WEIGHING THE SOUL: Scientific Discovery from the Brilliant to the Bizarre

Len Fisher, Author
Len Fisher, Author . Arcade $25 (264p) ISBN 978-1-55970-732-9
Paperback - 248 pages - 978-1-55970-782-4
Hardcover - 224 pages - 978-0-297-64555-9
Ebook - 272 pages - 978-1-61145-976-0
Paperback - 248 pages - 978-1-61145-742-1
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-1-61145-298-3
Hardcover - 214 pages - 978-0-7538-1991-3
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"Science and common sense often don't mix," notes Fisher, a research fellow at the University of Bristol famous for studying the science of dunking doughnuts. This new effort is largely about discoveries, such as the wave theory of light and the theory of relativity, that defy reason yet are the bedrock for our understanding of the world. To make his various points, Fisher also portrays an eclectic mix of scientists and the ridicule heaped on them for their apparently nutty ideas; he also includes genuine quacks and charlatans, like "Doctor James Graham," whose 18th-century specialty was enhancing his customers' sex lives with electrical devices. Fisher entertains in an airy, lighthearted manner, while also imparting his own philosophy of science, eloquently discussing the borderlines between science and philosophy and faith: In his view, science can't know everything, and those things that it can't know "are the province of philosophy and religion." He also tackles the question of whether science can keep us safe. For instance, can it answer questions about the long-term effect of exposure to microwaves? His answer is guarded; taking risks is necessary for progress; science's job is to provide accurate information with which society can weigh both the risk of trying something new and the risk of not doing it. Illus. Agent, Barbara Levy. (Nov.)

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