Welcome to my first interview with a non-fiction author here on Always Trust In Books. I have had the excellent opportunity to put some questions to Dean Buonomano, author of Your Brain Is A Time Machine which is released today! I really appreciate the ideas and subject matter that Dean explored in this book. It really highlights the importance of time from many different areas of science as well as its influence on our evolution. The text is well formatted and Dean manages to convey his points with ease. Popular science books are an opportunity to broaden our minds within subjects that we don’t take time to consider day-to-day. Your Brain Is A Time Machine does this perfectly.
First I will share a few details about the book and Dean himself. Then we shall go to the questions!
Book Synopsis: A neuroscientist investigates how the architecture of the human brain shapes our understanding of the nature of time.
“Time” is the most common noun in the English language yet philosophers and scientists don’t agree about what time actually is or how to define it. Perhaps this is because the brain tells, represents and perceives time in multiple ways.
Dean Buonomano investigates the relationship between the brain and time, looking at what time is, why it seems to speed up or slow down and whether our sense that time flows is an illusion. Buonomano presents his theory of how the brain tells time, and illuminates such concepts as free will, consciousness, space-time and relativity from the perspective of a neuroscientist. Drawing on physics, evolutionary biology and philosophy, he reveals that the brain’s ultimate purpose may be to predict the future–and thus that your brain is a time machine.
About Dean Buonomano
Dean Buonomano is the author of Brain Bugs: How the Brain’s Flaws Shape our Lives. He is a Neuroscientist and Professor at UCLA, and a leading theorist of the neuroscience of time. Dean will be in the UK at the beginning of June doing a How To Academy event on 1st June and at Hay Festival on the 2nd.
You can purchase his book, Your Brain is a Time Machine here: http://wwnorton.co.uk/books/9780393247947-your-brain-is-a-time-machine.
The Q&A Section
Thank you to Dean Buonomano for taking the time to discuss his book with me here. I enjoyed taking part in a non-fiction interview, though they are much more in-depth, and look forward to reading more of DB’s work in the future. Here are the questions I put to Dean.
Could you give us a brief overview of what you explore in Your Brain Is A Time Machine?
I argue that the brain is fundamentally a temporal organ, in that its main functions involve time, for example:
The brain remembers the past to predict the future.
The brain tells time from microseconds to years.
The brain creates a subjective sense of the passage or flow of time.
The human brain allows us to engage in mental time travel: the ability to imagine and simulate the future. It is this ability that makes Homo sapiens “sapien” (wise).
When did you decide that this was the book you needed to write?
A long time. I wanted my first book to be about time, the subject of my research. But I really did not know how to write it because it is such a vast topic. So it ended up being my second book—which I think helped as I like to think that I have matured as a writer.
How long was the process of writing the book?
Probably two to three years, starting from when I first started sketching out the chapter structure.
Was it difficult to combine Neuroscience and Physics to explain the subject of Time?
It was, but it was also the most rewarding part because I believe so few books have done this.
Overall, what are you hoping to achieve with Your Brain Is A Time Machine?
My first goal is simply to engage readers, and help them think about one of the most profound and important problems in all of science.
To advance neuroscience I think the field must fully embrace the fact that the brain is in a sense a time machine. So one of goals is to further argue and explain why a temporal perspective is so important to understanding the brain’s main functions.
Additionally I would like readers to understand that embracing time and dynamics is a maturation process of most scientific fields. As I write in the book, the first field of modern science was geometry, because science is much easier if we can ignore time. I believe neuroscience is the stage physics was in the 1600’s—when Galileo and Newton discovered dynamics and finally brought in a mature treatment of time in physics and math.
Could you give us some insights into your career in Neuroscience and Physics?
I’m a neuroscientist that works in experimental and theoretical neuroscience, parts of these fields sometimes overlap with subfields in physics—e.g., complex systems—but in general they are quite distinct and nonoverlapping. So part of writing the book was learning more physics, because I do believe that questions pertaining to the nature of time will require a closer interaction between physics and neuroscience.
How does it feel to be published with W. W. Norton?
This is my second book with Norton, and it was a very smooth process.
What have you done/are planning to do to wind down from writing an epic piece of non-fiction like this?
Back to research in my lab. For better or worse, my real job can suffer a bit from writing a book.
Could you give us a specific example of a concept or idea that you focus on in Your Brain Is A Time Machine?
I think a deep question that must be resolved is whether our subjective sense of the flow of time is a deep illusion that must be explained away by neuroscience, or rather, if our subjective sense of the flow of time is an empirical observation about the universe that must be explained by physics.
What is next for you? Have you got another book or project you could give a few details about?
Not yet 🙂
Your Brain Is A Time Machine is out today! Go and get yourself a copy here and let me know what you thought of it. Thank you as always for stopping by to check out the content I share on this blog. My posts would be nothing without all of your support!