When Science Goes Wrong: Twelve Tales from the Dark Side of Discovery

Simon LeVay, Author . Plume $15 (287p) ISBN 978-0-452-28932-1

Experimental brain surgery goes horribly awry; a dam fails catastrophically; a geologist leads an ill-equipped party to its doom in the mouth of an active volcano: these are the amazing and sometimes horrific stories of technical errors and scientific mistakes that LeVay (The Sexual Brain ) relates. Some, like the case of the British meteorologist who failed to predict a hurricane that killed 18 people, seem due to arrogance. Others—the loss of a costly spacecraft, a criminal conviction based on inaccurate DNA analysis, multiple deaths after an accidental release of anthrax—are the result of ordinary human error. Some incidents may well have been deliberate, such as a nuclear reactor error that was possibly the result of a love triangle gone bad, or the data falsified by a physicist seeking fame as the discoverer of a new element. LeVay surveys a range of fields, offering several reasons why things go wrong and noting that “for every brilliant scientific success, there are a dozen failures.” Readers curious about particularly notorious cases will find LeVay's book both entertaining and thought provoking. (Mar. 25)

Reviewed on: 11/19/2007
Release date: 04/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
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