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Institute of Advanced Study

Thinking About Almost Everything

Ed. Ash Amin and Michael O'Neill, with Donna-Marie Brown and Shari Daya

Published in March 2009 by Profile Books, Thinking About Almost Everything is a book which addresses major questions of human knowledge, and offers a unique insight into a wide range of innovative ideas currently being explored in the Arts, the Social Sciences, and the Sciences.  This genuinely multi-disciplinary book presents provocative thinking about a remarkable range of timely and relevant topics, and sparkles with the energy of fresh and original thinking.

Thinking About Almost Everything takes inspiration for its title from one of our most famous members - honorary graduate and University Chancellor, Bill Bryson - whose book A Short History of Nearly Everything won the Aventis Prize for science literature in 2006. Whilst the book shares Bill's playful and impassioned approach to critical subject matter, this illustrated paperback is about far more than Science. 

The book claims a special place for ideas, arguing that they provide a vantage point, and can help us understand the best ways of shaping the world we inhabit.  The ideas in Thinking About Almost Everything, are laden with potential--the potential, for example, to generate belief in the power of art to improve health, science to extend life or sight, religion to temper extremism, feeling and irrationality to work with reason. 

Centrally, the book invites critical and creative scrutiny of known and unknown ideas in a quest to Light up Minds, as the subtitle of the book proposes.  The essays tackle a variety of subjects, from the cosmic dark energy, the Earth's DNA and the science of seeing, to urbanism, terrorism, poetic legacies, pornography, the housing market and thinking with feeling.  Difficult and interesting topics are tackled decisively in stimulating brief essays written by many of Durham University's leading scientists, literary scholars, historians, musicologists, geographers, philosophers, archaeologists, anthropologists, and more.

The book, edited by two leading academics of the University who are both Directors of Durham's Institute of Advanced Study, is quite different from other university publications; communicating authoritative thinking on a wide spectrum of topics of public interest in a lively, open and accessible manner. The aim of the essays is to provoke thought and further interest, rather than to instruct.  In doing so, Thinking About Almost Everything shows that universities can play a central role in shaping public opinion in a thinking society.

The Durham launch for this book took place on 5 March 2009 with Bill Bryson and was followed by a London launch at the British Academy on 19 May 2009 with George Alagiah OBE.

Copies of this book can now be purchased in all major book stores or online from Amazon