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The Half-Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date

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The Half-Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

New insights from the science of science
 
Facts change all the time. Smoking has gone from doctor recommended to deadly. We used to think the Earth was the center of the universe and that Pluto was a planet. For decades, we were convinced that the brontosaurus was a real dinosaur. In short, what we know about the world is constantly changing.
 
But it turns out theres an order to the state of knowledge, an explanation for how we know what we know. Samuel Arbesman is an expert in the field of scientometrics—literally the science of science. Knowl­edge in most fields evolves systematically and predict­ably, and this evolution unfolds in a fascinating way that can have a powerful impact on our lives.
 
Doctors with a rough idea of when their knowl­edge is likely to expire can be better equipped to keep up with the latest research. Companies and govern­ments that understand how long new discoveries take to develop can improve decisions about allocating resources. And by tracing how and when language changes, each of us can better bridge gen­erational gaps in slang and dialect.
 
Just as we know that a chunk of uranium can break down in a measurable amount of time—a radioactive half-life—so too any given fields change in knowledge can be measured concretely. We can know when facts in aggregate are obsolete, the rate at which new facts are created, and even how facts spread.
 
Arbesman takes us through a wide variety of fields, including those that change quickly, over the course of a few years, or over the span of centuries. He shows that much of what we know consists of “mesofacts”—facts that change at a middle timescale, often over a single human lifetime. Throughout, he of­fers intriguing examples about the face of knowledge: what English majors can learn from a statistical analysis of The Canterbury Tales, why its so hard to measure a mountain, and why so many parents still tell kids to eat their spinach because its rich in iron.

 

The Half-life of Facts is a riveting journey into the counterintuitive fabric of knowledge. It can help us find new ways to measure the world while accepting the limits of how much we can know with certainty.

Synopsis:

New insights from the science of science

 

Facts change all the time. Smoking has gone from doctor recommended to deadly. We used to think the Earth was the center of the universe and that the brontosaurus was a real dinosaur. In short, what we know about the world is constantly changing.

 

Samuel Arbesman shows us how knowledge in most fields evolves systematically and predictably, and how this evolution unfolds in a fascinating way that can have a powerful impact on our lives.

 

He takes us through a wide variety of fields, including those that change quickly, over the course of a few years, or over the span of centuries.

Synopsis:

Facts change all the time. The age at which women should get a mammogram has increased. Smoking has gone from doctor recommended to deadly while the healthiness of carbs and fat seems to be in constant flux. We used to think the Earth was the center of the universe, that Pluto was a planet, and that the brontosaurus was a real dinosaur. What we know about the world is constantly changing.
 
Samuel Arbesman is an expert in scientometrics, literally the science of science—how we know what we know. It turns out that knowledge in most fields evolves in systematic and predictable ways, and understanding that evolution can be enormously powerful. For instance, knowing how different branches of medicine overturn their bodies of knowledge can improve the way we train (and retrain) physicians.
 
The Half-Life of Facts features fascinating examples from fields as diverse as technology and literature. It will help us find new ways to measure the world while accepting the limits of how much we can know with certainty.

About the Author

Samuel Arbesman is an applied mathematician and network scientist. He is a Senior Scholar at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and a fellow at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Atlantic, Wired, New Scientist and the Boston Globe. He lives in Kansas City.

 

Visit www.arbesman.net

Product Details

ISBN:
9781591844723
Author:
Arbesman, Samuel
Publisher:
Current
Subject:
General science
Subject:
Science Reference-General
Subject:
Science Reference-Philosophy of Science
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Paperback / softback
Publication Date:
20120927
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
from 12
Language:
English
Illustrations:
b/w illustrations throughout
Pages:
256
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in 1 lb
Age Level:
from 18

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Related Subjects

Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » Medical Specialties
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Reference » Science Reference » General
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Science and Mathematics » Mathematics » Probability and Statistics » Statistics

The Half-Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date Used Hardcover
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$17.50 In Stock
Product details 256 pages Current Hardcover - English 9781591844723 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by ,
New insights from the science of science

 

Facts change all the time. Smoking has gone from doctor recommended to deadly. We used to think the Earth was the center of the universe and that the brontosaurus was a real dinosaur. In short, what we know about the world is constantly changing.

 

Samuel Arbesman shows us how knowledge in most fields evolves systematically and predictably, and how this evolution unfolds in a fascinating way that can have a powerful impact on our lives.

 

He takes us through a wide variety of fields, including those that change quickly, over the course of a few years, or over the span of centuries.

"Synopsis" by ,
Facts change all the time. The age at which women should get a mammogram has increased. Smoking has gone from doctor recommended to deadly while the healthiness of carbs and fat seems to be in constant flux. We used to think the Earth was the center of the universe, that Pluto was a planet, and that the brontosaurus was a real dinosaur. What we know about the world is constantly changing.
 
Samuel Arbesman is an expert in scientometrics, literally the science of science—how we know what we know. It turns out that knowledge in most fields evolves in systematic and predictable ways, and understanding that evolution can be enormously powerful. For instance, knowing how different branches of medicine overturn their bodies of knowledge can improve the way we train (and retrain) physicians.
 
The Half-Life of Facts features fascinating examples from fields as diverse as technology and literature. It will help us find new ways to measure the world while accepting the limits of how much we can know with certainty.

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