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Mario Livio on What Makes Us Curious

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Tuesday, April 25, 2023 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET
Code: 1M2259
This online program is presented on Zoom.
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Mario Livio (Festival della Scienza/Bruno Oliveri/Lorenzo Gammarota)

The ability to ask “why?” makes us uniquely human. Curiosity drives basic scientific research, is the engine behind creativity in all disciplines from the arts to technology, and provides a necessary ingredient in every form of storytelling (literature, film, TV, and even a simple conversation) that delights rather than bores.

In an engrossing evening, renowned astrophysicist Mario Livio interprets cutting-edge research in psychology and neuroscience that explores the origin and mechanisms of human curiosity. He reveals that distinct types of curiosity activate different brain regions. For example, the curiosity triggered by novelty, surprise, or puzzling stimuli is associated with an unpleasant, aversive condition. On the other hand, the curiosity that embodies our love of knowledge and the drive for its acquisition is expressed as a pleasurable state. He also discusses the tantalizing connections among curiosity, memory, and learning, as well as an intricate overlap between the brain circuits of curiosity and reward.

As part of his research into the subject, Livio examined the personalities of two individuals who arguably represent the most curious minds to have ever existed: Leonardo da Vinci and physicist Richard Feynman. He also interviewed nine exceptionally curious people living today, including linguist Noam Chomsky and the virtuoso lead guitarist of the rock band Queen, Brian May (who holds a PhD in astrophysics), and presents fascinating conclusions from these conversations.

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