The New Science Of Consciousness by Paul L. Nunez (book review).

November 14, 2016 | By | Reply More

If you’re curious as to what makes you you, then Paul L. Nunez’ book, ‘The New Science Of Consciousness’ will go some way to enlightening you as to just what goes on inside your noggin. Taking your mind in its entirety, the conscious mind that is your personality is only the 10% at the top which is clearly your own. It does make you wonder how an AI can compare to a human when it will be more like 95% conscious mind, with the reminder used to running the mechanics.


In many respects, the conscious mind is just an accessory to the normal running of the body. It makes some of the decisions but it can’t do much for running the body. Next time you go for a run and have to stop to catch your breath, have a think as to whether you or your body makes that decision, especially if you try to keep going.

I’m not sure if I agree with Nunez that no one knows why we dream as in the UK its seen as the means for the brain to do a tidy-up while asleep and we’re visualising some of the activity. Just because Nunez admits he can’t do cognitive dreaming, that is taking an active part in a dream scenario, doesn’t mean some can’t. He also missed out a rare thing some of us diabetics do under certain conditions where we can go into a ‘white out’ phase with low blood sugar where the body is functioning but the conscious mind isn’t there, although I suspect he hasn’t come across it. That alone shows how dependent our brains are for a healthy supply of energy to function properly.

As to remembering things. I knew his answer about which actor starred in ‘Jurassic Park’ without thinking and I’ve only seen that film twice. Then again, I carry a lot of trivia in my head as some of you have found out. A lot of it recalling information depends on how your memory connections are made up as much as interest in the subject. In fact, a lot of the trivia I can recall comes from not really concentrating on wanting to recall it later but is still stored in my head. Memory and how we recall is very complex and does raise some odd questions on swotting for exams. It would probably be better to be asked questions and test what you can’t recall and focus on getting that sorted than going over everything.

You’ve all seen the four EEG brainwave rhythms recorded that the brain generates. Nunez give a sharp reminder that they should not be just collectively called ‘electromagnetic’ as they are also ‘electro’ and ‘magnetic’, separate issues. Reading what he says, we are only seeing the results and not exactly what these brainwaves do. I wish he’s done a little more on how it is possible to control these rhythms. If anything, it’s the only way to prove brain activity and if they aren’t there, then you are effectively dead. He does indicate the relative times between seeing and reacting when slamming the brake when driving a car is the reason why you need to keep a little distance from the car ahead.

Fast brainwave rhythms does tend to signify higher IQ, although I tend to think it’s just tracking through the speed of choices and making a sound decision. One thing I was surprised Nunez didn’t cover was how Omega 3 improves neural links through the myelin membrane at the nerve endings. It should make you wonder why a lot of human brains are so lacking in this department.

Without drawing too much away from Nunez’ book, there are still a lot of unanswered questions about how consciousness functions and I suspect his book is really here to encourage more research. Even so, having summaries at the end of each chapter is a little too much like padding. Although he has kept much of the maths out of the book, one chapter is deep in it as indeed are some of the notes at the back of the book.

If I was to go into any future direction, I think I would explore the unconscious mind processes more and how the conscious mind can put some influence on them and vice versa when pushed to extremes. The 10% conscious mind is the part that interacts with the world around the body and you do have to wonder why some of that function isn’t run by the unconscious mind. Then again, it might well be, only we haven’t spotted it yet. Until then, reality calls.

GF Willmetts

November 2016

(pub: Prometheus Books. 374 page indexed hardback. Price: $26.00 (US), $27.50 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-63388-219-5)

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Category: Books, Science

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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