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At the Edge of Uncertainty: 11 Discoveries Taking Science by Surprise Kindle Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Length: 301 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Review

Praise for "Free Radicals"

"An exuberant tour through the world of scientists behaving badly." --"The New York Times "

"Fascinating . . . "Free Radicals "reminds readers that scientific advances sometimes require creativity and vision." --"The Philadelphia Inquirer "



Praise for "Free Radicals"
"An exuberant tour through the world of scientists behaving badly." --"The New York Times "
"Fascinating . . . "Free Radicals "reminds readers that scientific advances sometimes require creativity and vision." --"The Philadelphia Inquirer "


"Brooks details research being conducted on the extreme frontiers of science...in this absorbing piece of reportage...scintillating... the edgy edge of scientific investigation presented with verve." "Kirkus
"
"Brooks highlights numerous areas of research that give pause to many scientists and throw lay readers into confusion in this challenging and mind-bending work. This confusion follows in no part from Brooks's skills as a writer and explicator of science, but from topics that are difficult to face, whether it be the philosophical morass of human/animal tissue combinations called "chimera" or the startling finding that time as we experience it may well be an illusion.Brooks handily works his way through these thorny problems, highlighting current research and researchers along the way." "Publishers Weekly"(starred review)
"Physicist and writer Michael Brooks wants readers to take a new look at things we think we already understand, and he has an engaging way of making his point...His book touches on advanced computing, essential differences between men and women, the power of the will to live, mysteries of the cosmos and more...The book can leave your brain feeling battered and bruised, Brooks writes. But he hopes that you, like the ever-questing scientists he applauds, will want to know more."" Washington Post

"
Praise for "Free Radicals"

An exuberant tour through the world of scientists behaving badly. "The New York Times"

Fascinating . . . "Free Radicals "reminds readers that scientific advances sometimes require creativity and vision. "The Philadelphia Inquirer""

Book Description

From the author of 13 Things That Don't Make Sense, the radical new discoveries that will transform how we see the world.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1464 KB
  • Print Length: 301 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (26 Jun. 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00IZGKDJY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #187,242 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
It's certainly a quick read since I bought it yesterday afternoon and had finished it by this morning. Brooks starts with the metaphor of the conjurer who uses distraction to fool the audience into accepting the impossible. That is also the technique he uses throughout the book to fool the reader into momentarily accepting the impossible. Thus we are led to believe that the universe might be a hologram, that time is meaningless except that is for sentient beings. That the paradox of Turing's hypercomputer can be solved by employing an ontological argument - if you can conceive it, it can be possible, one day, when we've invented more stuff.
For a scientist Brooks has an alarming tendency to rely on argument by analogy, upon assertions that can't be disproved, or just straightfoward, brazen assertion. Being selective with the evidence is routine, sometimes by simply citing the most contentious hypotheses published about an already disputed subject to support yet another of his supposed mysteries. The history of science does not suggest we should give the benefit of the doubt to the most crackpot ideas. For every Galileo there were thousands of scholars who spent their lives exploring the dead ends of alchemy, table-tapping, the aether, magic numbers, homunculi and the rest. the Galileo's and Newton's are the exception that proves the rule - that most bizarre theories that neither fit with known science and which can't be proved or disproved are almost invariably rubbish.
Brook's insights into the nature of consciousness and time are distinctly sub A-level standard. A Penguin primer on Kant and Hume might help him out. His main agenda appears to be to solve metaphysical problems through a discourse on his pet topic of quantum physics.
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Format: Paperback
One of my favourite popular science books is Marcus Chown’s The Universe Next Door, where he explores scientific theories just the other side of the dividing line between sanity and madness. Here Michael Brooks, who started his ‘amazing things in science’ run with the excellent 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense, now gives us ’11 discoveries taking science by surprise’ – science that can still shock us, but is just on the sane side of the dividing line.

The topics range from consciousness and chimeras to hyper computers (which go beyond the limits of Turing’s Universal Computer) and time. Where the chapters work, they work very well. I thought the chapter on the big bang and inflation, where Brooks pulls apart the fragile, held-together-by-duct-tape nature of the current theory with surgical precision was brilliant, starting from a little pen portrait of Alan Guth and then showing both how the current picture is strung together and also how various discoveries have chipped away at the solidity of the current picture. (Sadly the book was written too soon to include the BICEP2 collapse.) On the whole, the physics-based chapters worked better than the biology chapters, which seemed a little more staid and less exciting, though there was a lot to find interesting in the chimeras chapter and all had plenty of joyful nuggets of discovery.

What I was less certain about was the delivery. The cover quote says ‘He writes, above all, with attitude.’ This is true, but that attitude sometimes got in the way of accuracy, making the approach inconsistent. In the big bang chapter Brooks makes it clear that things are anything but certain, as is the nature of science.
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Format: Paperback
This is an entertaining exploration of some of the key questions at the edge of our current understanding of the universe and our position within it.

In the introduction Michael Brooks quotes Isaac Newton's humble description of his exploration of science:-

"I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."

What Brooks then does is invite us to dip our toes into the water on 11 of the beaches that represent edges of current knowledge, each with opportunities to wade out towards the scary depths of new, often bizarre and always challenging new ideas.

In teasing us into getting our feet wet, Brooks does a great job. He avoids driving us away with scary equations or deep mathematics. He uses analogy to good effect in giving us a real sense of each of the challenges and an understanding of why they're important not just to scientists but also to our everyday lives.

The 11 topic areas are strung together in an effective narrative which chapter by chapter covers
* The science of consciousness
* Challenges to our perception of the differences between humans and other animals
* Chimera and the making of new creatures
* Epigenetics - the effect of environment on DNA
* How illness and treatment operate differently for men and women
* The mind and its power over your body
* Quantum science impacting on biology
* The universe as a computer, a hologram, an illusion...
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