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Many Minds

Feb 26, 2020

Welcome to our first full-length episode! The guest for our inaugural interview is Dr. Andrew Barron, a neuroethologist at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. (In case you’re wondering what a neuroethologist is, don’t’ worry, we get to that.)

Andrew specializes in honey bees. He studies their minute brains, their natural behaviors, and their remarkable cognitive abilities. We probably don’t have to tell you that bees are cool. Humans have been fascinated with them for centuries. But one thing that makes Andrews’s work especially cool is how it sheds light on questions that are bigger than bees—questions about how minds work, about how brains support conscious experience, about learning and memory, and a lot else. As you may have heard, bees have seen better days—like so much else in our natural world, they’re starting to show signs of stress. We talk about that, too.

Thanks for listening, and we hope you enjoy the conversation.


A transcript of this interview can be found here.


Notes and links 

7:30 – A very brief introduction to honey bee dance communication. A more in-depth introduction.

11:15 – A paper by Andrew Barron and Colin Klein on consciousness in the animal kingdom, including which species have it and which don’t. See also this popular write-up.

12:11 – A paper by Bjorn Merker about the role of the midbrain in supporting conscious awareness.

26:30 – A connectome is a map of neural connections. 

32:00 – A popular article about new 3d maps of the insect brain. A new pre-print that includes some of the latest maps of the Drosophila brain.

33:55 – Thomas Nagel’s classic paper, ‘What is it like to be a bat?’

38:30 – Bees are able to navigate using polarized light.

41:00 – A popular article by Andrew Barron on bees’ ability to discriminate between art styles. Barron’s demonstration builds on the earlier studies by Judith Reinhard and colleagues.

54:05 – A recent paper that summarizes our understanding of cephalopod brains.

54:40 – The word “sessile” means fixed in one place, like a barnacle.

56:35 – A paper by Andrew Barron and colleagues on bees and environmental stress. See also this popular article covering similar issues.


Dr. Barron’s end-of-show recommendations:

Honeybee Democracy (2010), by Thomas D. Seeley

The Wisdom of the Hive (1996), by Thomas D. Seeley

The Evolution of the Sensitive Soul (2019), by Simona Ginsburg and Eva Jablonka

Other Minds (2017), by Peter Godfrey-Smith


The best way to keep up with Dr. Barron’s research:


Many Minds is a project of the Diverse Intelligences Summer Institute (DISI) (, which is made possible by a generous grant from the Templeton World Charity Foundation to UCLA. It is hosted by Kensy Cooperrider, with creative support from DISI Directors Erica Cartmill and Jacob Foster, and Associate Director Hilda Loury. Our artwork is by Ben Oldroyd ( Our transcripts are created by Sarah Dopierala (

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