On the Nature of Being: A personal exploration into the origins of consciousness

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I have a love hate relationship with this book. I listened to the audiobook, which was narrated by the author and she did a great job of narrating. The descriptions of the octupuses were beautiful and the discussions about their habits, emotions, and intelligence were very interesting. But and you knew this was coming , I don't think aquariums should catch or pay to catch animals from the wild for their exhibits. Even though the people in the book cared about their charges, in reading you could I have a love hate relationship with this book.

Even though the people in the book cared about their charges, in reading you could see how the conditions for the animals was sometimes cruel Kali in particular. I know accidents and deaths can happen, but it seemed like the aquarium went through its animals relentlessly. Why can't they be enjoyed by scuba divers or in electronic exhibits rather than in person? If these creatures are so intelligent and I have no doubt they are , why do we abduct them and keep them in a life of captivity?

The mindset is alien to me, just as my mindset is probably alien to them. The book was beautiful, but oh so sad for someone who believes animals should have the right to their freedom and their own lives. View all 3 comments. Feb 27, Scott rated it it was ok Shelves: memoir , non-fic. Octopuses get a bum rap in popular culture. They've starred in numerous books and films, pulling sailors and sometimes ships into briny graves, lurking about in holes waiting to ambush unsuspecting divers and even attacking submarines.

They've long been a shorthand for 'monster' - there's a reason Cthulhu has an octopus for a head - but these sensitive, smart beasties have been unfairly maligned. Sy Montgomery's book, The Soul of an Octopus is an antidote to these negative perceptions, and does Octopuses get a bum rap in popular culture. Sy Montgomery's book, The Soul of an Octopus is an antidote to these negative perceptions, and does an excellent job of showing how amazing and intriguing Octopuses are, and the relationships that humans can have with them.

Beyond that, however, this book didn't live up to my expectations. Have you ever watched a race where a runner lunges off the starting line, smashes world records for the first fifty meters then stumbles, trips and face-plants into a twisted heap before the halfway mark? The first hundred pages of The Soul of an Octopus are amazing. While reading the first few chapters I was regaling friends with scintillating Octopus facts- their multiple hearts, the way their neurons are distributed throughout their limbs, seemingly giving each arm a mind of its own, the way they can taste with their suckers, and their impressive, curious intelligence.

It was a torrent of engaging and fascinating facts, told with an interesting and empathetic voice. I was watching octopus videos online, thinking about visiting the local aquarium, and talking to my partner about making a snorkeling trip to a nearby pier known for its sealife - Montgomery had turned me into an octopus fanboy.

The Thinking Ape: The Enigma of Human Consciousness

And then… the content kind of dried up. As the book goes on less and less interesting octopus related information is presented. In the later sections I found myself becoming bored, that most fatal of feelings for a reader, and I felt as though I was reading a memoir, rather than an exploration of ideas and science.

I love the way a well-written personal story can sneak facts, debates, arguments and other tasty morsels into a book in ways that can trick my lazy brain into learning without even realizing it. Unfortunately, by about two-thirds in Montgomery's story starts to feel repetitive, and overall it lacks the depth of content I look for in books of this type.

After reading Montgomery's book I discovered that its beginnings are to be found in an article that the author wrote, an article that later became the first sections of this larger work. Considering how interesting the first section of The Soul of an Octopus is I can see how it would make a great article, and I can heartily recommend reading perhaps the first hundred pages.

Beyond that point there was little to engage me, although if you like Montgomery's writing voice you may find her personal connection with several aquarium octopuses to be enough to sustain your interest. Its starts out very strongly, but runs out of puff a fair way from the finish line. The service is conducted in Tahitian, a language I don't understand. But I understand the power of worship, and the importance of contemplating mystery - whether in a church or diving a coral reef. The mystery that congregants seek here is no different, really, from the one I have sought in my interactions with Athena and Kali, Karma and Octavia.

It is no different from the mystery we pursue in all our relationships, in all our deepest wonderings. We seek to fathom the soul. I have been writing this review in my head for a couple of weeks now, and it's time to be done with it, so here I go. Part of the difficulty in reviewing this particular book is that I review things for what they are, but this book doesn't know what it is. The subtitle suggests both popular science and philosophical tract, but it really isn't either of those. It fails spectacularly as journalism. Looking back over the whole thing, this book was not what it wants to be or pretends to be, and as such I remain a disappointed reader.

However, book length treatments focusing mainly on the octopus are not particularly plentiful, so the book still has some value even with its many flaws. There is science in this book, yes did you know an octopus has more neurons in its arms than its brain? There are no footnotes or endnotes although there is the obligatory index and a nice bibliography , which makes it difficult to track down a lot of the science that is presented they are strong enough to resist perhaps times their body wait in pull, and for the big ones that may be almost 4, pounds in the same wide-eyed fashion as the philosophy I could go on like this all day, but I actually would like to finish this review, so I'll stop now.

The quote I pulled above gives a pretty good idea of the tone I'm talking about: The author attends a Protestant service held in a church that now occupies the site of a former temple to the octopus in Tahiti. Even though she doesn't speak the language, she happily assumes she understands enough to use the experience as her springboard into musings on the soul.

I have the advantage of having come from a Protestant tradition, and I can fairly say she is probably directly wrong as to the contents of the service. Add to this the fact that the questions we ask give us the answers we get, and the author is determined to ask stupid questions.

Can we ever understand the octopus? Lady, I can't understand my family, friends, and neighbors. What on God's blue earth makes you think we can understand another species? It's like Hume never happened for this woman. Or she is determined to avoid asking the questions. The book give two fairly uncomfortable portrayals of these lovely and, yes, very, very intelligent animals in distress: Octavia is brought to the aquarium near adulthood due to Athena's sudden demise, and shows clear distress over her change in environment, while Kali is kept for an unexpectedly long time in a barrel behind the scenes as Octavia takes much longer than anticipated to die after egg laying; Kali also exhibits clear distress and boredom.

A journalist would have been forced to ask some probing questions here about the ethics of these practices with wild animals who appear to be at least as smart as, say, the family dog. No such questioning arises. The author relates the situation, but she does not investigate the different sides of the argument. She does later present the thoughts of an obtainer of octopi, who takes the animals from the wild for aquariums, and who does what he does because people must learn about them to protect them, but that is as far as it goes.

Given the obvious controversy here and the traditional close relation between studies of an organism's level of consciousness and the ethical questions of how to relate to that organism accordingly , this refusal to dive in is especially disappointing. As a memoir, this functions on about the same level of Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know , another book that promised to explore the science but was ultimately bound to the idiosyncratic interpretations and ideas of its author. This is a decent enough read to get a passel of facts, but not the survey of the wonder of octopus intelligence the title seems to promise.

I have moved on to The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins , which seems to be a more promising treatment of a similar subject, although not, unfortunately, of the wondrous octopus. I am not generally one to join in choruses of 'Is that even a word? It ignores the wonderful capability of the English language to make an inspired mistake, and the fact that this is an inspired mistake.

It is better as a word, on almost every level, than the regular plural form, so unless my fellow English speakers suddenly accept that Greek business on a widespread basis, I'm keeping it. Grammar hounds who don't like that can take a long walk off a short pier. Maybe they will meet some octopi.

Do Octopuses Have Souls? (On the Nature of Animal Consciousness)

Review to come. View all 13 comments. Aug 21, Hana rated it it was amazing Shelves: reads , animals-nature. Do octopuses have souls? I remain agnostic on the subject of octopus souls but they most certainly have brains. They use tools and solve puzzles. They seem to play. They recognize and react to different humans--both by tasting them with their suckers, but also by seeing them with their remarkable eyes. Most of all, octopuses have personalities, the octopuses we meet in Sy Montgomery's wonderful book are distinct and rather lovable individuals.

No one who has ever had a dog or cat will be surprised that animals have personalities, but we are talking about a mollusc a creature like a clam or oyster! Octopuses have very strange brains. While the human brain has four different lobes each associated with different functions. And most of an octopus's neurons aren't even in the brain but are in the arms. Octopuses are all predators and while the ones Montgomery describes seem gentle enough she is warned never to let the tentacles near her face since they could easily take out a human eye.

Their interest in us may not be entirely pacific. One octopus had a 'thing' for people in wheelchairs or using canes. Another was particularly interested in watching small children. Often captive land predators like tigers show such preferences too. Do they recognize easy prey?

The thought makes this picture somewhat sinister Since Octopuses have no bones they are able to squeeze themselves through tiny holes and they are amazing escape artists. I have to admit this video of an octopus crawling off the deck of a ship and back to water creeped me out big time. And speaking of taste, I suspect that anyone who reads this book will think twice before eating octopus or for that matter swallowing a raw oyster.

Montgomery's love of octopuses was so intense that it even got to me. I didn't think I could tear-up reading about the death of an octopus but these eight armed molluscs have so much personality and alien intelligence they seem rather like ET in the movie. Unfortunately there are rather a lot of octopus deaths in the book since they only live about 3 or 4 years. Part of the pleasure of this book for me is getting a behind the scenes look at one of the most wondrous places in Boston, the New England Aquarium.

Montgomery takes time out from the octopuses to describe many of the thousands of fish, birds and other animals at the aquarium. My favorite is Myrtle, a pound green sea turtle, about 80 years old, who dominates even the sharks, stealing squid right out of their toothy mouths. Right now there is a special exhibit on at the NEAQ of octopuses, squid and other tentacled creatures.

I can hardly wait for my next day off! Sy was in the front tank reaching out with thin tentacles to feel? Amazingly the urchin was also reaching out, waving and stretching its tube feet to meet Sy's tentacles. They explored each other very delicately and deliberately for some minutes. What were they sensing? Is this Friend or Foe? Dinner or Danger? Anna was in the back tank, pale grey, very quiet and hard to see. A volunteer told me she has laid infertile eggs and is guarding them.

Readers of the Soul of An Octopus will know that view spoiler [The last act of a female octopus before dying is to lay and guard her eggs. As the volunteer told me about the eggs I could not hide my dismay. View all 29 comments. Mar 15, Lisa rated it it was amazing. This was a lovely book—both fascinating and deeply kind, with a lot to interest a broad swath of readers. The science is accessible without being dumb, and at the same time Montgomery brings the octopuses NOT octopi! Plus I love reading about any interest that attracts the oddballs among us, and octopuses definitely seem to fall into that category—I guess I can count myself among those oddballs now.

Thus ends any pulpo consum This was a lovely book—both fascinating and deeply kind, with a lot to interest a broad swath of readers. Thus ends any pulpo consumption for me ever again, and no big loss. Oct 21, Lisa See rated it it was amazing. I had read an op ed by the author, Sy Montgomery, and felt compelled to buy the book. Who know I would be so captivated? View all 5 comments. Oct 27, Cody rated it it was amazing. The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery is an entertaining, highly personal, and very informative look at the intelligence and consciousness of one of the worlds most fascinating animals.

Thinking of intelligent creatures on our planet, it's quick to point to the ability of chimpanzees to learn sign language or German shepherds in policing and military environments to sniff out bombs, but an Octopus is an even more intriguing subject on the matter. Octopuses are invertebrates, but who thinks of The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery is an entertaining, highly personal, and very informative look at the intelligence and consciousness of one of the worlds most fascinating animals.

Octopuses are invertebrates, but who thinks of a class of the animal kingdom that includes slugs and clams as having traits associated with intelligence? There's a bias there certainly, and as Montgomery explains, we certainly have much more to learn about our world and the creatures that inhabit it. Covering four different Octopuses lives at the New England aquarium, Montgomery's book is quite touching and even tear jerking as she develops such personal relationships with all of them.

It's amazing the level of consciousness these animals have, from their individuality to problem solving skills to recognizing the people they interact with. The almost taboo subject of animal consciousness quickly becomes the underlining theme here in relation not just to octopuses, but other creatures on both land and sea. Not too long ago biologists like Jane Goodall were hesitant to apply psychological traits associated with humanity to animals, and only just recently has the scientific community been able to really push forward these studies on various subjects in the animal kingdom.

Montgomery provides such a passionate analysis that the reader should walk away with that very same passion and respect for these wonderful animals. View all 9 comments. Aug 07, Helen rated it did not like it. This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. And she starts her exploration off well enough. Montgomery is charmed. Fast-forward…Athena has died. Giant Pacific octopuses are probably among the longest-lived of the species, and they usually live only about three or four years.

Forum One Eben Alexander & Karen Newell

The flower pot Montgomery had given her to hide in has been removed from her barrel for lack of space. Is this how Kali feels in her barrel right now? Fast-forward again… after living in a dark 50 gallon barrel for roughly six months, Kali has finally been transferred to a new, temporary enclosure. The first night she escapes and dies; somewhat reminiscent of an only slightly less tragic escape scene at the end of Finding Nemo.

Of the incident Montgomery and aquarium staff says: "Kali was extremely lucky to have lived as long as she did. Most octopuses die as paralarvae. Only two in , hatchlings survive to sexual maturity — otherwise the sea would be overrun with octopuses. And that she got out tells you a phenomenally inquisitive and intelligent creature wanted her freedom. We know, clearly, it must have taken a lot of effort to get out. Like the astronauts who died blasting off in Challenger, or the brave men who perished in an attempt to find the source of the Nile, penetrate the Amazon, visit the poles, Kali had chosen to face unknown danger in the quest to widen the horizons of her world.

She was on a quest to widen the horizons of an artificial world forced upon her. Nor am I convinced that Kali enjoyed one happy day. Like Wilson, I too, hoped they would learn from their mistakes. She will be named Karma. Leaving me unclear as to what any of them have learned. My expectations were so high that the contrast between what I learned about the inner lives of octopuses, and the Stockholm Syndromesque relationships between they and their keepers became too disappointing, too enraging, and just too tiring.

Jan 18, Chris rated it it was amazing. Never thought I'd weep for an octopus. Not a spoiler: you will meet lots of octopuses in this moving memoir. Also, among the myriad things I learned about this incredibly smart and empathetic animal is this: the plural is not octopi. This is a lovely and wise book that will remind you of just how much we share with creatures that seem spectacularly foreign to us -- such as the octopus. As I have learned in reading this book, this was a serious deficiency in my education. First of all, giant Pacific octopuses have been living near my home all my life in Seattle, a port city.

The Seattle Aquarium has a few octopuses, and some of them are Youtube stars. Secondly, the Aquarium catches them in Elliot Bay, just off the pier where the Aquarium was built. Third, the local diving clubs see them all of the time, posting videos of them, including one video of baby octopuses hatching from eggs, while their dying mother waves them on. The babies are cute as buttons, literally, being the size of tiny pearl collar buttons. Mom octopuses die shortly after the babies begin hatching because the moms starve themselves on guard duty while the eggs grow after being laid.

I learned to look up only after I married my husband, a small plane pilot. Did you know the most beautiful clouds are in Seattle, huge, puffy, beautiful?

Hypothesis and Theory ARTICLE

I should have also been looking down, and out across the water, which often was within walking distance of my rented apartments. I certainly have owned boats, and had boyfriends with boats. My only excuse is the water is very very cold. And maybe, I am thick in the head. Why did I think on most days the bays, lakes, rivers and ocean near me were only for getting a tan?

They are powerful, smart, alpha dogs, or maybe like real black-ops guys - a Navy Seal Team? They have to be, since their bodies are like pudding with muscles. They hunt to eat, mostly crabs, but things like to hunt for them, too. But once they reach their full size, watch out. They have been caught on video killing sharks. Sharks, man. Below is a link to a talk given by the author, posted on Youtube. It is as interesting as the book is. However, the book goes into more detail about many of the employees and volunteers who work with octopuses at the Boston New England Aquarium. The book also describes how the author learned to scuba dive, and the observations she made of sea life.

They are excellent! As the author notes, octopuses can be generous, too. When they get to know a person they recognize individual humans! They have preferences. Yes, they are slimy, but. Being adventurous, they have been discovered outside of their tanks laying on aquarium floors drying out, or having taken up residence in other nearby fish tanks, which had been full of fish, somehow escaping from their own tank. However, the octopus may now be all alone in its new tank it chose as a new home, and all of those expensive rare fish have mysteriously disappeared.

An octopus that is maybe forty pounds can drown you, too, as they are way powerful. Their bite can kill you as they can inject you with a neurotoxin which is flesh-eating. It is a good thing they almost never bite the hands that feed them, eh? What they like about us, well. Their caretakers like to assume they like us for our loving natures, right? However, they get bored easily, and they like toys. Maybe we are a toy? Given their clever hunting skills including the ability to change their appearance into anything - fish, rocks, sandy floors, their ability to flash colors like a disco dance floor to attract us, their enormous strength, I suspect we are interesting toys to them.

At best. Caretakers, keep petting and caressing those octopuses when you feed them!

Dr. Eben Alexander and Karen Newell, co-authors of Living in a Mindful Universe

They then have a reason to keep YOU around The book also has an Index section and photographs. There never are enough photos! Of course, I am now a major fan of octopuses. They can kill sharks. Holy shit. View all 6 comments. This was an enjoyable book about a couple of friendly octopuses yes that is the correct plural term, I looked it up! Sy Montgomery also narrates the audio version of this non-fiction memoir about her time at the New England Aquarium with these octopuses over a period of a few years.

Why a few years? Because they only live to be a few years old. Did I teach you something new? Because I had no idea they had such short lives! This book really ta This was an enjoyable book about a couple of friendly octopuses yes that is the correct plural term, I looked it up! This book really taught me a lot that I had no clue about, nor would I have particularly cared about prior to listening if I'm honest. But wow, octopuses are pretty amazing creatures. For such a short life, they make quite an intelligent package. And I am amazed at their ability to manoeuvre themselves through extremely tight spaces!

Did you know that octopuses need a lot of intellectual stimulation and can solve complex puzzles? It blew my mind how strange these creatures are! As fascinating as some of these octopus facts were, this book however, didn't amaze me. I enjoyed it and found it fascinating at times, but I feel maybe it would have been a bit better with some visuals, as a documentary or something. I'm not sure if there are any visuals in the paper version, I couldn't find any files in the audio one. What did I think of the audio? I enjoyed the narrator, and I always give extra points when an author narrates their own work and does a good job!

Something about it just fell flat for me. I'm not sure exactly what it was. There was a lot of the authors speculations about the motives behind the behaviours of the octopuses. I wouldn't have even thought to look them up prior to reading this book. It was an enjoyable, educational and somewhat touching story. It didn't grip me as I was expecting, but I still enjoyed it and it inspired me to want to learn more about these creatures.

If you like this kind of book then I am sure you will enjoy it too. View 1 comment. The Soul of an Octopus is about a naturalist discovering the world of an Octopus. What are your first thoughts about an Octopus? Mind were they would squeeze the life out of me if I found them in the middle of ocean. Why is that? Why are we afraid ocean, which is largely unexplored. Is it the movies where Jaws attacks the innocent? Sharks biting people?

Squids taking down whole ships? Moby Dick? I really think it is because we do not really know, or comprehend our sea creature breth The Soul of an Octopus is about a naturalist discovering the world of an Octopus. I really think it is because we do not really know, or comprehend our sea creature brethren. If you believe in evolution, we all started in the ocean, before we evolved lungs and different eyes that were more adaptable on land.

If evolution is true, then why wouldn't we share consciousness with other creatures. Sy Montgomery investigates what it is like to be an octopus. The book had wonderful facts about Octopus, and probably amazing pictures. Unfortunately, I did not have the book, but listened to the audio.

I need this book. She gathered evidence of a few captured Giant Pacific Octopuses, and studied a few in their habitat, but can we say they have true consciousness. I think anything could have consciousness, how can we say otherwise. There is no evidence that other animals cannot or do. So, I guess it is like a theory and it will always stay a theory until proven or disproven.

Can we say we as humans have true consciousness? We made up the word, and I argue words can change meaning. Would it be so bad if other organisms have the same intelligent levels as humans? Maybe, they are studying us like in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Maybe, we are even in the Matrix I thought it was a great book, and just amazing things to learn. I will carry that information around in my pocket. I do recommended it, and it sounded like it wasn't overly scientific. I believe it wasn't a hard read. I noticed this book was in the YA section in the library, so I do not imagine it being hard, and maybe even a lighter read.

I did watch a strange video of octopuses mating. I don't know if I should say it was interesting or just awkward. Well, happy reading. Apr 23, Lauri rated it it was amazing. I loved this book. Actually, I've loved all the books I've read by Sy Montgomery. She writes beautifully, and she has an amazing ability to create a nonfiction book that is a real page turner. Through Sy's visits to the New England Aquarium and the Seattle Aquarium, and through her scuba adventures in the wild which truly were adventurous , you'll learn a lot about octopuses apparently, the plural is NOT octopi, as I had previously thought , and you'll enjoy every minute of it.

Although octopu I loved this book. Although octopuses are mollusks, more closely related to snails than to mammals, they are very smart and clearly have moods and personalities. Sy becomes very well acquainted with a few octopuses in particular, and her interactions with them are fascinating. The book raises questions about the meaning of intelligence, nurturing, interspecies relationships and play - obviously, these are very intelligent creatures, even though their brains and neural systems bear very little resemblance to our own.

I will never look at an octopus the same way again. I highly recommend this book and this author. She has a gift. I love octopuses. I have always found them fascinating, graceful and absolutely beautiful in that utterly alien way. Their otherness actually inspired one of my favorite tattoos, a Pacific octopus on my left leg, that coils around my ankle and foot which subsequently led to my getting bombarded with octopus-themed stuff every birthday and Christmas — from shower curtains, salt and pepper shakers, mugs, purses, bottle of booze that happen to have a cephalopod on the label; you name, I got it.

T I love octopuses. The love story with cephalopods started when I read an article about those fascinating little creatures, and learned some astounding facts: they have the ability to change color according to mood or environment , they are experts at escaping tight spaces capable of squeezing their entire bodies through tiny tubes! They are such a strange animal and they inspired me and caught my imagination. I was afraid of the book being a bit more wishy-washy than I was looking for… Let me reassure you, the book is very informative: Montgomery spent time with a lot of experts, aquarists and octopus-handlers for lack of a better word , who shared their knowledge and experience of working with the fascinating little creatures.

I learned a bunch of new things, that built on what I was already aware of when it comes to octopuses: they each have distinct personalities, are incredibly curious, strong and very creative. They can be playful, stubborn, friendly… and they can run! This is all very interesting, but I do wish there had been a bit more science and a tad less philosophy.

I appreciate the respect she has for the octopuses she encounters, how she really treats them like individuals. That means that this book is more anecdotal than anything else, which is fine because Montgomery has a palpable tenderness for her subject, and she expresses inspiring compassion towards all the squishies she gets to meet. That makes her book a very charming and entertaining read, but it also felt somewhat superficial. I feel like she could have added more biology and observational data instead of waxing poetic about consciousness, to make the book a little more thorough.

Insightful, charming and interesting, but not quite enough to fully satisfying this octopus enthusiast. Dec 16, Olive abookolive rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites-all-time , favorites , animals. First nonfiction book to ever make me cry. This was informative, thought-provoking, and absolutely beautiful.

I never in a million years thought I would feel a kinship or a keen interest in Octupuses. I did not go into this book fascinated with Octopuses; I read it because it claimed to explore consciousness and the soul. A topic I'm fascinated with given my grandmother's diagnosis and long and losing battle with Alzheimer's Disease. In fact, in terms of the subject matter of this book, I'm still not sure I'd really want to commune with an octopus in the same way as the author. For a hot second I imagin I never in a million years thought I would feel a kinship or a keen interest in Octupuses.

For a hot second I imagined being in the author's shoes and visiting an aquarium to let an octopus entwine one or several of it's slimy, suckered arms around my own, and that thought did nothing but fill me with anxiety. That being said, I did become fascinated with Octopuses. And I even grew an affectionate attitude towards them - albeit from a safe distance.

They are, after all, fascinating creatures, utterly foreign to ourselves; but so curious, so individual, so intelligent you can't learn about them and not wonder about them and contemplate their similarities to ourselves. And I am fascinated by their crazy anatomy, their unusual behavior, their intelligence, their ability to problem solve, and their incredible connection with the people who have the privilege to get to know them.

It explores profound questions like what is intelligence? What is it to be conscious?

2. Self-Consciousness in Thought

And what does it mean to have a soul? All through attempting to understand Octopuses - these are questions that illuminate more about ourselves when explored through the lens of creatures so utterly alien to us. Sy Montgomery wrote a book, part memoir, part science book, part Octopus love story, that was so compelling, and so full of compassion, affection, tenderness, and at times pathos that I found myself in tears.


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Several times. If you told me I'd ever cry about octopuses, I'd have told you you're crazy. But there you have it. Feb 18, The Captain rated it it was amazing Shelves: nonfiction. Ahoy there mateys! Okay I now kinda have a thing for books that combine memoirs with science and fun animal facts.

So when I saw this one about denizens of the deep, I just had to read it. I have always loved octopuses and was excited to learn more about them. I knew that they be masters of escape and are highly intelligent. I did not know facts like these: "A lion is a mammal like us; an octopus is put toge Ahoy there mateys! I did not know facts like these: "A lion is a mammal like us; an octopus is put together completely differently, with three hearts, a brain that wraps around its throat, and a covering of slime instead of hair.

I loved learning more about the science of these beautiful creatures. What would it take to construct a machine that was conscious? And finally, could conditions like coma and the vegetative state harbour conscious minds within unresponsive bodies? These are some of the thorny questions I asked in my new book Into the Grey Zone , through the lens of a neuroscientist working at the border between life and death. Over the last 25 years, that 3lb lump of grey and white matter in our heads generates every experience we have ever had has come into much sharper focus, largely through incredible developments in brain science, and through the works of many great writers and thinkers.

Here are 10 of my favourite books on the subject. Consciousness Explained by Daniel Dennett Probably the best introduction to the central ideas and concepts that have preoccupied all great consciousness thinkers throughout history. While the octopus evolved independently of humans, it has a similar number of neurons and exhibits highly intelligent patterns of behaviour that allow it to do things like opening screwtop jars from the inside.

A massive stroke left the author permanently paralysed except for the ability to blink his left eye. With the help of an assistant and a writing board, Bauby wrote the book with , blinks. There is so much to do … You can visit the woman you love, slide down beside her and stroke her still-sleeping face. You can build castles in Spain, steal the Golden Fleece, discover Atlantis, realise your childhood dreams and adult ambitions. Saks has struggled with schizophrenia for most of her life, from her early teenage years when she heard voices urging her to harm herself and others to the full-blown psychotic episodes and suicidal fantasies that she continued to battle as a law professor.

Consciousness as we experience it only began to emerge around 3, years ago, when a series of natural disasters and the widespread use of writing forced humans to change.

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That just about sums it up for me too. The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul by Francis Crick Nobel laureate Francis Crick was, of course, one of the discoverers of the structure of DNA and was not the first great mind to be distracted by solving the enigma of consciousness in his later years. Perhaps a little too focused on the scientific details for a novice in this area, the book nevertheless deserves a place here because it was one of the first to argue that consciousness is not solely a matter for philosophical introspection, but a subject worthy of serious neuroscientific investigation.

Phi: A Voyage from the Brain to the Soul by Giulio Tononi Tononi considers a historically impossible scenario in which Francis Crick, Charles Darwin and Alan Turing each take Galileo on separate trips to discuss different perspectives on consciousness. Crick discusses consciousness and the brain, Darwin the evolution of consciousness and Turing the integration of information. It is beautifully illustrated and blends neuroscience, art and the imagination in a truly unique way.

Making Up the Mind: How the Brain Creates Our Mental World by Chris Frith Illusions, rubber hands, mirror neurons, self-tickling … what more could you want in a book that explains how your brain gives rise to your whole sense of being something in the world? This is a book about how our brains build models based on prediction that generate our experience of the physical world around us.



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