THEORIES OF EVERYTHING

[ Sat. Feb. 2. 2013 ]

Every year Edge produces a profound question a treasure trove of ideas. ... deep, comprehensive questions that challenge authors's to respond with a sharp and interesting answer. This year's question is simple: what is your favorite theory about how the world works, preferably one that is deep, beautiful and maybe even elegant too.

Brockman's authors, including regulars such as Richard Dawkins, Freeman Dyson, Martin Rees, Max Tegmark, Steven Pinker and Daniel Dennett, have struggled visibly to stay out of each other's waters. Darwin and Einstein: almost everybody refers to them, and then decided that there must be a more qualified differences to address.

That does not mean this year's question is wrong. On the contrary. More than in other years, it pushed authors to come up with truly original answers.

This yields a treasure trove  of ideas and observations. Psychologist Mahzarin Banji example, who sees limits to our mind. Richard Thaler notes that our ability to concentrate is the key to everything. Dawkins points out the universal role of pattern recognition. Chance as creative power, says John McWorther. Conflict as a creative force, says Steven Pinker. The ability of the human brain to create and manipulate abstractions, writes mathematician Keith Devlin.

Each one is a beautiful and instructive reflection, which encourages thinking and reading.