Friday, July 24, 2009

Three New Good Books I plan to read

At the outset, A HAPPY WELCOME TO MR. D.M. RAMA RAO to have joined the site. I look forward to his valuable inputs.

The Book Reviews are copied from

1. The Vision Revolution: How the Latest Research Overturns Everything We Thought We Knew About Human Vision

Mark Changizi

Hardcover: 215 pages
Publisher: Benbella Books; 1 edition (June 2, 2009)
ISBN-13: 978-1933771663


Scientist Changizi (The Brain from 25,000 Feet) kicks off this engaging romp through vision science with a list of the human eye's superpowers: "telepathy, X-ray vision, future-seeing and spirit-reading"; a "theoretical neuroscientist" trained in cognition and biology, he's not kidding. To expose these amazing abilities, and explain the whys of vision (the hows just "make my eyes glaze over"), he poses four challenging questions: "Why do we see in color? Why do our eyes face forward? Why do we see illusions? Why are letters shaped the way they are?" In his answers, Changizi challenges common notions regarding sight. Human color perception, for instance, is based around subtle changes in skin tone which correlate to blood flow, indicating emotions silently--allowing us, in essence, to read the minds of others. Binocular vision, it turns out, is not required for depth perception: in videos game, we "acrobatically navigate realistic virtual worlds as a cyclops." "Future-seeing capabilities" evolved in order to account for a one-tenth-of-a-second lag in perception. A friendly tone, colorful everyday examples and many helpful figures will draw readers--science buffs or not--down the rabbit hole of cognitive theory and keep them there, dazzled. 7 color images, 75 b&w illustrations. (June) --Publishers Weekly online, May 11, 2009

2. The Ego Tunnel: The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self

Thomas Metzinger

Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Basic Books (March 16, 2009)
ISBN-13: 978-0465045679

Review (Note by Ramesam: Not everyone agrees with this review quoted below)

Consciousness, mind, brain, self: the relations among these four entities are explored by German cognitive scientist and theoretical philosopher Metzinger, who argues that, in fact, there is no such thing as a self. In prose accessible mainly to those schooled in philosophy and science, Metzinger defines the ego as the phenomenal self, which knows the world experientially as it subjectively appear[s] to you. But neuroscientific experiments have demonstrated, among other things, that the unitary sense of self is a subjective representation: for instance, one can be fooled into feeling sensations in a detached artificial arm. So the author argues that the ego is a tunnel that bores into reality and limits what you can see, hear, smell and feel. Metzinger tests his theory by ranging over events of the consciousness such as out-of-body experiences, lucid dreaming and free will, and he concludes by probing ethical actions and what a good state of consciousness would look like. Most readers will have difficulty penetrating Metzinger's ideas, and those who do will find little that is genuinely new.

3. Selfless Insight: Zen and the Meditative Transformations of Consciousness

James H. Austin

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: The MIT Press; 1 edition (March 31, 2009)
ISBN-13: 978-0262012591


Analytic philosophy of mind sees persons as much less substantial and ego centered than Cartesian rationalism, which posits that my essence is my immutable self, my soul. Neuroscience finds no soul, no central headquarters that is me. And Zen teaches how to flourish in a world where you are nothing rather than something. Austin's Selfless Insight takes us on an insightful tour of a certain postmodern space where we meet the Heraclitean processes that we are."
—Owen Flanagan, James B. Duke Professor of Philosophy, Duke University and author of The Really Hard Problem

"James Austin's wonderful book Selfless Insight provides an up-to-date review and synthesis of the brain physiology which permits humans to meditate and how meditation alters brain functions. Just as Hubel and Wiesel's Nobel Prize winning research revealed how the brain permits us to see and perceive incoming light, James Austin's newest book helps us understand how people who meditate see the light and wisdom within."
—Kenneth M. Heilman, James E. Rooks Jr. Distinguished Professor of Neurology, University of Florida College of Medicine

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