow from the research in the field of neuroscience. We discuss processes and approaches in the field of computing science such as Cellular Automata, Algorithmic Information Theory and Game of Life and explore their similarities with how GENOME creates the brain over time. This has been an immensely informative discussion.
Complement this discussion by listening to “The Spike: Journey of Electric Signals in Brain from Perception to Action with Professor Mark Humphries” available at: https://www.bridgingthegaps.ie/2021/06/the-spike-journey-of-electric-signals-in-brain-from-perception-to-action-with-professor-mark-humphries/
And then listen to “On Task: How Our Brain Gets Things Done” with Professor David Badre” available at:
Quantum Computers: Building and Harnessing the Power of Quantum Machines with Prof. Andrea Morello
Quantum computers store data and perform computations by utilizing properties of quantum physics. Quantum computations are performed by these machines by utilizing quantum state features such as superposition and entanglement. Traditional computers store data in binary “bits,” which can be either 0s or 1s. A quantum bit, or qubit, is the fundamental memory unit in a quantum computer. Quantum states such as the spin of an electron or the direction of a photon, are used to create qubits. This could be very useful for specific problems where quantum computers could considerably outperform even the most powerful supercomputers. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps I speak with professor Andrea Morello and we discuss fascinating science & engineering of conceptualizing and building quantum computers. Professor Andrea Morello helps us to unpack and tackle questions such as what a quantum computer is and how we build a quantum computer.
Andrea Morello is the professor of Quantum Engineering in the School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications at the University of New South Wales Sydney, Australia.
I begin our conversation by asking professor Morello what a quantum computer is, and how it differs from classical and conventional computers. The no-cloning theorem's implications in the field of quantum computers are next discussed. The no-cloning theorem states that it is impossible to create an independent and identical copy of an unknown quantum state. Professor Morello's team uses single-spin in silicon to construct quantum computers, and we go over their approach in depth. The true value of quantum computers can only be realised if we develop creative algorithms that make effective use of quantum computers' exponentially huge information space and processing capability. We discuss this in detail. We also touch upon the concept of quantum chaos and discuss research in this area. This has been a fascinating discussion.
Complement this discussion by listening to “2062: The World That AI Made” with Professor Toby Walsh available at: https://www.bridgingthegaps.ie/2019/04/2062-the-world-that-ai-made-with-professor-toby-walsh/
And then listen to “Artificial Intelligence: Fascinating Opportunities and Emerging Challenges” with Professor Bart Selman available at: https://www.bridgingthegaps.ie/2020/08/artificial-intelligence-with-bart-selman/
"Nano Comes to Life": DNA NanoTech, Medicine and the Future of Biology with Professor Sonia Contera
Nanotechnology allows scientists to better understand, interact with, and manipulate biology by creating and manufacturing artificial structures and even machines at the nanoscale out of DNA, proteins, and other biological molecules. From nanoscale machines that can target individual cancer cells and deliver drugs more effectively to nanoantibiotics that can fight resistant bacteria, to the engineering of tissues and organs for research, drug discovery, and transplantation, nanotechnology is revolutionizing medicine in ways that will have profound effects on our health and longevity.
In this episode of Bridging the Gaps I speak with Professor Sonia Contera and we discuss fascinating research that she presents in her book “Nano Comes to Life: How Nanotechnology Is Transforming Medicine and the Future of Biology”. The book introduces readers to nanotechnologies, which are fast advancing and allowing us to influence the basic building components of life. Sonia Contera provides an insider's view of this new frontier, explaining how nanotechnology permits a new sort of transdisciplinary science that has the potential to give us power over our own biology, health, and lifestyles. Sonia Contera is professor of biological physics in the Department of Physics at the University of Oxford. Her work lies at the interface of physics, biology, and nanotechnology, with a particular focus on the role of mechanics in biology.
We start this discussion by looking at the scale at which nanotechnologies function. The evolution of instruments and technology that allow us to perceive and interact with matter on such a microscopic scale is then discussed. The convergence of numerous sciences that are at the heart of such breakthroughs are then discussed, allowing us to build nano-scale structures from the ground up. We then discuss the fascinating research that enables researchers to design proteins on a computer simulator, figure out what kind of GENOME will make such protein from that simulated protein, create that GENOME, and then put it in a real cell to create that protein in reality. We also touch upon the cutting edge research in DNA Nanotechnology and other enabling technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, and the future of biology and medicine. This has been a fascinating discussion.
Complement this discussion by listening to “Artificial Intelligence: Fascinating Opportunities and Emerging Challenges with Professor Bart Selman” available at:
And then listen to “Is Philosophy Dead? On the Bittersweet Relationship Between Science and Philosophy” with Professor Tim Maudlin available at:
"Free Will" Through the Lenses of Philosophy and Neuroscience with Dr Alfred Mele
The debate over whether or not free will exists is not new. The main points of contention in this discussion are whether or not we have control over our actions, and if so, what kind of control we have and to what extent. On the one hand, we have a strong sense of liberty, which causes us to trust in our own free will. An intuitive and instinctive sense of free will, on the other hand, could be misinterpreted. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps, I speak with Dr Aflred Mele and we discuss the concept of “Free Will” from the perspective of philosophy and from the perspective of neuroscience.
Dr Alfred Mele is a Professor of Philosophy at Florida State University. His research interests include issues about human behavior located at the intersection of philosophy and science such as free will, personal autonomy, self-deception, self-control, intention, intentional action, motivation, and moral responsibility. He is also the past Director of the Philosophy and Science of Self-Control Project and the Big Questions in Free Will Project.
I open this discussion by asking Dr Mele to unpack the concept of “Free Will”. I then ask Dr Mele to outline important philosophical views about the concept of “Free Will” that emerged over time. We discuss in detail the relevant concepts of determinism, compatibilism, incompatibilism, and libertarianism. We then discuss the concept of Free Will through the lens of neuroscience. We discuss a number of experiments conducted by neuroscientists. The finding of these experiments seems to suggest that that free will is an illusion. But the question is, is it right to extrapolate the findings of these experiments that focus on simple choices and are conducted in controlled environments to conclusively suggest that free will does not exist. Dr Mele discusses this point in detail.
Complement this conversion with fascinating discussion with Professor Renata Salecl on the “Passion for Ignorance and Denials” available at: https://www.bridgingthegaps.ie/2020/10/a-passion-for-ignorance-and-for-denials-and-negations-with-professor-renata-salecl/
And then listen to Professor David Chalmers at: https://www.bridgingthegaps.ie/2015/03/from-consciousness-to-synthetic-consciousness-from-one-unknown-to-another-unknown-with-david-chalmers/
Time, Space and Nature of Reality through the Lens of Quantum Theory with Dr Carlo Rovelli
What is time? Is time real or just an illusion? Time is an enigma, a mystery that never ceases to perplex us. Philosophers, poets, painters and thinkers have long debated its significance, while scientists have discovered that its structure differs from our intuitive understanding of it. Our view of time has changed dramatically throughout the years, from Boltzmann to quantum theory, and from Einstein to loop quantum gravity. In the huge cosmos, time moves at various speeds in different places, the past and future differ considerably less than we might assume, and the whole concept of the present vanishes. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps I discuss with Dr Carlo Rovelli the nature of time, the nature of space, and the fundamental nature of reality through the lens of quantum mechanics.
Carlo Rovelli is professor of physics at Aix-Marseille University, where he is director of the quantum gravity group at the Center for Theoretical Physics. He is one of the founders of loop quantum gravity theory and is one of the world’s biggest experts in this field.
In his books and in his presentations Rovelli says time is not what we think it is. He also says that space is not what we think it is. I open our conversation by asking him to unpack these statements for us. We then discuss the “impossibility of now”. In physics, from one moment to the next, the only concept that gives some notion of continuity is the flow of heat; it is the concept of entropy. We discuss how entropy plays an important role in this perceived continuity. Along the way we touch upon the concepts of past, present and future that we hold in our minds. Dr Rovelli’s new book, Helgoland begins with a detailed description of the development of quantum theory in 1925; we discuss the main observations and discoveries that led to the development of quantum theory. We then discuss the fundamental nature of reality by unpacking the statement in one of his books “if the backdrop of space has disappeared, time has disappeared, classic particles have disappeared, along with the class fields, so then what is the world made of?” And finally we discuss the efforts to develop models and theories to reconcile general relativity with quantum theory. We discuss how loop quantum gravity theory attempts to reconcile general relativity with quantum theory.
For more in-depth Bridging the Gaps discussions with researchers and thought leaders, check out:
Complement this conversion with fascinating discussion with Dr Katie Mack available at: https://www.bridgingthegaps.ie/2020/08/the-end-of-everything-astrophysically-speaking-with-dr-katie-mack/
And then list to Dr Dan Hooper at: https://www.bridgingthegaps.ie/2020/09/at-the-edge-of-time-dr-dan-hooper/