from the world's big
Mathematician Eric Weinstein launches a new podcast, 'The Portal'
The Portal promises to be a deep dive into the possible.
- Mathematician Eric Weinstein wants to put the mystery back into the world with his new podcast, The Portal.
- The managing director of Thiel Capital announced his new project last week on the Joe Rogan Experience.
- Weinstein says the recurring narrative is important during childhood, yet we often lose touch with it in adulthood.
Toru Okada is having trouble finding his missing cat, so his wife sends him out on a journey. Toru meets May Kasahara while walking around his neighborhood. The teenage girl shows him an abandoned house where stray cats congregate; the house contains an empty well that Toru climbs into to think. The well, it turns out, is a portal to another dimension. Engulfed in darkness, he connects to an intimacy of his own thoughts impossible in the world above. He emerges transformed.
The portal is a repetitive theme in the history of literature. Haruki Murakami used it to great effect in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, though he was only retelling an introspective narrative that forms the basis of mythology: a cave shadow, knights entering the dark forest, the shamanic descent into the underworld. The story is the medicine; the healer returns bearing the gift of imagination.
Last week on the Joe Rogan Experience, mathematician and economist Eric Weinstein revealed his latest project: The Portal, a new podcast about the recurring story of transformation told throughout the generations:
"It was always the same: somebody is trapped in a humdrum existence in an ordinary world, until some sort of magical portal accidentally or on purpose, enters their life. Either they go through a wardrobe, they go through a rabbit hole, looking glass, platform nine and three quarters, or Dorothy famously was used to introduce Technicolor."
Few can forget Judy Garland landing in Oz after a tumultuous tornado carries her away from Kansas. A magical opening of the portal door offered the world a glimpse of Technicolor. The visual manifestation of this technological advance in film revealed a longtime assumption of the imagination: another reality is possible. Once crossing the threshold, Dorothy would never again be the same.
Eric Weinstein | The Portal Story
This threshold is an essential component of identity. Storytelling binds individuals within societies. Sir James George Frazer initially wrote The Golden Bough, published in 1890, as a critique of "primitive" religions, yet his wide-ranging survey of rituals kickstarted the field of comparative mythology. Around the same time, Theosophists attempted a similar synthesis of mystical ideologies, albeit with racist and anti-Semitic leans.
The Romanian scholar, Mircea Eliade, picked up on Frazer's work, scouring global texts on shamanism, yoga, dreams, and the "eternal return," the latter contemplated in varying forms by Pythagoras, Nietzsche, and Albert Camus: humans are engaged in a self-repeating process across infinite time. The stories we tell reflect this repetition.
No one introduced this theory to as broad a population as Joseph Campbell, whose four functions of mythology describes the framework: the hero enters a portal (often through trauma or another life-altering experience); the hero embarks on an epic journey; during the journey, the hero learns a lesson; finally, the hero returns home to share this knowledge with their community.
If the hero doesn't learn the lesson, they are likely to repeat the journey. The stories that make the page are usually vetted so such a faux pas doesn't occur. Before setting off on his trials, Gilgamesh was a cruel ruler, raping the women in his kingdom on their wedding night and beating up grooms for sport. After he attains eternal life, and then loses it, he softens. His best friend, Enkidu, has been murdered. Gilgamesh learns compassion. The narrative relies on the transformation of his governance. Otherwise, the journey would have been for naught.
The goal of the Weinstein's podcast is to discover why we repeat the same story, over and again, with different characters playing out the same themes. As he says, "The portal becomes the call to adventure." Function one in Campbell's framework: Dorothy opens the door. What next?
Sagrada Familia (Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family) By Antoni Gaudi in Barcelona on April 02, 2019 in Spain. Photo credit: Frédéric Soltan / Corbis via Getty Images
To cross the threshold, one must willingly step, a process Weinstein believes shifts when transitioning from child to adult. Watch a child attempt a handstand: no fear. Ask an adult to do the same, and unless they're specifically training for it, you're likely to be pelted with a thousand excuses. A similar avoidance occurs in our imagination. As Weinstein says,
"I came to believe this story is an unkept promise for most people, who in their adult lives, they don't find these portals…We learn to stop looking for the portal. What I think I do differently than most people is I became obsessed with exits. That there are other worlds, and they're real."
The threshold is available to anyone at any age. Weinstein discusses Sagrada Familia, the perpetually under-construction Roman Catholic church in Barcelona. Antoni Gaudi's masterpiece might never be finished; Weinstein is not sure anyone alive can execute the totality of the Catalan architect's vision. Yet here is a portal come to life, an imagination unshackled, the possibility of infinite stories being told inside of the world's most stunning house of worship.
These are the stories Weinstein plans on exploring with The Portal. He's also homing in on one particular trait sorely missing from so many narratives in our world today: hope.
"People want something richer and more amazing for their lives…People need more meaning. With all the rationality, with all the mystery we've taken out of the world, it's time to put a ton of it back in."
Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.
A time for sleep<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="Mt29uUqI" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="931343dee3c02121445e51e94ba22446"> <div id="botr_Mt29uUqI_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/Mt29uUqI-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/Mt29uUqI-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/Mt29uUqI-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>Previous studies had already suggested a link between persistent nightmares in childhood and psychosis and borderline personality disorder (BPD) by adolescence, but researchers at the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology wanted to see if a similar connection existed between these mental disorders and other childhood behavioral sleep problems.</p><p>To do this, they scoured data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, a longitudinal cohort study that followed approximately 14,000 children born in Avon, England, in the early 1990s. The study followed the children for more than 13 years. During that time, mothers filled out questionnaires asking about the children's lives. Factors looked at included housing, parenting, nutrition, physical health, mental wellbeing, environmental exposures, and so on. </p><p>The cohort study inquired about sleep routines, sleep duration, and awakening frequency when the children were 6, 18, and 30 months old, and then again at 3.5, 4.8, and 5.8 years. It also assessed mental health in adolescence using semi-structured interviews, such as the Psychosis-Like Symptom Interview.</p><p>"We know that adolescence is a key developmental period to study the onset of many mental disorders, including psychosis or BPD. This is because of particular brain and hormonal changes which occur at this stage," <a href="https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/staff/profiles/psychology/marwaha-steven.aspx" target="_blank">Steven Marwaha</a>, professor of psychiatry at Birmingham and senior author on the study, <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/07/200701125431.htm" target="_blank">said in a release</a>. "Sleep may be one of the most important underlying factors—and it's one that we can influence with effective, early interventions, so it's important that we understand these links."</p><p>After compiling the data, the researchers discovered an association between children with irregular sleeping patterns and teenagers with <a href="https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/psychosis/about-psychosis/" target="_blank">psychotic experiences</a>—that is, episodes when the person perceives reality differently than those around them. Even when depression at 10 years old was considered as a mediating factor, their findings still suggested "a specific pathway between these childhood sleep problems and adolescent psychotic experiences." </p><p>Toddlers with shorter nighttime sleep duration and late bedtimes were likewise associated with a <a href="https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/borderline-personality-disorder/index.shtml" target="_blank">borderline personality disorder</a>—a disorder marked by a pattern of varying moods, self-images, and behaviors—in their teenage years. Depression at age 10 did not mediate this particular association, suggesting a separate and more specific pathway. </p>
A more restful tomorrow<p>While the sample size was large and mental health was assessed with a validated interview, there nevertheless remain limitations to this data. For starters, sleep habits were based on mothers' reports. Because they came from memory, versus a more direct observation method such as actigraphy, these data may be prone to imperfect recollection and reporting error. There are also many confounders that could be secretly nudging the results, such as family conditions, prenatal medicines, and a host of environmental factors. Finally, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6024884/#:~:text=Sleep%20difficulties%20in%20youth%20with,fear%20of%20dark%20%5B13%5D." target="_blank">the relationship between sleep problems and mental disorders</a> is both complex and two-way.</p><p>As such, the study shows an association between poor childhood sleep later mental disorders but does not prove a causal link. Parents need not worry that a string of nightmares or the eternal struggle settle into bed will be the first ingredients in a witches' brew of debilitating mental disorders. The goal of the study, the researchers point out, is not to create undue worry but improve our ability to recognize the signs of at-risk children and deliver necessary interventions earlier.</p><p>"The results of this study could have important implications for helping practitioners identify children who might be at higher risk for psychotic experiences or BPD symptoms in adolescence, and potentially lead to the design of more effectively targeted sleep or psychological interventions to prevent the onset or attenuate these mental disorders," Isabel Morales-Muñoz, the study's lead researcher, <a href="https://www.healio.com/news/psychiatry/20200702/childhood-sleep-problems-linked-to-adolescent-psychosis-borderline-personality-disorder#:~:text=Sleep%20problems%20during%20early%20childhood,study%20published%20in%20JAMA%20Psychiatry." target="_blank">told Healio Psychiatry</a><u>.</u></p><p>If a parent reading this is worried that their child's sleep patterns are deleterious, the take away should not be despair over an unyielding fate. It should be to seek professional help as soon as possible to begin improving sleep duration and quality. Even if you aren't worried, it's worth remembering that childhood experiences lay the foundation for a lifetime of salubrious sleeping habits. It's so much more than beauty rest.</p>
Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?
- From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
- "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
- Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.