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This Idea Is Brilliant

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This Idea Is Brilliant

Lost, Overlooked, and Underappreciated Scientific Concepts Everyone Should Know

Harper Perennial,

15 min read
9 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

From the ubiquitous to the sublime, the ideas that make science so robust are brilliant.

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Editorial Rating



  • Comprehensive
  • Engaging
  • Insider's Take


Editor John Brockman’s anthology of science’s most under-appreciated ideas is packed with 205 scientific ideas curated by cutting-edge thinkers and scientists. By necessity, the descriptions are short, but each one will spark your imagination and make you think. This is a treat for science buffs and science fiction aficionados alike.


Some questions have definitive answers. Scientists seek these definitive answers – the truth – by using the scientific method.

Cambridge professor William Whewell coined the term “scientist” in 1833. Before the modern era, “natural philosophers” pursued science to glean the “mind of the Creator” in the world. Formalizing scientific study took it out of the realm of thought and into the arena of experimentation.

The foundation of science is the “scientific method:” first comes a hypothesis, then an experiment, and then a result that confirms or contradicts the hypothesis. Humans are imperfect and have biases, sometimes unconscious. Sometimes money warps a science organization’s goal; the Tobacco Industry Research Committee actively worked for 40 years to stifle the truth about the harmful effect of tobacco use.

Scientists evolved double-blind experiments – now considered a “gold-standard” of the scientific method – to avoid bias. In single-blind experiments participants don’t know whether they’re receiving a test drug or a placebo. In double-blind experiments, neither do those executing the study. The results are free from expectation. For ...

About the Author

Editor John Brockman is the publisher of, an online science website, and CEO of Brockman Inc., a New York City literary agency.

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