Saturday, July 22, 2017
Scientific Discovery from the Brilliant to the Bizarre
You can't go wrong with an Ig Nobel Laureate. Chemist Len Fisher achieved immortality with his study of how to properly dunk a biscuit in a cuppa, and in Scientific Discovery from the Brilliant to the Bizarre, he takes on several well-considered - but ultimately wrong - scientific discoveries. His first example, the soul-weighing Dr. Duncan MacDougall, appeared in Mary Roach's Spook. Fisher uses MacDougall's experiments to demonstrate the scientific method, and how you can do everything right but still be wrong. He follows that thread through Benjamin Franklin's lightning rod (helpful, but the best shape isn't the pointy rod Franklin created but one with a ball on the top), alchemy, and why pre-microscope ideas of reproduction made sense at the time. It's the perfect commute book - amusing, intelligent, and easily read in snatched moments.