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The Idea of the Brain


Join Matthew Cobb on a journey through centuries of wild philosophical speculations, inspired mechanical insights and blood-curdling experiments, all aimed at fathoming the mysteries of the most complex object in the known universe: the three-pound organ between your ears. Along the way you’ll meet some of the greatest scientists in history and you’ll see how even our mistaken ideas about how the brain works have transformed the world. Investigate whether our frontal lobes might be antennae picking up signals from another plane. Find out why, no matter how we try to squash the pseudoscience of phrenology, it keeps popping up elsewhere. Discover the great unsolved questions about how the brain what it does. And make a tour of the horizon over which the next great breakthrough might be about to appear.

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SKU: 9781781255902 Category: Tag:


Shortlisted for the 2020 Baillie Gifford PrizeA New Statesman Book of the YearThis is the story of our quest to understand the most mysterious object in the universe: the human brain.Today we tend to picture it as a computer. Earlier scientists thought about it in their own technological terms: as a telephone switchboard, or a clock, or all manner of fantastic mechanical or hydraulic devices. Could the right metaphor unlock the its deepest secrets once and for all?Galloping through centuries of wild speculation and ingenious, sometimes macabre anatomical investigations, scientist and historian Matthew Cobb reveals how we came to our present state of knowledge. Our latest theories allow us to create artificial memories in the brain of a mouse, and to build AI programmes capable of extraordinary cognitive feats. A complete understanding seems within our grasp.But to make that final breakthrough, we may need a radical new approach. At every step of our quest, Cobb shows that it was new ideas that brought illumination. Where, he asks, might the next one come from? What will it be?

Additional information

Weight 0.399 kg
Dimensions 19.6 × 12.8 × 3.6 cm






470 , 8 unnumbered of plates




612.82 (edition:23)


General – Trade / Code: K

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