About Robert Lamb

As a child, Robert Lamb dreamed of becoming a mad scientist when he grew up. As this profession later proved to be largely fictional, he swallowed his heartbreak and turned his attention to the written word instead. He earned his bachelor's degree in creative writing from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, which launched him on a path of positions such as high school teacher, journalist and newspaper editor. Robert finally landed a position as science writer for HowStuffWorks.com, which has allowed him to rediscover all the things that made the world seem so mad and amazing to begin with. He currently lives in Decatur with his lovely wife and their beautiful one-eyed cat. You can find Robert on Twitter at @BlowtheMind and on Facebook at the official Stuff to Blow Your Mind page.

Most Recent: Robert Lamb Postings

Sure, we all know a pile of paperwork or a job interview is nothing like a bloody battle to the death with a saber toothed tiger — but do our bodies know that?

Is our brain still wired for fight or flight regardless of the modern stakes?

In this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Julie and I discuss how and why our brains interpret minor annoyances as ancestral enemies.

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As explained in the New York Times piece “Where the Faithful Worship Among the Tourists,” Cao Dai draws upon notions of Buddhist reincarnation, Confucian ethics, Catholic hierarchy (they have a pope!) and the Taoist concept of balanced complementary forces. It’s essentially an attempt unify the positives of various Eastern and Western faiths into a single ideal religion.

Given my inclination for salad bar spirituality, that all sounds well and good to me — but it wasn’t this that grabbed my attention, nor was it the Divine Eye pictured in the photo. It was the notion that 72 inhabited planets bridging the space between Heaven and Hell.

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We live in a world of objects – objects we relegate with varying degrees of worth and importance, ranging from the pop tops and old newspaper pages beneath our feet to treasured collectable action figures, security blankets, family heirlooms, lucky amulets and golden idols.

What’s it all about?

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Fancy an upbeat indie folk album inspired by the periodic table of elements?

Well then let me introduce you to Magic Missile, based out of Athens, Ga. Their 2010 album “I’ll Careful” features tracks about hydrogen, chlorine, fluorine, helium, beryllium, oxygen and carbon — in addition to a few more tracks less-grounded in organic chemistry.

Oh, and just to cement its belonging in a space music post, there’s also a track called “Comet Time” with some lovely lyrics about the Ort cloud and cosmic collisions.

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We chatted with him back in 2011, but now astrophysicist and general media champion of science Neil deGrasse Tyson joins us once again for a lengthy chat about the nature of U.S. space exploration, the threat of asteroids, mad science, philosophy, dark matter and humanity’s future amid the stars.

Really, the man is game to talk about nearly anything. But you knew that.

Extra cool is the fact that some of the questions we asked Dr. Tyson were actually submitted by YOU THE LISTENER on the Stuff to Blow Your Mind FaceBook page.

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In this edition of Space Music we’ve got two stunning examples of cosmic sonification (space data transformed into sound data) and one really cool music video from Alphabet’s Heaven that at least kicks off with a shot of the moon. I think that’s enough to merit a post.

So let’s kick things off.

Buddhist Stars
This project comes to us from Astrophysicist Lucianne Walkowicz, who weaves her music with sonified data from the planet-hunting Kepler mission…

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In this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Julie and I discuss the history of SETI as well as what classic TV shows our alien neighbors might be listening to. Heck, why are radio signals such a choice communication method for alien civilizations? Surely it’s not all coming from TV shows and radio programs, right?

And what does it mean when radio signals reach our own planet, seemingly sent from somewhere deep in space?

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When the world skews out of the everyday and becomes something stranger, our brain is left to interpret the data in light of preexisting narratives: elves and goblins, angels and demons… And of course extraterrestrials. So here’s one of my favorite topics from the early days of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, all about the many reasons you might THINK an alien abducted you from your bed and put something up your bum.

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“People think that mathematics is complicated. Mathematics is the simple bit, it’s the stuff we CAN understand. It’s cats that are complicated.”

That’s a quote from mathematician John Horton Conway (as you’ll see in the video below), the man responsible for a fantastic bit of cellular automation called The Game of Life. Conway developed the zero-player game back in 1970 to test the notion that life’s complexity arises from very simple rules.

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I caught the documentary “Kumaré” on Netflix last night and found it overall a fascinating look at gurus and spiritual leaders.

See, the whole gimmick at first sounds like a Sacha Baron Cohen bit: American filmmaker Vikram Gandhi recreates himself as a fake Indian guru and begins to amass a following in Phoenix, AZ. While the film does have a little fun with the concept, it eventually morphs into something bigger.

Vikram’s essentially making it all up as he goes along, but he finds himself doing actual good in his followers’ lives. He realizes the relationships he forged as the fictitious Sri Kumaré are deeper and more genuine than most of his real-life bonds.

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