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When the Earth Was Flat: All the Bits of…

When the Earth Was Flat: All the Bits of Science We Got Wrong

by Graeme Donald

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402426,667 (3.6)1

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This is truly a dreadful and delightful book all in one package. When the Earth Was Flat, All the Bits of Science We Got Wrong is cleverly written. I learned so much about subjects that I thought that I already knew about. The author has a dry sense of humor and down to earth approach that help to acknowledge fun as well as hard facts. Some of the subjects addressed are :
  • probable origin of HIV,
  • the horrible work in progress of WWII genocide,
  • origin of today use of cocaine,
  • the beginning of the still-continuing and rather questionable trend for colonic irrigation,
  • or the origin of vibrator commercialization (by the way, it's related to first acknowledge victims of repetitive strain injury, yes ladies and gentlemen, the doctors themselves are the poor victims).
    It's a book worth being read again, it's a mine of information which explains so much about the world as we know it today.
  • ( )
    1 vote electrice | Jan 3, 2014 |
    This is a populist look at various now discredited scientific theories and how they affected society and subsequently came to be disproved. The range is very wide; dangerous theories with evil consequences (e.g. phrenology, eugenics); well known Medieval scientific theories reflecting the state of scientific knowledge at the time (e.g. alchemy, the four humours, the miasma theory of disease); benevolent views of substances now regarded as harmful (e.g. tobacco smoke cures, Victorian era patent medicines based on cocaine and opium); alternative theories about the Earth (flat earth/hollow earth) that survive in a limited way today; modern-sounding theories that die hard (e.g. the effectiveness of subliminal advertising); and even ridiculous ones such as the treatment of hysterical women in the 19th century by doctors, ahem, using their fingers to massage their patients' lower genital organs, a development which led to the invention of the first mechanical vibrators in the late 19th century so these ladies could effect their own "cure"!

    There was one chapter I thought ill-placed here, that on the Black Death, which treated the majority opinion that this was caused by bubonic plague as "bad science", and instead advancing the anthrax theory as the most likely culprit. The latter is a theory held by some, but cannot plausibly be presented as true science superseding the "wrong science" of bubonic plague.

    Overall, though, a sometimes amusing, sometimes horrifying, always interesting book. ( )
    1 vote john257hopper | Apr 8, 2013 |
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    FROM ANCIENT TIMES to the modern day, science has strayed many times from the truth.
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    (Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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    This book is the perfect gift for anyone with an interest in the world's scientific history, exposing the scientific theories that were once widely believed but have since been disproven.

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