Big Ideas Reading Group
In early 2009,
a Special Interest Group
of San Francisco Regional Mensa began meeting as a reading group,
with the theme of big ideas.
We meet the second Saturday of the month at either of two
standard meeting locations
- 3-5pm at Le Boulanger, 20488 Stevens Creek Blvd., Cupertino, CA 95014.
Le Boulanger is at the southeast corner of De Anza and Stevens Creek in Cupertino, in front of the Cypress Hotel, with plenty of free garage parking.
- 4-6pm at Kepler's Books at 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park.
Parking is available in their underground garage.
All are welcome to attend.
We have members from all over Silicon Valley and the
San Francisco Bay Area.
Each book is selected by the group at least a month in advance.
Members are encouraged to read the book before the meeting.
The format is open discussion,
with just enough moderation to assure
everyone gets a fair chance to share.
We try to follow these guidelines.
Our book list is below.
We use this email list for
announcements and some discussion.
We often reconvene for dinner afterward, so see the restaurants link below.
This unsolicited testimonial from Mary E. expresses it well:
I love the Big Ideas Reading Group too (even though for various reasons of life logistics that I won't go into here I have missed the last few sessions). I highly recommend it for anyone within driving distance of Cupertino (California). It is my all time favorite Mensa event. That group reads mostly great non-fiction, and I am really loving this month's book (Too big to know... by David Weinberger). Besides the books being really good (at least for my non-fiction tastes), there are always lots of interesting discussions, which in typical Mensa fashion often wonder far from the book :)
We welcome and encourage cross-participation
a Special Interest Group of American Mensa.
We agreed to meet again in 100 years. I propose that we thank Aubrey de Gray, reread his book, and compare his expectations to what actually happened.
- The Next Fifty Years: Science in the First Half of the 21st
Century, edited by John Brockman
- Conversations on Consciousness, a collection of interviews
conducted by Susan Blackmore
- Decoding the Universe by Charles Seife
- The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human
Intelligence, by Ray Kurzweil
- Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, by Daniel
- Unweaving the Rainbow by Richard Dawkins
- How We Believe by Michael Shermer
- Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever by Ray
Kurzweil and Terry Grossman
- 12-12-2009 The Political Mind by George Lakoff
- 01-16-2010 Descartes Error:Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain by Antonio
- 02-13-2010 The Monty Hall Problem: The Remarkable Story of Math's Most
Contentious Brain Teaser, by Jason Rosenhouse
- 03-13-2010 Good Calories, Bad Calories, by Gary Taubes
- 04-10-2010 Don't Believe Everything You Think: The 6 Basic Mistakes We Make
in Thinking, by Thomas Kida
- 05-08-2010 The Intelligent Universe, by James Gardner
- 06-12-2010 How We Decide, by Jonah Lehrer
- 07-10-2010 The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence for
Evolution, by Richard Dawkins
- 08-14-2010 Quantum Evolution, by Johnjoe McFadden
- 09-11-2010 Introducing Evolutionary Psychology, by Dylan Evans and Oscar Zarate
- 10-09-2010 If the Universe Is Teeming with Aliens... Where Is Everybody?
Fifty Solutions to Fermi's Paradox and the Problem of Extraterrestrial
Life, by Stephen Webb
- 11-13-2010 Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell
- 12-11-2010 The Faith Instinct: How Religion Evolved & Why It Endures, by
- 01-08-2011 Visions, by Michio Kaku
- 02-12-2011 Fabric of Reality, by David Deutsch
- 03-12-2011 (no March meeting)
- 04-02-2011 Godel, Escher, Bach, by Douglas Hofstadter
- 05-14-2011 Godel, Escher, Bach, by Douglas Hofstadter
- 06-11-2011 The Grand Design, by Hawking and Mlodinow
- 07-09-2011 Unbounding the Future: The Nanotechnology Revolution, by Drexler, Peterson, and Pegamit.
- 08-13-2011 Beyond AI, by J. Storrs Hall
- 09-10-2011 Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos,
by M. Mitchell Waldrop
- 10-08-2011 Guesstimation: Solving the World's Problems on the Back of A Cocktail Napkin, by Lawrence Weinstein
- 11-12-2011 Ending Aging: The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs that Could Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime, by Aubrey de Gray
- 12-10-2011 Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe, by Peter D. Ward & Donald Brownlee
- 01-14-2012 Physics for Future Presidents, by Richard Muller
- 02-11-2012 The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love,
Character, and Achievment, by David Brooks
- 03-10-2012 The War of Worldviews--Science vs Spirituality,
by Leonard Mlodinow with Deepak Chopra
- 04-14-2012 The Clock of the Long Now: Time and Responsibility. The ideas Behind the World's Slowest Computer, by Stewart Brand
- 05-12-2012 The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World, by David Deutsch
- 06-16-2012 Note date change. Truth: A Guide, by Simon Blackburn
- 07-14-2012 Do Not Go Gentle, Book One, Discovery [book one of three], by Mark Millstorm (Muhlestein).
Mark is a member of our group.
This is his new book that has just came out on Kindle.
You can download a free copy of Kindle and then download the book at $0.99.
- 08-11-2012 Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren't the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room, by David Weinberger
- 09-08-2012 [4pm at Kepler's Books] Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman, with a 2pm pre-meeting event
- 10-13-2012 Knocking on Heaven's Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World, by Lisa Randall
- 11-10-2012 [4pm at Kepler's Books]
The Evolution of Cooperation (Revised Edition), by Robert Axelrod with forward by Richard Dawkins.
- 12-08-2012 The Drunkard's Walk:How Randomness Rules Our Lives, by Leonard Mlodinow.
- 01-12-2013 [4pm at Kepler's Books] The Perfect Swarm: The Science of Complexity in Everyday Life, by Len Fisher.
- 02-09-2013 Paradox: The Nine Greatest Enigmas in Physics, by Jim Al-Halili.
- 03-09-2013 [4pm at Kepler's Books] Nine Algorithms That Changed the Future: The Ingenious Ideas That Drive Today's Computers, by John MacCormick.
- 04-13-2013 NOTE: The book originally scheduled has been set aside. The publisher has retracted it because of accusations of plagiarism etc.
In its place, we will discuss
Who's in Charge? Free Will and the Science of the Brain, by Michael Gazzaniga.
- 05-11-2013 [4pm at Kepler's Books] Models. Behaving. Badly.: Why Confusing Illusion with Reality Can Lead to Disaster, on Wall Street and in Life.
- 06-08-2013 The Mind--Leading Scientists Explore the Brain, Memory, Personality, and Happiness.
- 07-13-2013 The Future of Everything -- The
Science of Prediction, by David Orrell, Ph.D
- 08-10-2013 [4pm at Kepler's Books] Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior, by Leonard Mlodinow
- 09-14-2013 [4pm at Kepler's Books] The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos, by Brian Greene
- 10-12-2013 The Golden Ticket: P, NP, and the Search for the Impossible, by Lance Fortnow
- 11-02-2013 date change and [4pm at Kepler's Books] The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, by Jonathan Haidt
- 12-14-2013 The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail — but Some Don't, by Nate Silver
- 01-11-2014 [4pm at Kepler's Books] Bad Science, by Ben Goldacre.
We followed the discussion with a holiday celebration, a Chinese dinner.
- 02-08-2014 Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty, by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson.
- 03-15-2014 [date change and 4pm at Kepler's Books]
The 4% Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality, by Richard Panek
- 04-12-2014 Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better, by Clive Thompson
- 05-10-2014 [4pm at Kepler's Books] Naked Statitistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data, by Charles Wheelan.
- 06-14-2014 How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed, by Ray Kurzweil
- 07-12-2014 [4pm at Kepler's Books] Probably Approximately Correct: Nature Algorithms for Learning and Prospering in a Complex World, by Leslie Valiant.
- 08-09-2014 Kinds of Minds:Toward An Understanding Of Consciousness, by Daniel C. Dennett.
After the meeting, we met for dinner to celebrate 5 years of BIRG!
- 09-06-2014 [date change and 4pm at Kepler's Books] Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality, by Max Tegmark
- 10-11-2014 Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain
- 11-08-2014 Computing with Quantum Cats: From Colossus to Qubits, by John Gribbin.
(replacing the original chice of Quantum Computing Since Democritus, by Scott Aaronson)
- 12-06-2014 [date change and 4pm at Kepler's Books] Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe, by Lee Smolin
- 01-10-2015 [4pm at Kepler's Books] The Map & The Territory, by Alan Greenspan
- 02-14-2015 Will You Be Alive 10 Years From Now?
- 03-14-2015 [4pm at Kepler's Books] The Improbability Principle
- 04-11-2015 [4pm at Kepler's Books] Intuition Pumps, by Daniel Dennett
- 05-09-2015 [4pm at Kepler's Books] How We Learn, by Benedict Carey
- 06-13-2015 [4pm at Kepler's Books] A Skeptics Guide to the Mind, by Robert A. Burton
- 07-11-2015 [3pm at Le Boulanger, followed by 6th anniversary dinner] Explaining the Computational Mind.
- 08-08-2015 Entanglement, by Amir D. Aczel
- 09-12-2015 [4pm at Kepler's books] Quantum Computing Since Democritus, by Scott Aaronson.
- 10-10-2015 [4pm at Kepler's books] The Island of Knowledge -- The Limits of Science and the Search for Meaning, by Marcelo Gleiser.
- 11-14-2015 [4pm at Kepler's books] Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, by Mary Roach.
- 12-12-2015 Social: Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect, by Matthew D. Leiberman, Ph.D..
- 01-09-2016 [3pm at Le Boulanger] Nothing: Surprising Insights Everywhere from Zero to Oblivion, by Jeremy Webb.
- 02-13-2016 [4pm at Kepler's Books] How-Nature-Works-Self-Organized Criticality, by Per Bak.
- 03-12-2016 [4pm at Kepler's Books] The Perfect Theory: A Century of Geniuses and the Battle Over General Relativity, by Prof. Pedro Ferreira.
- 04-09-2016 The Science of Interstellar, by Kip Thorne.
- 05-15-2016 The Quark and the Jaguar: Adventures in the Simple and the Complex, by Murray Gell-Mann.
- 06-11-2016 Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies, by Erik Brynjolfsson, and Andrew McAfee.
- 07-09-2016 [4pm at Kepler's Books] What Philosophy Can Do, by Gary Gutting.
- 08-13-2016 [4pm at Kepler's Books] Climbing Mount Improbable, by Richard Dawkins.
- 09-10-2016 [4pm at Kepler's Books] Spooky Action at a Distance, by George Musser.
- 10-08-2016 [4pm at Kepler's Books] Symmetry: A Journey into the Patterns of Nature, by Marcus du Sautoy.
- 11-12-2016 [4pm at Kepler's Books] Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think, by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier.
- 12-10-2016 Predictive Analytics: The Power to Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie or Die, by Eric Siegel.
- 01-14-2017 Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, by Atul Gwande.
- 02-11-2017 [4pm at Kepler's Books] Evolution of the Social Contract, by Brian Skyrms.
- 03-11-2017 [4pm at Kepler's Books] Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics, by Richard H. Thaler.
- 04-08-2017 [4pm at Kepler's Books] A Different Universe: Reinventing Physics from the Bottom Down, by Robert Laughlin.
- 05-13-2017 Dinner on the Deck Now: The Physics of Time, by Richard A. Muller, author of Physics for Future Presidents.
- 06-10-2017 [4pm at Kepler's Books] Void: The Strange Physics of Nothing (Foundational Questions in Science), by James Owen.
- 07-15-2017 DATE CHANGE! and [4pm at Kepler's Books] The Big Picture: on the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself, by Sean Carroll.
- 08-12-2017 Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe, by Roger Penrose.
- 09-09-2017 [4pm at Kepler's Books with celebratory dinner] How Not to be Wrong The Power of Mathematical Thinking, by Jordan Ellenberg.
- 10-14-2017 [4pm at Kepler's Books] How the Mind Works, by Steve Pinker.
- 11-11-2017 [4pm at Kepler's Books] The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone, by Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach.
- 12-09-2017 [3pm at Le Boulanger] Brainwashed: the Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience, by Sally Satel, Scott O. Lilienfeld.
- 01-13-2018 [3pm at Le Boulanger with Dinner on the Deck] Capital in the Twenty-First Century, by Thomas Pikkety.
- 02-10-2018 [4pm at Kepler's Books] Cyberspies: The Secret History of Surveillance, Hacking, and Digital Espionage, by Gordon Corera.
- 03-10-2018 [4pm at Kepler's Books] Language: The Cultural Tool, by Daniel L. Everett.
- 04-14-2018 [4pm at Kepler's Books] The Gene: An Intimate History, by Siddhartha Mukherjee.
- 05-12-2018 [4pm at Kepler's Books] I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and Grander View of Life, by Ed Yong.
- 06-09-2018 [3pm at Le Boulanger] Artificial Intelligence: What Everyone Needs to Know, by Jerry Kaplan.
- 07-14-2018 [3pm at Le Boulanger with Dinner on the Deck] Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future, by Johan Norberg.
- 08-11-2018 [4pm at Kepler's Books] The Retreat of Western Liberalism, by Edward Luce.
- 09-15-2018 change and [4pm 4pm at Kepler's Books] Life Unfolding: How the Human Body Creates Itself, by Jamie A. Davies.
- 10-13-2018 [4pm at Kepler's Books] Superintelligence, by Nick Bostrom.
- 11-10-2018 [4pm at Kepler's Books] A Crack in Creation, by Jennifer Doudna and Samuel Sternberg.
- 12-08-2018 [3pm at Le Boulanger with Dinner on the Deck] Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, by Max Tegmark.
- 01-12-2019 [3pm at Le Boulanger with Dinner on the Deck] The Great Unknown: Seven Journeys to the Frontiers of Science, by Marcus Du Sautoy.
- 02-09-2019 [4pm at Kepler's Books] Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future, by Martin Ford.
- 03-09-2019 [4pm at Kepler's Books] Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil deGrasse Tyson.
- 04-13-2019 [4pm at Kepler's Books] The Order of Time, by Carlo Rovelli.
- 05-11-2019 [4pm at Kepler's Books with celebratory dinner at Black Pepper] The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting up a Generation for Failure, by Jonathon Haight & George Lukianoff
- 06-08-2019 [3pm at Le Boulanger with Dinner on the Deck] Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World--and Why Things Are Better Than You Think, by Hans Rosling
- 07-13-2019 [2pm at Le Boulanger] Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, by Yuval Noah Harari
- 08-10-2019 [4pm at Kepler's Books] What Is Real?: The Unfinished Quest For the Meaning of Quantum Physics by Adam Becker
- 09-07-2019 [Date change and 4pm at Kepler's Books] Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain, by Antonio Damasio
- 10-12-2019 [4pm at Kepler's Books] The Future of Humanity: Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality, and Our Destiny Beyond Earth, by Michio Kaku
- 11-16-2019 [Date change and 4pm at Kepler's Books] Brief Answers to the Big Questions, by Stephen Hawking
- 12-14-2019 [2pm at Le Boulanger with Dinner on the Deck] A Bee in a Cathedral: and 99 other Scientific Analogies, by Joel Levy
- 01-11-2020 [2pm at Le Boulanger with Dinner on the Deck] Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker
- 02-08-2020 [4pm at Kepler's Books] The Consciousness Instinct, by Michael Gazzaniga
- 03-28-2020 [4pm Date change and held via Zoom * because of COVID-19] The Shape of Inner Space: String Theory and the Geometry of the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions, by Shing-Tung Yau
- 04-11-2020 [4pm held via Zoom * because of COVID-19] A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived, by Adam Rutherford and Siddhartha Mukherjee
- 05-09-2020 [4pm by Zoom] Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life, by Naasim Taleb
- 06-13-2020 [4pm by Zoom] The Math of Life and Death: 7 Mathematical Principles That Shape Our Lives, by Kit Yates
- 07-11-2020 [4pm by Zoom] Mathematics: A Very Short Introduction, by Timothy Gowers
- 08-15-2020 [4pm by Zoom] Permanent Record, by Edward Snowden
- 09-12-2020 [4pm by Zoom] What the Future Looks Like: Scientists Predict the Next Great Discoveries―and Reveal How Today’s Breakthroughs Are Already Shaping Our World, by Jim Al-Khalili (Editor)
- 10-10-2020 [4pm by Zoom] Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past, by David Reich
- 11-14-2020 [4pm by Zoom] Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime, by Sean Carroll
- 12-12-2020 [4pm by Zoom] How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, by Michael Pollan
- 01-09-2021 [4pm by Zoom] The Doomsday Calculation: How an Equation That Predicts the Future is Transforming Everything We Know About Life and the Universe, by William Poundstone
- 02-13-2021 [4pm by Zoom] Good Economics for Hard Times, by Banerjee and Duflo
- 03-13-2021 NOTE: [4pm by Zoom] Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe, by Stephen Strogatz
- 04-10-2021 NOTE: [4pm by Zoom] Lifespan: Why we Age -- and Why We Don’t Have To, by David A. Sinclair, Ph.D.
- 05-08-2021 NOTE: [4pm by Zoom] Fundamentals: Ten keys to Reality by Frank Wilczek
* Zoom meeting details sent via the email list.
An expanded book list has
a brief description of some of the books.
This bookshelf has
the candidates for our next round of reading.