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This Explains Everything

How do the brightest minds in the world think?

John Brockman

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This Explains Everything

This Explains Everything Summary

Hi, welcome to Bookey. Today, we’ll unlock the book This Explains Everything: Deep, Beautiful, and Elegant Theories of How the World Works. This book is a collection of discussions surrounding the question of “how the world works”. The question was raised by a top scientific platform, the Edge community. Those who joined these profound conversations are hailed as the “brightest minds" in their respective fields. These include biology, neurology, philosophy, cosmology, physics, and computer science. In an article published in The Observer, a communication theorist at the University of Cambridge described Edge as “the world’s smartest website”. This online platform gathers together many influential contemporary scholars, scientists and thinkers. In this community, some of the smartest people in the world share ideas on online forums. They discuss a wide range of subjects, such as mysticism, intellectual honesty, the Anthropocene, and naive realism. But, do you know why Brockman, the editor of this book, founded this community? It was through inspiration he received from his friend, James Lee Byars. Byars was a philosopher and artist who once said, “I can answer the question, but am I bright enough to ask it?” As it’s true that it’s not easy to ask a good question, Byars came up with the idea of establishing the World Question Center. His plan was to invite the 100 brightest minds in the world to come together in one room and have them ask each other the same questions they were asking themselves. After Brockman published his first book in 1969, Byars invited him for a conversation about wisdom, language, and the world’s top scientists. Their dialogue was then published by the World Question Center in 1971. Ever since, Brockman shared Byars’ idea, and has never stopped trying to gather the greatest minds in the world. As such, Brockman founded the Reality Club in 1981, which started to bring extraordinary people together. He wrote an essay titled The Emerging Third Culture in 1991, and then a book called The Third Culture: Beyond the Scientific Revolution, published in 1995. In both of them, he explained the concept of “the third culture,” pointing out that outstanding people, including scientists, artist, philosophers, entrepreneurs, and so forth, were all representatives of “the third culture”. On that account, in 1991, Brockman established “the third culture” as the core concept of his intellectual community. And in 1997, the Reality Club went online and was officially rebranded as Edge. Today, a group of remarkable minds gather together in Brockman’s online community. Every year, they answer a thought-provoking and interesting annual question through their own professional perspectives, showing us new ways of seeing the beauty of the world. The book we are talking about today, This Explains Everything, is one of the Edge Question Series. The annual question of the year the book was published was, “What is your favorite deep, elegant, or beautiful explanation of the world?” Through their answers, we’ll get to know the perspectives of the brightest minds and the relations between different fields of study. We can also get a glimpse into seeing how the world through scientists’ eyes is different from that of our own. Following up next, we’ll unlock the major content of this book in two sections. Part 1: Scientists’ innovative ways of thinking. Part 2: Intersections of different disciplines.

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