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The Upright Thinkers

The Human Journey from Living in Trees to Understanding the Cosmos

By Leonard Mlodinow
16-minute read
Audio available
The Upright Thinkers: The Human Journey from Living in Trees to Understanding the Cosmos by Leonard Mlodinow

The Upright Thinkers (2015) takes you through the fascinating evolution of science, tracing the footsteps and influence of major figures along the way – from Galileo to Einstein to Heisenberg. These blinks will start with a trip back in time to the first moments humans learned to control fire, and will leave you with a brief summary of quantum mechanics.

  • Science geeks
  • Anyone who enjoyed science class but wants to refresh their memory
  • Students interested in the history of the natural sciences

Leonard Mlodinow, PhD, is an American physicist, author and a leading researcher in the field of quantum theory. He has written books alongside colleagues such as Stephen Hawking, and is the author of The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives, which was a New York Times notable book of the year and one of Amazon’s choices for best science book of 2008.

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The Upright Thinkers

The Human Journey from Living in Trees to Understanding the Cosmos

By Leonard Mlodinow
  • Read in 16 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 10 key ideas
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The Upright Thinkers: The Human Journey from Living in Trees to Understanding the Cosmos by Leonard Mlodinow
Synopsis

The Upright Thinkers (2015) takes you through the fascinating evolution of science, tracing the footsteps and influence of major figures along the way – from Galileo to Einstein to Heisenberg. These blinks will start with a trip back in time to the first moments humans learned to control fire, and will leave you with a brief summary of quantum mechanics.

Key idea 1 of 10

The foundation of scientific thinking was laid when curious-minded humans began working together.

As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Similarly, scientific thinking didn’t spring up overnight; it took eons for human beings to develop scientific methods and analysis.

We can thank human nature and our inherent curiosity for this eventual breakthrough. Throughout human evolution, curiosity and inventiveness have been crucial to the survival of our species.

The tools that early humans created and the fire that we learned how to control were vital to keeping ourselves fed and keeping predators like saber-toothed tigers at bay.

This kind of curiosity and knack for problem solving has always been an innate and unique aspect of human nature.

Unlike chimpanzees, we can see how human children play with toys while diligently trying to figure out how they work, or why a tower of wooden blocks keeps toppling over.

With this curiosity already providing an advantage as compared to other species, innovation really took off once humans started living and cooperating with one another.

Around 11,500 years ago in modern-day Turkey, people formed the earliest communities to worship gods and exchange ideas.

Cohabitation came with a lot of advantages, chief among them being that it enabled people to share past experiences with one another, create a pool of knowledge to work with and use this knowledge to come up with early innovations such as irrigation systems.

This is essentially the same type of brainstorming and problem solving that happens among the employees of creative companies like Google and Apple.

Another advantage of cohabitation was that it allowed for the distribution of work. In Mesopotamia around 7000 BCE, people began to assign tasks within the community, which allowed individuals to focus on one job each day rather than fretting over all the daily activities that are essential to survival.

This eventually led people to have occupations, such as bakers, brewers and blacksmiths.

In turn, this division of labor gave rise to schools, which appeared roughly 5,000 years ago, giving people a place to learn professional knowledge from experts in their field.

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