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Know This

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Know This

Today’s Most Interesting and Important Scientific Ideas, Discoveries, and Developments

Harper Perennial,

15 min read
11 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Explore this compendium of nuggets about new scientific breakthroughs to see how knowledge changes. 

Editorial Rating



  • Scientific
  • Eye Opening
  • Overview


When you ask a range of prominent thinkers to identify the most important scientific news of the day, and then you pull their answers together in a wide-ranging collection, it’s amazing what you get. John Brockman has edited and produced an overwhelming collection of essays to dip into, but probably not read front to back. He offers 600-plus pages of commentary by 198 writers he describes as “very, very smart people” on current advances in all fields of science. The collection moves from papal encyclicals to drones, to the nature of consumption, the physical universe and developments in battery technology. Scientists agree that climate change is real, dangerous and important and that physics is in a state of flux. The brief essays come from many disparate fields; the newness – and coolness – of the innovations the writers cover is the theme that unifies the book. Brockman’s encyclopedia will absorb anyone interested in science, discovery, change or the joy of astonishment.  


Understanding What’s Happening

In many fields, people are finding ways to augment human beings’ flawed intuition with “quantitative analysis.” Digital technology is fundamentally transforming humanity’s future on this planet. Where the written word used to dominate, images now rule. Computing continues to develop. It is as if Earth suddenly started “growing itself a brain.” Networking the human race is an unprecedented experiment in social organization.

The switch from math to computation changes the human understanding of knowledge. Instead of seeking static or absolute truth, people recognize that as knowledge continually shifts, they, too, must keep adjusting their understanding.

“The Age of Awareness”

Changes in sensor technology and computing make this age the Age of Awareness. Increasingly, digital technology monitors everything people do, creating a “flywheel world.” Data that used to be static now flow in many directions. Computers are gathering and analyzing data on an unprecedented scale and in new areas. Large-scale analysis of personality traits enables personalized product design, targeted ads and individualized...

About the Author

Editor John Brockman publishes the online science salon and has edited several bestsellers, including This Idea Must Die and This Explains Everything.

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