. By Michael W. Friedlander:. (Westview, 216 pp, 1999) General audiences. “Where does science end and fruitcakery begin? How can you tell the difference between the cutting edge, the speculative, and the wacky? Physicist Michael Friedlander looks all around the fringes of science and gives a helpful guide to drawing the lines. He is particularly good at showing science as a communal endeavor, with the strengths and weaknesses that implies, and he gives a more truthful account than is usual of how scientific journals and conferences actually work. Friedlander frankly admits that scientists have sometimes manufactured their own social problems, usually through arrogance. He is a "modified realist"; he provides checklists so you can tell the difference between a Galileo and a Velikovsky, but he also shows how scientists like Alfred Wegner (who thought up continental drift) can be essentially correct and yet not be believed. He even reveals one of the open secrets of science: that a theory can be incorrect or widely doubted, like the idea of a "fifth force" in physics, and still be a fruitful source of new research.”
.By Underwood Dudley (MAA, 384 pp, 1992.) GFBR ****. General audiences. About the strange people who become convinced that they have proved mathematical results that just aren’t so. "On the one hand, mathematics is the great leveler of the sciences. Anyone can do mathematical research, with no equipment but pencil and paper. On the other hand, mathematics is the only science where something can be proven, irrefutably and for all time, to be impossible. These two ingredients make mathematics one of the most fertile grounds for inspiring crankery. This book is not only entertaining, the broadness of its examples provides a fascinating insight into the mind of cranks. I couldn't put it down."
.By Robert Park. (Oxford U Press, 230 pp, 1999) GFBR****. Teen-Adult. “Scientific error, says Robert Park, ‘has a way of evolving ... from self-delusion to fraud. I use the term voodoo science to cover them all: pathological science, junk science, pseudoscience, and fraudulent science.’ In pathological science, scientists fool themselves. Junk science refers to scientists who use their expertise to befuddle and mislead others (usually juries or lawmakers). Pseudoscience has the trappings of science without any evidence. Fraudulent science is, well, fraud--old-fashioned lying. Park is well-acquainted with voodoo science in all its forms. Since 1982, he has headed the Washington, D.C., office of the American Physical Society, and he has carried the flag for scientific rationality through cold fusion, homeopathy, ‘Star Wars,’ quantum healing, and sundry attempts to repeal the laws of thermodynamics. Park shows why a ‘disproportionate share of the science seen by the public is flawed’ (because shaky science is more likely to skip past peer review and head straight for the media), and he gives a good tour of recent highlights in Voodoo. He has a rare ability to poke holes compassionately, without excoriating those taken in by their fondest wishes. Park is less forgiving of scientists (especially Edward Teller) when he thinks they've fallen down on the job, a job that should include helping the public separate the scientific wheat from the voodoo chaff.”
By Edward Tenner. (Vintage Books, 431 pp, 1996) GFBR***. General Audiences. If computers really eliminate paperwork, why is the office recycling bin always overflowing? From football padding that makes football more dangerous than rugby, to “low tar” cigarettes that compel smokers to smoke more, from antibiotics that breed new, resistant strains of bacteria to computer software that requires faster processors and more support staff, Edward Tenner offers a virtual encyclopedia of innovation’s unintended consequences. And he shows us what we have to do to survive in a word where “reality is always gaining on us.”
By A. K. Dewdney (Wiley, 180 pp, 1997) GFBR***. Teen-adult. “In this
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