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13 Things that Don't Make Sense: The Most Baffling Scientific Mysteries of Our Time

1 rating: 4.0
A book by Michael Brooks

   When we look to the "anomalies" that science can’t explain, we often discover where science is about to go. Here are a few of the anomalies that Michael Brooks investigates in 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense:       … see full wiki

Tags: Books
Author: Michael Brooks
Publisher: Vintage
1 review about 13 Things that Don't Make Sense: The Most...

Well Written, Accessible Look at Some of Science's Greatest Mysteries

  • Sep 9, 2009
  • by
Picking up a book that will explain 13 Things That Don't Make Sense: The Most Baffling Scientific Mysteries of Our Time, by Michael Brooks, should shed new light on some of the most perplexing items in science. However, some of the chapters only showed how some scientists that "think outside of the box" are made pariahs in the scientific community. Even though many of the past, great scientific minds, who espoused radical (for the time) theories and were vilified, were eventually vindicated. As I read most of the chapters in this book, I wondered how long it would be before some the referenced scientists will be proven to be correct. Hopefully, they will live long enough to garner some measure of satisfaction. Throughout the book, however, Brooks writes in a way that makes the science accessible to all readers, which results in a very good understanding of some of the most interesting riddles in science.

Prologue; The Missing Universe; The Pioneer Dilemma; Varying Constants; Cold Fusion; Life; Viking; The Wow! Signal; A Giant Virus; Death; Sex; Free Will; The Placebo Effect; Homeopathy; Epilogue; Acknowledgements; Notes and Sources; Index

Michael Brooks uses the early chapters to look out from planet Earth at the cosmos. There, he relates the mysteries of dark matter, dark energy, and gravitational effects. Dark matter, as Brooks explains it is a substance that keeps stars in their place and prevents them from flying off into empty space. I found humor in the fact that this is just a name given to this phenomena; scientists have no clue what it really is. Similar, is dark energy. And then Brooks enlightens us to the "Pioneer Dilemma;" as those probes hurtle through the galaxy, they seem to be threatening the known laws of physics. Which causes some consternation within that community. Remember cold fusion and how it was a breakthrough and then laughable? It seems in subsequent experiments there is some proof of its validity, but scientists are careful not to hitch their wagon to that horse-it can kill a career. Not all chapters lead to such career threatening ends, but all will cause you to consider that science, for all of its advances, still has a long way to go to explaining some of the "basic" things; life, death, sex, and our view of the cosmos.

It took me a while to finish this book. Not that the subjects weren't interesting, some of the topics were hard to feel any enthusiasm. For example, our view of the universe is one that starts on Earth. We attempt to apply that which works, and is explainable on Earth, to the universe. However, what if our view was from another planet, outside of our solar system or universe? We may have to alter our assumptions, create new constants. It was fun to read about scientific endeavors to explain life, death, and sex. But the two chapters that will stay with me for a while dealt with free will and the placebo effect. Based on what I read about free will, you may be surprised to know that our brains prepare for movement at least a half second before we formulate conscious intention. And then there is the placebo effect. Brooks tells us that from 1969 to 1982, the top selling drug was Valium. However, it really didn't work unless you knew you were taking it. A fascinating chapter. The only chapter that I truly did not understand was the final one, on homeopathy. I struggled to understand why Brooks included it in the book. Overall, however, 13 Things That Don't Make Sense: The Most Baffling Scientific Mysteries of Our Time, is a very good book, written in a style that makes the science easy to understand.

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