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13 Things That Don't Make Sense: The Most Intriguing Scientific Mysteries of Our Time Paperback – 4 Feb 2010


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13 Things That Don't Make Sense: The Most Intriguing Scientific Mysteries of Our Time + Nothing: From absolute zero to cosmic oblivion - amazing insights into nothingness + Paradox: The Nine Greatest Enigmas in Physics
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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (4 Feb. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 186197647X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1861976475
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 54,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Brooks, who has a PhD in quantum physics, is a consultant for New Scientist. His writing has appeared in the Guardian, Independent, Observer and THES.

Product Description

Review

Fascinating ... Brooks reawakens us to the astonishing fact of our mere existence, the strangeness of the world around us, and the astonishing amount that science has yet to discover (Christopher Hart Sunday Times)

Outstanding non-fiction reading (Esquire 2011-01-01)

Impressively knowledgeable, articulate (Christopher Hirst Independent 2010-02-19)

An admirably clear and clever writer (Evening Standard 2010-02-11)

Proof that science gets interesting when things get weird (Weekend Australian 2010-06-19)

Book Description

'Brooks is an exemplary science writer ... This is the sort of science book one always hopes for. Learned, but easy to read. Packed with detail, but clear. Reading it will make you feel clever' William Leith, Daily Telegraph

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 7 Aug. 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An interesting and thought provoking book. Even the chapters on subjects that I had some prior knowledge of contained new perspectives and insights.

Unfortunately, the Kindle edition, at least, is let down by being littered with scanning/OCR errors ranging from spaces and hyphens erroneously appearing in the middle of words, through errors such as "woodness" in place of "goodness", right up to "A gram of carbon, for instance, contains 5 x 1022 atoms" which should, presumably, have been "5 x 10^22 atoms". Several paragraphs required reading through a couple of times to decode the author's actual meaning, which was something of a let down.
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278 of 303 people found the following review helpful By Dr D Fairley on 3 July 2010
Format: Paperback
I thoroughly enjoyed about half of this book. The early chapters on physics & astronomy discuss some difficult concepts in a very approachable way, and the chapters on evolution are also very good. There is some really excellent popular science writing in these pages. Unfortunately, and perhaps inevitably in a book of this type, there are a few low points as well...

To be credible as a book about "scientific mysteries", the unifying themes should still have been the need for extraordinary evidence to support extraordinary claims, and the scientific method. This is, after all, a book with the word "scientific" on the cover. The tone of the writing in places is credulous where it should have been questioning.

But the real show stopper for me was the chapter on homeopathy. I strongly suspect that this was deliberately put at the end of the book. I (and many other readers, I suspect) would have stopped reading at that point if it had been any earlier. The last line of the preceding chapter serves as a warning to what follows: an examination of "science's least favorite anomaly". How something for which there is no credible scientific evidence *at all* qualifies as a scientific anomaly is quite beyond me. The studies and "evidence" discussed in this chapter are (without exception) discredited, or flawed, or small, or unrepeated, or statistically inadequate, or all of these. The unquestioning and naive tone of this chapter discredits the entire book, which is a great shame.
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68 of 74 people found the following review helpful By bryantookey on 11 Mar. 2011
Format: Paperback
As a science-graduate of 15 years ago, I like popular science books and the history of science. So I was quite looking forward to this read but was surprised at how hard it was to follow, disappointed by his choice of 13 and disliked his writing style:

Clarity:
Generally I get most scientific ideas when explained by good populist science writers. But I just didn't understand whole arguments presented in the book. This is not Michael Brooks fault - he is trying to cover 13 topics for which there are at least 2, and often more, complex explanations (so you have c. 30+ scientific theories to get through in 300 pages). This is a tough ask and I think a fundamental flaw with the idea of the book.

Were they the correct 13?
- Brooks missed out our non-understanding of what makes up a proton (e.g., are there more than 4 dimensions? How can 'particle spin' seem to transmit info faster than speed of light etc?) This seems to me to be as interesting as dark matter / energy and clearly not understood.
- He also decided to hide the origin of life (very interesting topic) under a chapter about what is the definition of life (not interesting). Defining terms isn't a scientific mystery. It can be hard (try defining comedy or art) but it's not as interesting. Or put it another way: I am about 100 times more interested in knowing how life came about than am I knowing how best to define whether something is alive or not.
- Two of the chapters are single anomolies (i.e., happened once and for which there is no other evidence). These are both mysteries, but not on the same level as, say death, it is
- I have not read all the homeopathy chapter yet but am puzzled at it's inclusion.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By kindler on 18 Sept. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Others have already pointed out that the OCR (kindlification) of the book could use some improvement and I agree.

I got this for 99p in the kindle sale and I am glad I didn't pay full price for it because this book was phenomenally disappointing. It sells itself as an exploration of 13 scientific oddities or mysteries but this is probably one of the least scientific books I have ever read. At its worst, it discusses homeopathy.

I found the style of writing quite irritating as well, and many of the arguments didn't flow through logically or weren't presented in a way that was correct. The basic recipe for the book was a large number of ill-educated people who want to think they understand science, along with an extra helping of melodrama and false suspense, and a touch of showmanship. For me it was the literary equivalent of someone on a high-end digital television channel trying to convince me that ghosts are real and that they're about to contact one live for my viewing pleasure. The book actually is, in short, as invalid and silly as some of the things it claims to explore and investigate in a scientific way.
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