I find this odd because we know exactly what consciousness is — where by “consciousness” I mean what most people mean in this debate: experience of any kind whatever. It’s the most familiar thing there is, whether it’s experience of emotion, pain, understanding what someone is saying, seeing, hearing, touching, tasting or feeling. It is in fact the only thing in the universe whose ultimate intrinsic nature we can claim to know. It is utterly unmysterious.
The nature of physical stuff, by contrast, is deeply mysterious, and physics grows stranger by the hour.
Musing on what we will perhaps never comprehend is a discombobulating experience that sends most of us scampering off to the familiar, intelligible corners of our daily lives. Not so Marcus du Sautoy . With What We Cannot Know, the prominent mathematician, writer and broadcaster boldly squares up to what he calls the seven “edges” of human knowledge, topics that range from the nature of time to the mysteries of human consciousness.
But “White Sands” isn’t just a catalog of travel mishaps, with Mr. Dyer cast as an English-speaking Monsieur Hulot. It is also a rumination on the meanings we assign the strange destinations of our pilgrimages — “the power that some places exert and why we go to them.”
Weiss is the cheerfully cursing, relentlessly curious experimenter who dreamed up and helped will into fruition the massive antennae that captured the “chirp heard round the universe” — the first detection of gravitational waves rippling toward Earth from a cataclysm in a distant galaxy, two black holes that collided a billion light-years away.
That discovery, made secretly last fall and revealed in February, would have made a splash if it had simply been the first recording of gravitational waves, something Einstein initially conceived a century before.
But it also marked the first detection of black holes in pairs — orbiting each other before colliding to form a more massive black hole — a cataclysmic event more common than theorists ever dreamed.
I had another baby in January 2015, bringing my total to four under the age of 8. I published a book in June, and make a good deal of my living traveling to give talks. My husband also travels frequently for work. While we were doing pretty well with three kids and two jobs, adding a fourth, even with help from a nanny and from family, felt like courting chaos. I worried about my ability to be the ringmaster of this circus of deadlines, school projects and sippy cups. By getting some perspective on my life, I hoped I could figure out ways to make it better.
So I logged on a spreadsheet in half-hour blocks every one of the 8,784 hours that make up a leap year. I didn’t discover a way to add an extra hour to every day, but I did learn that the stories I told myself about where my time went weren’t always true. The hour-by-hour rhythm of my life was not quite as hectic as I’d thought.