The best books on the frontier areas of time in psychology and physics

The Books I Picked & Why

The Physicist & the Philosopher: Einstein, Bergson, and the Debate That Changed Our Understanding of Time

By Jimena Canales

The Physicist & the Philosopher: Einstein, Bergson, and the Debate That Changed Our Understanding of Time

Why this book?

The debate on the nature of time between Henri Bergson, one of the most important philosophers at that time, and Albert Einstein, happened on April 6, 1922. Although many people believe that Einstein gained the upper hand in this showdown, comparable perhaps only with the ‘rumble in the jungle’ between Foreman and Ali in 1974, matters are more complicated. Jimena Canales has written a thriller about this clash of cultures fighting about time. She opens up a cosmos of philosophy and physics embedded in culture and shows how one hour of talk in 1922 still has relevance 100 years later for what it means to be human.


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Neuropsychedelia: The Revival of Hallucinogen Research Since the Decade of the Brain

By Nicolas Langlitz

Neuropsychedelia: The Revival of Hallucinogen Research Since the Decade of the Brain

Why this book?

Anthropological fieldwork is not restricted to isolated indigenous people in remote areas. Anthropologists study scientists in university research labs. Langlitz did a remarkable feat: He immersed himself in the research activities of two laboratories studying psychedelic effects on humans and animals. Through this participation in everyday work, he delineated contextual sociological and psychological factors of what made it possible for researchers to be allowed to give healthy human subjects and patients with psychiatric problems mind-altering drugs in the lab and what motivates researchers to go into these frontier areas of research. LSD, psilocybin, and ayahuasca are studied again scientifically. What made that possible? Langlitz gives answers.


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Divine Mania: Alteration of Consciousness in Ancient Greece

By Yulia Ustinova

Divine Mania: Alteration of Consciousness in Ancient Greece

Why this book?

In modern neuroscience there is a resurrection of a line of research on altered states of consciousness. We must not think that this fascination started with Woodstock or Timothy Leary… At all times mind-altering rituals and substances were used. Uptight professors of antiquity hardly spoke of what happened in ancient Greece where mind-altering rituals were part of society for spiritual insight, prophecy, and healing. Yulia Ustinova gives a fascinating account of how in ancient Greece sensory deprivation in caves, often in combination with the practices of fasting or use of psychedelics, induced altered states of consciousness in selected individuals.


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Soul Dust: The Magic of Consciousness

By Nicholas Humphrey

Soul Dust: The Magic of Consciousness

Why this book?

I think that Nicholas Humphrey with this book comes closest to an explanation of how consciousness might have evolved. Present-moment awareness of what we subjectively feel as happening “now” might stem from the constant feedback processing of perception-and-action cycles which extend over time. In his brilliantly accessible language Humphrey convinces the reader that consciousness is “thick” sensory-motor activity of what you feel as extended over time, phenomenal present-moment experience.


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What Is Real?: The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics

By Adam Becker

What Is Real?: The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics

Why this book?

If you thought that only Psychology would be full of controversy and taboo, think of the status of research into dreams or parapsychology, you will be surprised by Adam Becker’s account of the fight on the interpretation of quantum physics, i.e. on the foundations of everything. Mobbing, censuring, ridiculing of researchers who tried to find alternatives to Niels Bohr’s Copenhagen interpretation to quantum measurement prevailed for decades. If you want to find out how researchers at the frontier area of exact science behave like guards to a holy temple or like Stalinist persecutors, i.e. find out about the mechanisms underlying science, read this! At the same time, you learn about the essentials concerning the foundations of quantum mechanics.


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