The Thinking Self Thinks Itself
David Linden, professor of neuroscience, School of Medicine
Neuroscientists have begun delving into the neurobiology of the brain’s creation of the self. Perception as fantasy that coincides with reality, a woman who died laughing, pain in limbs that are no longer there, personality created by synapses—sometimes it gets strange in there.
- Making Up the Mind: How the Brain Creates Our Mental World, by Chris Frith. The biology of mental processes, by a noted neuroscientist.
- Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind, by V.S. Ramachandran and Sandra Blakeslee. What’s happening in the brain when amputees feel phantom limbs, and other oddities of brain function.
- Synaptic Self: How Our Brains Become Who We Are, by Joseph LeDoux. Who are we? LeDoux says to understand our sense of self, look in the synapses.
- The Accidental Mind: How Brain Evolution Has Given Us Love, Memory, Dreams, and God, by David J. Linden. The instructor’s latest, in which he asserts that the human brain is “a cobbledtogether mess.”
Social Stratification and Race
Pamela R. Bennett, professor of sociology, Krieger School
The cliché du jour after Barack Obama’s election was that we now live in a “post-racial” America. Uh-huh. This course is an introduction to the sociological and ethnographic analyses that shed light on the many aspects of social stratification by race that still characterize important components of American society.
- American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass, by Douglas S. Massey and Nancy A. Denton. One-third of all African Americans live segregated in a mere 16 urban areas. How segregation is “the missing link” in historical and contemporary processes of racial inequality.
- Black Picket Fences: Privilege and Peril Among the Black Middle Class, by Mary Pattillo-McCoy. An ethnographic analysis of the black middle class, and how that status rarely yields the same results for blacks as for whites.
- The Source of the River: The Social Origins of Freshmen at America’s Selective Colleges and Universities, by Douglas S. Massey et al. Pre-college experiences and what they explain about academic performance gaps among different ethnic groups.
- Making Multiracials: State, Family, and Market in the Redrawing of the Color Line, by Kimberly McClain DaCosta. The social activities and politics that led to a notable change in the U.S. census in 2000—the ability to describe yourself as being of more than one race.
Somebody Designed That, You Know
John Gersh, engineer, and Victor McCrary, business area executive, Applied Physics Laboratory
There’s no getting around it: We all encounter design every day of life. Good design, bad design, design that pleases, and design that makes something we need to do harder. Students will enter the minds of systems engineers and designers and gain new insight into what Isaac Asimov called “the natural perversity of inanimate objects.”
- The Design of Everyday Things, by Donald Norman. Every physical object that you encounter each day of your life was designed by someone, for better or worse. If the designer does not understand how something actually will be used, the encounter will not be a good one.
- Systems Engineering: Principles and Practice, by Alexander Kossiakoff and William N. Sweet. How to think like a systems engineer, based on material developed for graduate-level engineering course work at Johns Hopkins.
- Joint Cognitive Systems: Patterns in Cognitive Systems Engineering, by David D. Woods and Erik Hollnagel. How new technology and methods of automation change how we work.
Next: Higher math, inaccessible health care, cognitive science, and the Really Big Picture.