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The rising star author of The Physics of Wall Street explores why “nothing” may hold the key to the next era of theoretical physics James Owen Weatherall’s previous book, The Physics of Wall Street, was a New York Times best-seller and named one of Physics Today’s five most intriguing books of 2013. In his newest volume, he takes on a fundamental concept of modern physics: nothing. The physics of stuff—protons, neutrons, electrons, and even quarks and gluons—is at least somewhat familiar to most of us. But what about the physics of nothing? Isaac Newton thought of empty space as nothingness extended in all directions, a kind of theater in which physics could unfold. But both quantum theory and relativity tell us that Newton’s picture can’t be right. Nothing, it turns out, is an awful lot like something, with a structure and properties every bit as complex and mysterious as matter. In his signature lively prose, Weatherall explores the very nature of empty space—and solidifies his reputation as a science writer to watch.
Is there a right way to study how the brain works? Following the empiricist's tradition, the most common approach involves the study of neural reactions to stimuli presented by an experimenter. This 'outside-in' method fueled a generation of brain research and now must confront hidden assumptions about causation and concepts that may not hold neatly for systems that act and react. György Buzsáki's The Brain from Inside Out examines why the outside-in framework for understanding brain function have become stagnant and points to new directions for understanding neural function. Building upon the success of Rhythms of the Brain, Professor Buzsáki presents the brain as a foretelling device that interacts with its environment through action and the examination of action's consequence. Consider that our brains are initially filled with nonsense patterns, all of which are gibberish until grounded by action-based interactions. By matching these nonsense "words" to the outcomes of action, they acquire meaning. Once its circuits are "calibrated" by action and experience, the brain can disengage from its sensors and actuators, and examine "what happens if" scenarios by peeking into its own computation, a process that we refer to as cognition. The Brain from Inside Out explains why our brain is not an information-absorbing coding device, as it is often portrayed, but a venture-seeking explorer constantly controlling the body to test hypotheses. Our brain does not process information: it creates it.