Future Science

Essays from the Cutting Edge (2011)
Future Science: Essays from the Cutting Edge (2011)

Future Science is the first installment in what editor Max Brockman hopes will be an annual collection; it consists of essays by young scientists who, for the first time, are presenting to a general reading audience the scientific hypotheses they are pursuing in their scholarly research. Nearly every essay is accessible (I skipped 2 of the 18 due to lack of interest). Brockman's editing gives you more than would be found by simply reading the abstract and conclusion from the full, published, scholarly reports; it also preserves the scientists' voices and excitement for their subject matter.

I loved this book for its variety of topics coupled with detailed overviews that gave me a clear understanding of the theses and research. I must admit that there was a strong weight toward psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral evolution; however, for me that was a perfect fit. When looking through the table of contents, The Emergence of Human Audiovisual Communication sounded like it would be a real snoozer, yet it turned out to be one of my favorite essays.  Asif F. Ghazanfar explained that we communicate within a specific frequency range; this consists of the speech signal, rhythmic facial movements (singular to humans), and rhythms in the auditory regions of a listener's brain: all of them cycle at 3 - 8 Hz (cycles per second). Trust me, it's really interesting when you read the entire essay. Other favorites dealt with developmental and behavioral psychology, often related to children (Children's Helping Hands; Nurture, Nature, and the Stress that is Life). Another surprise favorite discussed the relevance of looking for life in other planets' vast oceans where, as seen in deep hydrothermal vents within our own ocean depths, life could be based on chemosynthesis rather than photosynthesis.

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