Dan Hurley is an award-winning science journalist whose 2012 feature in The New York Times Magazine, “Can You Make Yourself Smarter?” was one of the magazine’s most-read articles of the year. Featured in the 2013 PBS documentary feature, “Smarter Brains,” Dan has written on the science of increasing intelligence for the Washington Post and Neurology Today. His previous book, Diabetes Rising, was excerpted in Discover and Wired. He has written nearly two dozen articles for the New York Times since 2005.

But wait. Dan also has a secret identity. Beginning on the streets of Chicago in 1983, with a manual typewriter and a little sign that said "60-Second Novels, Written While You Wait," Dan began writing instant stories for passersby. Although started as an exercise in creativity, the stories soon evolved into a kind of instant biography. To celebrate his 10th anniversary, in 1993 he wrote a story from the 18th-floor roof of a Times Square skyscraper on a sheet of high-strength paper that descended to the sidewalk over the course of 18 hours. In 1995, when America Online was the leading Internet access provider, Dan created a writing site for AOL that enjoyed years of popularity. He also published a book collecting his favorite stories. These days Dan still occasionally writes 60-Second Novels at special events around the United States. Maybe that's what keeps him smarter?

The New Science of

Building Brain Power


Dan Hurley







Science Journalist • Author

Dan's new book: Smarter, The New Science of Building Brain Power

For over a century, IQ scores have been viewed by scientists as placing an upper limit on what a person can ever achieve: a cognitive glass ceiling, a number tattooed on the soul. That dogma was shattered in 2008 with the publication of a major study showing that “fluid intelligence”—the ability to learn, solve novel problems, and get to the heart of things—can be significantly increased through training. But are the claims now coming from the flourishing brain-training industry really just a bunch of happy talk?


Expanding upon one of the most-read New York Times Magazine features of 2012, SMARTER penetrates the hot new field of intelligence training to reveal what some researchers call a revolution in human intellectual abilities-and others insist is bogus baloney. To sort fact from self-help drivel, Dan met with over 200 leading scientists. But refusing to take researchers’ word for it, Dan offered himself up as a human guinea pig, road-testing commercial brain-training programs, learning to play the Renaissance lute, joining an intense “boot camp” exercise class, attempting mindfulness meditation, and even undergoing transcranial direct-current stimulation (also known as getting his brain zapped). By the book's end, readers learn whether his efforts made him any smarter. (Spoiler alert: his score on the gold-standard test known as the Raven’s progressive matrices increased by 16%.)


Taking on the defenders of the old faith that IQ is forever, including those who cite it in support of racist cant, Dan

chronicles top-level scientific meetings, including some convened by high-security military funders, where debates go from fierce to downright ugly.


SMARTER also goes after those who claim that intelligence doesn’t matter. Writers like Malcolm Gladwell (Outliers), Daniel Goleman (Emotional Intelligence) and Paul Tough (How Children Succeed) have made the case that IQ pales in importance to hard work, grit, and emotional poise. As Dan writes: “Certainly IQ is not everything; perhaps it’s not even the most important thing, but it’s definitely one of them. It’s not the only reason, but it’s one of the reasons that Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates are richer than you are. (Both Zuckerberg, who founded Facebook, and Sergey Brin, who cofounded Google, were selected in adolescence, in part on the basis of scoring high on standardized tests, to attend the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins, as was Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, better known as Lady Gaga.) It’s how Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel Goleman, and Paul Tough wrote such awesome books. Because they’re smart, and because, as politically incorrect as it has become in polite society to say so, intelligence still matters.”


Certain to be debated, impossible to be ignored, SMARTER chronicles the startling transformation in our understanding of a fundamental human trait: the capacity for rational thought—the ability to learn—and whether a strict limit is set for each of us on the day of our birth, or whether we can do something about it.

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Dan Hurley has written hundreds of science articles in the past two decades, for such outlets as the New York Times, the Washington Post, Wired, Discover, Psychology Today and Neurology Today. Here are two dozen of them…