Physicist will explore how the human mind handles change

Leonard Mlondinow

Theoretical physicist and bestselling literary science writer Leonard Mlodinow will explore the idea of elastic thinking in this year’s Kritikos Lecture on Thursday, May 21.

The Oregon Humanities Center talk will be presented via Zoom at 4 p.m. Registration is required.

Mlodinow will discuss “Elastic: Flexible Thinking for our Time of Change.” He will look at the psychology and neuroscience behind elastic thinking, detail ways to evaluate the ability to think nimbly and provide methods to help people improve their skills.

Mlodinow believes that elastic thinking is essential in times of great turmoil and change in personal, social and business spheres. Elastic thinking is needed to assess new situations and to form a framework for understanding and reacting to them. It is leads to innovation and creativity, he said.

Mlodinow’s lecture is based on his recent book, “Elastic: Flexible Thinking in a Constantly Changing World,” an exploration of how elastic thinking works. He draws on cutting-edge neuroscience to show how, millennia ago, human brains developed an affinity for novelty, idea generation and exploration.

He argues that flexible thinking enabled some of the greatest artists, writers, musicians and innovators to create paradigm shifts. He also examines organizations that have demonstrated an elastic ability to adapt to new technologies.

Mlodinow’s parents were holocaust survivors. His father, Simon, was a leader in the Jewish underground in Czestochowa, Poland, until he was shipped to the Buchenwald concentration camp in 1944. The Nazis killed his wife and two young children.

After he was liberated in 1945, Simon immigrated to New York City and met Mlodinow’s mother, Irene, who had also been in a labor camp in Poland. They raised Mlodinow and his two siblings in Chicago.

When the Yom Kippur War began in 1973, Mlodinow dropped out of Brandeis University and traveled to Israel to work on a kibbutz. While there he discovered physics after reading Richard Feynman’s books. He later completed his studies at Brandeis and earned his doctorate in theoretical physics from the University of California, Berkeley.

In addition to “Elastic,” Mlodinow has authored and co-authored many New York Times  bestsellers, including “Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior,” “War of the Worldviews” with Deepak Chopra, “The Grand Design” with Stephen Hawking, “The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives” and “A Briefer History of Time” with Stephen Hawking.