The Reductionist’s user manual

Feb 11th 2004 From: Consilience : The Unity of Knowledge by Edward O. Wilson In writing an overview of the scientific method, Wilson begins to describe the concept of reductionism, the term used for the process of examining systems and reducing them into smaller, more manageable parts. ‘Here is how reductionism works most of the time, as […]

Biophilia and Darwinian Action Adventures

Feb 11th 2004 From The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature by Steven Pinker In this chapter Pinker is searching for evidence that man’s appreciation of art is innate, and therefore universal across cultures and grounded in the human brain’s prehistoric evolution. ‘A wry demonstration of the universality of basic visual tastes came from […]

The Power of Analogy

Feb 18th 2004 From Creativity and Intuition: A Physicist Looks at East and West by Hideki Yukawa ‘Suppose there is something which a person cannot understand. He happens to notice the similarity of this something to some other thing which he understands quite well. By comparing them he may come to understand the thing which he […]

Natural Hierarchies

Mar 7th 2004 From Biophilia by Edward O. Wilson ‘Elegance is more a product of the human mind than of external reality. It is best understood as a product of organic evolution. The brain depends on elegance to compensate for its own small size and short lifetime. As the cerebral cortex grew from apish dimensions through […]

The Measure of Things

Mar 22nd 2004 From A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson In a chapter about the early attempts at measuring the Earth, Bryson describes the obsessive technique used by mathematician Richard Norwood in his efforts to determine the length of a degree of arc of the earth’s surface. ‘Starting with his back against the […]


May 18th 2004 From The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell While examining the details of what makes a piece of communication effective, Gladwell describes a famous piece of scientific analysis. The pioneer of this kind of analysis – of what is called cultural microrhythms – is a man named William Condon. In one of his most […]

The Dangers of Language

May 30th 2004 From Notes on the Synthesis of Form by Christopher Alexander A designer may object that his thinking is never as verbal as I have implied, and that, instead of using verbal concepts, he prepares himself for a complicated problem by making diagrams of it’s various aspects. This is true. Let us remember, however, […]