Cosmic Tortoise

(Mostly) Rational exploration of ideas, science, technology, philosophy, society; musical performances; the sensible and the nonsensical; everything between and beyond.

CTP #015 - Patrick Fuller (Sleep Science: From Brainwaves to Cave Dwellers)

December 13th, 2017

Patrick Fuller is associate Professor of Neurology at both Harvard Medical School and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and is involved with numerous organisations including the Society for Neuroscience and the Sleep Research Society.

Patrick enlightened me on present and potential future technological hacks for different brain wave states and sleep; some of the major neurotransmitters and hormones involved in sleep/wake regulation; the circadian clock and how we are affected by temperature and blue light; what monophasic, biphasic and polyphasic sleep patterns are and how to create an ideal sleeping environment.   



Aristotle's "On Sleep and Sleeplessness" (written 350 B.C.E)

Stages of sleep


Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)

Binaural beats



Patrick's research to "turn on" specific neurons in the brainstem resulting in deep sleep

Dopamine and wakefulness

Caffeine and Adenosine


F.LUX (software to reduce blue light)

Michel Siffre's cave experiments

Jerry Siegel's UCLA study on present-day hunter-gatherers sleeping patterns

Polyphasic sleep society

Brain cooling caps for insomnia

Valerian root

NOTE: 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit is around 15-20 degrees Celsius.


Recorded in Christchurch, New Zealand
Theme song by Cosmic Tortoise


CTP #014 - Stanley Krippner (To Balance Truth and Meaning)

November 22nd, 2017

Stanley Krippner is a Professor of Psychology at Saybrook University.

I caught up with Stanley in Vienna in October. We sat down to talk about free will, the definition of different entities and their influence on humanity, the nature of life in the universe and how to find meaning in an increasingly unpredictable world. 




Free will

Benjamin Libet's free will experiments

Freud's determinism

DNA identical twin study

William James

Corporate entity

Gregory Bateson and the pattern that connects


Second law of thermodynamics


The Twinkie Defense case was more to do with depression than direct causation of twinkies/sugar in the defendents diet.

Recorded in Vienna, Austria and Orange, Australia
Theme Song by Cosmic Tortoise


CTP #013 - Robin Hanson (Biases, Bets and the Blockchain Bourgeoisie)

November 1st, 2017

Robin Hanson has studied physics, philosophy, artificial intelligence, economics, and political science, and is the founder and curator of the blog Overcoming Bias, the theme of which is how to move our beliefs closer to reality.

Electric James joined us to talk rationality, biases, social institutions, transhumanism, prediction markets/economics, the blockchain, cryonics and human emulation.





Robin's Books
The Age of Em
The Elephant in the Brain

Overcoming Bias (Robins Blog)


Cognitive Bias
"A cognitive bias is a mistake in reasoning, evaluating, remembering, or other cognitive process, often occurring as a result of holding onto one's preferences and beliefs regardless of contrary information. Psychologists study cognitive biases as they relate to memory, reasoning, and decision-making." -

Dunbar's Number

Scott Alexander/ Slate Star Codex

Prediction markets

Effective Altruism


Virtue Signalling 


DARPA Futuremap project


"A position in philosophy of mind claiming that something has a mental state in virtue of what it does, not what it is made of." -

Quantum binding problem

Zombies in Philosophy

Recorded in Leipzig, Germany
Theme Song by Cosmic Tortoise


CTP #012 - Jonathan Heppner (The Morality of Chaos)

October 24th, 2017

Jonathan Heppner studied Psychology at the University of Groningen and is a student of Philosophy. Jonathan is a deep thinker and an excellent conversationalist.

This conversation was recorded in Vienna amongst a myriad of inspirational people and institutions of the past and present. There's certainly a vibe in Vienna that seems to seep intellectual discourse, as we had already been chatting for around 3 hours before we hit record on this one.




Strange Attractor

Trillions of bacterial cells in the human body

Neuron-like cells in heart and gut

OpenWorm - Open source roundworm simulation

First hard drive

Consequences of lack of touch in human babies

Float tanks

Boy raised in chicken coop

Death penalty for possession of marijuana in Singapore

Virtue Ethics/Consequentialism


- The worm simulation is a roundworm, not a flatworm.
- Babies don't necessarily die without human touch, but their development may be severely impeded.

Recorded in Vienna, Austria
Theme song by Cosmic Tortoise


CTP #011 - Waldemar Ingdahl (Dreams of Transhumanism)

October 5th, 2017

Waldemar Ingdahl is the founder of a Swedish transhumanist think-tank; a science writer with work published in the Wall Street Journal Europe, the Financial Times, Tech Central Station; has appeared on Swedish television and on TedX Stockholm and is the author of several books including Cities On The Edge. 

I find transhumanism to be an ethos full of intrigue and wonder and on the topic Waldemar delivered intelligent, open and lucid conversation.

If you're curious about the future this is an episode for you.



Waldemar on Twitter


CRISPR / CAS9 Gene Editing

Biohacking community





Post Humanism

Post Modernism


Recorded in Leipzig, Germany

Theme song by Cosmic Tortoise



CTP #010 - Mimi, Ammie and Maureen (Chimp Power Trio)

September 22nd, 2017

Mimi, Ammie and Maureen are chimpanzee experts and have all spent time in Africa studying wild chimpanzee populations. I was fortunate enough to discover that one of the main centres in the world for Primatology was right here in Leipzig, and so one hot summer's day Michael and I sat down with the girls over beer and coffee and talked deep into the chimp world.

I highly recommend curious minds check out the citizen's science project mentioned in this conversation - it's called Chimp and See and it's awesome. (


Butress Drumming (pounding repeatedly on roots of trees)

Gibbon Calls

Koko (Sign language Gorilla)

Washoe the chimp (Sign language Chimp)

Disney movie featuring chimpanzee adoption

Mirror Self-Recognition Test

Sumatra Orangutan Society (SOS)

DNApes (Mimi's Facebook/Blog)

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology - Primatology Department

Chimp And See (Citizens Science Project)

Recorded in Leipzig, Germany
Theme Song by Cosmic Tortoise




CTP #009 - Pubudu Senanayake (A Quantum Future)

September 7th, 2017

This podcast features both Michael and I talking to Pubudu, a friend of ours in Christchurch, New Zealand.  Pubudu holds a PhD in physics, works as a Statistical analyst at Stats New Zealand and volunteers for generation Zero,a youth based climate change initiative. 

We chat about the applications of quantum mechanics in technology and the present and future issues of climate change.


Solar roads silliness:

Quantum computing:

Quantum cryptography:

Chinese quantum satellite:

Troll trace

Hardcore history

Cuban missile crisis



Houston man dam

Fermi paradox/the great filter:


Steve bannon:

Trump forest:

Palm oil

Zero Carbon Act (


Recorded in Leipzig, Germany

Theme song by Cosmic Tortoise





CTP #008 - Jonathan Balcombe (The Capacity to Feel)

August 22nd, 2017

Jonathan Balcombe is a scientist, author and speaker.

Balcombe holds 3 degrees including a PhD in ethology. He has published over 50 scientific papers on animal behaviour and animal protection and is currently the Director of Animal Sentience with the Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy, in Washington, DC.

Some topics we talk about include sentience, animal emotions and ethics, cephalopods and the evolution of consciousness and some surprising animal behavioural anecdotes.

Jonathan's books really influenced the way I thought about animals and I highly recommend checking them out.





Sentience as defined by Balcombe is the capacity to feel.

Fishes Use Problem Solving and Invent Tools (Article by JB)

Fishes Have Feelings, Too (Also by JB)

Tusk fish using rock "anvil" to crack clam

Guardian article on "the extraordinary minds of octopuses and other cephalopods"

Man befriends and swims with crocodile

Vladimir Dinets - zoologist and world authority on crocodillian behaviour.

Grouper and Moray eel co-operative hunting

Rats experience feelings of regret

The Sloth Moth

Connect with Jonathan:


by Jonathan Balcombe:

Pleasurable Kingdom
Second Nature: The Inner Lives of Animals
What A Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins


Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

Other Minds by Peter Godfrey-Smith

Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson

La Dolce Vegan! by Sarah Kramer

Recorded in Leipzig, Germany
Theme Song by Cosmic Tortoise


CTP #007 Special: a reading of Alan Watts - The Joyous Cosmology

August 8th, 2017

Alan Watts was a brilliant philosopher; a fantastic speaker full of lucidity and cheekiness. 

He wrote a wonderful small book called "The Joyous Cosmology. It is the best description of the psychedelic experience I have come across, and when I couldn't find a decent audio version of his book I decided to make one myself.

I feel this book would be of interest to curious people on either side of the psychedelic fence.

Since this book appears to be on the public domain, I don't see any harm sharing it. I'm sure Alan wouldn't mind.



The Joyous Cosmology text in full:

"The Joyous Cosmology" by Alan Watts
Recorded in Leipzig, Germany
Theme song by Cosmic Tortoise


CTP #006 - Stanley Krippner (Worlds of Shamanism)

July 28th, 2017

This episode features Stanley Krippner: Professor of Psychology at Saybrook University, a contemporary and friend of Alan Watts, Albert Hofmann and Timothy Leary, author, co-author and editor of a vast body of fascinating work.

Some topics of this conversation include shamanism, the power of suggestion/placebo, dreams, psychoactive plants, Alan Watts, Albert Hofmann and Jungian psychology. 

It was truly a privilege to talk to Stanley and I'm sure those interested in his areas of expertise will find this conversation as enjoyable as I did.




Shamanism/Traditional Medicine Conference Vienna (13-14th of October 2017)

Dreaming in the clear light
(Tibetan Lucid Dreaming Meditation Practise)

Lucid Dreaming Researchers:
Keith Hearne, Steven LaBerge, Michael Schredl

Santa Cruz Dream Bank:

Albert Hoffman (Swiss scientific pioneer of LSD and isolator of Psilocybin):

María Sabina (Mushroom Shaman)

- recording of mushroom ceremony

Gordon Wasson (Banker turned Ethnomycologist)

Pablo Amaringo (Ayahuasca Artist)

Mola Artwork (Tribal Art)

Jungian Archetypes

Carl Jungs Collective Unconcious

Chaos Theory

Chaotic Attractor/Strange Attractor

Research on Gregory Bateson's "Pattern That Connects"

Alan Watts (Philosopher)

Play Therapy

Harmine (Compound in Ayahuasca)

Amanita muscaria mushroom

Methane Craters in Siberia

Stanley's Website


Alan Watts - In the Academy by Alan Watts 
The Ketamine Papers Multiple Authors
SOMA by R. Gordon Wasson 
Personal Mythology by David Feinstein and Stanley Krippner
Demystifying Shamans and Their World by Adam J. Rock and Stanley Krippner
Spirit of Shamanism by Roger Walsh
Varieties of Anomalous Experience by Stanley Krippner


Recorded in Leipzig, Germany
Theme Song by Cosmic Tortoise