Know This: Today’s Most Interesting and Important Scientific Ideas, Discoveries, and Developments

Edited by John Brockman. Harper Perennial, $15.99 trade paper (624p) ISBN 978-0-06-256206-7
Brockman follows his critical collection This Idea Must Die with a collection of short essays by various writers that has a more positive outlook on recent scientific developments. Though chapters on climate change are predictably gloomy, rays of hope appear as futurist Bill Joy and artist James Croak each discuss improvement in batteries; engineer Carl Page outlines the potential of harnessing low energy nuclear reactions; and Leonard Susskind, Andrei Linde, and Stephon Alexander giddily share news from the edges of theoretical physics. The geneticists included relay their concerns with the ethics of gene editing and the debate over “designer children.” In that vein, the biology-focused essays largely address “ethical, moral, and governance challenges.” Computer scientist Marti Hearst lampoons the Big Data fad so prevalent in tech culture. To broaden perspectives, Brockman smartly includes psychologists, economists, sociologists, and linguists along with artists, poets, musicians, and philosophers. As welcome as the social sciences are in a volume such as this, many of the problems addressed demand political, not technological, solutions. Brockman’s array of contributors and subject matter makes for an often lively collection, but with nearly 200 essays, the book could use an organizing principle. Agent: Max Brockman, Brockman Inc. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/19/2016
Release date: 02/01/2017
Ebook - 608 pages - 978-0-06-256207-4
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-06-265932-3
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