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Nour Lecture Series to Explore the Nature of Reality

Experts delve into the relationship between consciousness and the physical world.

Published September 25, 2018

NEW YORK, September 25, 2018 – For millennia, humans have been trying to understand the relationship between our subjective experience — i.e., what we see, hear, smell, taste, and think — and our physical bodies and the world around us. Is the reality of the physical world constructed through our subjective experience, or does the physical world we perceive have an independent, objective reality?

The Nour Foundation, Wisconsin Public Radio’s nationally-syndicated program To the Best of Our Knowledge, and the New York Academy of Sciences will present Conversations on the Nature of Reality, a three-part series featuring conversations with leading scientists and thinkers on some of the more surprising and novel ideas surrounding the fundamental nature of reality.

Journalist Steve Paulson, Executive Producer of To the Best of Our Knowledge, will moderate each of the three panel discussions featuring scientists, philosophers, and other scholars.

Members of the public are invited to attend this year’s series, which will include:

The Mystery of Our Mathematical Universe

Wednesday, October 10, 2018 |7:00 PM – 8:30 PM

Featuring: S. James Gates, Jr. (Brown University) and Margaret Wertheim (Institute for Figuring)

Why is it that fundamental laws discovered through pure mathematics have been able to describe the behavior of our physical world with such precision? Given that the physical universe is comprised of mathematical properties, some have posited that mathematics is the language of the universe, whose laws reveal what appears to be a hidden order in the natural world. Physicist S. James Gates, Jr. and science writer Margaret Wertheim explore the mysterious and uncanny ability of mathematics to reveal the laws of nature.  Reception to Follow

Human Cognition and the AI Revolution

Thursday, December 6, 2018 | 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM

Featuring: Roger Antonson (University Of Oslo) and Barbara J. Grosz (Harvard University)

Discovering the true nature of reality may ultimately hinge on grasping the nature and essence of human understanding. What are the fundamental elements or building blocks of human cognition? And how will the rise of super intelligent machines challenge our ideas about cognition, reality, and the limits of human understanding? Logician/mathematician Roger Antonson and computer science pioneer Barbara J. Grosz join forces to shed light on these questions and to analyze what lies ahead on the horizon of AI. Reception to Follow 

Reality is Not As it Seems

Thursday, February 7, 2019 | 7:00 – 8:30 PM

Featuring: Donald D. Hoffman (University of California Irvine) and Suzanne O’Sullivan (National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery)

The prevalent view in cognitive science is that we construct our perception of reality in real time. But could we be misinterpreting the content of our perceptual experiences? Does what we perceive with our brain and senses reflect the true nature of reality? Might evolution have shaped our perceptions to guide adaptive behavior, without enabling us to see reality as it actually is? Cognitive scientist Donald D. Hoffman and neurologist Suzanne O’Sullivan analyze these questions and their profound implications for our understanding of human consciousness. Reception to Follow 

About the Nour Foundation

The Nour Foundation is a public charitable and nongovernmental organization in special consultative status to the United Nations Economic and Social Council. Founded in 1985, the Foundation adopts a multidisciplinary and integrative approach to exploring expressions of meaning and commonality in human experience, with the aim of engendering a greater spirit of unity, tolerance, and understanding. Please visit us online at

About To the Best of Our Knowledge

To the Best of Our Knowledge is a Peabody Award-winning radio show produced at Wisconsin Public Radio and syndicated by PRX. Each week TTBOOK cracks open the world of ideas, featuring in-depth interviews with renowned scientists, writers, artists, scholars, and visionaries. Please visit us online at

About the New York Academy of Sciences

The New York Academy of Sciences is an independent, not-for-profit organization that since 1817 has been committed to advancing science, technology, and society worldwide. With more than 20,000 members in 100 countries around the world, the Academy is creating a global community of science for the benefit of humanity. The Academy's core mission is to advance scientific knowledge, positively impact the major global challenges of society with science-based solutions, and increase the number of scientifically informed individuals in society at large. Please visit us online at


Marie Gentile

Director of Communications