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13 Things That Don't Make Sense: The Most…
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13 Things That Don't Make Sense: The Most Baffling Scientific Mysteries of… (2009)

by Michael Brooks

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Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
Stick to physics. Homeopathy? Brooks at least ordered the mysteries from dark matter (if as yet, unexplainable) to, well, homeopathy. The continuum of possible to highly improbable is covered.

Not a waste, for Brooks explains his rationale well, but he will certainly fuel and maybe even satisfy the fringe fans (think R. A. Wilson).

I had a subscription to New Scientist (Brooks is the tie-in)several years ago but the issues were to frequent and I couldn't keep up. I wonder if they play with fringes now. ( )
  Razinha | May 23, 2017 |
A popular science book about, funnily enough, 13 things that scientists can't quite work out. It's a few years old now, so there may be new insights, but it is very interesting nonetheless. Matters covered range from physics, through chemistry, and medicine. It makes a fascinating counterpoint to the popular impression that science has removed the mystery from the universe. ( )
  eclecticdodo | Sep 15, 2016 |
The chapter about the placebo effect is the one I was most interested in, that I read most carefully. ?That definitely left too much up in the air, and I hope to find more recent studies trying to figure out just how real that is. ?áAccording to the author, writing in 2008, ?áDrs still prescribe, and pharmacists fill, a *lot* of meds that are of such low dose that they might as well be a placebo. ?áCheck with your pharmacy - make sure you're not taking something trivial!

The 'free will' chapter is also intriguing, but I see other explanations for the experiments that 'proved' we don't have free will. ?áSure, we do a lot of things subconsciously, without full will. ?áFor example, while typing a review, I'll brush hair out of my eyes or scratch my nose without thinking about it. ?áBut I certainly can choose whether or not to get up and make a cup of tea, can I not? ?áAnd isn't that the level of free will that matters?

Most of the chapters are about either anomalies in physics, which I can't understand enough to get worked up about, and the big questions of life, death, and sex, which we're so far from a full understanding of that I'll be dust before the theories about them are developed enough to be relevant.

But this is clearly written, engaging, and not very old - I do recommend it if you're interested. ?á(Just don't put it on your 'to-read-someday' list because it will become old enough to be irrelevant sooner rather than later). ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
This book is a collection of essays about some scientific mysteries, ranging from dark matter in astronomy to homeopathy in biology. As might be expected, some of the topics are discussed more thoroughly and aptly than other topics. For example, the essays on death, sexual reproduction, and placebos were much weaker (and his discussion unconvincing in portions of these discussions) than his essays on astronomy, homeopathy, and physics.

One of the book's strengths is that each area is presented as though it were a mystery with a concrete example; thus, he presents the mystery of the pioneer space probe's trajectory to talk about the physic's puzzle it represents. ( )
  NLytle | May 18, 2016 |


Great book, great info. I think it will humble those that think we know everything about science. It also shows what science should be, and where scientists fail. It is very pro-science and does not try to demean what we do know, just shows we don't know everything. ( )
  JaredChristopherson | Nov 16, 2015 |
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De auteur, een Britse wetenschapsjournalist, probeert met dit boek een opsomming en uitleg te geven van dertien bijzondere wetenschappelijke mysteries die nog steeds niet volledig zijn opgelost. Onderwerpen zoals koude kernfusie, homeopathie, het heelal en ons leven passeren de revue. Aan de hand van diverse bestaande theorieën op het gebied van de (natuur)wetenschappen en verwijzingen naar grote geleerden uit de geschiedenis wordt aangetoond dat er nog geen eenduidige verklaringen zijn voor bepaalde experimenten en waarnemingen van de wereld om ons heen. Hebben wij mensen überhaupt wel een vrije wil? Wat is precies 'donkere energie'? En is er nu wel of geen overtuigend bewijs dat er 'ooit' leven was op Mars? Deze en vele andere vragen worden beantwoord in dit intrigerende boek. De auteur neemt de lezer mee in een bijzondere reis langs tot op heden onverklaarde raadsels van onze wereld. Hoewel het boek vol staat met specialistische termen, leest het prettig. Je raakt gefascineerd. Het is dan ook een aanrader voor lezers met belangstelling voor de natuurwetenschappen.
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Epigraph
The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not "Eureka!," but "That's funny..." - Isaac Asimov
Dedication
To Mr. Sumner, for lasting inspiration and fascination. I hope this repays some of my debt. 

Also to Philippa, Millie, and Zachary for inspiration every day.
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I am standing in the magnificent lobby of the Hotel Metropole in Brussels, watching three Nobel laureates struggle with the elevator.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Haiku summary
Thirteen intriguing
Scientific mysteries
That don't make any sense.
(passion4reading)
From errant spacecrafts
To sex and death on Earth: more
Questions than answers.
(passion4reading)

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385520689, Hardcover)

Product Description
When we look to the "anomalies" that science can’t explain, we often discover where science is about to go. Here are a few of the anomalies that Michael Brooks investigates in 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense:

Homeopathic remedies seem to have biological effects that cannot be explained by chemistry

Gases have been detected on Mars that could only have come from carbon-based life forms

Cold fusion, theoretically impossible and discredited in the 1980s, seems to work in some modern laboratory experiments

It’s quite likely we have nothing close to free will

Life and non-life may exist along a continuum, which may pave the way for us to create life in the near future

Sexual reproduction doesn’t line up with evolutionary theory and, moreover, there’s no good scientific explanation for why we must die

Science starts to get interesting when things don’t make sense.

Science’s 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 today’s inexplicable results to forecast the future of science. In 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense, Michael Brooks heads to the scientific frontier to meet thirteen modern-day anomalies and discover tomorrow’s 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 don’t make sense are, in some ways, the only things that matter."

Amazon.com Exclusive: Anahad O'Connor Reviews 13 Things That Don't Make Sense
Anahad O'Connor, The New York Times' Science Times "Really?" columnist and author of Never Shower in a Thunderstorm, reviews 13 Things That Don't Make Sense exclusively for Amazon:

Michael Brooks opens 13 Things That Don't Make Sense with an anecdote about watching three Nobel laureates struggle to figure out a hotel elevator. It's an amusing story that illustrates at least two things. One, three heads are not always better than one. And two, as every science and health reporter learns their first day on the job, even the world's greatest minds cannot always sort through the problems we expect them to conquer.

It is this latter theme that is at the core of Mr. Brooks' fascinating new book – except in this case, the problems are 13 stubborn mysteries that have stumped top scientists for decades and, in some cases, centuries. Spun out of a popular article that appeared in New Scientist – an article that quickly became one of the most forwarded articles in the magazine's online history – Mr. Brooks' book takes its readers on a lively journey through the cosmos, physics, biology and human nature. Along the way he explores questions such as why scientists cannot account for 90 percent of the universe (hint: dark matter has something to do with it), whether we have already been contacted by alien life but paid little mind, why humans rely on a form of sexual reproduction that, from an evolutionary perspective, is extremely inefficient, and why we are routinely deceived by the placebo effect.

Mr. Brooks expertly works his way through these and other hotly debated quandaries in a smooth, engaging writing style reminiscent of Carl Sagan or Stephen Jay Gould. At times, as I was deeply engrossed in parts of this book, I found myself as captivated and wide-eyed as I was decades ago when I picked up my first science books and found my calling. Mr. Brooks has the ability to make his readers forget their surroundings – in my case a hectic newsroom – and train their minds' eyes on images as foreign as a vast Martian landscape or as distant as a roiling, infant universe. Every mystery is brought to life in vivid detail, and wit and humor are sprinkled throughout.

To be sure, some of the chapters are more entertaining than others. A section on cold fusion, for example, while understandably necessary in a book on scientific mysteries, may not turn out to be quite as captivating for some readers as the chapters that precede and follow it. That may have something to do with the notion that cold fusion has been unfairly maligned and ridiculed by scientists despite its continuing promise, an argument Mr. Brooks lays out well. But it is ultimately in his chapters on the Big Bang, dark matter, and other issues that relate to the cosmos where Mr. Brooks, who holds a Ph.D. in quantum physics, really works his magic. No surprise then that Mr. Brooks is also co-writing a TV series for the Discovery Channel that explores the universe through the eyes of none other than Stephen Hawking. If 13 Things That Don't Make Sense is any indication, the series will find an enraptured audience.

(Photo © Lars Klove)

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:12 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

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.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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