There’s a new full-length podcast out from the world’s finest science radio show. It’s on “Stochasticity,” which is a great word because 1) it sounds really fancy but is actually a rather simple idea 2) it’s an essential concept when it comes to understanding lots of different stuff, from neural oscillations to quantum physics.
I make an appearance on the episode to help explain what was happening inside the mind of Ann Klinestiver, a high-school English teacher who developed a severe gambling addiction after taking a dopamine agonist. (I also tell this story in my book, but it’s much better to hear Ann tell her own story. She’s an incredibly brave and kind person.) The larger point is that our brains rebel against stochasticity, which describes any system containing an inherently non-deterministic element. Whenever we detect a hint of randomness – and it doesn’t matter if this occurs while watching basketball or playing the slots – our neurons automatically try to solve the disorder, as they parse the stochastic system into (illusory) patterns.
PS. Carl Zimmer has a wonderful segment on the episode as well, where talks about the useful “sloppiness” of life.