- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster (July 11, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1476792097
- ISBN-13: 978-1476792095
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 18 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #128,596 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Why?: What Makes Us Curious
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
“Have you ever wondered why we wonder why? Mario Livio has, and he takes you on a fascinating quest to understand the origin and mechanisms of our curiosity. I thoroughly recommend it.”
(Adam Riess, Nobel Prize Winner in Physics, 2011)
"An energetic look at the psychology and neuroscience of our inquisitiveness." (Dan Jones Nature)
“Filled with fascinating stories, tidbits, and psychological insights, Why? is a delightful romp through every aspect of human curiosity. It will surprise you, make you smarter, and put a spring in your step.” (Steven Strogatz, Schurman Professor of Applied Mathematics, Cornell University, and author of The Joy of X)
"A lively, expert, and definitely not dumbed-down account of why we're curious." (Kirkus Reviews)
“It’s impossible to imagine creativity or invention without curiosity, and one could hardly ask for a richer or more engaging exploration of human curiosity than the one provided by Mario Livio in Why?. This book is an intellectual feast for any curious person." (Jeffrey M. Schwartz MD, Research Psychiatrist UCLA, author of (with Sharon Begley) The Mind and the Brain and (with Rebecca Gladding) You are Not Your Brain)
“Whether in science or art, curiosity is essential to progress—but what is it, exactly? Mixing historical narratives with interviews, and throwing in a dash of neuroscience, Mario Livio explores whether we are inquisitive because curiosity feels good in itself or because finding out something new removes an irritation. It can be both, he concludes, and different types of curiosity serve different purposes. Livio's book doesn't pretend to have all the answers, but it might well spur your own curiosity.”
(David Lindley, author of Uncertainty: Einstein, Heisenberg, Bohr, and the Struggle for the Soul of Science, and Where Does the Weirdness Go: Why Quantum is Strange but Not as Strange as you Think)
"This cogent book presents the scientific research on curiosity in understandable ways without too much jargon. It answers many (although not all) of our potential questions about curiosity—including what many originally believed killed the cat." (Joseph Peschel Science)
"Lively. . . . Provocative." (USA Today)
“In Why?, astrophysicist Mario Livio argues that humans are the only species to ask not just what, where or who, but also why. . . . [He} includes some fascinating tidbits along the way." (Katherine Harmon Courage The Washington Post)
"Explores curiosity from a wide variety of angles and shows the author to be astute and 'curious about curiosity.' The book is well worth reading simply for the breadth of information about the subject, but also provides tips and cues readers may use to increase their own level of curiosity.”
(Christopher M. Doran New York Journal of Books)
About the Author
Mario Livio is an internationally known astrophysicist, a bestselling author, and a popular speaker who has appeared on The Daily Show, 60 Minutes, and NOVA. He is the author of the national bestseller Brilliant Blunders and other books. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Curiosity does not correlate extremely strongly with any other particular skill. Livio points out that two of the most curious people of all time, Leonardo da Vinci and Charles Darwin, were by their own admission not very mathematically gifted. On the other hand Einstein, Richard Feynman and Isaac Newton were mathematical prodigies.
One common thread that he points to is the ability to visualize a problem. Leonardo's curiosity arose out of his work as an artist. He wanted to depict the human body, water, waves and light accurately. To do so he pursued an insatiable curiosity about the factors that influence their appearance. Richard Feynman was not a skilled artist, but he was an inveterate doodler, renowned for his "Feynman diagrams" to explain what was going on in the world of subatomic particles.
A second common thread was that they were curious about everything. Feynman's colleague Murray Gell Mann was exasperated because Feynman would let himself go off on so many tangents that he seemed not to focus on his work. They make delightful reading in his biographies. He learned to play the frigadora so he could march in the carnival band in Rio de Janeiro. He learned how to crack safes so he could get his hands on classified documents when he was working on the Manhattan project. He taught himself and obscure Asian language, Tavu if memory serves, from the inaccessible heart of the Soviet Union simply because he was fascinated by the people and wanted to travel there.
This is the third book I have read on related themes just in the past couple of months. It is worth mentioning the other two because they are so unique. The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin's Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World - and Us talks about bird evolution, and then delves into human evolution through sexual selection. Sexual selection, in turn, was driven, as the title suggests, by our sense of beauty. In particular, women exercise a great deal of choice, it appears, in our evolution and their preferences may have led us to become artists, musicians, and ultimately to develop the power of speech.
The second one, even more closely related, is The Evolution of Imagination. Although neither author delves into the relationship, imagination and curiosity are intricately connected. Both authors talk about fMRI imaging to see what was going on in the brain. Both discuss psychological tests designed to tease out the brain functions behind imagination and curiosity, respectively. The author of the imagination book has some satisfying material on the evolutionary explanation of imagination.
I recommend all three books highly. Each of them has very useful insights into how we have evolved to be the way we are, how unique we are in the animal kingdom, and how recently we came into these magnificent faculties.
In the end, the final couple of chapters really redeemed the book, as for the rest of the book, I cannot really put a finger on why the material failed to engage my….curiosity, but it did not.
This is a thin book, not really an academic tome on the science and history of curiosity, yet it retains that flavor throughout. Dr. Livio is a good writer, and undertook a very logical and systematic approach to telling the story, I expected no less from and eminent astrophysicist.
The first chapter examines the very human trait of being curious. He very nicely and in the fine story telling fashion of these kind of books to lay out the ground work for examining what curiosity is and what curiosity means to him personally, as he is the primary investigator of this book.
Three chapters are about people, people who has exhibited the kind of intense curiosity that enticed Dr. Livio to examine the topic. Two chapters tells the story of two legendary polymaths from the past: Leonardo da Vinci and Richard Feynman. These were entertaining and knowledgeable chapters telling the stories of the intellectual prowess of two remarkable men. He makes the case that curiosity is what drove these men to the achievements that they have accomplished. While they are not complete biographies of these two giants of science and curiosity seekers, the two chapters fully drew my attention into the story. Much later, Dr. Livio interviewed living polymaths, people who exhibit the same kind of intense curiosity as Leonardo and Feynman. They are living in the modern world, and their stories are similarly engaging, although they are just a little less fascinating since they have yet to come to a complete picture of the result of their curiosity since their productive life is far from over.
A very scientifically satisfying and thorough examination of curiosity was undertaken through the usual process of reviewing and encapsulating the most recent research being done in the sciences. A substantial chapter was devoted to the anthropology of curiosity, two chapters were devoted to a competent review of what we know about curiosity from the psychological and neuroscience aspects of the topic. A chapter was devoted to the human love of curiosity, a historical look at our civilization and how curiosity drives us into achieving what we have achieved as a civilization. In the end two chapters were devoted to asking the question Why Curiosity and an epilogue which nicely summarizes the book.
I liked the organization, I liked the approach, and it should have been quite an easy sell to me, but it was challenging for me to completely engage in the stories and studies. I would postulate that Dr. Livio made his case in a pretty clinical way. The psychological studies, as well as the neuroscience chapters were kind of a slog because I was not familiar with those areas and I was struggling with some of the conclusions and arguments. I am not sure if doing more with what he had or whether doing less with what he had would have helped. I think I still would have had a challenging time. Perhaps in skimming over the book after some time had passed would do the trick.
Indeed, I am very glad that this book was written and at least this was placed in the popular literature for the sake of posterity. I believe that it is a capable and informative book on the subject of curiosity, which made me curious and being curious, which after all is what the purpose of the book is supposed to be.