Mastery Techniques / Berkshires UFO Incident

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Date Host Connie Willis
Guests Barbara Oakley, Tom Warner

Barbara Oakley, Professor of Engineering at Oakland University, joined Connie Willis (info) in the first half to discuss learning techniques to help master any material. She builds on insights from neuroscience and cognitive psychology for a crash course to improve your ability to learn, no matter what the subject is. Oakley recalled that the idea for the course was developed with Salk Institute neuroscientist Dr. Terrence Sejnowski. Another inspiration, strangely enough, came from the worst professor Oakley ever had, who made learning so tortuous that she decided to do the opposite of anything he suggested. The professor said he never watched television, so Oakley began watching more TV, and discovered that "there's all sorts of neural tricks that really good video editors use, that you can use to learn," such as perceived proximity to the viewer.

Oakley continued with the observation that the brain learns in two ways: declarative (hearing or experiencing something) and procedural, meaning repetition of facts or techniques. She said that there has been a decline in average IQ in the last few decades (after centuries of average intelligence increase) and believes it is due to the reluctance of educators to impose repetition on students. She compared this to "limping along on one leg to move forward." Oakley also suggested that when we are stuck on a problem in learning, it is helpful to "do something completely different for a while and then come back" to the problem. During that time, she added, the brain is "working away in the background and making these connections," which we are unaware of, but help solve issues. She also emphasized that being flexible and open to new knowledge and facts helps immensely in the learning process.

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Tom Warner, who had an amazing UFO encounter in 1969, was the guest in the second half. His case was recently featured on Netflix's version of Unsolved Mysteries as the 'Berkshires UFO sighting.' Warner said that he has had strange events throughout his life, beginning at the age of four when "a car went by real slow" with four people in it who he now assumes were "human/alien hybrids" because they all seemed to have a "blank stare" on their faces. They asked him to get in the car, offering candy, when a voice came into Warner's head, saying, "yell for your grandfather but don't use your real voice." Warner's grandfather chased them off but appeared frightened, even though he was carrying a rifle. He also recalled his father nervously telling a story about seeing a burned area of grass where a UFO had apparently landed.

A few years later, when visiting a friends' house, he suddenly had the urge to bolt home. As he did, Warner said, "it seemed like everything was going in slow motion," and then, a UFO "dropped out of the sky" nearby. Warner described seeing other children in his altered state, whose "expressions frightened me to death." He remembered "a table and a panel of instruments" and three beings who interacted with him. He recently discovered drawings he made of the creatures, which looked "Yoda-like," even though the incident took place in 1969. A witness to the episode said that she saw Warner disappear and reappear seven minutes later when a beam of light seemed to deposit him back to the field from where he vanished. He has subsequently experienced other UFO interactions and abductions, and now tries to help others who have had similar episodes. Related images.

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Director Adam Wingard discussed his "Godzilla vs. Kong" film as well as recounted his own creepy paranormal stories. Followed by Eric Szyszka and Stephen Sajdak of the "We Hate Movies" podcast, who shared their comedic and irreverent take on (bad) cinema.

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