America is addicted to fossil fuels, and the environmental and geopolitical costs are mounting. A federal program—on the scale of the Manhattan Project or the Apollo Program— to stimulate innovation in energy policy seems essential. In this BIT, Charles Weiss and William Bonvillian describe a new framework for stimulating innovation through policy and legislation and offer a roadmap for the implementation of new technologies.
Parallax can be defined as the apparent displacement of an object, caused by a change in observational position. Slavoj Žižek is interested in the “parallax gap” separating two points between which no synthesis or mediation is possible, linked by an “impossible short circuit” of levels that can never meet. In this BIT, Žižek draws on Lacan, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Kant, Hegel, and Marx to explore the philosophical implications of parallax.
The philosopher Michael Tye, reversing his previous position, rejects the phenomenal concept strategy (which holds that we possess a range of special concepts for classifying the subjective aspects of our experiences) and formulates another approach for defending materialism. In this BIT, he examines one puzzle of consciousness that philosophical materialism must confront after rejecting the phenomenal concept strategy.
Political controversies over scientific issues ranging from global warming to biotechnology demonstrate how closely politics today is intertwined with science. This BIT offers insights into how to democratize science without undermining its potential contribution to society, considering the flaws of representative democracy and politicization of science.
This BIT offers an excerpt from a book that has shaped the study of new media. In The Language of New Media, Lev Manovich offered the field’s first systematic and rigorous theory. Here, Manovich considers the computer as illusion generator, addressing such questions as the “reality effect” of new media images and the comparative illusionism of new media, photography, film, and video.
The intrauterine device (IUD) has been viewed both as a means for women’s reproductive autonomy and as coercive tool of state-imposed population control, as a convenient form of birth control on a par with the pill and as a threat to women’s health. This BIT examines the early development of the IUD through a feminist science lens, describing efforts to improve and measure its contraceptive efficacy.
The humanities can add valuable insights to the study of memory. This BIT draws on recent neuroscientific research to explore one of the great masterpieces of fifteenth-century Flemish painting, Rogier van der Weyden’s Descent from the Cross. It connects memory to the direct and indirect bodily responses to a work of art.
During the past three decades, neurology researcher James Austin (author of Zen and the Brain) has been at the cutting edge of both Zen and neuroscience, constantly discovering new examples of how these two large fields each illuminate the other. In this BIT, Austin discusses how meditation trains our attention, reprogramming it toward subtle forms of awareness that are more openly mindful. He reveals many subtleties in our networks of attention.
Do we consciously cause our actions, or do they happen to us? Philosophers, psychologists, neuroscientists, theologians, and lawyers have long debated the existence of free will versus determinism. This BIT, excerpted from an influential book by the late Daniel Wegner, offers an innovative view of one aspect of free will. Wegner argues that when people project action to imaginary agents, they create virtual agents, apparent sources of their own volition.
This selection from a recently updated edition of a classic work by Paul Churchland considers such questions as the nature of mental states and processes, in what medium they take place, how they are related to the physical world, whether consciousness survives the disintegration of the physical body, and if a purely physical system such as a computer could enjoy real conscious experience.