Short works

Books : reviews

John Brockman, ed.
The Third Culture.
Simon & Schuster. 1995


The emerging third culture. 1995
George C. Williams. A package of information. 1995
Stephen Jay Gould. The pattern of life's history. 1995
Richard Dawkins. A survival machine. 1995
Brian C. Goodwin. Biology is just a dance. 1995
Steve Jones. Why is there so much genetic diversity. 1995
Niles Eldredge. A battle of words. 1995
Lynn Margulis. Gaia is a tough bitch. 1995
Marvin L. Minsky. Smart machines. 1995
Roger C. Schank. Information is surprises. 1995
Daniel C. Dennett. Intuition pumps. 1995
Nicholas Humphrey. The thick moment. 1995
Francisco J. Varela. The emergent self. 1995
Steven Pinker. Language is a human instinct. 1995
Roger Penrose. Consciousnes involved noncomputable ingredients. 1995
Martin J. Rees. An ensemble of universes. 1995
Alan H. Guth. A universe in your backyard. 1995
Lee Smolin. A theory of the whole universe. 1995
Paul C. W. Davies. The synthetic path. 1995
Murray Gell-Mann. Plectics. 1995
Stuart A. Kauffman. Order for free. 1995
Christopher G. Langton. A dynamical pattern. 1995
J. Doyne Farmer. The second law of organization. 1995
W. Daniel Hillis. Close to the singularity. 1995

John Brockman, ed.
The Greatest Inventions of the Past 2000 Years.
Phoenix. 2000


Brian C. Goodwin. The Printing Press. 2000
Rodney A. Brooks. The Electric Motor. 2000
Tom Standage. Telecommunications Technology. 2000
Colin Tudge. The Plow. 2000
Arnold Trehub. Otto von Guericke's Static Electricity Machine. 2000
Alun Anderson. The Caravel. 2000
Samuel H. Barondes. Organized Science. 2000
John R. Searle. The Green Revolution. 2000
Marc D. Hauser. The Electric Light and Aspirin. 2000
John D. Barrow. The Indo-Arab Counting System. 2000
Leon Lederman. The Printing Press and the Thermos Bottle. 2000
Richard Potts. Flying Machines. 2000
Paolo Pignatelli. The University. 2000
Douglas Rushkoff. The Eraser. 2000
Viviana Guzman. Television. 2000
Garniss Curtis. Gutenberg's Press with Movable Type. 2000
Susan Blackmore. The Contraceptive Pill. 2000
Patrick Bateson. The Harnessing of Electricity. 2000
Carl Zimmer. Waterworks. 2000
Robert Shapiro. Genetic Sequencing. 2000
Howard Gardner. Classical Music. 2000
Roger C. Schank. The Internet. 2000
Randolph M. Nesse. Printing. 2000
Ron Cooper. Distillation. 2000
David M. Buss. Television in its Effects on Mating Patterns. 2000
Dan Sperber. The Computer and the Atomic Bomb. 2000
Maria Lepowsky. The Pill, the Gun, and Hydraulic Engineering. 2000
Robert R. Provine. Universal Schooling. 2000
Duncan Steel. The Thirty-Three Year English Protestant Calendar. 2000
(see also talk at Seacon'03)
Peter Tallack. The Stirrup and the Horse Collar. 2000
John C. Baez. Social Structures that Enable Inventions. 2000
Terrence J. Sejnowski. The Digital Bit. 2000
Nicholas Humphrey. Reading Glasses. 2000
Clifford A. Pickover. Papermaking. 2000
Freeman J. Dyson. Hay. 2000
Daniel C. Dennett. The Battery. 2000
Lawrence M. Krauss. The Programmable Computer. 2000
Gino Segre. Lenses. 2000
George Dyson. The Universal Turing Machine. 2000
Karl Sabbagh. Chairs and Stairs. 2000
Gordon Gould. Double-Entry Accounting. 2000
Bob Rafelson. The Gatling Gun. 2000
Stephen Budiansky. The Domestication of the Horse. 2000
David Haig. The Computer. 2000
William H. Calvin. Computers as Modelers of Climate. 2000
Vilayanur S. Ramachandran. The Indo-Arabic Number System. 2000
Peter Cochrane. The Thermionic Valve. 2000
Hendrik Hertzberg. Printing. 2000
Charles Simonyi. Public Key Cryptosystems. 2000
John Rennie. Volta's Electric Battery. 2000
Stuart R. Hameroff. Anasthesia. 2000
James J. O'Donnell. Late-Twentieth-Century Health Care. 2000
Steven Johnson. The City. 2000
Jeremy Cherfas. The Basket. 2000
Keith Devlin. The Hindu-Arabic Number System. 2000
Eberhard Zangger. Nothing Worth Mentioning. 2000
Henry Warwick. Nothing. 2000
Murray Gell-Mann. Disbelief in the Supernatural. 2000
Steven P. R. Rose. Democracy and Social Justice. 2000
Joseph E. LeDoux. Various, Including the Idea that All People are Created Equal. 2000
Don Goldsmith. The Realization of Our Place in the Cosmos. 2000
Steven Pinker. The Alphabet and the Lens. 2000
Paul W. Ewald. Evolution by Selection. 2000
Brian Greene. The Telescope. 2000
Joseph F. Traub. The Scientific Method. 2000
Stanislas Dehaene. The Concept of Education. 2000
John C. Dvorak. Computer Networks. 2000
Geoffrey F. Miller. Marketing. 2000
Luyen Chou. Philosophical Skepticism. 2000
Piet Hut. The Construction of Autonomous Tools. 2000
Thomas de Zengotita. Geometry. 2000
Marney Morris. The Atomic Bomb. 2000
David E. Shaw. The Scientific Method. 2000
David Berreby. The Information Economy. 2000
John McCarthy. The Idea of Continued Scientific and Technological Progress. 2000
David G. Meyers. The Control Group. 2000
Jay Ogilvy. Secularism. 2000
Milford H. Wolpoff. Science. 2000
Reuben Hersh. The Interrogative Sentence; Space Travel. 2000
Christopher Westbury. Probability Theory. 2000
W. Daniel Hillis. The Clock. 2000
Mary Catherine Bateson. Economic Man---Most Boring Invention. 2000
Julian B. Barbour. The Bell and the Symphony Orchestra. 2000
Marvin L. Minsky. The Identification of Smell. 2000
Christopher G. Langton. The Telescope and the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection. 2000
Clay Shirky. Godel's Incompleteness Theorem. 2000
Colin Blakemore. The Contraceptive Pill. 2000
Oliver Morton. Genetic Engineering. 2000
John Henry Holland. Board Games. 2000
Jaron Lanier. The Human Ego. 2000
Esther Dyson. Self-Government. 2000
John Maddox. The Calculus. 2000
Bart Kosko. The Calculus. 2000
Verena Huber-Dyson. The Infinitesimal Calculus. 2000
John Horgan. Free Will. 2000
Tor Norretranders. The Mirror. 2000
Sherry Turkle. The Idea of the Unconscious. 2000
Richard Dawkins. The Spectroscope. 2000
Philip W. Anderson. Quantum Theory. 2000
Michael Nesmith. The Copernican Theory. 2000
Stewart Brand. Christianity and Islam. 2000
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Various, Including the Flag. 2000
Lee Smolin. Mathematical Representation. 2000
George Lakoff. The Idea of an Idea. 2000
Andy Clark. The Digital Ecosystem. 2000
George Johnson. Mathematical Representation. 2000
Howard Rheingold. The Evolution of Technology. 2000

John Brockman, ed.
The Next Fifty Years: science in the first half of the twenty-first century.
Weidenfeld & Nicholson. 2002


Lee Smolin. The Future of the Nature of the Universe. 2002
Martin J. Rees. Cosmological Challenges: Are We Alone, and Where?. 2002
Ian Stewart. The Mathematics of 2050. 2002
Brian C. Goodwin. In the Shadow of Culture. 2002
Marc D. Hauser. Swappable Minds. 2002
Alison Gopnik. What Children will Teach Scientists. 2002
Paul Bloom. Towards a Theory of Moral Development. 2002
Geoffrey F. Miller. The Science of Subtlety. 2002
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The Future of Happiness. 2002
Robert M. Sapolsky. Will We Still be Sad Fifty Years from Now?. 2002
Steven H. Strogatz. Fermi's "Little Discovery" and the Future of Chaos and Complexity Theory. 2002
Stuart A. Kauffman. What is Life?. 1997
Richard Dawkins. Son of Moore's Law. 2002
The ever-increasing cheapness of sequencing genomes, and what it might lead to.
Paul C. W. Davies. Was there a Second Genesis?. 2002
John Henry Holland. What is to Come and How to Predict It. 2002
Rodney A. Brooks. The Merger of Flesh and Machines. 2002
Peter W. Atkins. The Future of Matter. 2002
Roger C. Schank. Are We Going to Get Smarter?. 2002
Jaron Lanier. The Complexity Ceiling. 2002
David Gelernter. Tapping into the Beam. 2002
Joseph E. LeDoux. Mind, Brain, and Self. 2002
Judith Rich Harris. What Makes Us the Way We Are: the View from 2050. 2002
Samuel H. Barondes. Drugs, DNA, and the Analyst's Couch. 2002
Nancy Etcoff. Brain Scans, Wearables, and Brief Encounters. 2002
Paul W. Ewald. Mastering Disease. 2002

John Brockman, ed.
What is Your Dangerous Idea?: today's leading thinkers on the unthinkable.
Simon & Schuster. 2006


John Horgan. We have no souls. 2006
Paul Bloom. The rejection of the soul. 2006
David M. Buss. The evolution of evil. 2006
Irene Maxine Pepperberg. The differences between humans and nonhumans are quantitative, not qualitative. 2006
Steven Pinker. Groups of people may differ genetically in their average talents and temperaments. 2006
J. Craig Venter. The genetic basis of human behavior. 2006
Jerry A. Coyne. Marionettes on genetic strings. 2006
Vilayanur S. Ramachandran. Francis Crick's dangerous idea. 2006
Rodney A. Brooks. Being alone in the universe. 2006
Scott D. Sampson. Life as an agent of energy dispersal. 2006
Keith Devlin. We are entirely alone. 2006
Martin J. Rees. Science may be running out of control. 2006
Frank J. Tipler. Why I hope the Standard Model is wrong about why there is more matter than antimatter. 2006
Jeremy Bernstein. The idea that we understand plutonium. 2006
W. Daniel Hillis. The idea that we should all share our most dangerous ideas. 2006
Daniel Gilbert. The idea that ideas are dangerous. 2006
Paul C. W. Davies. The fight against global warming is lost. 2006
Gregory Benford. Think outside the Kyoto box. 2006
Oliver Morton. Our planet is not in peril. 2006
April Gornik. The effect of art can't be controlled or anticipated. 2006
Denis Dutton. A 'grand narrative'. 2006
Marc D. Hauser. Our universal moral grammar's immunity to religion. 2006
Nicholas Humphrey. Bertrand Russell's dangerous idea. 2006
David Pizarro. Hodgepodge morality. 2006
Robert Shapiro. We will understand the origin of life within the next five years. 2006
George Dyson. Understanding molecular biology without discovering the origins of life. 2006
Marco Iacoboni. The problem with super mirrors. 2006
Daniel Goleman. Cyberdisinhibition. 2006
Alun Anderson. Brains cannot become minds without bodies. 2006
David Gelernter. What are people well informed about in the Informatin Age?. 2006
Kevin Kelly. More anonymity is good. 2006
Paul W. Ewald. A new Golden Age of medicine. 2006
Samuel H. Barondes. Uisng medications to change personality. 2006
Helen Fisher. Drugs may change the patterns of human love. 2006
David G. Meyers. A marriage option for all. 2006
Diane F. Halpern. Choosing the sex of one's child. 2006
Seth Lloyd. The idea of ideas. 2006
Karl Sabbagh. The human brain will never understand the universe. 2006
Lawrence M. Krauss. The world may be fundamentally inexplicable. 2006
Leonard Susskind. The 'landscape'. 2006
Lee Smolin. Seeing Darwin in the light of Einstein; seeing Einstein in the light of Darwin. 2006
Brian Greene. The multiverse. 2006
Carlo Rovelli. What twentieth-century physics says about the world might be true. 2006
Paul J. Steinhardt. It's a matter of time. 2006
Piet Hut. A radical re-evaluation of the character of time. 2006
Marcelo Gleiser. It's OK not to know everything. 2006
Steven H. Strogatz. The end of insight. 2006
Terrence J. Sejnowski. When will the internet become aware of itself?. 2006
Neil A. Gershenfeld. Democratizing access to the means of invention. 2006
Rudy Rucker. Mind is a universally distributed quality. 2006
Thomas Metzinger. The forbidden fruit intuition. 2006
Philip W. Anderson. The posterior probability of any particular god is pretty small. 2006
Sam Harris. Science must destroy religion. 2006
John Allen Paulos. The self is a conceptual chimera. 2006
Carolyn C. Porco. The greatest story ever told. 2006
Jordan B. Pollack. Science as just another religion. 2006
Robert R. Provine. This is all there is. 2006
Stephen M. Kosslyn. A science of the divine?. 2006
Jesse Bering. Science will never silence God. 2006
Scott Atran. Religion is the hope that is missing in science. 2006
Todd E. Feinberg. Myths and fairy tales are not true. 2006
David Lykken. Parental licensure. 2006
Judith Rich Harris. Zero parental influence. 2006
John Gottman. The focus on emotional intelligence. 2006
Alison Gopnik. A cacophany of 'controversy'. 2006
Stewart Brand. Applied history. 2006
Jared Diamond. Tribal peoples often damage their environment and make war. 2006
Charles Seife. Nothing. 2006
Susan Blackmore. Everything is pointless. 2006
Daniel C. Dennett. There aren't enough minds to house the population explosion of memes. 2006
Randolph M. Nesse. Unspeakable ideas. 2006
Kai Krause. Anty gravity: chaos theory in an all-too-practical sense. 2006
Rupert Sheldrake. Navigating by new scientific principles. 2006
Simon Baron-Cohen. A political system based on empathy. 2006
Tor Norretranders. Social relativity. 2006
Gregory Cochran. There is something new under the sun -- us. 2006
Donald D. Hoffman. A spoon is like a headache. 2006
Gerald Holton. Projection of the longevity curve. 2006
Ray Kurzweil. The near-term inevitability of radical life extension and expansion. 2006
Freeman J. Dyson. The domestication of biotechnology. 2006
Philip Campbell. Public engagement in science and technology. 2006
Joel Garreau. Suppose Faulkner was right?. 2006
Eric Fischl. What if the unknown becomes known and is not replaced with a new unknown?. 2006
Michael Shermer. Where goods cross frontiers, armies won't. 2006
Matt Ridley. Government is the problem, not the solution. 2006
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The free market. 2006
Arnold Trehub. Modern science is a product of biology. 2006
Roger C. Schank. No more teacher's dirty looks. 2006
Clifford A. Pickover. We are all virtual. 2006
Geoffrey F. Miller. Runaway consumerism explains the Fermi Paradox. 2006
Sherry Turkle. Simulation versus authenticity. 2006
Dan Sperber. Culture is natural. 2006
Timothy Taylor. The human brain is a cultural artifact. 2006
Eric R. Kandel. Free will is exercised unconsciously. 2006
Clay Shirky. Free will is going away. 2006
Mahzarin R. Banaji. The limits of introspection. 2006
Barry C. Smith. What we know may not change us. 2006
Richard E. Nisbett. Telling more than we can know. 2006
Andy Clark. The quick-thinking zombies inside us. 2006
Philip G. Zimbardo. The banality of evil, the banality of heroism. 2006
Douglas Rushkoff. Open-source currency. 2006
David Bodanis. Is the West already on a downhill course?. 2006
Juan Enriquez. Technology can untie the United States. 2006
Haim Harari. Democracy may be on its way out. 2006
James J. O'Donnell. Marx was right: the state will evaporate. 2006
Howard Gardner. Following Sisyphus. 2006
Ernst Pöppel. How can I trust, in the face of so many unknowables?. 2006
Leo M. Chalupa. A twenty-four-hour period of absolute solitude. 2006

John Brockman.
This Will Make You Smarter.
Black Swan. 2012

What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit?

This is the question John Brockman, publisher of, posed to 150 of the world’s brightest and most influential minds. Their paradigm-changing answers are collected here. Brockman invokes the term ‘scientific’ to home in on the most reliable ways of gaining knowledge about anything – whether it be qualities of human spirit, the role of great figures in history, or the structure of DNA. Exploring philosophy, psychology, economics and other broad disciplines, This Will Make You Smarter has the potential to help humanity better understand the world and its future.

John Brockman, ed.
This Explains Everything.
Harper. 2013

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 23 May 2018

This collection provides 148 answers to the 2012 Edge question: “What is your favourite deep, elegant, or beautiful explanation?” Each entry is one-half to three pages; some are insightful, some are obvious, some are captured by the title, some are bonkers. The shortness of the essays makes the book a useful travelling companion, for those situations where reading can only occur in snatched fragments of time. But my objection at the end of my review of Cochran’s Tips for Time Travellers holds here too: the shortness of the articles allows no space for developing an argument.


Susan Blackmore. Evolution by Means of Natural Selection. 2013
Matt Ridley. Life Is a Digital Code. 2013
Richard Dawkins. Redundancy Reduction and Pattern Recognition. 2013
Horace Barlow's 1961 neurobiology papers
Scott Atran. The Power of Absurdity. 2013
The paradox of believing in absurd ideas
Carlo Rovelli. How Apparent Finality Can Emerge. 2013
Final cause as an explanatory shortcut
Aubrey de Grey. The Overdue Demise of Monogamy. 2013
Rawls' idea of "reflective equilibrium", how we "identify and resolve logical inconsistencies" in our moral ideas
Leonard Susskind. Boltzmann's Explanation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. 2013
Joel Gold. The Dark Matter of the Mind . 2013
On self-sabotage. [And what a horrifically revealing very first sentence: "There are people who want stable marriage yet continue to cheat on their wives."]
Alan Alda. "There Are More Things in Heaven and Earth … Than Are Dreamt of in Your Philosophy.". 2013
There is always more to know
Rebecca Newberger Goldstein. An Unresolved (and Therefore Unbeautiful) Reaction to the Edge Question. 2013
Explanations are beautiful because they are satisfying, not vice versa (or maybe not…)
James J. O'Donnell. Ptolemy's Universe. 2013
… was "a huge advance on what had gone before"
Paul J. Steinhardt. Quasi-elegance. 2013
Quasicrystals with forbidden symmetries as evidence that the "elegance and simplicity" of standard crystallography is "infinitely wrong"
Shing-Tung Yau. Mathematical Object or Natural Object?. 2013
That abstract concepts describe nature quite accurately
Frank Wilczek. Simplicity. 2013
Simplicity as short description length
Thomas Metzinger. Simplicity Itself. 2013
Elegance as simplicity
Sean M. Carroll. Einstein Explains Why Gravity Is Universal. 2013
Gravity is a property of spacetime iteself
Steven Pinker. Evolutionary Genetics and the Conflicts of Human Social Life. 2013
Jonathan Gottschall. The Faurie-Raymond Hypothesis. 2013
Why left-handedness has survived
David G. Myers. Group Polarization. 2013
Group interaction tends to amplify people's initial inclinatons
Armand Marie Leroi. The Price Equation. 2013
… describes all kinds of variation-selection processes
Gerd Gigerenzer. Unconscious Inferences . 2013
Cognition with incomplete information needs to make bets and risk errors: optical illusions are one such error
Martin J. Rees. Snowflakes and the Multiverse. 2013
Snowflakes obey the same laws of physics ut each is different; so with the multiverse?
Anton Zeilinger. Einstein's Photons. 2013
Einstein invented photons not to explain the photo-electric effect, but to explain the entropy of radiation
Jeremy Bernstein. Go Small. 2013
A clock that could measure the Planck time would collapse into a black hole
Andrei Linde. Why Is Our World Comprehensible?. 2013
We can only live in a universe where we can predict the future, and that's why mathematics describes the world well
George Dyson. Alfven's Cosmos. 2013
A hierarchical universe can have an average density of zero yet contain infinite mass
Max Tegmark. Our Universe Grew Like a Baby. 2013
Immediately after the Big Bang the universe "inflated" by repeatedly doubling in size, and this inflation explains many properties of the universe we see
Gino Segre. Kepler et al. and the Nonexistent Problem. 2013
Kepler's Platonic solid model of the solar system "solved" a non-existent problem; attempts to explain elementary particle masses are similar
Freeman J. Dyson. How Incompatible Worldviews Can Coexist . 2013
A LIGO-like experiment to detect a single graviton would collapse into a black hole; theories of quantum gravity may be untestable in principle
Satyajit Das. Impossible Inexactness. 2013
The quantum uncertainty principle
Haim Harari. The Next Level of Fundamental Matter?. 2013
Creating the universe from two types of particles, "rishons"
Robert R. Provine. Observers Observing. 2013
Observation as the link between all empirical sciences
Vilayanur S. Ramachandran. Genes, Claustrum, and Consciousness. 2013
The clausrum in the brain as the seat of the unity of consciousness
David M. Eagleman. Overlapping Solutions. 2013
The brain is made of many competing, overlapping, interfering processes
Mahzarin R. Banaji. Our Bounded Rationality. 2013
Robert M. Sapolsky. Swarm Intelligence. 2013
Keith Devlin. Language and Natural Selection. 2013
Richard H. Thaler. Commitment. 2013
Becoming better off by restricting our future choices; self-commitment to a future course of action
Jennifer Jacquet. Tit for Tat. 2013
Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma stragey
Judith Rich Harris. True or False: Beauty Is Truth. 2013
The deeper an explanation, the less likely to be elegant; the theory of the modular mind
Dan Sperber. Eratosthenes and the Modular Mind . 2013
Some of the modules in our minds are meta-representational
Clay Shirky. Dan Sperber's Explanation of Culture. 2013
Culture as the residue of the epidemic spread of ideas
Hugo Mercier. Metarepresentations Explain Human Uniqueness. 2013
Nicholas Humphrey. Why the Human Mind May Seem to Have an Elegant Explanation Even If It Doesn't. 2013
Evolution does not produce elegant explanations
Stewart Brand. Fitness Landscapes. 2013
Kevin P. Hand. On Oceans and Airport Security. 2013
The same fundamental physics discovers oceans on Europa and metal on passengers
Paul Saffo. Plate Tectonics Elegantly Validates Continental Drift. 2013
Daniel C. Dennett. Why Some Sea Turtles Migrate. 2013
… may be due to continental drift
Carl Zimmer. A Hot Young Earth: Unquestionably Beautiful and Stunningly Wrong. 2013
Kelvin's model of the age of the Earth: elegant, beautiful, simple, wrong
David M. Buss. Sexual-Conflict Theory. 2013
David Pizarro. The Seeds of Historical Dominance. 2013
… are due to different physical environments, according to Jared's Guns, Germas and Steel
Howard Gardner. The Importance of Individuals . 2013
Individuals, or small groups, can change the world
Andrian Kreye. Subjective Environment. 2013
Umwelt, the subjective environment perceived and acted on by an organism, as opposed to Umfeld, objective environment that acts on all organisms in it
Raphael Bousso. My Favorite Annoying Elegant Explanation: Quantum Theory. 2013
Many physical theories point to their own destruction, where they fail; quantum mechanics does not
Eric R. Weinstein. Einstein's Revenge: The New Geometric Quantum. 2013
Geometry as the unifying principle
Dave Winer. What Time Is It?. 2013
Why I don't wear a watch any more
Tania Lombrozo. Realism and Other Metaphysical Half-Truths. 2013
Explanations so complelling we don't even notice them
Seirian Sumner. All We Need Is Help. 2013
The evolution of cooperation
Helena Cronin. In the Beginning Is the Theory. 2013
The primacy and fundamental role of theories in the aquistion and growth of knowledge
Paul Bloom. Thompson On Development. 2013
D'Arcy Thompson: "Everything is the way it is because it got that way"; organisms have two histories: evolution and development
John McWhorter. How Do You Get from a Lobster to a Cat?. 2013
We chordates have our spines at the back, unlike arthropods, possibly because some ancient ancestor started swimming upside-down
Gregory Cochran. Germs Cause Disease. 2013
Christine A. Finn. Dirt Is Matter Out of Place. 2013
Andrew Lih. Information Is the Resolution of Uncertainty. 2013
P. Z. Myers. Everything Is the Way It Is Because It Got That Way. 2013
D'Arcy Thompson, and the importance of process and history in biology
David Christian. The Idea of Emergence. 2013
Emergent properties are real, but don't exist in the components
Dimitar D. Sasselov. Frames of Reference. 2013
Flow moves through an Eulerian frame; a Lagrangian frame moves with the flow
Helen Fisher. Epigenetics---the Missing Link. 2013
Epigenetics allows different expression of genes from the same genome
John Naughton. Flocking Behavior in Birds. 2013
Complex behaviour from simple rules
Barry C. Smith. Lemons Are Fast. 2013
People share certain cross-modal correspondences between the senses
John Tooby. Falling into Place: Entropy and the Desperate Ingenuity of Life. 2013
Natural selection as an entropy-delaying process
Peter W. Atkins. Why Things Happen. 2013
... because entropy increases
Elizabeth Dunn. Why We Feel Pressed for Time. 2013
As time becomes more valuable, it is perceived as scarcer
Bart Kosko. Why The Sun Still Shines. 2013
Hydrogen fusion
Charles Simonyi. Boscovich's Explanation of Atomic Forces. 2013
Why particles must exert a repulsive force when they are close together
Gregory S. Paul. Birds Are the Direct Descendants of Dinosaurs. 2013
Bruce Hood. Complexity Out of Simplicity . 2013
Fourier's theorem shows how everything can be made from sine waves.
A. C. Grayling. Russell's Theory of Descriptions. 2013
How Russell formalised the statement "the present king of France is bald" and showed that it is false, rather than indeterminate.
Timo Hannay. Feynman's Lifeguard. 2013
Feynamn path integrals and the principle of least action.
Brian Eno. The Limits of Intuition. 2013
Intuition provides us quick-and-dirty answers based on our prior experience, and can sometimes be totally wrong.
Lisa Randall. The Higgs Mechanism. 2013
How particles get their mass.
Simone Schnall. The Mind Thinks in Embodied Metaphors. 2013
"embodied metaphors provide a common language of the mind"
Benjamin K. Bergen. Metaphors Are in the Mind. 2013
Metaphors are central to cognition: they are how we understand abstractions by relation to the physical world.
Jon Kleinberg. The Pigeonhole Principle. 2013
Why some of your ancestors must have been blood relations.
Marti Hearst. Why Programs Have Bugs. 2013
Combinatorial explosion means that the "universe of possibilities is too wide open, too unconstrained, to permit elimination of errors."
Hans-Ulrich Obrist. Cagepatterns. 2013
How the artist Gerhard Richter and the composer John Cage use chance and uncertainty in their work.
Seth Lloyd. The True Rotational Symmetry of Space. 2013
You need to rotate the world through 720 degrees, not just 360 degrees, to get back to the same state.
Charles Seife. The Pigeonhole Principle Revisited. 2013
Why it is impossible to have a universal file compressor, and how the same argument possibly implies the universe contains an infinite number of copies of each of us.
Rodney A. Brooks. Moore's Law. 2013
Why Moore's law is possible for digital technology, but not for material technologies.
John C. Mather. Cosmic Complexity. 2013
How complexity arises from instability.
Scott D. Sampson. The Gaia Hypothesis. 2013
"The Gaia lens encourages us to reenvision Earthbound nature as an intertwined, finite whole"
Laurence C. Smith. The Continuity Equations. 2013
Consequences of the conservation of mass, because the Earth is an open system with respect to energy, but a closed system with resept to mass.
Tim O'Reilly. Pascal's Wager. 2013
Pascal's wager applied to climate change: even if there is no climate change, investing to combat it will result in new jobs, more security, and less pollution.
S. Abbas Raza. Evolutionarily Stable Strategies. 2013
Why walruses are 50:50 male:female, despite many males never breeding.
Evgeny Morozov. The Collingridge Dilemma. 2013
The tradeoff between knowing the impact of a new technology, and the ease of controlling it: once the impact has become apparent, it is too entrnched to be easily controllable.
Ernst Pöppel. Trusting Trust. 2013
Several haiku on trust.
Bruce Parker. It Just Is?. 2013
If there is a most fundamental form of matter, will it have an explanation?
Patrick Bateson. Subverting Biology. 2013
The balance between the benefits of inbreeding and outbreeding affect who are the ingroup and outgroup; changing this could help us all live together.
Simon Baron-Cohen. Sex at Your Fingertips. 2013
The correlation between testosterone and the ratio of finger lengths.
Alvy Ray Smith. Why Do Movies Move?. 2013
Adding motion blur to animated films makes them appear less jerky; soon we will have the computer power to do the same for video games.
Albert-Laszlo Barabasi. Would You Like Blue Cheese with It?. 2013
Which food combinations work differ between Western and Eastern cuisine.
Stuart Pimm. Mother Nature's Laws. 2013
Laws of evolution, and why it's easier to make a species extinct than we might think.
Karl Sabbagh. The Oklo Pyramid. 2013
A prehistoric natural nuclear reactor.
Adam Alter. Kitty Genovese and Group Apathy. 2013
People in groups are more reluctant to take action than people alone.
Gerald Smallberg. The Wizard of I. 2013
How internal processes remove some of our experience during saccades, to make vision work.
Douglas Coupland. One Coincidence; Two Deja Vus. 2013
Coincidences almost never occur, given how many could; déjà vu happens twice a year.
Katinka Matson. Occam's Razor. 2013
This summary is longer than the article.
Alun Anderson. Deep Time. 2013
How the realisation that the Earth is incredibly old changed people's worldview.
Eric R. Kandel. Placing Psychotherapy on a Scientific Basis: Five Easy Lessons. 2013
Psychotherapy has overtaken psychoanalysis because the former has been placed on a sound scientific basis.
Sherry Turkle. Transitional Objects. 2013
Transitoinal objects, like a teddy bear, allow children to learn that external objects can be loved; now we have a new generation of digital transitional objects, computers, that are not meant to be abandoned,
Randolph M. Nesse. Natural Selection Is Simple but the Systems It Shapes Are Unimaginably Complex. 2013
Change the metaphor: evolved organisms are better understood as complex intereacting ecosystems, rather than as machines.
Marcel Kinsbourne. How to Have a Good Idea. 2013
Nicholas A. Christakis. Out of the Mouths of Babes. 2013
Why the sky is blue: a combination of Rayleigh scattering and how our eyes work.
Philip Campbell. The Beauty in a Sunrise. 2013
Why the position of sunrise changes throughout the year; why the sky is blue and sunrises are red; what powers the sun.
Dylan Evans. The Origin of Money. 2013
How money can emerge gradually, without the need for central banks or government control.
Douglas Rushkoff. The Precession of the Simulacra. 2013
The distinction between reality and simulations or symbols is crucial, but some symbols have become real.
Philip G. Zimbardo. Time Perspective Theory. 2013
Whether we are past, present or future-oriented has a great effect on our psychologies; altering the orientation can help treat some conditions.
Alison Gopnik. Developmental Timing Explains the Woes of Adolescence. 2013
Children used to learn impulse control through practical experience before they hit puberty's motivational and emotional changes; more theoretical schooling and earlier puberty have reversed the timescales of these processes.
Stephen M. Kosslyn, Robin Rosenberg. Implications of Ivan Pavlov's Great Discovery. 2013
Conditioned response explains dogs salivating, accidental drug overdoses, the placebo effect, food aversion after food poisoning, and more.
Terrence J. Sejnowski. Nature Is Cleverer Than We Are. 2013
Temporal-difference learning via dopamine and prediction
Michael I. Norton. Imposing Randomness. 2013
Randomised experiments as a way of controlling for multiple factors (but they aren't always the right approach)
Lawrence M. Krauss. The Unification of Electricity and Magnetism. 2013
Faraday's experiments explained by Maxwell, underpinning modern civilisation
Neil A. Gershenfeld. Furry Rubber Bands . 2013
Explaining mathematical formalisms through familiar embodied experiences.
Lee Smolin. The Principle of Inertia. 2013
A powerful principle, from Galileo and Descartes, to Einstein's General Relativity
Eric J. Topol. Seeing Is Believing: From Placebos to Movies in Our Brain. 2013
Using fMRI we can see that placebos affect the same brain pathways as do the actual drug.
Gerald Holton. The Discontinuity of Science and Culture. 2013
New science, such as Copernican theory, eventually leads to new culture and art.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Hormesis Is Redundancy. 2013
A stressor can stimulate an organism to improve enough to be prepared for an even stronger stress. But we design our systems to be prepared only for the worst case seen so far, not realising that when that happened, it was worse than anything seen so far.
Robert Kurzban. The Beautiful Law of Unintended Consequences. 2013
“Intervention in any sufficiently complicated system is bound to produce unintended effects”, but we can learn to see patterns of such, and maybe anticipate some of them.
Timothy D. Wilson. We Are What We Do. 2013
Our actions can change our personalities; as Vonnegut says: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
Samuel H. Barondes. Personality Differences: The Importance of Chance. 2013
Chance, through genetic and environmental contingencies, has a large effect on our personalities.
Beatrice Golomb. Metabolic Syndrome: Cell Energy Adaptations in a Toxic World?. 2013
Metabolic syndrome (with symptoms of high BMI, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes) may be an adaptive response to toxins and pseudofoods.
Emanuel Derman. Death Is the Final Repayment. 2013
Sleep puts off death.
David Gelernter. Denumerable Infinities and Mental States. 2013
Two choices: (1) Cantor’s lovely proof that all denumerable infinities are the same size; (2) Searle’s argument that software cannot have mental states, because software only executes trivial arithmetic and logical instructions; you can imagine doing the same, but no mind emerges. [This latter argument strikes me as a case of an argument from personal incredulity, combined with a failure to scale up: yes, I can imagine doing several hundred, or even a thousand such instructions, but not billions and billions, and of course More is Different.]
Rudy Rucker. Inverse Power Laws. 2013
Power laws, such as Zipf’s law, are ubiquitous in nature and in social systems. [Rucker has oversimplified somewhat: “the hundredth largest tree in a forest may be a hundredth as big as the largest tree”; so if the tallest tree in a redwood forest is 100m tall, then the hundredth tallest tree in that forest is 1m tall? No. The principal is correct, but the slope on the power law needs adjusting.]
Samuel Arbesman. How the Leopard Got His Spots. 2013
Turing’s use of reaction-diffusion systems in “The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis” to explain animal coat patterns. [The real biology is, of course, more complicated than this.]
Stanislas Dehaene. The Universal Algorithm for Human Decision Making. 2013
We makes decisions by accumulating the available statistical evidence and committing to a decision whenever the total exceeds a threshold.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Lord Acton's Dilemma. 2013
Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Victoria Stodden. Fact, Fiction, and Our Probabilistic World. 2013
Nature presents data from an unknown distribution; this variability is a different concept from measurement error.
George Church. Elegant = Complex. 2013
Elegant explanations are those that predict the future further and better.
Irene Maxine Pepperberg. Tinbergen's Questions. 2013
To understand a behaviour, ask its mechanism, its ontogeny, its function, and its origin.
Gloria Origgi. The Universal Turing Machine. 2013
The UTM and the Halting Problem: the most powerful Universal Computer cannot however compute everything.
Richard Foreman. A Matter of Poetics. 2013
Dirac's theory of holes can also be a powerful poetic metapho.
Jared Diamond. The Origins of Biological Electricity. 2013
Hodgkin and Huxley's decisive experiments on the giant squid axon.
Timothy Taylor. Why the Greeks Painted Red People on Black Pots. 2013
They were cheap imitations of gilded figures on unpolished silver pots.
Andy Clark. Language As an Adaptive System. 2013
Languages alter their forms and structures to become increasingly learnable by human brians.
Nicholas J. Carr. The Mechanism of Mediocrity. 2013
The Peter Principle.
Michael Shermer. The Principle of Empiricism, or See for Yourself. 2013
Believe evidence, not authority.
Kevin Kelly. We Are Stardust. 2013
We are made from byproducts of stellar nuclear fusion.

John Brockman.
This Idea Must Die: scientific theories that are blocking progress.
Harper. 2015

Few truly new ideas are developed without first abandoning old ones. In the past, discoveries often had to wait for the rise of the next generation to see questions in a new light and let go of old truisms. Today, in a world that is defined by a rapid rate of change, staying on the cutting edge has as much to do with shedding outdated notions as adopting new ones. In this spirit, John Brockman, publisher of the online salon (“the world’s smartest website”—The Guardian), asked 175 of the world’s most influential scientists, economists, artists, and philosophers: What scientific idea is ready for retirement?