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This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking
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This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking

(Edge Question )

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  6,305 ratings  ·  344 reviews
Featuring a foreword by David Brooks, This Will Make You Smarter presents brilliant—but accessible—ideas to expand every mind.

What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit? This is the question John Brockman, publisher of, posed to the world’s most influential thinkers. Their visionary answers flow from the frontiers of psychology, philosophy
Paperback, 399 pages
Published February 14th 2012 by Harper Perennial (first published 2012)
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Antonio Alvarez For sure! I learned a lot from this book, and I was able to immediately apply all this knowledge in my daily life.

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Oct 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This Will Make You Smarter is a challenging book that leaves you with a lot to think about. The essays are short — some shorter than a single page — that cover interesting scientific concepts, new and old ideas to help us think about the world.

The founder and publisher of the online science salon,, John Brockman, does a great job editing this collection, turning more than 100 essays on a wide range of topics into a coherent manuscript that works its way across the spectrum. You start ou
Graham Herrli
Jun 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
The question of 2011 was "What scientific concept would improve everybody's cognitive toolkit?" Many of the world's most famous thinkers responded to it, and their responses are compiled in this book in one-to-four-page essays organized thematically.

It's somewhat ironic that although the book is a collection of the ideas of "great minds," many of the essays emphasize the importance of not trusting authority.

Debates over climate change and creationism were mentioned often enough to beco
Edge is an organisation that promotes the spreading of cultural and scientific knowledge to a general public. Every year they pose a general philosophical question and publish some of the best answers by prominent intellectuals. This book contains the answers to the proposition: "Which new scientific concept should belong to everyone's conceptual toolkit?"

In bundling the answers, the editor made one unfortunate mistake. He grouped them thematically. Since many researchers promote the same concep
Ben Lever
It didn't.

No, in all seriousness, I think this book would have been quite good for me about five years ago - many of the cognitive tools they bring up are indeed very useful. But this book suffers from having too many authors - so for one thing there is quite a lot of redundancy, as multiple people advocate very similar principles, which often overlap with the essays of others, and for another thing everyone was limited to an average of two pages, so there isn't enough room to say anything with
Jul 18, 2012 rated it liked it
Each essay is only 3-5 pages, making this a great book to pick up when you have a few minutes of free time and want a little bit of intellectual stimulation. That said, some essays were great and thought-provoking, but others were painfully dull and a chore to get through.
Apr 06, 2013 added it
I read this because I wanted to think about how to write accessible, sexy-sounding prose to use in grant proposals. It contains plenty of both good and bad examples of how to make complicated ideas sound exciting to non-experts. The social psychologists and pop-minded economists are the masters of this particular skill. Basically they can just present a couple of examples of goofy human behavior and their job is done. (Though there is also a nice entry on "Anecdotalism", which points out the pro ...more
Ali Sattari
Jul 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
Well, it gave me a rather long list of new things to further read on! :)
Alex Zakharov
Mar 31, 2013 rated it did not like it
The book is just a printed collection of one page blog entries from edge. com in response to their now famous annual question. Well, wrong medium and rather disappointing uniformity of thought - stick to edge online during your lunch break.

A few themes come up over and over again - complexity, unpredictability, evolutionary biology, cognitive biases. While these subjects are certainly intellectually stimulating and while i like other longer works by a handful of the participating authors , readi
Morgan Blackledge
Feb 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Brockman is the prince of nurd pimps. He's got all the big brained studs in his stable. He's a rock star of science lit agents (who even knew you could be that). I fuckin hate dinner parties and that kind of stuff. But I would love to attend one of Brockman's wing dings. He's bros with the smartest, most interesting people in the world.

Anyway. He's cranking out these little essay books and they're all really good. The way it works is he periodically asks all of his crew to write short (usually o
Jul 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
The author asked many famous people, "What scientific concept would improve everybody's cognitive toolkit?"

The idea intrigued me; from each successful, "famous" person, what single thing is it important for people to know? It seemed like the book would be full of good advice.

However, I didn't enjoy reading it. I suppose all the concepts were scientific ones, which didn't interest me. None of the writers (I only read a few. I didn't read the whole book.) spoke about why or how their particular co
Butch Hamilton
Jul 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
It started with good intentions and bought into the title. After one hundred pages in, I had to put it down. Why? The more I read, the dumber I got. Hoping to get a brain implant - saw one on Craigslist denoted as A.B. Normal - so I can finish it and restore any self-esteem I have left. . .

. . .the new cranium must have helped because I can discuss collective intelligence, defeasibilty, and Black Swan technologies with some modicum of confidence. The cover's secondary title is "New Scientific Co
Rick Barnes
May 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The best compilation of essays on scientific concepts and the importance of critical thinking I have read to date.
Jan 13, 2015 rated it did not like it
not smarter a bit but annoyed
Feb 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
This Will Make You Smarter: 150 New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking by John Brockman

"This Will Make You Smarter" is a thought-provoking book of scientific essays brought to you by The Edge that provides readers with better tools to think about the world. The Edge is an organization that presents original ideas by today's leading thinkers from a wide spectrum of scientific fields. The 2011 Edge question is, "What Scientific Concept Would Improve Everybody's Cognitive Toolkit?" This w
Menglong Youk
Mar 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars

"This Book Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking" is the collection of essays of various scientists', journalists', professors', and many educators' answering to the editor's question, "What scientific concept would improve everybody's cognitive toolkit?". The perspectives of the essays are ranging from biology, sociology, astronomy, technology, all the way to psychology.

Personally, during the first tens pages of the book, I enjoyed cramming the new in
Peter Gelfan
Jan 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a small-plates restaurant for the brain. More than 150 of today’s top thinkers from many different fields answer a simple question: What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit? “Scientific” includes any endeavor that seeks analytical knowledge and understanding. Each dish runs anything from one to four pages. Occasionally I could gobble up ten in a sitting, but often one would be so delicious and filling that I would need to stop reading and ponder its ramificatio ...more
Michael Zhang
Dec 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Ugly name, beautiful content.
May 28, 2020 rated it liked it
I Liked this book. It did contain some useful new notions. Unfortunately it also contains a lot of repetition and also some platitudes. In the end I expected as much. After all, it is more like cookbook. Not every recipe in it needs to be according to my dad tastes.

That being said, here are some concepts which I found really interesting:

- Deep Time - the Universe has a huge time span. People are aware (those who are not creationists) how long ago it was created, but it will exist for an even lon
Deepak Jaisinghani
Aug 08, 2020 rated it it was ok
This book is not unlike a short-stories book. Short-story books have always been a case of hit-or-miss for me. And so was this book.

The overarching theme of the book is this: Which scientific concept can improve everyone's cognitive toolkit? Various prominent scientists, almost all of whom are authors in their specialized fields of expertise, including the likes of Daniel Kahneman, Steven Pinker, Clifford Pickover and Jonathan Haidt, proceed to answer the question what they think is the 'best' c
May 25, 2015 rated it liked it
This will make you smarter. Weh?

Well, if knowing the words Copernican principle, gedankenexperiment, or nexus causality will make you sound smarter, er, smarter, then grab it. The book offers a wide array of answers to the Edge Question 2011: "What scientific concept would improve everybody's cognitive toolkit?"

The essays are grouped topically. Two flaws of putting into a book a number of different field specialists: (1) some authors basically repeat what the other authors have said (2) some aut
Zack Ward
Jun 13, 2013 rated it it was ok
"This will Make You Smarter" is a compilation of short essays from scientists of every discipline imaginable designed to illuminate scientific concepts that would improve everybody's cognitive toolkit. I was disappointed at both the redundancy and inapplicability of the answers. There were several discussions about the asymmetrical nature of top-down and bottom-up manners of investigation, the subjectivity of observation, the need for replicability, the imperfect but well-intentioned nature of t ...more
Cynthia Ryan
Jan 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
I approached this book with some caution - but fortunately, using Kindle preview, you can try before you buy.

This is a book to be read in short bursts and digested. Since most of the 'chapters' are from one to three pages in length, that's easy. You will definitely want to savor each, since they can really challenge your assumptions, and give you a lot to consider.

The speakers/writers are notable scientists and thinkers and their ideas range from changes in national policy to simple things the
Karl Nordstrom
Aug 04, 2014 rated it liked it
This book has a pretentious title. I prefer the original question: "What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit?" A long list of deep thinkers were asked this question and they each provide a brief answer in this book. If you would like to read it for free, you can find their answers on under the title of the original question.

The book is pretty interesting. If you're already a scientific thinker, then you will be familiar with many of the ideas. I found it to be
Jul 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I am proud of myself that I already knew many of these scientific concepts, thanks to intense reading and audiobooking over the course of years...but I also felt humbled by how much I didn't know, or didn't completely understand...the wonderful thing about this book is that it is comprised of short essays, so the sheer volume of thought-provoking knowledge does not become overwhelming...

The vast majority of the essays are VERY accessible, and each one could be a spur for much further research.
Bastian Greshake Tzovaras
I guess I expected too much from this book, given its not so humble title. The selection of topics is okay. But if you've been into the science blogosphere and/or TED for a while you will probably be familiar with most of the ideas presented in the book already.

The essays are all really short, most are not longer than a typical blogpost. For many topics a bit more background to the ideas would have been a good thing. If you want a crash course in modern scientific ideas (without actually learni
Feb 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
To read my review in my Spanish blog; click here:
There more than 150 bits of very valuable knowledge in this book. There are reflections on time; space science; physics; ethics; death; knowledge; learning; perspective; perception; etc. I liked that every articla was maximum two pages; and that the authors of each article made a real effort to be as clear as possible. I would like to have read a book with more quality in the printing or the quality of the
Dec 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science, nook-book
The book is a collection of articles written by scientists who explain how to improve our cognitive toolkits. Rather than improve my cognitive tool kit I just want to point out what I found of interest in the book. Strangers apparently find people more likable and form good first impressions if they are holding a cup of hot coffee. Rainy weather makes us introspective and thoughtful which improves our memory. It also drives down the stock market which loves sunny days.
A salient point in the book
Ardon Pillay
Sep 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is nothing short of fantastic. It’s a compendium of essays written in response to the question, “What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive tool-kit?” The essays in the book are all very varied and touch upon such diverse fields of knowledge, from anthropology to quantum mechanics.

Interestingly, the content in these essays isn’t particularly complex; they mainly feature short hand abstractions that just help us to make sense of the world around us.

My favourite essays
Jan 17, 2013 rated it liked it
This book did make me smarter, but then again... Don't all books do that in some way? Overall, the essays were well organized and flowed from one topic to the next. The book was DEFINITELY elitist, and some of the essays were so condescending to nonscientists that they made me wonder if the authors were living in a bubble. There were some fantastic essays too, and I think the book could have been shortened to focus on those ideas.

Major focuses: using data in everyday life, how your brain works,
Becky Roper
Apr 02, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I'm not sure what I was hoping for here, but this was a collection of very short pieces by a variety of authors, mostly scientific experts of one kind or another. They each give a short description of a concept they feel could make you think better. Since the authros are almost exclusively academics, the ideas they share are long on concepts but very short on practical application. A few were too obtuse to even comprehend, and a few others were quite thought-provoking. All in all it was a long w ...more
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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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