Suggested reading on science

 

Neuroscience

Making Up the Mind: How the Brain Creates our Mental World – Chris FrithMaking Up the Mind

Making Up the Mind is the first accessible account of experimental studies showing how the brain creates our mental world. Using evidence from brain imaging, psychological experiments, and studies with patients, Chris Frith, one of the world’s leading neuroscientists, explores the relationship between the mind and the brain.
ISBN: 978-1405160223

 

 

The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World – Iain McGilchrist

Why is the brain divided? The difference between right and left hemispheres has been puzzled over for centuries. In a book of unprecedented scope, Iain McGilchrist draws on a vast body of recent brain research, illustrated with case histories, to reveal that the difference is profound – not just this or that function, but two whole, coherent, but incompatible ways of experiencing the world. The left hemisphere is detail-oriented, prefers mechanisms to living things, and is inclined to self-interest, where the right hemisphere has greater breadth, flexibility and generosity. This division helps explain the origins of music and language, and casts new light on the history of philosophy, as well as on some mental illnesses. In the second part of the book, he takes the reader on a journey through the history of Western culture, illustrating the tension between these two worlds as revealed in the thought and belief of thinkers and artists, from Aeschylus to Magritte. He argues that, despite its inferior grasp of reality, the left hemisphere is increasingly taking precedence in the modern world, with potentially disastrous consequences.
ISBN: 978-0300188370

Zen and the Brain – James H. AustinZen and the Brain

This book uses Zen Buddhism as the opening wedge for an extraordinarily wide-ranging exploration of consciousness. In order to understand the brain mechanisms that produce Zen states, one needs some understanding of the anatomy, physiology, and chemistry of the brain. Austin, both a neurologist and a Zen practitioner, interweaves the most recent brain research with the personal narrative of his Zen experiences. The science is both inclusive and rigorous; the Zen sections are clear and evocative. Along the way, Austin examines such topics as similar states in other disciplines and religions, sleep and dreams, mental illness, consciousness-altering drugs, and the social consequences of advanced stages of enlightenment.
ISBN: 978-0262511094

Selfless Insight: Zen and the Meditative Transformations of Consciousness – James H. AustinSelfless Insight

When neurology researcher James Austin began Zen training, he found that his medical education was inadequate. During the past three decades, he 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. Now, in Selfless Insight, Austin arrives at a fresh synthesis, one that invokes the latest brain research to explain the basis for meditative states and clarifies what Zen awakening implies for our understanding of consciousness. Austin, author of the widely read Zen and the Brain, reminds us why Zen meditation is not only mindfully attentive but evolves to become increasingly selfless and intuitive. Meditators are gradually learning how to replace over-emotionality with calm, clear objective comprehension. In this new book, Austin discusses how meditation trains our attention, reprogramming it toward subtle forms of awareness that are more openly mindful. He explains how our maladaptive notions of self are rooted in interactive brain functions. And he describes how, after the extraordinary, deep states of kensho-satori strike off the roots of the self, a flash of transforming insight-wisdom leads toward ways of living more harmoniously and selflessly.
ISBN: 978-0262516655

Cosmology

Nothing: A Very Short Introduction – Frank CloseNothing

What is ‘nothing’? What remains when you take all the matter away? Can empty space – a void – exist? This Very Short Introduction explores the science and the history of the elusive void: from Aristotle who insisted that the vacuum was impossible, via the theories of Newton and Einstein, to our very latest discoveries and why they can tell us extraordinary things about the cosmos. Frank Close tells the story of how scientists have explored the elusive void, and the rich discoveries that they have made there. He takes the reader on a lively and accessible history through ancient ideas and cultural superstitions to the frontiers of current research. He describes how scientists discovered that the vacuum is filled with fields; how Newton, Mach, and Einstein grappled with the nature of space and time; and how the mysterious ‘aether’ that was long ago supposed to permeate the void may now be making a comeback with the latest research into the ‘Higgs field’. We now know that the vacuum is far from being empty – it seethes with virtual particles and antiparticles that erupt spontaneously into being, and it also may contain hidden dimensions that we were previously unaware of. These new discoveries may provide answers to some of cosmology’s most fundamental questions: what lies outside the universe, and, if there was once nothing, then how did the universe begin?
ISBN: 978-0199225866

Quantum Theory: A Very Short Introduction – John PolkinghorneQuantum Theory

Quantum Theory is the most revolutionary discovery in physics since Newton. This book gives a lucid, exciting, and accessible account of the surprising and counterintuitive ideas that shape our understanding of the sub-atomic world. It does not disguise the problems of interpretation that still remain unsettled 75 years after the initial discoveries. The main text makes no use of equations, but there is a Mathematical Appendix for those desiring stronger fare. Uncertainty, probabilistic physics, complementarity, the problematic character of measurement, and decoherence are among the many topics discussed.
ISBN: 978-0192802521

 

The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory – Brian GreeneThe Elegant Universe

In a rare blend of scientific insight and writing as elegant as the theories it explains, Brian Greene, one of the world’s leading string theorists, peels away the layers of mystery surrounding string theory to reveal a universe that consists of eleven dimensions, where all matter is generated by the vibrations of microscopically tiny loops of energy. Greene uses everything from an amusement park ride to ants on a garden hose to explain the beautiful yet bizarre realities that modern physics is unveiling. Dazzling in its brilliance, unprecedented in its ability to both illuminate and entertain, The Elegant Universe is a tour de force of scientific writing – a delightful, lucid voyage through modern physics that brings us closer to understanding how the universe works.
ISBN: 978-0099289920

Philosophy of Science

Why Materialism is Baloney – Bernado Kastrup

The present framing of the cultural debate in terms of materialism versus religion has allowed materialism to go unchallenged as the only rationally-viable metaphysics. This book seeks to change this. It uncovers the absurd implications of materialism and then, uniquely, presents a hard-nosed non-materialist metaphysics substantiated by skepticism, hard empirical evidence, and clear logical argumentation. It lays out a coherent framework upon which one can interpret and make sense of every natural phenomenon and physical law, as well as the modalities of human consciousness, without materialist assumptions. According to this framework, the brain is merely the image of a self-localization process of mind, analogously to how a whirlpool is the image of a self-localization process of water. The brain doesn’t generate mind in the same way that a whirlpool doesn’t generate water. It is the brain that is in mind, not mind in the brain. Physical death is merely a de-clenching of awareness. The book closes with a series of educated speculations regarding the afterlife, psychic phenomena, and other related subjects.
ISBN: 978-1782793625

Brief Peeks Beyond – Bernado Kastrup

This book is a multi-faceted exploration and critique of the human condition as it is presently manifested. It addresses science and philosophy, explores the underlying nature of reality, the state of our society and culture, the influence of the mainstream media, the nature of free will and a number of other topics. Each of these examinations contributes an angle to an emerging idea gestalt that challenges present mainstream views and behaviors and offers a sane alternative. The book is organized as a series of short and self-contained essays, most of which can be read in under one hour.
ISBN: 978-1785350184