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The Golem: What You Should Know About Science (Canto Classics) Paperback – 29 Mar 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 204 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2 edition (29 Mar. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1107604656
  • ISBN-13: 978-1107604650
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 1.1 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 110,515 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


'… it succeeds extraordinarily well in this task of portraying and assessing the real fabric of scientific research, based on the insights of modern scholarship.' Bernard Dixon, former Editor, New Scientist

Book Description

The very well-received first edition generated much debate, reflected in a substantial new Afterword in this second edition, which seeks to place the book in what have become known as 'the science wars'.

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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 10 Sept. 2001
Format: Paperback
"The Golem" describes how seven somewhat controversial scientific theories were developed and accepted (or not). It is a historical account, opposing the somewhat popular view presented in schoolbooks, about how scientific theories are "proved" by experiments. Among the interesting theories are whether the relativity theory was proved by the Michelson/Morley experiment and Eddington's measurements, a controversal theory about the sexual life of lizards, an account of the cold fusion theory and debate, and whether memory can be chemically transferred between individuals.
I read it as part of a university course in research methodology, and I must say it gave a somewhat more nuanced view of how research is carried out in practice - sometimes far from the idealized view of how science is done!
"The Golem" is by the way a very appropriate name for this account of scientific history - don't know what a Golem is? Read and find out...
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ivo Krustok on 3 Jan. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book was definitely an interesting read. I would recommend it to people who are interested in science but it is mostly just an interesting take on things, nothing more. The authors are just propagating their view and in some cases write about things that did not happen in the manner they describe.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 12 reviews
41 of 47 people found the following review helpful
Case studies in science -- lucid, approachable, fascinating 23 Feb. 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Depending on your intentions, this book, and its companion volume The Golem at Large: What You Should Know about Technology, could be indespensible. They comprise a number of case studies in contemporary (i.e. 20th century) scientific discoveries and controversies that can be read in any order. The studies are couched between an introduction and conclusion that express the authors' aims -- to show science in action as messy and controversial but nontheless a powerful means for generating knowledge. These slender volumes are ideally suited for a course in the history or philosophy of science.
By exploring how scientists actually conduct themselves and describing the scientific and extra-scientific stakes, the authors (two sociologists of science) dispel many scientific myths in a lucid, approachable style. Even with casual study, they can bolster scientific understanding. The books are of potentially special value to undergraduate and graduate students studying and doing science themselves. I'm tempted to say that if you're a young scientist, these books cannot fail to make you a better one. Even if you're not a scientist, and never intend to be one, these are fascinating stories.
Of course, many scientists have known for a long time what Collins and Pinch have tried to convey. J.B.Conant was such a scientist. His case studies, published in 1957, provide historical examples in the same mold as Collins and Pinch, who explicitly admit to having drawn inspiration from The Harvard Case Studies in Experimental Science edited by J.B.Conant
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
An excellent and dangerous book 24 May 2013
By Chuck Huff - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I teach a variety of classes using this text, and often assign individual case studies in tutorials. The point of this modest and infuriating text is to describe the social and evidential processes of science by looking at what they call "disputed science." This is in some ways parallel to looking at what T. Kuhn calls "revolutionary science" (since it is opposed to "normal" science). It is, of course, NOT looking at how everyday science happens (Try Bruno Latour's work for that, or Kuhn's). Opposing reviews are simply what one can expect for a book that enters this domain of disputed science

After they calm down from being angry or confused, my students learn from Collins & Pinch that they need to be thoughtful scientists, and that they cannot simply assume that good method will always save them. They are aware of the "experimenter's regress" -- the process of ever-lengthening methods sections and increased accusation in disputed science. They become aware of the ways that technology, methods, and social assumption shape the science they want to do.

The book will not teach them how to avoid or manage these things, that is the job of more mundane writing. But they are at least taught that science is critically important in our lives.

PS: Those tired of critical inquiry and its excesses can find solace in Latour's (2004) essay: Latour, Bruno. (2004) "Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern." Critical Inquiry, Vol. 30, No. 2., Winter 2004, pp. 225-248.

PPS: They have two more very useful books with Golem in the title: one on technology and one on medicine.
Exposing Some of Science's Dirty Secrets 22 May 2014
By H. J. Spencer PhD, renegade-Physicist - Published on
Format: Paperback
I read this book because of my professional interest in relativity (at least, the 'Special' theory). I was shocked to discover how Eddington fudged his famous observations. These were not discovered for several years - by then, Einstein & Eddington (not a coincidence) were world famous (actively promoted by the Times newspapers of London & New York). None-the-less, the scientific community still trumpets this 1919 confirmation of Einstein's TWO theories, even though they have little in common apart, from the great marketing word "Relativity" (Planck's word that was eaten up by the post World-War I generation, who were sickened by the deceit of the European ruling class, who had all misused the absolute appeals to God & King to whip up widespread nationalistic fervour).

Furthermore, most people still believe that it was Einstein, who created the increasing mass with speed formula, when it was really Max Planck, who had got an inside track on Einstein's 1905 paper when Planck was editor of AdP. Einstein's SpecRel theory was a mathematical attempt to save a more famous mathematical theory: Maxwell's theory of EM that had predicted light speed would vary with the relative speed of the Aether. Michelson showed this was experimentally false, so Einstein incorporated this discovery as a "postulate", cranked his linear algebra formulae and "derived" the Lorentz transformation, where space & time lose their common-sense properties and start shrinking & slowing down. Only the temporal effects have some limited experimental evidence.

Einstein's first GenRel success on 'explaining' Mercury's anomalous precession was already predicted by adding a finite speed feature (delayed action-at-a-distance) to the standard effects of Newton's instantaneous theory of gravity (Burniston-Brown); an ancient result long forgotten.

As one who spent several years in academic physics research, I can attest to the personality factors that Collins suggests goes into the process of academic research. Few outsiders realize what a blood-sport this game can become, with no quarter given.
A must to understand the real nature of research 15 Dec. 2013
By Emilio De Luigi - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Somehow it may seem to have no clearly defined purpose, but in reality it achieves what is its main goal: make Science appear in all its laborious, sometimes hesitant, sometimes even confused pace. Which doesn't take away anything from Science, on the contrary is perfect in allowing us to understand how difficult research normally is.

I didn't give 5 stars because I would have like it to be a bit more rich of examples of the frequently tortuous itinerary of scientific research.
New set of eyes 7 May 2012
By lbeyer1217 - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this for a course in my Master's program. This book successfully challenged my assumptions about science and has given me a new set of more analytical eyes. Instead of injecting assumptions into the reader, this book teaches the value of analyzing and questioning all parts of science.
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