This Explains Everything edited by John Brockman

Synopsis:

15818399In This Explains Everything, John Brockman, founder and publisher of Edge.org, 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.

Review:

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 (and 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 Dunn

After 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.


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