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13 Things That Don't Make Sense: The Most Baffling Scientific Mysteries of Our Timeby Michael Brooks
Synopses & Reviews
Science starts to get interesting when things dont make sense.
Sciences best-kept secret is this: Even today, there are experimental results and reliable data that the most brilliant scientists can neither explain nor dismiss. In the past, similar “anomalies” have revolutionized our world, like in the sixteenth century, when a set of celestial anomalies led Copernicus to realize that the Earth goes around the sun and not the reverse, and in the 1770s, when two chemists discovered oxygen because of experimental results that defied all the theories of the day. And so, if history is any precedent, we should look to todays inexplicable results to forecast the future of science. In 13 Things That Dont Make Sense, Michael Brooks heads to the scientific frontier to meet thirteen modern-day anomalies and discover tomorrows breakthroughs.
13 Things opens at the twenty-third Solvay physics conference, where the scientists present are ready to throw up their hands over an anomaly: is it possible that the universe, rather than slowly drifting apart as the physics of the big bang had once predicted, is actually expanding at an ever-faster speed? From Solvay and the mysteries of the universe, Brooks travels to a basement in Turin to subject himself to repeated shocks in a test of the placebo response. No study has ever been able to definitively show how the placebo effect works, so why has it become a pillar of medical science? Moreover, is 96 percent of the universe missing? Is a 1977 signal from outer space a transmission from an alien civilization? Might giant viruses explain how life began? Why are some NASA satellites speeding up as they get farther from the sun—and what does that mean for the laws of physics?
Spanning disciplines from biology to cosmology, chemistry to psychology to physics, Brooks thrillingly captures the excitement, messiness, and controversy of the battle over where science is headed. “In science,” he writes, “being stuck can be a sign that you are about to make a great leap forward. The things that dont make sense are, in some ways, the only things that matter.”
Book News Annotation:
Journalist Brooks reviews the 13 anomalies scientists love most, reaching into the secrets of physics, biology and psychology. He examines why the Pioneer space project goes on, why the universe is unstable, why cold fusion works, whether living beings are more than just bags of chemicals with options, why Mars may or may not have life (depending on the day and the scientist), whether the aliens have landed, how a giant virus started it all, why free will is a farce, who deceives whom in the placebo effect, and why alternative medicine works when it makes no sense to the scientific mind, which, of course, finds more fun with the odd than the proven. Annotation ©2008 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Based on Brooks' popular article for "New Scientist," this work tackles the most hotly debated topics in science today, and shows how these conundrums are changing the way scientists approach their work and why these issues define science in the 21st century.
Based on Michael Brooks's popular article for New Scientist--one of the most forwarded articles in the magazine's online history--13 THINGS THAT DON'T MAKE SENSE tackles the most hotly debated topics in science today, from the placebo effect to life on Mars, and shows how these conundrums are changing the way scientists approach their work and why these issues will define science in the twenty-first century. Brooks covers such topics as:
- THE MISSING UNIVERSE: Ninety percent of the universe simply does not exist--at least, not in any detectable form. Will we find a way to identify this dark matter, or will Isaac Newton's laws of universal gravitation be proven incorrect?
- THE WOW SIGNAL: In 1977, an astronomer detected a radiation blast, with no known origin, that may have been a transmission from an alien civilization. Debate has raged ever since, but is there any way to know for certain?
- COLD FUSION: Theoretically, it's impossible. Experimentally, it works. It might also solve our energy crisis for good. How can we harness it?
Displaying the accessible appeal that made Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything such a tremendous success, 13 THINGS THAT DON'T MAKE SENSE is science writing at its provocative best.
About the Author
MICHAEL BROOKS, Ph.D., is formerly senior features editor, and now a consultant for New Scientist, in which the wildly popular article on which this book is based first appeared. His writing has appeared in the Guardian, the Independent, and the Observer. He lives in England.
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