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This Explains Everything
Cover of This Explains Everything
This Explains Everything
150 Deep, Beautiful, and Elegant Theories of How the World Works
Borrow Borrow

Drawn from the cutting-edge frontiers of science, This Explains Everything will revolutionize your understanding of the world.

What is your favorite deep, elegant, or beautiful explanation? This is the question John Brockman, publisher of Edge.org ("The world's smartest website"—The Guardian), posed to the world's most influential minds. Flowing from the horizons of physics, economics, psychology, neuroscience, and more, This Explains Everything presents 150 of the most surprising and brilliant theories of the way of our minds, societies, and universe work.

Jared Diamond on biological electricity • Nassim Nicholas Taleb on positive stress • Steven Pinker on the deep genetic roots of human conflict • Richard Dawkins on pattern recognition • Nobel Prize-winning physicist Frank Wilczek on simplicity • Lisa Randall on the Higgs mechanism • BRIAN Eno on the limits of intuition • Richard Thaler on the power of commitment • V. S. Ramachandran on the "neural code" of consciousness • Nobel Prize winner ERIC KANDEL on the power of psychotherapy • Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on "Lord Acton's Dictum" • Lawrence M. Krauss on the unification of electricity and magnetism • plus contributions by Martin J. Rees • Kevin Kelly • Clay Shirky • Daniel C. Dennett • Sherry Turkle • Philip Zimbardo • Lee Smolin • Rebecca Newberger Goldstein • Seth Lloyd • Stewart Brand • George Dyson • Matt Ridley

Drawn from the cutting-edge frontiers of science, This Explains Everything will revolutionize your understanding of the world.

What is your favorite deep, elegant, or beautiful explanation? This is the question John Brockman, publisher of Edge.org ("The world's smartest website"—The Guardian), posed to the world's most influential minds. Flowing from the horizons of physics, economics, psychology, neuroscience, and more, This Explains Everything presents 150 of the most surprising and brilliant theories of the way of our minds, societies, and universe work.

Jared Diamond on biological electricity • Nassim Nicholas Taleb on positive stress • Steven Pinker on the deep genetic roots of human conflict • Richard Dawkins on pattern recognition • Nobel Prize-winning physicist Frank Wilczek on simplicity • Lisa Randall on the Higgs mechanism • BRIAN Eno on the limits of intuition • Richard Thaler on the power of commitment • V. S. Ramachandran on the "neural code" of consciousness • Nobel Prize winner ERIC KANDEL on the power of psychotherapy • Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on "Lord Acton's Dictum" • Lawrence M. Krauss on the unification of electricity and magnetism • plus contributions by Martin J. Rees • Kevin Kelly • Clay Shirky • Daniel C. Dennett • Sherry Turkle • Philip Zimbardo • Lee Smolin • Rebecca Newberger Goldstein • Seth Lloyd • Stewart Brand • George Dyson • Matt Ridley

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About the Author-
  • The publisher of the online science salon Edge.org, John Brockman is the editor of Know This, This Idea Must Die, This Explains Everything, This Will Make You Smarter, and other volumes.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    February 11, 2013
    In this latest volume of erudition from Edge.com founder John Brockman (This Will Make You Smarter), the question "What is your favorite deep, elegant, or beautiful explanation?" serves as the prompt for over a hundred concise essays. The topics cover the gamut of the sciences while also including answers from other realms including economics and the arts. Darwin and Einstein, while not the precise subject of many answers, feature prominently as do ideas of human consciousness and cognition. As with other collections of this ilk, the essays widely vary in ease of comprehension and level of profundity. While there is no structure beyond the individual essays, occasionally a few essays in close proximity will touch on similar matters, as when Nicholas Christakis's essay on why the sky is blue is followed by Philip Campbell's on "The Beauty in a Sunrise", each referencing the work of Lord Rayleigh on the scattering of light. A few entries border on gimmicks, such as Ernst Pöppel's series of haiku on trust or Katinka Matson's single sentence on "Occam's Razor": "Keep it simple." Still, this collection will satisfy anyone who is looking to stretch his thinking.

  • Kirkus

    January 15, 2013
    From a broad array of thinkers come answers to the question: "What is your favorite deep, elegant, or beautiful explanation?" Every year, Brockman, a literary agent who presides over the online salon Edge, poses a challenging question to the diverse community of Edge contributors. The question posed in 2012, which asked responders to identify some simple, nonobvious idea that explains a complex set of phenomena, was suggested by Steven Pinker. The replies come from such familiar names as Jared Diamond, Richard Dawkins, Matt Ridley and Eric Kandel; a few surprising ones, such as Brian Eno and Alan Alda; and many who are lesser known or unknown to the public but are established and influential in their fields. What remains unclear is why these particular answers were selected for publication. All answers are brief, most just two or three pages. Some of the respondents' choices seem obvious--Darwin on the theory of evolution by natural selection and Freud on the unconscious--while others--the double-helix structure of DNA, the germ theory of disease, the Gaia hypothesis of planet Earth, the law of unintended consequences--will also already be familiar to many readers. Perhaps most surprising is neuroscientist Ernst Poppel's contribution: 20 linked haikus ("What is my problem? / I don't need explanations! / I'm happy without!"). Not all are as entertaining, however, and general readers may struggle with the vocabulary of special fields--e.g., "Metarepresentations Explain Human Uniqueness" or "Hormesis Is Redundancy." The sheer number of contributors and the broad scope of the book ensure that most readers will find topics to pique their interest, but that same feature means that many will find themselves flipping pages quickly. Other notable contributors include Sean Carroll, George Dyson, Clay Shirky, Stewart Brand, A.C. Grayling and Katinka Matson. A smorgasbord of ideas, best when judiciously sampled.

    COPYRIGHT(2013) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    February 1, 2013

    This fun and inspirational collection of brief essays started with a question posed to the readers of Edge.org, founded by Brockman (This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts To Improve Your Thinking): What is your favorite deep, elegant, or beautiful explanation? The result is 150 brief essays that present wonderful explanations of the world around us. The authors include Richard Dawkins, Eric Kandel, Alan Alda, and Brian Eno; all have something worthwhile to contribute. VERDICT This engaging collection can be read from cover to cover or browsed as interest dictates, but all inquisitive readers will enjoy it. Highly recommended for its content, though buyers should be aware that the contents are available for free on Edge.org.--Eric D. Albright, Tufts Univ. Lib., Boston

    Copyright 2013 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus Reviews "A smorgasbord of ideas."
  • New York Times Book Review "Offers a rare chance to discover big ideas before they hit the mainstream."
  • Library Journal "Fun and inspirational. ... This engaging collection can be read from cover to cover or browsed as interest dictates, but all inquisitive readers will enjoy it. Highly recommended..."
  • Brain Pickings "Characteristically thought-provoking and reliably cross-disciplinary, This Explains Everything is a must-read in its entirety."
  • New Scientist "A collection of essays by big thinkers answering big questions [should be] deeply satisfying. And This Explains Everything delivers."
  • The Canberra Times "The most stimulating English-language reading to be had from anywhere in the world."
  • New York Journal of Books "Delivers an intellectual mélange you can dip into and savor. ... The reader gets something new at each turn of the page."
  • FAREED ZAKARIA "A collection that reads like the best TED talks ever. It's an absolute pleasure to read."
  • Pop Matters "Rich in mental fodder. ... An indispensable way to sample thinking from many corners of the intellectual spectrum."
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This Explains Everything
150 Deep, Beautiful, and Elegant Theories of How the World Works
John Brockman
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