Read This Explains Everything: Deep, Beautiful, and Elegant Theories of How the World Works by John Brockman Susan Blackmore Rebecca Goldstein James J. O'Donnell Paul J. Steinhardt Shing-Tung Yau Frank Wilczek Thomas Metzinger Online


In This Explains Everything, John Brockman, founder and publisher of, asked experts in numerous fields and disciplines to come up with their favorite explanations for everyday occurrences. Why do we recognize patterns? Is there such a thing as positive stress? Are we genetically programmed to be in conflict with each other? Those are just some of the 150 questionsIn This Explains Everything, John Brockman, founder and publisher of, asked experts in numerous fields and disciplines to come up with their favorite explanations for everyday occurrences. Why do we recognize patterns? Is there such a thing as positive stress? Are we genetically programmed to be in conflict with each other? Those are just some of the 150 questions that the world's best scientific minds answer with elegant simplicity.With contributions from Jared Diamond, Richard Dawkins, Nassim Taleb, Brian Eno, Steven Pinker, and more, everything is explained in fun, uncomplicated terms that make the most complex concepts easy to comprehend....

Title : This Explains Everything: Deep, Beautiful, and Elegant Theories of How the World Works
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ISBN : 9780062230171
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 411 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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This Explains Everything: Deep, Beautiful, and Elegant Theories of How the World Works Reviews

  • Sean
    2019-04-23 14:00

    This book is so good in concept and very difficult to slog through in delivery. I suspect that the 150 thinkers simply sent in emails of their ideas into the author because the perspectives range from a little over a page to several pages. What's unfortunate is that because of a lack of editing and/or structure to their responses, this book reads as if you're reading through John Brockman's email inbox. Sadly, there are like a lot of brilliant people in this book who have ideas I would love to hear more about. But, I'm 25% in and I just can't take it anymore.

  • Book
    2019-04-27 08:10

    This Explains Everything: Deep, Beautiful, and Elegant Theories of How the World Works Edited by John Brockman"This Explains Everything" is a wonderful book of essays from the Edge that addresses a question that inspires unpredictable answers. The Edge is an organization that presents original ideas by today's leading thinkers from a wide spectrum of scientific fields. The 2012 Edge question is, "What is your favorite deep, elegant, or beautiful explanation?" This interesting 432-page book contains 148 short essays that addresses the question. The quality of the essays range from the 3-word absurdity of "Keep It Simple" to the elegant and profound essay that addresses why the sky is blue through a brief history of converging sciences. For my sake, I created a spreadsheet of all the essays and graded them from zero to five stars based on quality. Five star essays are those that provide a great description of the author's favorite explanation. On the other hand, those receiving a one or even a zero represent essays that were not worthy of this book. Of course, this is just one reviewer's personal opinion. Positives:1. The book starts with a great premise, "What is your favorite deep, elegant, or beautiful explanation?"2. A great range of scientific topics. Thought-provoking ideas.3. Generally well written, well organized essays. High quality value. 4. You don't have to read the essays in orders, you can just jump to your favorite authors or topics.5. The theory of evolution shines brightest amongst the stars; regardless of the field of expertise these authors have a great admiration for indeed one of the most beautiful, elegant explanations in all of science.6. There were eleven outstanding essays deserving of five stars for me. In order of essay, the first by Gerd Gigerenzer, "Unconscious Inferences". It discusses the nature of perception. Excellent illustration to bring it all together.7. V.S. Ramachandran's "Genes, Claustrum, and Consciousness". He argues that the same strategy used to crack the genetic code might prove successful in cracking the "neural" code. And that's why I read books of this ilk...8. David M. Eagleman's "Overlapping Solutions" explains beautifully the overlapping ways the brain deals with the world.9. Andrew Lih's "Information is the Resolution of Uncertainty" introduces us to Claude Shannon the man behind the elegant theory of information.10. Helen Fisher's "Epigenetics- The Missing Link" provides the reader with the dare I say it emerging field of epigenetics in which the environmental forces can affect gene behavior.11. John Tooby's "Falling into Place: Entropy and the Desperate Ingenuity of Life" provides a trio of elegant scientific ideas: entropy, natural selection, and frames of refernce.12. Eric R. Kandel's "Placing Psychotherapy on a Scientific Basis: Five Easy Lessons" discusses the very topical need of treating mental illnesses. Great essay!13. Randolph Nesse's excellent "Natural Selection is Simple but the Systems it shapes are Unimaginably Complex" makes it very clear that there is a distinction between machines and organisms.14. My favorite essay belongs to Nicholas A. Christakis, "Out of the Mouth of Babes". It starts with a very simple question from childhood. Why is the sky blue? A question so simple a child can ask but takes many of the greatest minds over time to converge to a satisfactory answer. Philosophy and science as one, now that's beautiful!15. Alison Gopnik's timely and fascinating "Developmental Timing Explains the Woes of Adolescence.16. The great Jared Diamond completes the great eleven with the "Origins of Biological Electricity". Interesting, quirky interspersed with some great tidbits.17. Great authors consistently provide great essays, you can always count on: Dawkins, Pinker, Steinhardt, Carroll, Zimmer, PZ Myers, Atkins, Krauss, and Shermer. They all provided excellent essays.18. Alan Turing, Galileo, and of course Einstein deserve a special mention. Turing's life is fascinating and I highly recommend reading his biography. The great Darwin goes without saying.19. Excellent editing.Negatives:1. Some essays were not worthy of this book. It's not my intent to denigrate any of these great minds so I'm not going to mention them by name. Thankfully just a few received zero stars.2. I'm disappointed that no one mentioned Henrietta Swan Leavitt the astronomer who discovered how to calculate the distance from the stars. Or Barbara McClintock's genetic transposition. And of course one can never go wrong with Marie Curie. You know where I'm going with this...just an observation.In summary, this is an interesting and fun book of essays for inquisitive minds. Philosophy is about asking the right questions and good science is about answering them. A perfect balance of elegance is attained when the right question is responded in turn with a sound, succinct scientific response. This book contains a wide range of responses from my favorite eleven to some not worthy of the book, but overall a fun and enjoyable read. I recommend it!Further suggestions: “A Universe From Nothing” by Lawrence Krauss, "The Greatest Show on Earth" by Richard Dawkins, "The Disappearing Spoon" by Sam Kean, "The Tell-Tale Brain" by V.S. Ramachandran, "The Believing Brain" by Michael Shermer, "How to Create a Mind" by Ray Kurzwell, "The Blank Slate" by Steven Pinker, "Guns, Germs, and Steel" by Jared Diamond, "Why Evolution Is True" by Jerry A. Coyne, and "Subliminal" by Leonard Mlodinow.

  • Pete Welter
    2019-05-17 10:09

    Like the other Edge books, this one poses a single question to broad swath of thinkers. For this year, the question was "What is your favorite deep, elegant, or beautiful explanation?"This is the second Edge collection I've read (there's a new one every year). In some sense, the question really isn't that important. What's these books are great for is getting samples of the thinking on big ideas from thinkers and practitioners from across a swath of disciplines. I use them to get exposed to concepts and research that I wouldn't otherwise bump into, and for that purpose this book succeeds. So, if you are someone interested in exploring why the world works the way does, these books are give you 150 different takes on various answers to that question. I have a feeling that any two people who read the book will come away with a different set of the essays that really affected their thinking, based on individual interests. As I annotate my way through the book, I go back and checkmark the essays in the Table of Contents that I found particularly fascinating, and I usually pursue more reading of books or articles by those authors.All that said, the two major themes that I took from the book were that:1) across most disciplines and writers, evolution is the elegant theory most often cited. Evolution explains a huge swath of what we know about life and culture using quite simple mechanisms.2) that all the thinking and brain stuff that happens below the level of conscious thought drives way more of why we do what we do than was previously understood.

  • David Tendo
    2019-05-10 09:07

    "Deep"? Just another word for Pretentious. "Beautiful"? Try Narcissistic. "Elegant"? Tortuous comes to mind. Contrary to what it purports on the cover - NO, this does not explain everything. In fact it doesn't explain ANYTHING, at all! This book is just a collection of show-off-y crap by some of the world's greatest thinkers today; by "thinkers" I mean - egotistical, narcissistic morons. Oh, hey, is it coincidence that Nassim Nicholas Taleb (refer to my review of The Black Swan) is one of the contributors? It seems like they're having a show-off contest - who can use to biggest words in the most nonsensical ways possible. They may be the best at what they do, but that doesn't give them the right to make everyone else feel small by publishing this nonsense and claiming that it explains everything. To be honest, I read a few of the essays and had to stop, I couldn't even finish - just like The Black Swan. Avoid at all costs.

  • Bettie☯
    2019-05-02 09:43

    (view spoiler)[Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)]

  • Mikhail
    2019-05-13 10:08

    An excellent pack of short essays on scientific and not-very-scientific ideas. Plenty of choice. Here's my favourites:1. Sensory adaptation (by Richard Dawkins): "The world at time t is not greatly different from the world at time t-1. Therefore it is not necessary for sensory systems continuously to report the state of the world. They need only signal changes, leaving the brain to assume that everything not reported remains the same."2. Opinion segregation (by David G.Myers): "Group interaction tends to amplify people's initial inclinations. 3. John Conway's Life model (by Brian Eno): "We aren't good at intuiting the interaction of simple rules with initial conditions (and the bigger point here is that the human brain may be intrinsically limited in its ability to intuit certain things - like quantum theory or probability, for example... Intuition is not a quasi-mystical voice from outside ourselves speaking through us but a sort of quick-and-dirty processing of our prior experience."4. Pascal's wager (by Tim O'Reilly): "All we need to think about are the consequences of being wrong."5. Aaron Beck's work on depression (by Eric Kandel): "Depression is due to introjected anger. Patients with depression experience deep hostility toward someone they love."6. Inverse power laws (by Rudy Rucker): "Galling as it seems, inverse-power-law distributions are a fundamental natural law about the behavior of systems. They are ubiquitous."7. The Peter principle and the mechanism of mediocrity (by Nicholas Carr): "In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence."

  • Charlene
    2019-05-14 13:10

    Very similar to Brockman's The Universe (one of my favorites). Once again, Brockman gathers all the greats and puts their ideas into one book. There were ~150 essays. Each answered the question, "What do you consider to be the most beautiful, deep, and elegant theory ?" The book got off to a rough start. Sadly Brockman began with essays from scientists who have become science deniers. For example, epigenetiphobe Dawkins was prominently featured early on and set the tone for the reader. I usually picture Brockman as progressive and existing on the cutting Edge. Starting with Dawkins made me wonder if the world was perhaps ready for a newer, younger, and more edgy editor than John Brockman (how long do we have to pay homage to people like Dawkins who work so hard at keeping other scientists down? Stop treating him like a king and make room for more progressive minds). Despite initially setting the wrong tone, Brockman managed to wow his reader yet again with great summaries of the most important theories known to humans. Zimbardo's essay was laughable. His essay should have been titled, "The size of my ego is bigger than the size of the universe." At least Brockman shoved it in the middle, allowing the reader to brush it off and move on to better ideas. The majority of this book was filled with extremely passionate people discussing the most meaningful ideas the human brain can comprehend. Essay topics included information theory, the creation of the universe (John Mather's essay was my personal favorite), epigenetics, various psychological phenomenon, evolution, and so on. Very wide scope. Very enjoyable. A must read.

  • Chris
    2019-05-22 14:02

    An interesting thought collage with a misleading title. The subtitle comes closer to capturing the contents: a collection of essays from a diverse group of thinkers responding to the question, What is your favorite deep, beautiful, or elegant explanation? From the preface:The contributions presented here embrace scientific thinking in the broadest sense: as the most reliable way of gaining knowledge about anything--including such fields of inquiry as philosophy, mathematics, economics, history, language, and human behavior. The common thread is that a simple and nonobvious idea is proposed as the explanation for a diverse and complicated set of phenomena.The resulting compilation makes for a fascinating mix--while all were potentially enlightening, I only found half truly engaging and a handful really entertaining--what I found most valuable was the landscape of ideas created, giving insight into the perspectives of the scholarly community. Some of the explanations--like evolution by natural selection--are well-known and get mentioned many times, while others are specific or esoteric or recent. As would be expected, the ones in my areas of interest were the most interesting to me, but all contributed to making a whole that was greater for the sum of its parts.Perhaps most valuable was the introduction the book provided to a wealth of different thinkers. I've already investigated a good number because I wanted to know more about who they are, where they are coming from, and what they have done, and I was intrigued enough by a few that I'm planning on reading their books and other works.

  • linhtalinhtinh
    2019-04-30 07:59

    I read this book because my flight kept getting delayed and the transit time is always super boring.1. Great writing. I'm impressed. It helps that almost all these contributors are authors themselves, writing books that are directed towards general audience. It shows the romantic/poetic side of their thinking.2. I was engrossed in the book, however, not by the writing, but instead by the ideas so enthusiastically and lovely presented. Some of them are new to me, some aren't. But again, the book reminds me how beautiful this life and universe is, how lucky we all are to be born, to be able to think, to read, to learn. I feel like a kid again, opening my eyes wide, forever marveling at the magic of the worldSo: beautiful writing + superb ideas = definite recommendation.P.S: Not all contributions are equally good. Some are great, some are not so, some can be even, well, not very much to my taste. It averages out, however, so all is good. I prefer theories in natural sciences.

  • William Crosby
    2019-05-05 14:01

    Mish mash of diversity of various author's mini-essays on theories to explain various aspects of the world. Lots of duplication. Sometimes an essay did not seem to answer the question (but rather talked about the question) or their favorite theory was not explained adequately.After about the 20th mini-essay I got annoyed with the book and returned it to the library unfinished.The idea sounded intriguing and so did the various essay titles: so I checked it out. Maybe 20 longer more developed diverse essays on the subject would have satisfied me better. Now I know that if I see another book like this to just not bother to check it out. This particular genre (although I like the occasional non-fiction science/theory/philosophy book) is not for me. But I see from the other reviews that other people seem to love this book. So go with what you like/don't like.

  • Susan Beuerlein
    2019-05-17 07:59

    Accolades to This Explains Everything, which collects short essays on such topics as astronomy, biological electricity, metabolic syndrome, monogamy, decision-making, mediocrity, language, mathematics, sociology, and death.The contributors—from Alan Alda to esteemed physicists to sociologists to mathematicians—ponder elegant and beautiful explanations of our universe. Readers may be challenged by the science, inspired by the history, and intrigued by Hamlet's notion: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."This Explains Everything is a great companion, with short and long essays on every topic under the sun. Feel your mind expand and shiver with enjoyment!

  • Atila Iamarino
    2019-05-19 06:53

    Ótimas ideias e teorias pontuadas por algumas não tão boas e um pouco de groselha. Em geral as explicações são rasas, mas acho um ótimo livro pra se ter contato com muitos bons temas que merecem mais leitura depois. Aliás, é de longe o melhor livro desse tipo que já li.

  • Binh Nguyen
    2019-05-18 08:09

    Pretty interesting.

  • Jacob
    2019-05-09 13:07

    Not what I thought it was going to be, but I liked it. Apparently this guy who runs "online science salon" asked his members in 2012 "What is your favorite deep, elegant, or beautiful explanation?" and published many of the resulting short essays as this book. I was looking for several deeper chapters about selected scientific theories, and this turned out to be a collection of dozens of very short, often redundant, surface-level statements about which scientific ideas people think are great and why they like them. Ideas are most of the reason I enjoy reading short story collections, so I was still good with it.As with a short story collection, the quality of the entries varies, but the editor presumably had a lot more material to work with than made it into the book so the quality here is definitely at a higher level than most books of short stories that I've read. There are enough essays that the editor doesn't even number them in the table of contents, so let me call out a few things that stood out to me:Apparently discussions of evolution were the most common response, and many other essays start with something like "evolution is the best, but lots of other people will talk about that, so I'll go with this other thing instead". A little ironic that your essay was less fit to be included because of stiffer competition if you focused on evolution. The ones that made it run a bit of a gamut from discussing how simply and elegantly it explains things to those who favor it because it allows them to exclude God from their consideration. That seems a little irrelevant to science, but at least you get a feel for how they are thinking.I don't know if this was just the result of a recognition bias, but there were proportionally more entries from people connected to UC San Diego than I expected (which includes Scripps Institute of Oceanography and the Salk Institute). Maybe the membership of this salon has an unusually large number of UCSD people, or the editor knows them better. Having attended UCSD, I enjoyed it but that appeal is probably somewhat limited among others. It's just a pleasant surprise to see material by people you know in a book you're reading (Terry Sejnowski's essay in particular). That happens a lot with the nonfiction I read as well, which often refers to papers by people I knew at UCSD.Early on, I thought about what theory I would write about if I had been in a position to respond at the time. It wasn't hard to decide that I would write about a fundamental assumption that underpins all of science: we trust that everything has a regular and predictable cause. This seems pretty basic, but people didn't used to think that way and science didn't get far off the ground until they did. Fortunately I discovered someone beat me to it: Tania Lombrozo talked about Causation, as well as Other Minds and another of my favorite issues in how people think of science, Realism.Other essays that stood out to me include one by John McWhorter who wrote Doing Our Own Thing, Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America and The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language, whose essay was titled "How do You Get From a Lobster to a Cat?" and was not about linguistics at all. Also Nassim Nicholas Taleb who wrote The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable and Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder, whose essay WAS about his pet topic.Anyway, if you're a big fan of science or you really like ideas, this is a great candidate for your to-read list.

  • Taede Smedes
    2019-04-24 10:57

    John Brockman, uitgever en oprichter van de website, stelt ieder jaar aan wetenschappers een bepaalde vraag, die ze vervolgens gaan uitwerken. Dit keer werd aan wetenschappers de vraag gesteld welk verklarend inzicht voor hen de meeste elegantie bezat. In dit geven verschillende topwetenschappers - sommigen bekend, anderen in Nederland tot nog toe onbekend - zoals Susan Blackmore, Richard Dawkins, Leonard Susskind, Steven Pinker, Max Tegmark, Martin Rees, Freeman Dyson, Daniel Dennett en vele anderen, een antwoord vanuit hun eigen veld van expertise. Het merendeel van de bijdragen is natuurwetenschappelijk van aard. De essays verschillen nogal. Sommigen zijn minder dan een pagina lang, anderen gaan tot drie pagina’s. Alle bijdragen zijn interessant en vlot geschreven (wat van een redacteur als Brockman ook verwacht kan worden). In de Amerikaanse uitgave staan 150 bijdragen, de Nederlandse telt 156 omdat de uitgever het blijkbaar nodig vond een aantal Nederlandse bijdragen toe te voegen (o.a. van Asha ten Broeke en Stine Jensen). Die bijdragen halen het eerlijk gezegd qua niveau en stijl toch net niet bij de overige, van oorsprong Engelse teksten. De Nederlandse vertaling (door een indrukwekkend groot vertaalteam) is erg goed. Dit is niet een boek om van a tot z te lezen. Daarvoor is het te vermoeiend, met name omdat voortdurend toch geswitcht moet worden naar weer een andere schrijfstijl. Het is een boek dat erg de moeite waard is om in te grasduinen, hap-snap. De meeste essays presenteren niet-alledaagse inzichten die aan het denken zetten. Heel diepgravend is het allemaal niet. De uitgeverij - Maven Publishing - laat ook met dit boek zien dat ze bezig zijn om een grote speler te worden op de markt van populair-wetenschappelijke literatuur.

  • Kazen
    2019-05-19 11:59

    This book of collected essays asks the question, "What is your favorite deep, elegant, or beautiful explanation?" Many people, from Richard Dawkins to Brian Eno to professors you've never heard of (but are amazingly cool), contribute their ideas and theories.The essays are lovingly ordered so that you flow from biology to physics to neuroscience to psychology in a way that never feels forced or jarring. One writer will expound about, say, the Pigeonhole Theory and the next will use it as a jumping off point for a completely different explanation. With 150 different contributors there's bound to be dull bits, uneven spots, and a few oddities. Overall, however, the writing quality is high and the content gave me a lot to think about. This is a book to read slowly, maybe five essays a day, so you can ruminate over each idea. A few of my favorite essays are:- Group Polarization by David G. Myers- Dirt is Matter Out of Place by Christine Finn (the title gives it away, but hey)- How Do You Get from a Lobster to a Cat? by John McWhorter- Lemons are Fast by Barry C. Smith- Why We Feel Pressed for Time by Elizabeth DunnAfter reading this book I have a healthy store of dinner party chatter and my mind has been opened. If you like a particular writer you can pick up other work they've done, as many are published authors. Even if you don't you'll enjoy the feeling of your mind being tickled by the interesting, elegant theories.

  • Ovidiu Neatu
    2019-05-16 11:49

    "Totul are o explicație(vol I)" este o colecție de răspunsuri din partea unor oameni de știință la întrebarea "Care este, pentru tine , cea mai profundă, elegantă sau frumoasă soluție?". Răspunsurile sunt relativ scurte -de cel mult 4 pagini- și vin din partea unor oameni de știință/filosofi renumiți: Susan Blackmore, Steven Pinker, Martin J. Rees, Richard Dawkins, Daniel C. Dennett și mulți alții.Printre răspunsuri se regăsesc multe idei interesante dar în cea mai mare parte,Teoria Evoluției și Legea a Doua a Termodinamicii , sunt printre răspunsurile favorite. Deci autorii aduc în discuție scurte idei și remarci pe aceste teme în cea mai mare parte.Partea faină e că descoperi noi persoane de urmărit și noi cărți de citit. Spre exemplu mi-a atras atenția John Tooby, părintele psihologiei evoluționiste.p.s.: titlul original e "This Explains Everything: Deep, Beautiful, and Elegant Theories of How the World Works" și e o singură carte de 400+ pagini, cei de la Nemira au decis să o scoată în două volume de 200+ pagini. Probabil o să vedem și al doilea volum în curând. (Se pricep cei de la Nemira la despărțit cărți în mai multe volume pentru că o fac frecvent. Probabil au vreun angajat care se numește Moise care face toată treaba.)

  • Greg Stoll
    2019-05-15 09:08

    I bought this book because I love learning about what we used to think about things that we now know are wrong. (see: "carrots help you see well in the dark") This book is not about that. (in my defense, I was in a hurry and needed new books while I was in India) The format of the book was a bit intimidating - essentially 150 short chapters, which made reading the book feel like quite a slog. Some of the essays were definitely interesting, but there was some repetition (for a while there it seemed like everyone wanted to pick natural selection :-) ), and some of them were way too long for the format.Anyway, I think the book was decent, but I really didn't enjoy most of it while I was reading it.

  • Nancy Mills
    2019-05-20 08:49

    This doesn't explain anything! However, it was very intriguing and served to pique my curiousity about my topics, as well as tweaking my memory about others.I listened to the audiobook; if I had it to do over, I probably would elect to read the conventional version. I was continually tempted to make notes on what authors and topics I would like to find out more about. This is hard to do while driving.I found the parts on the hard sciences much more interesting in general than the sections on social sciences, but maybe that's just me.A fun and stimulating book that encourages one to dig deeper.

  • Georgean Britton
    2019-04-27 09:09

    Amazing collection of contemporary ideas about almost everything, from evolution, to love, to basic particles, to dna, to art and language. All in short pages that open your mind and entice you to look forward and try to understand it all. The book shouldn't be viewed as a guide or a treatise, it is merely an index, a starting point for further reading, research and reflexion. I definitely recommend this book to all my friends.

  • Steven
    2019-04-30 10:56

    Occasionally uneven, because of the overall breadth and diversity of contributions, but overall, it's filled with excellent, elegant and erudite theories from some of leading people in their fields and definitely worth reading.

  • Rui
    2019-04-29 13:45

    This is the best of knowledge, the state of art in science and culture.

  • Kaa
    2019-05-05 14:03

    [-"A system that does not make mistakes is not intelligent."]

  • Víctor Bermúdez
    2019-05-01 15:02

    Evolution by means of natural selection / Susan Blackmore — Life is a digital code / Matt Ridley — Redundancy reduction and pattern recognition / Richard Dawkins — The power of absurdity / Scott Atran — How apparent finality can emerge / Carlo Rovelli -- The overdue demise of monogamy / Aubrey de Grey — Boltzmann’s explanation of the second law of thermodynamics / Leonard Susskind -- The dark matter of the mind / Joel Gold — "There are more things in heaven and earth...than are dreamt of in your philosophy." / Alda Alda — An unresolved (and therefore unbeautiful) reaction to the edge question / Rebecca Newberger Goldstein — Ptolemy's universe / James J. O’Donnell — Quasi-elegance / Paul Steinhardt -- Mathematical object or natural object? / Shing-Tung Yau — Simplicity / Frank Wilczek — Simplicity itself / Thomas Metzinger -- Einstein explains why gravity is universal / Sean Carroll — Evolutionary genetics and the conflicts of human social life / Steven Pinker — The Faurie-Raymond hypothesis / Jonathan Gottschall — Group polarization / David G. Myers — The price equation / Armand Marie Leroi — Unconscious inferences / Gerd Gigerenzer -- Snowflakes and the multiverse / Martin J. Rees — Einstein’s photons / Anton Seilinger — Go small / Jeremy Bernstein -- Why is our world comprehensible? / Andrei Linde — Alfvén’s cosmos / George Dyson — Our universe grew like a baby / Max Tegmark -- Kepler et al. and the nonexistent problem / Gino Segrè — How incompatible worldviews can coexist / Freeman Dyson — Impossible inexactness / Satyajit Das — The next level of fundamental matter? / Haim Harari — Observers observing / Robert Provine — Genes, claustrum, and consciousness / V.S. Ramachandran — Overlapping solutions / David M. Eagleman — Our bounded rationality / Mahzarin Banaji -- Swarm intelligence / Robert Sapolsky -- Language and natural selection / Keith Devlin — Commitment / Richard H. Thaler — Tit for tat / Jennifer Jacquet -- True or false : beauty is truth / Judith Rich Harris — Eratosthenes and the modular mind / Dan Sperber — Dan Sperber's explanation of culture / Clay Shirky -- Metarepresentations explain human uniqueness / Hugo Mercier — Why the human mind may seem to have an elegant explanation even if it doesn’t / Nicholas Humphrey -- Fitness landscapes / Stewart Brand — On oceans and airport security / Kevin P. Hand — Plate tectonics elegantly validates continental drift / Paul Saffo — Why some sea turtles migrate / Daniel C. Dennett — A hot young earth : unquestionably beautiful and stunningly wrong / Carl Zimmer — Sexual-conflict theory / David M. Buss — The seeds of historical dominance / David Pizarro — The importance of individuals / Howard Gardner — Subjective environment / Andrian Kreye — My favorite annoying elegant explanation : quantum theory / Raphael Bousso -- Einstein's revenge : the new geometric quantum / Eric R. Weinstein — What time is it? / Dave Winer — Realism and other metaphysical half-truths / Tania Lombrozo — All we need is help / Seirian Sumner -- In the beginning is the theory / Helena Cronin — Thompson on development / Paul Bloom -- How do you get from a lobster to a cat? / John McWhorter — Germs cause disease / Gregory Cochran — Dirt is matter out of place / Christine Finn --Information is the resolution of uncertainty / Andrew Lih — Everything is the way it is because it got that way / PZ Myers -- The idea of emergence / David Christian — Frames of reference / Dimitar D. Sasselov — Epigenetics— the missing link / Helen Fisher -- Flocking behavior in birds / John Naughton — Lemons are fast / Barry C. Smith — Falling into place : entropy and the desperate ingenuity of life / John Tooby — Why things happen / Peter Atkins — Why we feel pressed for time / Elizabeth Dunn -- Why the sun still shines / Bart Kosko — Boscovich's explanation of atomic forces / Charles Simonyi -- Birds are the direct descendants of dinosaurs / Gregory S. Paul — Complexity out of simplicity / Bruce Hood -- Russell's theory of descriptions / A.C. Grayling — Feynman's lifeguard / Timo Hannay -- The limits of intuition / Brian Eno — The Higgs mechanism / Lisa Randall — The mind thinks in embodied metaphors / Simone Schnall — Metaphors are in the mind / Benjamin K. Bergen — The pigeonhole principle / Jon Kleinberg — Why programs have bugs / Marti Hearst -- Cagepatterns / Hans-Ulrich Obrist — The true rotational symmetry of space / Seth LLoyd -- The pigeonhole principle revisited / Charles Seife -- Moore's Law / Rodney A. Brooks — Cosmic complexity / John C. Mather — The Gaia hypothesis / Scott Sampson — The continuity equations / Laurence C. Smith — Pascal's wager / Tim O'Reilly -- Evolutionarily stable strategies / S. Abbas Raza — The Collingridge dilemma / Evgeny Morozov -- Trusting trust / Ernst Pöppel -- It just is? / Bruce Parker — Subverting biology / Patrick Bateson — Sex at your fingertips / Simon Baron-Cohen -- Why do movies move? / Alvy Ray Smith -- Would you like blue cheese with it? / Albert-László Barabási — Mother nature’s laws / Stuart Pimm — The Oklo pyramid / Karl Sabbagh -- Kitty Genovese and group apathy / Adam Alter — The wizard of I / Gerald Smallberg -- One coincidence; two déjà vus / Douglas Coupland — Occam’s razor / Katinka Matson — Deep time / Alun Anderson -- Placing psychotherapy on a scientific basis : five easy lessons / Eric R. Kandel — Transitional objects / Sherry Turkel -- Natural selection is simple but the systems it shapes are unimaginably complex / Randolph Nesse — How to have a good idea / Marcel Kinsbourne -- Out of the mouths of babes / Nicholas A. Christakis — The beauty in a sunrise / Philip Campbell — The origin of money / Dylan Evans -- The precession of the simulacra / Douglas Rushkoff -- Time perspective theory / Philip Zimbardo — Developmental timing explains the woes of adolescence / Alison Gopnik — Implications of Ivan Pavlov's great discovery / Stephen M. Kossly and Robin Rosenberg — Nature is cleverer than we are / Terrence J. Sejnowski — Imposing randomness / Michael I. Norton — The unification of electricity and magnetism / Lawrence M. Krauss — Furry rubber bands / Neil Gershenfeld -- The principle of inertia / Lee Smolin — Seeing is believing : from placebos to movies in our brain / Eric J. Topol — The discontinuity of science and culture / Gerald Holton — Hormesis is redundancy / Nassim Nicholas Taleb -- The beautiful law of unintended consequences / Robert Kurzban -- We are what we do / Timothy D. Wilson — Personality differences : the importance of chance / Samuel Barondes -- Metabolic syndrome : cell energy adaptations in a toxic world? / Beatrice Golomb — Death is the final repayment / Emanuel Derman — Denumerable infinities and mental states / David Gelernter — Inverse power laws / Rudy Rucker — How the leopard got his spots / Samuel Arbesman —The universal algorithm for human decision making / Stanislas Dehaene — Lord Acton's dilemma / Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi -- Fact, fiction, and our probabilitic world / Victoria Stodden — Elegance=complex / George Church — Tinbergen's questions / Irene Pepperberg -- The universal turing machine / Gloria Origgi -- A matter of poetics / Richard Foreman -- The origins of biological electricity / Jared Diamond — Why the Greeks painted red people on black pots / Timothy Taylor — Language as an adaptive system / Andy Clark — The mechanism of mediocrity / Nicholas J. Carr — The principle of empiricism, or see for yourself / Michael Shermer -- We are stardust / Kevin Kelly.

  • Tanya Spackman
    2019-05-11 07:53

    Didn’t finish. I put forth a valiant effort, but life is too short to waste on terrible books. I give it two stars instead of one because a few of the entries are so poorly thought out that the resultant eye rolling offers some entertainment. (They’re mostly just boring since the premise is to throw out partially described ideas with little support or deep thought because the format is too short for that.)

  • Eja Batbold
    2019-05-02 11:47

    No it does not, but I learned quite interesting facts and found some of the arguments though-provoking. Commitment: It it fundamental principle of economics that a person is better off if they have more alternatives to choose from. But this is not the case. More than often by restricting my choices I tend to commit myself to the cause better and thus succeed. Commitment way to go! Selfishness: can sometimes be the best strategy, it is the rational response to the Prisoner's dilemma. Beauty is truth, Life is a code: JIm Watson wrote: We believe that DNA is a code, that to say is made up off orders of letters, it is structure and is copied to regenerate. A, G, T, C (DNA structure) this chain follows logic, A always goes with T, and G with C, and coding order makes it possible, Life. The overdue demise of monogamy: Let me make clear here that I refer to here sex ( not other attachments, no emotional or intellectual connections), is a recreational activity just like many other activities done involving two or more people. Everything is the way it is because it got that way :) Pigeonhole principle: It is a simple idea that if there is n numbers of pigeons, and less than n number cages to put them, there must be at least a box with two pigeons in it. Yes, so far so good, until it gets to the point that lets count numbers. It is infinite, and how many levels of infinite folders can we file them up. Infinite, an d in this thinking further, imagine there's an infinite copies of every matter, you, and all that we know. The universe is infinite but only finite number of possible configurations of matter and energy, thus it only make sense that there are exact copies of earths, solar systems, and everything that comes of matter. Not only countless copies of u, but infinite versions of you with tails, heads, whatever you can never imagine of. What a weird thought right? Yet, even something as simple as counting can lead u to bizarre and unexpected realms. One coincidence; two deja vus: I take confort in the fact that everyone experiences two deja vus a year. not one, not three, TWO? The underlying biodynamics of deja vu is probably ascribable to some sort of tingling neurons in ca certain part of the brain yet this doesn`t tell us why they exist. They seem to me to be a signal from a larger point of view that wants to remind us that our lives are distinct, that they have meaning, and that they occur throughout a span of time. We are important, and what makes us valuable to the universe if our sentience and our curse and blessing of perpetual self-awareness. Nature is cleverer than we are:More than often it is not us, our mind that makes the decision rather the nature itself. Dopamine is called "reward molecule".We are what we do: People become what they do. Self-perception: we create self-perception based on what we think we are, and each decision shapes our self-perception in return. it is a cycle. Are we strangers to ourselves? because without those assurance of every action we make, we hesitate on ourselves. F.e., after buying few coffees, we tend to see ourselves as a coffee consumers, after recycling few times, we create a responsible citizen in own imagine, returning lost wallet, we appreciate ourselves more. We constantly create a image for ourselves, we build self-perception then."We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be."

  • Bernie Gourley
    2019-04-23 10:11

    A theory that explains a lot with a clear and simple set of ideas is much beloved by scientists and social scientists alike. In this book, about 150 renowned thinkers were asked what theory they thought explained the most with the least. Every year, (the online face of an Algonquin Round Table-like group called “The Reality Club”) produces a question to direct toward members, and this book resulted from the 2012 question. The editor, John Brockman, had his work cut out for him given limited space and the fact that a few theories (e.g. Darwinian Evolution) would be rehashed ad nauseam without coordination. (Many authors sited Darwin, even if they weren’t discussing evolution because they knew it’d already been addressed from many angles.) The contributors are a veritable who’s who of science, and include: Matt Ridley, Richard Dawkins, Leonard Susskind, Frank Wilczek, Steven Pinker, Martin J. Rees, Max Tegmark, Freeman Dyson, V.S. Ramachandran, David Eagleman, Robert Sapolsky, Richard Thaler, Daniel Dennett, Howard Gardener, Lisa Randall, Eric R. Kandel, Alison Gopnik, Lee Smolin, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Jared Diamond, and Michael Shermer. One may note that not all of the authors are, strictly-speaking, scientists. The book even ventures into the arts and humanities, including contributors such as Alan Alda and Brian Eno. Of course, this means that the book sometimes veers away from theories that have explanatory power on the scale of natural selection or the neat offerings of physics and chemistry, but these entries often provide some intriguing food-for-thought. All of the entries are short; some are less than a page and most are less than three. Given the range of authors, the approaches and the degree of colorfulness employed in entries varies greatly. There are few graphics and no ancillary matter (notations or bibliography) except for an editor’s introduction. It’s good bathroom reading, or for any other time when one has a couple free minutes to take in an idea. I enjoyed this book, and found it thought-provoking. Often it wasn’t the expected theories (i.e. the most parsimonious) that provided the greatest revelatory insights. There were even responses that challenged the nature of the question. One won’t necessarily find all the responses present elegant theories, or that all of them even are theories, but that’s not the point. They are all ideas that have merit in some regard. One will see old standards (e.g. the 2nd law of thermodynamics) from new angles and will be exposed to ideas that might be entirely new (e.g. the Faurie-Raymond hypothesis that suggests the advantage of lefties in fighting.) I found essays on swarm intelligence and frames of reference taking my thinking in new directions. I’d recommend this book for those looking for some interesting thinking on elegant ideas.

  • Kim Zinkowski
    2019-05-12 13:47

    B. Essays.

  • Leanne Ritchie
    2019-04-29 07:50

    There were many interesting essays in the 2013 Salon, which asked academics and theorists to provide their most deep, beautiful and elegant theories of the way the world works. However five in particular stand out. First Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Robert Kurzban each tackle the fundamentally flawed human perspective on change. Taleb argues that while nature always uses the same simple, elegant form of overcompensation to prepare creatures for the worst to come (this principle holds true from weight lifting to our immune system function), humans in their planning fall prey to the 'Lucretius underestimation' in which we imagine the worst case scenario that has happened to date and fail to plan for anything larger. This essay is followed by Kurzban's piece on the law of unintended consequences, which states that when people intervene with systems with a lot of moving parts - especially ecologists and economies - the intervention will have consequences that are unforeseen and unforesable. In short, humans have spit on the natural pattern of biology for preparing for disaster, refusing to plan for outlier events, and we've created systems so complicated that we can't even imagine the results of our actions. I agree with Kurzban, yes these is something beautiful about the tendrils of causality in complex systems, but our inability as a species to build in any wriggle room to respond to crises leaves me deeply disturbed about the next major global shift - be it economic, geological, medical or environmental. Secondly Simone Schnall, Barry C. Smith and Benjamin Bergan all take on the notion of the embodied metaphor - challenging Aristotle's view of the metaphor as a simple linguistic device of comparison. Smith takes on cross modal metaphors (taste and shape, sound and vision, hearing and smell) which are reliable and shared across individuals, arguing these are driven by the human body. Schnall takes this further by arguing the cognitive operations of any creature, including humans, have to solve certain adaptive challenges of the physical environment and in the process, embodied metaphors are the building blocks of perception, cognition and action. And finally Bergen concludes that if metaphorical language is the result of our human bodies functioning within our environment, the metaphorical language is not haphazard but systematic and coherent and there are rules to be followed. Delineating this notion of embodied metaphor gives writers' a place to play on the edge of those rules, to push understanding. There are many other one off essays of note in this book... products are always worth a read to get a flavour of trending topics for future study.

  • Sarah
    2019-05-21 08:02

    I expected 20-30 essays on scientific, philosophical, and psychological theory, but this book contains 150. Consequently, the depth of exploration is limited, but the breadth impressive. The collection (packaged like an anthology) contains brilliant insights from incredible creative and scientific minds, like Daniel C. Dennett, Jared Diamond, Alvy Ray Smith (co-founder of Pixar), Steven Pinker, Brain, Eno, etc. It offers vast professional diversity and thematic variety, and is an excellent introductory resource for the Renaissance-style inquisitive mind. However, the book is not without drawbacks. Negatives include: a vast number of underdeveloped essays (all are between 1 and 6 pages--woefully inadequate for exploring astrophysics or complexity theory, or anything in depth), an OVERWHELMINGLY male set of contributors, and the inevitable challenge, with so many essays, of separating chaff from wheat. While some amazing insights are included, some contributors obviously have difficultly writing for general audiences, understanding that they are not in front of the chalk board, or even constructing sentences properly [hashtag ScientistCommunicationProblems]. By contrast, other contributors brilliantly elucidate complicated theories through simple metaphors or believable anecdotes. But, the pendulum swings radically, so to speak. Editor John Brockman('s hand is apparent in the arrangement of the essays--tangential references are often sequentially featured, so that seemingly disparate essays relate. For reader comprehension, though, it may have been more effective to create thematic cohesion, packaging disciplines together. The abrupt jumps from philosophy to biology to nuclear physics, while creatively provocative, challenge the reader to remember the presented concepts. I did enjoy the radically different contexts in which a theory may be presented, though. For example, the Pigeonhole Principle is discussed in terms of compression algorithms (p. 233) and also in relationship to genealogy (p. 221). As many previous reviewers have stated, this book is best enjoyed piecemeal, and cannot be digested as a whole. The advantage to this, though, is that it can be used as a springboard to exploration of the topics contained within. As a result of reading this book, for example, I purchased a physics text and a book on the fledgeling field of evolutionary psychology. Overall, I recommend that the inquisitive reader use this as a "choose your own adventure" book of theories, and further explore topics of interest on his/her own afterwards.