Essential Bears

I am finishing off the first draft of my next book which is one reason why I have not been updating my blogs recently. I also have several spinning plates up in the air related to various projects I am working on – all will be revealed later!

In the meantime, while researching the book, I came across this company, “Treasured Teddy Bears” of New Jersey that makes teddy bears our of sentimental garments that have belonged to loved ones. Again, essentialism is the best explanation for this type of thinking which is supported by the testimonials provided by satisfied clients,

I can feel my Grandmother’s spirit in Kathryn the Bear
Kay in Cincinnati, OH
Absolutely Magnificent! These Bears have a personality all their own”
Maureen in Newark, NJ
When I opened the box and saw the Bears, I had tears in my eyes. They are beautiful”
Ronna in Savannah, Ga

What would they do with Jeffrey Dahmer or Fred West’s clothing? Probably make a Chucky DollImage

 

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The Brain Bank

The Most Amazing Thing in the Universe

The Most Amazing Thing in the Universe

This time last year, I was presenting the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, “Meet Your Brain”that were filmed for the BBC. It was a major life event that took four months of preparation. One of the major hurdles was coming up with demonstrations that would work well for a young audience. To my surprise this was a lot harder than I imagined as there were not that many “off-the-shelf” examples to illustrate the basic principles of neuroscience that we teach our students.

In the end, we came up with three shows-worth of material and demonstrations that went down really well (excellent ratings by the TV pundits & over 4 million viewers). It seems like a distant memory now that I have returned to day job as an academic but I must confess I miss the spotlight and attention that the Christmas Lectures generate.

One legacy is that we have created a free online resource based around the content of the three lectures called “The Brain Bank.” This has all been down to an amazing amount of hard work by my longtime collaborator and friend, Dr. Natalia Gjersoe.

It contains video clips, demonstrations, images and Q&A discussions all aimed at a teenage audience. There are three sections that deal with architecture, functions and the social brain. It is especially good for UK teachers as it explains difficult concepts and tells you which part of the school’s curriculum each of the points cover but it has international appeal. After all, brains are pretty much the same wherever you are!

I really hope it gets used and inspires the next generation of brain scientists.

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Filed under In the News, Research

Science, It’s a Girl Thing

A couple of months back, the European Commission spent over £80,000 on a video to encourage more girls to take up science. A just cause but an atrocious video, I am sure you will agree. 

It looks like it was made by Berlusconi and it would be funny if they were not deadly serious. It caused a major outcry and in response, the ‘girls’ in my department decided they could do better with a budget of £7.66. What do you think? 

Did I mention I work in the best department in the world?

 

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Modern Witch Burning Shock

I just saw this pop up on my Twitter feed from Derren Brown about a US magician who was set alight by the host of TV show in the Domican Republic. Here is a link to the article and details are still very sketchy but apparently, the host ignited a liquid that is used to exorcise witches, and threw it over the head of US magician Wayne Houchin.

Wayne suffered severe burns and is currently in hospital though he has just Tweeted that he may not be permanently scarred. Doesn’t matter, he could have been killed. This is such a strange attack as the host seems to offer assistance but we are assured that this was not a stunt to get publicity. Derren Brown tweets that the host set fire to Wayne to rid him of evil spirits. It doesn’t look like a stunt and so reminds me of the blog I wrote about modern beliefs in witches and the horrific examples of witch burning in Africa as shown in this distressing footage. WARNING – NSFL . So it is not just, primitive, uneducated natives in Africa who don’t know better (BTW I am being deliberately facetious!) but also Westernized, presumably well-educated TV presenters.

Here is another blog that provides more details and a translation of the statement released after the attack.

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November 30, 2012 · 1:43 pm

Oh Those Sexy Swedes

I am due to give a talk in Gothenburg (Göteborg) Sweden next April at a International Science Festival. I was planning on talking about The Self Illusion or some other brain-related talk but after hearing about the arrest of an unnamed woman who has been charged with violating the peace of the dead, I think that I must talk about disgust and essentialism.

When police turned up her apartment they discoverd over 100 human bones and initially thought that a murder had taken place. It turns out that she probably obtained them from a morgue. However, it is not the theft that has the liberal Swedes in such a bother but rather this may be a bona fide case of necrophilia.

In addition to the bones, they discovered photos on two CDs labelled “My necrophilia” and “My first experience” which contained a number of document files and pictures where she is using the bones as sex toys. I am assuming that the femur came in handy. I have posted one of the less disturbing images of her licking a skull. Actually, the one of the skull and her teddy bear kills two birds with one image so that I can talk about essential objects and how these are extensions of our materialism of the self.

Somehow, I don’t think I can resist the temptation to talk about our attitudes to the dead and the bones they leave behind when I visit in the spring. This will be one example of disgust that the Swedish audience should understand!

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Filed under Essentialism, General Thoughts

The Bears Are Back

Apologies for my absence but I have been working on a new book which has a December delivery date. It is due out next year and to be published by Penguin. That will be five books since 2009 (two academic, SuperSense, The Self Illusion & the new one) I am also blogging over at the Huffington Post and Psychology Today and it is the start of the academic year so I have all the teaching as well so as you can imagine, it is difficult to find the time.

Excuses, excuses. Anyway, I thought I would tell you about children’s sentimental toys as there is a growing interest in this. Journalist Laura Wexler interviewed me for a forthcoming article she is writing for The New Republic magazine about adults’ attachment objects. I have also been contacted by an artist, Susan Swartzberg, who has started a remarkable project called “The Honey Project” to collect stories and images of adult’s attachment object. She has created a Facebook page about it and you can visit the Honey Project wonderful website that looks fab. If you have one of these object please visit.

Of course, I covered sentimental objects in SuperSense and continue to research this fascinating aspect of child development. Do you remember the photograph of the wanted poster in the book? Well here is another.

In July this summer The Daily Mail reported this story of the Swedish police who have posted a similar wanted poster for a child’s missing teddy bear on their official Facebook page. Immediately the police force was criticised by some who thought they should be dealing with more important issues. In defense the police replied, ” The article above was written by an off-duty policeman, so the cost to us was zero. If we, through two minutes’ work, can help her get her friend back, we’d say it’s good prioritizing, don’t you think?”

Hear, Hear.

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Filed under Essentialism, In the News

Buddha & Bombs

Here is my talk from TAM 2012 where I talk about the basic premise of The Self Illusion.

If you read some of the comments (which I know an author never should) there are some complaints that this sounds a bit like the teachings of Buddha – well duh! I make this point almost at the very beginning of The Self Illusion but when you only have 30 mins to give a talk and you have been told to make it even shorter because of scheduling problems, then you don’t have time to give a full account.

More importantly, I wanted to squeeze in a mention of the dowsing bomb detectors story as the perpetrators of this shameful activity were scheduled to appear in court that very morning in London. An officer from Avon & Somerset police kindly called me last night to inform me that the gang were due back in court on October 18th but they fully expected the case to be prosecuted in the spring. I knew that of course, because of the tireless efforts of Techowiz & Peter Robinson who have been keeping informed of events. Watch this space as they say.

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