Why?

Why?

What Makes Us Curious

Book - 2017
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Publisher: New York : Simon & Schuster, 2017
Edition: First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition
ISBN: 9781476792095
1476792097
Branch Call Number: 153.2000
Characteristics: xiii, 252 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm

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tmundy
Sep 19, 2017

Being curious about a book which poses to unlock the secrets to one of our great motivating drives to learn, I realized how little we have ventured into the psychology of this phenomenon and, hence, how few in the related scientific fields even wish to study this mental state, much less demonstrate their own curiosity towards, well, curiosity. While Livio chunks the material into three sections: first on the areas both Da Vinci and Feynman, the western world's most famous polymaths, had spent their lives studying; second on the psychological and neurological findings to-date on what occurs when we are curious; and finally a section in which he 'interviews' people famous for their accomplishments, and, their purported curious minds. The lack of data and insights into the intellectual act of being curious is certainly the fault of today's scientists, but the rest of what's reported in this book is that of the authour.
Be ready to wade through some serious neglect in editing: reading through the interviews was as if I was listening to an over-excited friend who hadn't framed their retelling of the moment before blurting it out to me, wherein at many points there are actual sidetracks where Livio just goes off on a conversational tangent with the interviewee... and decided this was interesting enough for the reader to include ad verbatim. Descriptions of psychological/neurological concepts are either over- or under-explained to the layperson, or even seemingly randomly inserted. This was my favourite - BTW this was the entire paragraph:
"The human brain has two hemispheres, which are covered by a deeply wrinkled gray tissue, the cerebral cortex (Figure 18 - *MY NOTE: found in another chapter without a page reference*). Each bulging area on the surface is a gyrus, and each infold is a sulcus. The important point for our purposes is that part of the neurons in the cerebral cortex are responsible for everything we associate with the concept of intelligence."
Given that this is a book meant for the layperson to wrap their head around how science can explain our brains' activity during curiosity, having a book with such a disjointed flow and breezy editing made the endeavour feel all the more plodding and pedantic. If anything, I really have become more curious about whether an authour like Livio, who has four favourably reviewed books about mathematics and astronomy already, has fared more admirably in explanatory prowess in his other attempts.
Nonetheless I felt satisfied after reading this book that I have attained the current updates on what we know of the brain's processing while enacting the cognitive act of curiosity, and if I were your guide in tackling this text, I would tell you to jump to only Chapters 4 through 6, wherein these studies are described, but feel free to read on beyond those bounds if you have the niggling curiosity of whether my criticisms of Livio's prose ring true.

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