The Genius Who Never Existed

Short Stories from Science, History and Philosophy

The aim of the writings collected in this series is to present some key scientific events, ideas and personalities in the form of short stories that are easy and fun to read. Scientific and philosophical concepts are explained in a way that anyone may understand. Each story may be read separately, but at the same time, they all band together to form a wide-ranging introduction to the history of science and areas of contemporary scientific research, as well as some of the recurring problems science has encountered in history and the philosophical dilemmas it raises today.

CONTENTS


BRAIN

The man who could not forget 11

Willpower is a finite resource 16

How to raise a genius 21

The wisdom of psychopaths 26

Nature gave us four kinds of happiness 31

The marshmallow experiment 36

Thinking, fast and slow 40

The organ for happiness 45

Can animals think? 50

Pushing the limits of free will 55

The biology of self-control and instinctive willpower 60

The social brain 65

The brain: detective on the trail of a serial killer 70


NUMBERS

The genius who never existed 77

The man who proved that not everything could be proven 80

The mysterious disappearance of Ettore Majorana 85

Scientists on vacation 90

The birth of electromagnetism 95

The universe as a quantum computer 100

Calculating the weather 104

LIFE

Thank you for not following our recommendations 111

The rocky road to finding a cure for cholesterol 116

Cell police 121

The study of digestion through a hole in the stomach 125

How a surfer won the Nobel Prize 129

The Neanderthal genome project 134

The first intensive care unit 139


SOCIETY

Three stages of revolt 149

The wisdom of crowds 154

What money can't buy 159

The Stanford prison experiment and the Lucifer effect 164

Why is one environment more creative than another? 169

The equation that almost destroyed capitalism 174

Autocorrect 179


HISTORY

An ancient poem explaining the nature of things 185

David Hume – the Newton of moral sciences 189

The artillery of heaven and the heretical rod 194

A meeting of two minds – one admired, the other feared 199

The magnificence of Chinese science revealed 204

The “traitorous eight” make it on their own 209

Babies, between Kant and the Molluscs 214


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