This Idea Must Die: Scientific Theories that Are Blocking Progress
Edited by John Brockman
Brockman (What Should We Be Worried About?), founder of the Edge Foundation, has compiled a series of humorous and thought-provoking short essays from a wide array of scientists, science writers, and assorted academics. Several essays deal with concepts that aren’t fully understood, even by experts; string theory, for instance, is addressed in several sections, each from a slightly different angle. More philosophical topics receive consideration as well, such as free will, nature vs. nurture, and the difference between the brain and the mind (if there is one). Even economics is included. Some topics, like the lament over the term rocket scientist or the problem with artificial intelligence, are arguments about definitions, while other discussions contemplate the morality of certain practices in science. One fascinating result of having several authors address the same topic is seeing firsthand the ways experts disagree with one another. A common thread throughout is the reminder that science and its practitioners do not exist in a vacuum: those who work in areas that many consider esoteric still fight traffic and worry about what their work will do to make the world better. Brockman succeeds in presenting scientific work that will appeal to a variety of readers, no matter their background.