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This Explains Everything: Deep, Beautiful, and Elegant Theories of How the World Works

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  1,020 ratings  ·  121 reviews

In This Explains Everything, John Brockman, founder and publisher of, asked experts in numerous fields and disciplines to come up with their favorite explanations for everyday occurrences. Why do we recognize patterns? Is there such a thing as positive stress? Are we genetically programmed to be in conflict with each other? Those are just some of the 150 questions

Paperback, 411 pages
Published January 22nd 2013 by Harper Perennial
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This book is so good in concept and very difficult to slog through in delivery. I suspect that the 150 thinkers simply sent in emails of their ideas into the author because the perspectives range from a little over a page to several pages. What's unfortunate is that because of a lack of editing and/or structure to their responses, this book reads as if you're reading through John Brockman's email inbox.

Sadly, there are like a lot of brilliant people in this book who have ideas I would love to h
This Explains Everything: Deep, Beautiful, and Elegant Theories of How the World Works Edited by John Brockman

"This Explains Everything" is a wonderful book of essays from the Edge that addresses a question that inspires unpredictable answers. The Edge is an organization that presents original ideas by today's leading thinkers from a wide spectrum of scientific fields. The 2012 Edge question is, "What is your favorite deep, elegant, or beautiful explanation?" This interesting 432-page book conta
Pete Welter
Like the other Edge books, this one poses a single question to broad swath of thinkers. For this year, the question was "What is your favorite deep, elegant, or beautiful explanation?"

This is the second Edge collection I've read (there's a new one every year). In some sense, the question really isn't that important. What's these books are great for is getting samples of the thinking on big ideas from thinkers and practitioners from across a swath of disciplines. I use them to get exposed to conc
Taede Smedes
John Brockman, uitgever en oprichter van de website, stelt ieder jaar aan wetenschappers een bepaalde vraag, die ze vervolgens gaan uitwerken. Dit keer werd aan wetenschappers de vraag gesteld welk verklarend inzicht voor hen de meeste elegantie bezat.

In dit geven verschillende topwetenschappers - sommigen bekend, anderen in Nederland tot nog toe onbekend - zoals Susan Blackmore, Richard Dawkins, Leonard Susskind, Steven Pinker, Max Tegmark, Martin Rees, Freeman Dyson, Daniel Dennett e
An excellent pack of short essays on scientific and not-very-scientific ideas. Plenty of choice. Here's my favourites:
1. Sensory adaptation (by Richard Dawkins): "The world at time t is not greatly different from the world at time t-1. Therefore it is not necessary for sensory systems continuously to report the state of the world. They need only signal changes, leaving the brain to assume that everything not reported remains the same."
2. Opinion segregation (by David G.Myers): "Group interaction
David Tendo
"Deep"? Just another word for Pretentious. "Beautiful"? Try Narcissistic. "Elegant"? Tortuous comes to mind. Contrary to what it purports on the cover - NO, this does not explain everything. In fact it doesn't explain ANYTHING, at all! This book is just a collection of show-off-y crap by some of the world's greatest thinkers today; by "thinkers" I mean - egotistical, narcissistic morons. Oh, hey, is it coincidence that Nassim Nicholas Taleb (refer to my review of The Black Swan) is one of the co ...more
William Crosby
Mish mash of diversity of various author's mini-essays on theories to explain various aspects of the world.

Lots of duplication. Sometimes an essay did not seem to answer the question (but rather talked about the question) or their favorite theory was not explained adequately.

After about the 20th mini-essay I got annoyed with the book and returned it to the library unfinished.

The idea sounded intriguing and so did the various essay titles: so I checked it out. Maybe 20 longer more developed dive
Binh Nguyen
Pretty interesting.
Ovidiu Neatu
"Totul are o explicație(vol I)" este o colecție de răspunsuri din partea unor oameni de știință la întrebarea "Care este, pentru tine , cea mai profundă, elegantă sau frumoasă soluție?". Răspunsurile sunt relativ scurte -de cel mult 4 pagini- și vin din partea unor oameni de știință/filosofi renumiți: Susan Blackmore, Steven Pinker, Martin J. Rees, Richard Dawkins, Daniel C. Dennett și mulți alții.

Printre răspunsuri se regăsesc multe idei interesante dar în cea mai mare parte,Teoria Evoluției și
Susan Beuerlein
Accolades to This Explains Everything, which collects short essays on such topics as astronomy, biological electricity, metabolic syndrome, monogamy, decision-making, mediocrity, language, mathematics, sociology, and death.
The contributors—from Alan Alda to esteemed physicists to sociologists to mathematicians—ponder elegant and beautiful explanations of our universe. Readers may be challenged by the science, inspired by the history, and intrigued by Hamlet's notion: "There are more things in he
Greg Stoll
I bought this book because I love learning about what we used to think about things that we now know are wrong. (see: "carrots help you see well in the dark") This book is not about that. (in my defense, I was in a hurry and needed new books while I was in India) The format of the book was a bit intimidating - essentially 150 short chapters, which made reading the book feel like quite a slog. Some of the essays were definitely interesting, but there was some repetition (for a while there it seem ...more
Occasionally uneven, because of the overall breadth and diversity of contributions, but overall, it's filled with excellent, elegant and erudite theories from some of leading people in their fields and definitely worth reading.
Eja Batbold
No it does not, but I learned quite interesting facts and found some of the arguments though-provoking.

It it fundamental principle of economics that a person is better off if they have more alternatives to choose from. But this is not the case. More than often by restricting my choices I tend to commit myself to the cause better and thus succeed. Commitment way to go!

can sometimes be the best strategy, it is the rational response to the Prisoner's dilemma.

Beauty is tr
A series of essays that read like an ode to science. Good poetry makes you feel your way to understanding, and these essays let you understand by feeling and just gives enough to whet you curiosity on the topic and give you further ideas for further listening.

This book would make a great first science book for the listener since it covers wide areas of science by making the listener feel the topic but not enough to fully understand or assimilate. As for me, the book makes a great last book in sc
Jeff Swystun
This is my first collection of thought edited by John Brockman. I absolutely love the premise of posing the same question to a collection of smartypants and seeing what they come back with. In this case the question was...What is your favourite deep, elegant, or beautiful explanation? I was pleasantly surprised at the diversity of answer and each responses' brevity. Either the academics and deep thinkers were held to a strict word count or Mr. Brockman is a ruthless editor. Regardless, each one ...more
Because it's written by 190 people on as many topics, the only generalizations you can make about the book is what the format is good for, and what it isn't. On the one hand, the length and density of each of the essays in this collection makes this book good for little else but bathroom reading. On the other hand, as far as bathroom reading goes, it's actually pretty ideal. Trying to read and retain the ideas presented all at once is impossible, but reading a couple at a time gives you the opt ...more
If you think that everything, and I mean EVERYTHING in this world can be explained in a 400-page book, then you are absolutely wrong! And you will end up detesting this book.

In "This Explains Everything: Deep, Beautiful, and Elegant Theories of How the World Works", John Brockman has asked influential minds all around the world one question:
"What is your favourite deep, elegant, or beautiful explanation?"
The book is a compilation of answers (into essay form) to the above questions from biolog
Georgean Britton
Amazing collection of contemporary ideas about almost everything, from evolution, to love, to basic particles, to dna, to art and language. All in short pages that open your mind and entice you to look forward and try to understand it all.

The book shouldn't be viewed as a guide or a treatise, it is merely an index, a starting point for further reading, research and reflexion.

I definitely recommend this book to all my friends.
I expected 20-30 essays on scientific, philosophical, and psychological theory, but this book contains 150. Consequently, the depth of exploration is limited, but the breadth impressive. The collection (packaged like an anthology) contains brilliant insights from incredible creative and scientific minds, like Daniel C. Dennett, Jared Diamond, Alvy Ray Smith (co-founder of Pixar), Steven Pinker, Brain, Eno, etc. It offers vast professional diversity and thematic variety, and is an excellent intro ...more
If TED talks ever move to a paper format, they'll have some stiff competition., the site behind this tome of beautiful and explanatory ideas, has picked a rich assortment of thinkers and topics. There are some extremely interesting ideas (e.g. the pigeonhole principle) and some clunkers (such as Scott Atran's wholly unpersuasive insistence that morality can't spring from nature). But on the whole, this book will tickle parts of your cerebrum you didn't even know you had.

As Paul Saffo no
Howtohave Agoodidea
Shortly, there are certain essays that could wake up some of your innermost curiosity. Nonetheless, there are another ones that, to my taste, are not really well-balanced and even one can see a disjointed syntax.

I was surprised by Marcel Kinsbourne, who wrote How To Have a Good Idea [ref], solely for his ideas on the evolution of non-human species.

All in all, I find kindbourne's essay very gripping and thought-provoking, to say the least. Actually, my current nickname is rooted in one the above
This is the best of knowledge, the state of art in science and culture.
Víctor Bermúdez

Evolution by means of natural selection / Susan Blackmore —
Life is a digital code / Matt Ridley —
Redundancy reduction and pattern recognition / Richard Dawkins —
The power of absurdity / Scott Atran —
How apparent finality can emerge / Carlo Rovelli --
The overdue demise of monogamy / Aubrey de Grey —
Boltzmann’s explanation of the second law of thermodynamics / Leonard Susskind --
The dark matter of the mind / Joel Gold —
"There are more things in heaven and earth...than are dreamt of in your
Contrary to what the title implies, reading this book may not lead to satisfied feelings of "Oh, I get it. That really does explain everything." It incites as many questions as it answers.

And candidly, that may be why I rated it only a 3 - not because it lacks value, but because reading it takes some work.

In the book, researchers, other academics and experts tell us things like: how electricity and magnetism are two sides of the same coin, and why it's cool; why species with two sexes tend to h
Among the collections of responses to the's yearly questions, this is one of the best.
As usual, the editor roughly collects and juxtapose them for broad topic correlation when not for coincidence---which happens to be interesting as well, as it is normally not intended that two of the invited writers have the same response, and even when they do they always present it in a personal way with different shades of details and perspective. Here the question was about a simple, deep and beaut
John Brockman has done it again. Well, has done it again, with Brockman at the helm. For those unfamiliar,, which has been called the smartest website on the internet, undertakes to bring the brilliance of our era, in science, literature, philosophy and art, under a single umbrella for the purposes of providing insight into some of the issues we face as a people.

Specifically, Brockman publishes a book, on a semi-annual basis, which is essentially a compilation of many short ess
This book of collected essays asks the question, "What is your favorite deep, elegant, or beautiful explanation?" Many people, from Richard Dawkins to Brian Eno to professors you've never heard of (but are amazingly cool), contribute their ideas and theories.

The essays are lovingly ordered so that you flow from biology to physics to neuroscience to psychology in a way that never feels forced or jarring. One writer will expound about, say, the Pigeonhole Theory and the next will use it as a jumpi
Jake McCrary
This was an enjoyable collection of short (1-4 pages) of essays by a varied group of writers. Each author explained some theory that they found elegant. As you expect in a collection of shorter pieces the quality varied.

I lost count at the number of essays that started "I would talk about evolution but I'm sure someone else will." Those essays were not wrong. Quite a few of the entries were about evolution and natural selection.

Because this book is a collection of short essays it was very easy t
Luke Johnson
I was hoping this book would be better. (I guess that's almost always the case.) Some of the essays are interesting, but many of them are fairly obscure, and some of them get soapbox-y. Not a lot of really big ideas here, and nothing that feels new or revolutionary. Maybe that's the problem with the Edge's question in this case: it's asking about the authors' opinions about explanations that already exist, rather than asking them to come up with something new.
Usman W. Chohan
Outstanding book! It is the power of the essays written by experts, in admiration of other experts, that renders this as one of my top books of the year. What a remarkable initiative it is to ask all of the leading scientists about what they consider to be the most elegant, deep, and beautiful theories in science! Truly an eye opener for those like myself who are not sufficiently versed in the great strides being made in the scientific community.
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With a broad career spanning the fields of art, science, books, software and the Internet. In 1960 he established the bases for "intermedia kinetic environments" in art, theatre and commerce, while consulting for clients such as General Electric, Columbia Pictures, The Pentagon, The White House... In 1973 he formed his own literary and software agency. He is founder of the Edge Foundation and edit ...more
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