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The Carletonian

Life in slow motion: watching the world through Discovery Channel star’s lens

<man opened his convocation speech Oct. 28th by examining the interdisciplinary connections between the sciences, the arts and human creativity.

Best known as the star of Discovery Channel’s popular “Time Warp,” Lieberman has devoted much of his work examining the ways science and complex concepts can be better explained and understood through creative means, such as science and photography.

In his presentation titled “Asking Why? The Nature of Curiosity” he highlighted the great limits of human perception of the world and thus the need for curious inquiry of life’s fundamentals.

He discussed that this curiosity is clearest amongst children and that “everyone is born an artist – the only challenge is to stay an artist.” As kids we never stop asking questions about the world, but as we grow older such inquiry tends to disappear as we are taught to learn about society in particular ways.

“The most powerful way to learn,” Lieberman argued, “is to not know you are learning something.” In this manner he strives to capture difficult concepts and scientific notions not through formulas but through other creative means, where the key is connecting emotionally to others.

“By triggering emotions, it breaks them from the world of reality and shows them magic,” he explained.

Lieberman discussed ways that certain concepts are completely beyond a human’s ability to comprehend, such as the size of the sun and microscopic organisms.

“Humans think on a scale,” he said, “which is anything from the size of a mountain down to a grain of salt.  Anything beyond this totally escapes us – we have nothing to think about because they are not relevant to our survival on a daily basis.”

It is with such outliers that Lieberman applies models and metaphors to enhance one’s visualization and understanding that “a pile of numbers and variables can’t do very well.”

Lieberman argued that it is at times pointless to try and understand the multitude of things human perception cannot comprehend.

He showed a slow-motion clip of a skateboarder executing an incredibly complex move, explaining that “when your brain does something this fast, trying to understand it whilst doing the trick will only screw you up.”

Lieberman remarked that man “is the only organism that can think about something going wrong when it’s not actually happening” and as a result our bodies queue stress responses in a highly detrimental manner.

In conclusion Lieberman hoped to continue using creative methods to explain science. By mentioning the birth of the universe, he said that such an event is too far beyond our ability to understand, but hoped that one day our minds could find a way around that.

“Our minds are often the trickiest part of the equation,” Lieberman said, “but sometimes too much thinking and mental preparation is just disruptive. The ‘voice in the back of our heads’ – constantly reassessing and worrying – is a very recent evolutionary phenomenon.

The irony is that when you do something incredible, and you feel amazing, it’s not because that voice says so – it’s because the voice is actually gone.” 

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