Preface

of Future Science
Max Brockman [7.7.11]
Topic:

"This opacity [endemic in academic journals] was the impetus for the first essay collection in this series, What’s Next?: Dispatches on the Future of Science. Essays seemed to be an ideal and appropriate way for representatives of this group of scientists to communicate their ideas. The title of the new collection is different, but the organization is the same. Future Science features essays from nineteen young scientists from a variety of fi elds, writing about what they’re working on and what excites them the most. To come up with the list of contributors, I fielded recommendations from top scientists on the rising stars in their various disciplines. "

MAX BROCKMAN is Vice President of Brockman, Inc. an international literary agency, and editor of What's Next? Dispatches on the Future of Science andFuture Science: Essays from the Cutting Edge. He also works with the Edge Foundation, Inc., a nonprofit organization that publishes edge.org.

Excerpted from Future Science: Essays From The Cutting Edge, Edited by Max Brockman (Vintage Books, 2011)


PREFACE

[MAX BROCKMAN:]  Academia, with its somewhat old-fashioned structure and rules, can appear quite a strange place when observed from the outside. Frequently, through my work as a literary agent, I’ve noticed that if you’re an academic who writes about your work for a general audience, you’re thought by some of your colleagues to be wasting your time and, perhaps, endangering your academic career. For younger scientists (i.e., those without tenure), this is almost universally true.

There are some good reasons for this peer pressure, the most obvious being that getting published in academic journals is an essential step on the very difficult road to tenure. However, one unfortunate result is that those of us outside academia are blocked from looking in on the research being done by this next generation of scientists, some of whom will go on to become leading doers and communicators of science.

This opacity [endemic in academic journals] was the impetus for the first essay collection in this series, What’s Next?: Dispatches on the Future of Science. Essays seemed to be an ideal and appropriate way for representatives of this group of scientists to communicate their ideas. The title of the new collection is different, but the organization is the same. Future Science features essays from nineteen young scientists from a variety of fields, writing about what they’re working on and what excites them the most. To come up with the list of contributors, I fielded recommendations from top scientists on the rising stars in their various disciplines.

Among those you will hear from in Future Science are:

• Kevin P. Hand, a planetary scientist and astrobiologist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, on the possibilities for life elsewhere in the solar system (and the universe)

• Felix Warneken, who heads the Social Cognitive Development Group at Harvard’s Laboratory for Developmental Studies, on investigating the evolutionary roots of human altruism in his studies of young children and Ugandan chimpanzees

• William McEwan, a virologist and postdoctoral researcher at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, U.K., who probes the biology of antiviral immunity by designing his own viruses

• Anthony Aguirre, a physicist and cosmologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who maintains that infinity has been brought into the domain of testable physical science

• Daniela Kaufer and Darlene Francis of the University of California, Berkeley, neurobiologists who have taken a transdisciplinary approach to the study of the effects of stress on mind and body

• Jon Kleinberg, a professor of computer science at Cornell University, who is working on ways to extract significance from the enormous data sets we are building in the Internet age.

Working on Future Science has been an extremely rewarding experience, and I look forward to putting together the next collection in this series. These passionate young scientists, by giving us a glimpse of the work they’re doing today, are, in a sense, providing a window into the world to come.

Max Brockman

New York
July 2011


 

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Advance Praise for Future Science:

"This remarkable collection of fluent and fascinating essays reminds me that there is almost nothing as spine-tinglingly exciting as glimpsing a new nugget of knowledge for the first time. These young scientists give us a treasure trove of precious new insights." — Matt Ridley, Author, The Rational Optimist

"I would have killed for books like this when I was a student!" — Brian Eno, Composer; Recording Artist; Producer: U2, Cold Play, Talking Heads, Paul Simon

"Future Science shares with the world a delightful secret that we academics have been keeping — that despite all the hysteria about how electronic media are dumbing down the next generation, a tidal wave of talent has been flooding into science, making their elders feel like the dumb ones..... It has a wealth of new and exciting ideas, and will help shake up our notions regarding the age, sex, color, and topic clichés of the current public perception of science." — Steven Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor, Department of Psychology, Harvard; Author, The Language Instinct


Eighteen original essays by:

Kevin P. Hand: "On the Coming Age of Ocean Exploration" Felix Warneken: "Children's Helping Hands" William McEwan: "Molecular Cut and Paste" Anthony Aguirre: "Next Step Infinity" Daniela Kaufer and Darlene Francis: "Nurture, Nature, and the Stress That Is Life" Jon Kleinberg: "What Can Huge Data Sets Teach Us About Society and Ourselves?" Coren Apicella: "On the Universality of Attractiveness" Laurie R. Santos: "To Err Is Primate" Samuel M. McLure: "Our Brains Know Why We Do What We Do" Jennifer Jacquet: "Is Shame Necessary?"  Kirsten Bomblies: "Plant Immunity in a Changing World" Asif A. Ghazanfar: "The Emergence of Human Audiovisual Communication" Naomi I. Eisenberger: "Why Rejection Hurts" Joshua Knobe: "Finding the Mind in the Body" Fiery Cushman: "Should the Law Depend on Luck?" Liane Young: "How We Read People's Moral Minds" Daniel Haun: "How Odd I Am!" Joan Y. Chiao: "Where Does Human Diversity Come From?"

Click Here for Annotated Table of Contents