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This Idea Must Die cover art

This Idea Must Die

Written by: John Brockman
Narrated by: David Colacci,Susan Ericksen
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Publisher's Summary

Each year John Brockman, publisher of Edge.org, challenges some of the world's greatest scientists, artists, and philosophers to answer a provocative question crucial to our time. In 2014 he asked 175 brilliant minds to ponder: What scientific idea needs to be put aside in order to make room for new ideas to advance? The answers are as surprising as they are illuminating.

In This Idea Must Die:

  • Steven Pinker dismantles the working theory of human behavior
  • Sherry Turkle reevaluates our expectations of artificial intelligence
  • Andrei Linde suggests that our universe and its laws may not be as unique as we think
  • Martin Rees explains why scientific understanding is a limitless goal
  • Nina Jablonski argues to rid ourselves of the concept of race
  • And much more.

Profound, engaging, thoughtful, and groundbreaking, This Idea Must Die will change your perceptions and understanding of our world today...and tomorrow.

©2015 Edge Foundation, Inc. (P)2015 Tantor

What the critics say

"Physics, statistics, robotics, linguistics, medicine--all are zestfully scrutinized in this exuberant, mind-blowing gathering of innovative thinkers." ( Booklist)

What listeners say about This Idea Must Die

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  • Michael
  • 2015-03-07

3% Excellent

This book contains 175 answers to the 2014 Edge question “What scientific idea needs to be put aside in order to make room for new ideas to advance?” Answers vary from about a minute up to less than ten minutes and come from numerous scientific disciplines. There are ground-rules that the answers focus on ideas, not scientific rivals (but there are more than a few sharp yet well hidden personalized barbs). The quality, tone, approachability, and enjoyability of the writing varies over the 175 different writers. The essays vary from unbearably arrogant to lightheartedly humorous.

There are many different ideas considered but most fall into a few themes; over simplifications, over generalizations, arbitrary categorizations, arcane ideas, & human exceptionalisms. Some essays are diametric opposites. The vast majority did not seem critical hindrances to scientific progress. A few that I felt were right on topic and among my favorites were Freeman Dyson’s on Collapse of the Wave Function and Max Tegmark’s on Infinity.

There were a few essays that were, on their own, well worth my time, but most I found rather uninteresting. Yet many of the ideas that were proposed to die were various arbitrary categorizations, and although none of these alone would seem to hinder science in general, the apparently natural and ubiquitous predilection of the human mind to create such categories does seem to be responsible for much of the inertia in science. Academic debates can rage between experts for years about categorizations that later turn out to have been arbitrarily based. Categorization almost always hide details, yet real scientific advancement is almost always stimulated by a reexamination of the details. Overall this book got me thinking about the general concept of categorization in science and how such categorizations seem to give the illusion of knowledge while categorizations seem to actually stifle scientific progress.

The narration is very clear. One humorous repeated narration mistake was pronouncing F=MA (Force equal Mass time Acceleration) as eff equals Ma (as in mother).

Although I ended up appreciating experiencing this book, I hesitate to recommend it highly. It will not be for everyone and I am certain I will not listen to this book again.

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  • Gary
  • 2015-03-11

Too much wheat not enough chaff

This book was a lot like the TED conferences. While you're watching them you think they're the most brilliant thing you've ever seen and just wonder why you didn't come up with thinking about the problem that way on your own. But, when it's over you start to think maybe that wasn't worth my time after all. This book was fun while doing it, but I strongly suspect it wasn't worth my time.

Some essays were very good. I really liked Alan Alda's on why true and false should not be how we look at things. Richard Dawkin's (and a host of others) also thinks Essentianism should be retired. It just muddles our way of thinking since nature doesn't always fall into neat categories (Darwin dances around what a species is for a very good reason). When the theme of the essay was on the real nature of science being particular to the data available, and contingent to the current understanding of nature that we have and science is never absolute (back to Alan Alda's essay, e.g.), the essay would work nicely and would fit into an overall narrative.

Overall, I would recommend skipping this book and reading Marcelo Gleiser's "Island of Knowledge", who did give the second essay presented in this book and will give the listener a more coherent sense on the limitations of science than this book does.

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  • Jared
  • 2015-03-13

Excellent - "science" is not a monoculture

This is a great listen, especially if you or anyone you discuss science with is caught up in the false dichotomy of "mainstream" vs fringe scientific communities and models.

The only real spoilers were one of the narrator's - David Colacci - persistent ignorant misreads - for instance, changing F=ma (mass * acceleration) into "f equals 'ma'" (as in "mom") [yes, really!], and pronouncing Tycho Brahe's name "tee-koe bra" every time. .. but definitely something anyone interested in science will benefit from listening to.

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  • Jonathan Lowe
  • 2015-02-28

Comprehensive

This always interesting book explores the edge of many science questions, proposing that those beliefs which scientists have long held need to be reexamined because science is always about progress little by little, and only rarely by discovery. Narration is always spot on.

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  • Carl D. Wilson
  • 2015-02-28

his love of big words equal snooze fest.

could be a great topic to bring to the masses but his love of big words and complete inability to talk in common language make this a total failure.

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  • Lthn
  • 2015-03-02

Tongue in cheek or sour grapes?

Any additional comments?

The auther sounds as though he would like to play with the big boys at CERN. He so would like to exchange his Vander Graaf generator for a Large Hadron Collider. Brockman seems to be of the opinion that "Higgs boson" should really be named "Brockman boson". If only he was a particle scientist the Noble prize would have been his.

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  • Errol
  • 2015-04-26

Misleading Title

Would you try another book from John Brockman and/or David Colacci and Susan Ericksen ?

Not likely.

What was most disappointing about John Brockman’s story?

There was no substance to it. As I listened to the entire book I was getting angry at myself for continuing in the expectation that things would get better.

What about David Colacci and Susan Ericksen ’s performance did you like?

They were good.

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  • J
  • 2015-03-05

Good Idea....not meant for audiobook

What did you like best about This Idea Must Die? What did you like least?

There's some ok ideas in this. Some of them are not that new though and anyone who keeps even mildly up to date with science will have already heard several of these. Overall it wasn't a good implementation of an audiobook...maybe it just wasn't meant to be one.

What didn’t you like about David Colacci and Susan Ericksen ’s performance?

Voices are fine and production quality is ok (not noisy or anything). There are several mispronunciations that I think are inexcusable....For a book about science, it is not permissible to pronounce the equation "F=ma" as "Eff equals maaaa". How did that get past editors or whoever quality controls this? There are a few other mispronunciations that really jarred me too throughout, though they weren't science-specific...just general word pronunciations. "Disservice" with emphasis on the last syllable which totally threw me off and I had to re-listen in order to get at what was trying to be said. It is almost as if it wasn't edited or they didn't have time to go back and check for these.

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  • Tom Deaderick
  • 2016-05-03

what a disappointment

Authors were so caught up in politically correct nonsense like climate change and Global government that they missed a good opportunity to communicate actual science.

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  • Sean
  • 2016-02-23

It's a grand ideological birthday full with wisdom

It certainly took a little time to finish but it was worth every waking moment. These books are a buffet of food for thought! This is a great read for anyone who enjoys a good idea focused discussion.

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