Plastic Fantastic: How the Biggest Fraud in Physics Shook the Scientific World

Eugenie Samuel Reich, Author Palgrave MacMillan $26.95 (266p) ISBN 978-0-230-22467-4
Reich, a former editor at New Science, unravels the absorbing story of Jan Hendrik Schön, a researcher at the prestigious Bell Laboratories from 1998 to 2002, who achieved star status in cutting-edge materials technology-super-conductivity, lasers, nanotechnology-by falsifying data. A graduate of Germany's ""low key"" University of Konstanz, he dove immediately into ""a demanding environment... known for big discoveries, ambitious expectations."" When his papers on experiments with organic crystals were rejected, he manipulated data and made false claims; publication followed. When the tech bubble burst, Bell came under increasing pressure from parent company Lucent to justify its existence; short-circuiting the normal process of peer review, the lab turned to public relations, ""press-releasing exciting scientific findings"" to fool investors, customers and Lucent into believing Bell had ""a sound long-term technological future."" Reich's clear explanation gives general readers a real sense of the excitement generated in the scientific community by Schön's ""discoveries,"" how he made them appear credible and how his ability to dissemble eventually failed him; he also raises profound ethical questions that resonate with current concerns over science and its place in the public sphere.
Reviewed on: 05/11/2009
Release date: 05/01/2009
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 272 pages - 978-0-230-62134-3
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-230-62384-2
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