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Old 06-03-12, 04:10 PM   #1
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Post Mayhem in the lab is productive

Free Radicals: The Secret Anarchy Of Science by Michael Brooks


If there is one thing I hate, it is the traditional view of science. No one proposes a hypothesis, does a set of experiments that proves or disproves said hypothesis, and communicates the results to an approving and appreciative audience. That cliché is boring and wrong. Science proceeds by inspiration, ruthless pursuit, and, not a small amount of vindictiveness. For anyone who doesn't believe this, Free Radicals: The Secret Anarchy of Science by Michael Brooks is the book for you.

Brooks lays out, in fascinating'and often horrifying and discomfiting detail'the anarchy that underlies the scientific endeavor. He recounts Werner Forssmann charming his way into an operating theatre in order to open up a vein and insert a catheter into his own heart. His success (if he hadn't succeeded, he would be used as an example in lab safety courses) earned him a Nobel prize because it showed that one could access the heart without killing the patient.

The book abounds with stories of good scientists, people who were ultimately right, going through the scorching flames of derision on their way great success. In short, he presents the hard truth that science is actually about personality. It is very rare that any scientist obtains data that is absolutely irrefutable. Indeed, the greater the discovery, the more inspiration and intuition is needed to interpret the data. These leaps of inspiration are actually the stuff that makes science worth doing.

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