232: Nicholas A. Christakis | Social Networks, Biosocial Science, And The Evolution Of Good In “Blueprint”

As a sociologist and physician, Dr. Nicholas A. Christakis has done research on social networks and the socioeconomic, biosocial, and evolutionary determinants of behavior, health, and longevity. His most recent book Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society shows how evolution has united humanity and put us on a fitting path of progression.

Dr. Christakis is the Sterling Professor of Social and Natural Science at Yale University. He received an M.D. from Harvard Medical School, and an M.P.H. from the Harvard School of Public Health. His Ph. D. in sociology is from the University of Pennsylvania. He was voted one of Time’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2009.

His book Blueprint was recently mentioned by Bill Gates in a tweet, as well as on his Gates Notes website. He mentions that Robert Sapolsky of my past reading (Behave) gives “…you a framework down to the biological and hormonal level, while Christakis focuses more on person-to-person interactions.”

Show notes:

  • what it means for society to have developed into a way of being that is good, and why evolution may have directed that way
  • how relationship dynamics like monogamy or social structure would develop in similar environments given enough time
  • why a fixed social environment creates one type of winning people, and a fluid social environment creates a different set
  • the impact that removing a leader of a group has on the group
  • what repeats in society from millions of years ago to now
  • how pair-bonding can be impacted by certain neurotransmitters, and what this represents about us
  • the kind of research that Dr. Christakis has done, and his views on the current social networks that are popular in society
  • the way that some past recurring events were responses to human needs, though those civilizations may have not known the “why”
  • what unintentional, intentional, and artificial communities can tell us about the way people function as a group

It was great to have Dr. Christakis on the show. You can check out Blueprint on Amazon, his Wikipedia, or his Yale faculty page.

205: Professor Charles S. Cockell | Astrobiology, And How Physics Shapes Evolution, In “The Equations of Life”

Biology will reach out to the endless openness, but it will be limited and managed by physics and the equations that govern our universe. In this episode, we discuss with Professor Charles S. Cockell of the University of Edinburgh about topics in his book The Equations of Life.

Before Professor Cockell taught in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh, he was a Professor of Geomicrobiology and microbiologist with the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge. He got his doctorate in Molecular Biophysics at Oxford University, and has published over 300 scientific papers in the categories of astrobiology, geomicrobiology, and life in extreme environments. As well, he has contributed to plans for Mars exploration.

In my episode with Professor Cockell, we discussed:

  • Professor Cockell’s fascination with space and biology
  • the progression he made in his career to the University of Edinburgh
  • what kind of research he performed in his time at the Antarctic
  • examining life at the boundaries of what is physically viable
  • where in our solar system may have opportunity for viability
  • what kinds of studies Professor Cockell has been part of designing
  • involving incarcerated individuals in a moon-like confinement study
  • a ladybug physics project that the professor set for his students
  • predictability of biology and physics, and thoughts on free will
  • how the things around us are not so out of place based on the laws
  • the Great Filter that Professor Hanson from episode 202 spoke about
  • the power laws connecting metabolism and energy production
  • how the sky can be perceived differently on different parts of the Earth
  • features of individuals that are taken note of, like being open-minded

You can check out his university page, look at his list of publications, or head to his book’s Amazon listing. It was great to have him on, and we connected on some key topics.