Although it might seem to be a story of ever-increasing knowledge of biology, Cobb shows how our ideas about the brain have been shaped by each era’s most significant technologies. Today we might think the brain is like a supercomputer. In the past, it has been compared to a telegraph, a telephone exchange, or some kind of hydraulic system. What will we think the brain is like tomorrow, when new technology arises?
For thousands of years, thinkers and scientists have tried to understand what the brain does. Yet, despite the astonishing discoveries of science, we still have only the vaguest idea of how the brain works. In The Idea of the Brain, scientist and historian Matthew Cobb traces how our conception of the brain has evolved over the centuries.
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The result is an essential read for anyone interested in the complex processes that drive science and the forces that have shaped our marvelous brains.
Matthew Cobb is Professor of Zoology at the University of Manchester. His previous books include Life’s Greatest Secret:The Race to Discover the Genetic Code, which was shortlisted for the the Royal Society Winton Book Prize, and the acclaimed histories The Resistance and Eleven Days in August. He is also the award-winning translator of books on the history of molecular biology, on Darwin’s ideas and on the nature of life.
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Photo illustration: Laura Kammermann
From a Washington Post online article:
The single most astounding thing I found was that if you took all your DNA and formed it into a single fine strand, it would stretch to Pluto. I don’t think I’ve ever come across a fact that blew me away more than that — that there’s enough of me or you or anyone else to stretch to Pluto. There’s 10 billion miles of DNA inside you. That just seems unbelievable. The surprise is not that there’s so much to understand about the body but that we understand as much as we do.
Our bodies are the best technology we’ve ever taken for granted, according to Bill Bryson’s 20th book, “The Body: A Guide for Occupants” ($30, Doubleday), which will be released Oct. 15. Having already covered topics such as nature, homes and linguistics, Bryson takes on life, death and everything in between. He spoke with contributor Stephanie Kanowitz about his reasons for writing the book and what he learned. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
To read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/the-brain-is-the-most-extraordinary-thing-in-the-universe-bill-bryson-on-his-latest-book/2019/10/07/48f208d0-e53e-11e9-a331-2df12d56a80b_story.html