Synopses & Reviews
Editor Max Brockman presents the work of some of today’s brightest and most innovative young researchers in this fascinating collection of writings that introduce the very latest theories and discoveries in science.
Future Science features eighteen young scientists, most of whom are presenting their work and ideas to a general audience for the first time. Included in this collection are
* William McEwan, a virologist, discussing his research into the biology of antiviral immunity
* Naomi Eisenberger, a neuroscientist, wondering how social rejection affects us physically
* Jon Kleinberg, a computer scientist, showing what massive datasets can teach us about society and ourselves
* Anthony Aguirre, a physicist, who gives readers a tantalizing glimpse of infinity
“Future Science shares with the world a delightful secret that we academics have been keeping—that despite all the hysteria about how electronic media are dumbing down the next generation, a tidal wave of talent has been flooding into science, making their elders feel like the dumb ones. . . . It has a wealth of new and exciting ideas, and will help shake up our notions regarding the age, sex, color, and topic clichés of the current public perception of science.”
—Steven Pinker, author of The Stuff of Thought
"When someone 'hurts our feelings,' do we feel physical pain? Is altruism the challenge to evolutionary tenets that many have claimed? How will plants adapt to global warming? Young scientists tackle these subjects and 15 others in this collection of essays edited by literary agent Brockman (editor of What's Next?: Dispatches on the Future of Science). Readers looking for prognostications on the future of technology should look elsewhere, since the book skews towards the behavioral sciences. Exceptions include: a thought-provoking essay by planetary scientist and astrobiologist Kevin Hand on why exploration of oceans on the moons of the giant planets may finally uncover extraterrestrial organisms; MacArthur 'genius' Kirsten Bomblies on how plants respond to diseases in a changing environment; and physicist Anthony Aguirre on why infinity challenges our intellectual capability to grasp it, either in the palm of your hand or on larger scales. Readers curious about new frontiers in science and why we do the things that we-and other primates-do will enjoy this engrossing collection.
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Editor Max Brockman introduces the work of some of today’s brightest and most innovative young scientists in this fascinating and exciting collection of writings that describe the very boundaries of our knowledge.
Future Science features nineteen young scientists, most of whom are presenting their innovative work and ideas to a general audience for the first time. Featured in this collection are William McEwan, a virologist, discussing his research into the biology of antiviral immunity; Naomi Eisenberger, a neuroscientist, wondering how social rejection affects us physically; Jon Kleinberg, a computer scientist, showing what massive datasets can teach us about society and ourselves; and Anthony Aguirre, a physicist, who gives readers a tantalizing glimpse of infinity.
About the Author
Max Brockman is the vice president of Brockman, Inc., a literary agency, and the editor of What’s Next? Dispatches on the Future of Science. He also works with the Edge Foundation, Inc., a nonprofit organization that publishes the Edge newsletter (www.edge.com). He lives in New York City.
Table of Contents
Kevin P. Hand:
On the Coming Age of Ocean Exploration
What makes ocean worlds like Jupiter’s moon Europa compelling places for astrobiology? Despite considerable evidence to the contrary, Earth was not a particularly good place for life to arise. The main ingredients for life as we know it are a lot easier to find farther out in the solar system.
Felix Warneken: Children’s Helping Hands
Several novel empirical findings suggest that human altruism has deeper roots than previously thought.
William McEwan: Molecular Cut and Paste: The New Generation of Biological Tools
A combination of cheap DNA synthesis, freely accessible databases, and our ever expanding knowledge of protein science is conspiring to permit a revolution in creating powerful molecular tools.
Anthony Aguirre: Next Step: Infinity
Infinity can violate our human intuition, which is based on finite systems, and create perplexing philosophical problems.
Daniela Kaufer & Darlene Francis: Nurture, Nature, and the Stress That Is Life
Why is it that when faced with the same challenges, some of us crumble, some of us survive, and some of us even thrive?
Jon Kleinberg: What Can Huge Data Sets Teach Us About Society and Ourselves?
Vast digital trails of social interaction allow us to begin investigating questions that have been the subject of theoretical inquiry and small-scale analysis for a century or more.
Coren Apicella: On the Universality of Attractiveness
My quest to understand the natural origins of attractiveness preferences led me to the African savannah near Lake Eyasi in Tanzania.
Laurie R. Santos: To Err Is Primate
Why do house sellers, professional golfers, experienced investors, and the rest of us succumb to strategies that make us systematically go wrong?
Samuel M. McClure: Our Brains Know Why We Do What We Do
The goal of the new field of decision neuroscience is a greatly improved understanding of the variability that dominates our moment-to-moment decision-making behavior.
Jennifer Jacquet: Is Shame Necessary?
Balancing group and self-interest has never been easy, yet human societies display a high level of cooperation. To attain that level, specialized traits had to evolve, including such emotions as shame.
Kirsten Bomblies: Plant Immunity in a Changing World
To what degree plant populations can adapt to novel disease pressures in an altered and increasingly unpredictable climate remains largely unknown.
Asif A. Ghazanfar: The Emergence of Human Audiovisual Communication
The basic patterns of neocortical anatomy that produce a set of fixed neural rhythms are conserved throughout the mammalian lineage, and they predate the elaboration of vocal repertoires.
Naomi I. Eisenberger: Why Rejection Hurts
The experience of social pain, while temporarily distressing and hurtful, is an evolutionary adaptation that promotes social bonding and, ultimately, survival.
Joshua Knobe: Finding the Mind in the Body
People’s intuitions about whether a given entity has a mind do not appear to be based entirely on a scientific attempt to explain that entity’s behavior.
Fiery Cushman: Should the Law Depend on Luck?
How will advances in the science of moral judgment change the way we think about the law?
Liane Young: How We Read People’s Moral Minds
Recent work suggests that our moral judgment of another person depends on specific brain regions for reasoning about that other person’s mental state.
Daniel Haun: How Odd I Am!
Cross-culturally, the human mind varies more than we generally assume.
Joan Y. Chiao: Where Does Human Diversity Come From?
Culture-gene coevolutionary theory describes a complementary process by which adaptive mechanisms in the human mind and brain evolved to facilitate social group living through both cultural and genetic selection.