Monday, August 27, 2012

This Week We’re Hosting Giulio Tononi, Author of Phi--Our Last Week with One Event Until Sometime After Thanksgiving.

We always have folks asking for a great science event. Why can’t Brian Greene visit Boswell? Could you host Michio Kaku? Isn’t Antonio Damasio touring? This is not too different from requests in other categories, and I generally have the same answer. Because we don't pay for our authors to come, we are at the whim of the folks with the purse strings*. Take more chances on unknown authors. You could be pleasantly surprised. All three of the authors above did Schwartz before they built their reputations. In short, in a market like Milwaukee, for a free event, you’ve got to catch these guys on the way up.

So that’s why I’m telling you that your calendar should be marked for our event with Giulio Tononi, author of Phi: A Voyage from the Brain to the Soul.

Tononi’s provocative story features the great Galileo himself, as he sets off to discovery what makes consciousness. His partners in the journey are, respectively, Francis Crick, Alan Turing, and Charles Darwin. I’ll let Pantheon say a bit more.

“Galileo’s journey has three parts, each with a different guide. In the first, accompanied by a scientist who resembles Francis Crick, he learns why certain parts of the brain are important and not others, and why consciousness fades with sleep. In the second part, when his companion seems to be named Alturi (Galileo is hard of hearing; his companion’s name is actually Alan Turing), he sees how the facts assembled in the first part can be unified and understood through a scientific theory—a theory that links consciousness to the notion of integrated information (also known as phi). In the third part, accompanied by a bearded man who can only be Charles Darwin, he meditates on how consciousness is an evolving, developing, ever-deepening awareness of ourselves in history and culture—that it is everything we have and everything we are.”

Here are some other folks who feel the same way.

“Giulio Tononi is a man of bold and original mind who has developed a fundamental new theory of consciousness. In Phi, he calls on all the resources of drama, metaphor, and the visual arts to present his scientific insights, in the form of imaginary dialogues in which Galileo meets Francis Crick, Alan Turing, and other major thinkers of the twentieth century. This is an astonishing (and risky) literary device, but Tononi pulls it off triumphantly. He makes the deepest neuroscientific insights come alive.”
--Oliver Sacks, author of Musicophilia

“This wonderful book reads like a popcorn novel but informs like a primer on consciousness and where it comes from. By turns exciting, challenging, and thought provoking, Giulio Tononi’s marvelous imagination explores the origin of thought, sensation, and feeling. Learning about the difference between the cerebrum and the cerebellum doesn’t sound like fun, but here you encounter them amidst fat friars shouting in vulgar Latin, nymphs of radiant beauty, and a mysterious juggler on a unicycle. I’ve always taken pride in being a conscious, sentient being; after reading Phi, I’m beginning to understand what it means when I say that!”
--Leonard Mlodinow, author of Subliminal and The Drunkard's Walk

“You may or may not endorse Giulio Tononi’s views on how the brain generates consciousness, but you can certainly agree that his book is a garden of intellectual delights.”
--Antonio Damasio, author of Self Comes to Mind and Descartes’ Error

May I also add that all the folks who attended either of our wonderful events with Dava Sobel should also attend.

And now a bit about the author. Giulio Tononi is a professor of psychiatry, the David P. White Professor of Sleep Medicine, and the Distinguished Chair in Consciousness Science at the University of Wisconsin. In addition to the major scientific journals, his work has appeared in New Scientist, Science Daily, and Scientific American. His research has been the subject of articles in The New York Times and The Economist. He is the coauthor, with Nobel laureate Gerald Edelman, of A Universe of Consciousness.

One day, Professor Tononi will no longer be teaching at UW Madison. He’ll be on a big lecture tour. And one of you will walk up to me and say, why can’t you host someone like Giulio Tononi? And I will sigh.

*The holders of said purse strings are generally publishers, sometimes sponsoring organizations or schools, and most often, the authors themselves.

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