cover image What's Next?: Dispatches on the Future of Science

What's Next?: Dispatches on the Future of Science

. Vintage Books USA, $15 (237pp) ISBN 978-0-307-38931-2

Editor Brockman, an agent at a ""literary and software agency,"" approached some of the world's rising science stars in a disciplines to explain how they're ""tackling some of science's toughest questions and raising new ones."" The 18 new essays that resulted evoke a fantastic cross-section of societal concerns, focusing largely on issues of ethics and the human mind. German neuroscientist Christian Keysers explains how mirror neurons, located in the brain's center of voluntary action and body-control, allow us to have vicarious experiences and use them to choose ""good and not evil"" when dealing with others. Psychologist Jason Mitchell expands this idea to ""social thought,"" in which humans achieve sophisticated coordination with the actions of others in order to, for instance, ""design, construct, and operate an airplane."" Biologist Vanessa Woods and anthropologist Brian Hare team up to explain how dogs evolved an ability to read human minds superior to even our closest primate relatives. Other articles cover quantum field theory, climate change, the ecological niche of viruses, social insects and interdisciplinary science. This absorbing collection makes easy-to-read but thought-provoking material for even casual science buffs.