CAE Reading and Use of English Part 7
You are going to read an article about an outstanding individual. Six paragraphs have been removed from the article. Six paragraphs have been removed from the article. Choose from the paragraphs A – G the one which fits each gap (41-46). There is one extra paragraph which you do not need to use.
Jonah Lehrer: the prodigy who lights up your brain
There is a moment familiar to anyone who has ever frittered away innocent hours watching old cartoons. It occurs when Wile E Coyote, Elmer Fudd, Popeye or any of dozens of animated characters gets a sudden moment of insight. With a flash, a light bulb appears above their heads, shining brightly to illuminate the darkness of whatever dilemma they faced. Aha!
That little nugget of information – blending culture and science – is the essence of the remarkable rise of Jonah Lehrer. He is a contributing editor at Wired, has published three books, is a prolific blogger and counts publications from the Wall Street Journal to the Washington Post as home. The New York Times has called him a ‘popular science prodigy’ and the Los Angeles Times once hailed him ‘an important new thinker’.
Lehrer’s own ‘aha moment’ came while he worked in the laboratory of acclaimed neuropsychiatrist Eric Kandel. As Lehrer helped in Kandel’s lab on a project to study the molecular links between smell and memory, he was well on his way to one important discovery. ‘What I discovered was that I was a terrible scientist,’ he later told one interviewer.
That was the end of Lehrer’s prospects as a scientist but the beginning of a writing career acting as an interpreter between two worlds: the sciences and the humanities. After he graduated from Columbia in 2003, he became a Rhodes scholar, travelling to Oxford. He arrived with a plan to study science but rapidly changed it to literature and theology.
There is no doubt Lehrer is very smart. He was born on 25 June 1981 in the Los Angeles neighbourhood of Los Feliz. His father, David, is a civil rights lawyer and his mother, Ariella, developed educational software. It was a happy, middle-class home under sunny Californian skies with parents that encouraged their son’s manic curiosity.
Prompted by a baffling moment trying to pick out a box of Cheerios on an aisle crowded with scores of different cereal brands, Lehrer looked at human decision-making. He took dramatic individual decisions – a pilot landing a stricken plane, a Superbowl pass, a poker playing physicist – and looked at the neurology behind them. He examined how different parts of the brain took on different decisions and how that made an impact on the world.
Art and human emotions — all our failures, foibles and triumphs – may just be chemicals and firing neurons but Lehrer’s words make them sing all the same.
That tome was followed up by a third offering in the shape of Imagine, which looks at how neurology and creativity interact. Far from showing how innovations come to one-off geniuses, he reveals how solid science lies behind the creative process, which can be understood neurologically and thus nurtured.
But no matter. For Lehrer had started reading Marcel Proust on his way to work; in particular, he became engrossed with Proust’s explorations of how smell could trigger memory. Lehrer once described the moment thus: “I realised that Proust and modern neuroscience shared a vision of how our memory works.”
“I remember Mom patiently listening as I prattled on about my latest interests” Lehrer told me. An interest in science was always there. He recalled stepping into a lab for the first time. “It seemed like a magician’s lair” he said. He followed up on Proust by diving further into the borderland between neurology and human experience in 2009’s How We Decide.
After shining at school, Lehrer went to Columbia, where he met his wife-to-be, Sarah Liebowitz, in a Shakespeare class. She went with him to Britain, where she worked for the Boston Globe’s London bureau. They have an eleven-month daughter called Rose and the family lives in the Hollywood Hills.
All of which is not bad for someone who is only thirty. Lehrer’s stock-in-trade is the boundary between science and the humanities. He strives to link art and neurology: how chemical reactions within three pounds of squidgy grey matter inside our skulls actually make us love, laugh and lead our lives.
He also ended up living in London. It was here he began to work on his first book, Proust was a neuroscientist, which was published in 2007, and began a successful journalism career. Lehrer took a look at numerous cultural figures and studied how their work foreshadowed the research of neuroscience.
It is harmless fun. But, according to popular science wunderkind Jonah Lehrer, also literally true. There is indeed a part of the brain associated with a sudden ‘aha moment’ of the type linked to key breakthroughs of luminaries such as Isaac Newton and Archimedes. When you get a sudden insight, it registers a huge spike in activity, just like that light bulb.