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Brains and Games

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Thursday, February 03, 2011

Neurologist V. S. Ramachandran describes the evolution of the human brain. Then, we take a look at how video games can be used to solve real-world problems. Also, Emily Rubin discusses her debut novel, Stalina, about a woman’s move from Russia to America. Plus our latest Underreported segment examines the spike in global food prices.

The Tell-Tale Brain

Physician and researcher Dr. V. S. Ramachandran draws on strange case studies to offer insight into the evolution of the uniquely human brain. In The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist's Quest for What Makes Us Human, he reveals what these cases teach us about how language developed, what the origins of art are, what causes autism, and how we develop self-awareness.

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How Video Games Can Change the World

Video game designer Jane McGonigal talks about ways we can use video games to solve real-world problems and improve global happiness. Her book Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World looks at the growing interest in gaming, and examines how videogames can fulfill human needs.

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Emily Rubin on Her Novel Stalina

Emily Rubin discusses her debut novel, Stalina, inspired by real-life events she learned of while she was teaching at a community college in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. It's a new twist on a timeless immigrant tale, about a Russian woman who flees St. Petersburg for a better life in America.

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Underreported: Rising Food Prices and Global Uprising

Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute and author of World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse, describes what’s driving the rise in food prices around the world – from the changing environment to population growth. Plus, find out how commodities prices are connected to the rising dissatisfaction in many developing countries.

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Backstory: Egypt & the Internet

This week’s complete shutdown of the internet in Egypt was unprecedented in the history of the web. While the internet is up and running again in the country, the lessons from that decision still remain unclear. On today’s Backstory segment we’ll look at what the shutdown means for the internet service providers, human rights and the future of online activism. We'll speak with Andrew McLaughlin, former deputy chief technology officer in the Obama Administration and with Cynthia Wong an attorney at the Center for Democracy & Technology.

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Rising Food Prices and Egypt's Uprising

“In looking at Egypt, for example, the protesters are focusing on getting Mubarak out of office, but the food issue hangs over Egypt because they import such a large amount of their grain. In fact, I think Egypt is currently the world’s leading wheat importer, having surpassed Japan and Brazil which are the other big 3 wheat importers. But what happened with Egypt was that a year or so ago, they signed…a 5-year contract with Russia to supply the Egyptians with 3 million tons of wheat a year, and the ink was hardly dry on that contract before the Russians were announcing  that they were embargoing all grain exports. And so suddenly Egypt had to scramble to replace what they were expecting to get from the Russians.

-Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute and author of World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse. You can hear the entire interview here.

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Egyptian Cell Phone Surveillance & the Crackdown

"One of the things that a cell phone network allows you to do in particular is to pinpoint the locations of individuals. And one of the things we do know about the Egyptian security state is that they depended on surveillance much more heavily than other countries might… One of the more cynical takes here is that the Egyptian government knew what they were doing. They wanted to shut down communications to take away organizing tools…This turned out not to work…It can’t be a coincidence that they turned the networks on at the exact same moment they began the crackdown that we are now witnessing... For activists that have just been casual users of cell phones, which is basically everybody but a small group of people who took precautions, the government will know their phone numbers, know how to reach them and how to look for them out on the streets...Those activists may be vulnerable.”

 —Andrew McLaughlin, former deputy Chief Technology Officer for the Obama Administration discussing why the Egyptian government shut down the internet and suddenly turned it back on, on today’s Leonard Lopate Show. You can hear the full interview here.

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