When Science Goes Wrong

When Science Goes Wrong

3.6 3
by Simon LeVay
     
 

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Neuroscientist and author Simon LeVay brings together twelve of the most shocking stories of scientifi c failure in recent history. From forensic science and microbiology to nuclear physics and meteorology, these true tales of human error are often horrifSee more details below

Overview

Neuroscientist and author Simon LeVay brings together twelve of the most shocking stories of scientifi c failure in recent history. From forensic science and microbiology to nuclear physics and meteorology, these true tales of human error are often horrif

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

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)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
Venturing into the unknown can have unexpected consequences. Neuroscientist/journalist LeVay (Queer Science: The Use and Abuse of Research into Homosexuality, 1996, etc.) offers many different explanations for what caused the calamitous mistakes he examines. Sheer bravura could account for the volcanologists who were killed climbing into the crater of an about-to-erupt volcano. Imperfect information and a TV weatherman's vanity led to misreporting on a hurricane that killed 18 Britons in 1987. Bad geological advice, combined with design changes made by an engineer with a God-like reputation, built a dam in the wrong place in 1920s California. That pounds-to-Newtons mistake that doomed the Mars Climate Orbiter? Faulty software that someone should have caught, but didn't. The Houston Crime Lab's errors in DNA testing wrongfully imprisoned a rape suspect for nearly five years, but lab reforms and the work of Innocence Network lawyers give this cautionary tale a moderately happy ending. Research on human subjects provides LeVay with some grim examples: brain surgery using fetal tissue to "cure" Parkinson's disease; a gene-therapy experiment that killed a teenager with a genetic metabolic disorder; and a 1939 study that tried to determine whether people could be induced to stutter by telling normal children they had symptoms and should try to stop. There is little question that these cases flagrantly violated ethical considerations, primarily because the designers fervently believed their hypotheses and employed questionable methods in order to be "proved" right. In only a few instances does the author suspect coverup or deliberate intent: the horrible story of the release of anthrax spores ina Russian biological warfare factory; the alleged tampering with readouts to show production of a transuranium element; and the unresolved case of a runaway nuclear reaction that killed three scientists. LeVay's epilogue notes that oversight and regulation have helped, but reminds us that research involves risk-taking. Far from cheerful reading, the only comfort being that these "wrongs" were eventually found out.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781440639388
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/25/2008
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
656,611
File size:
0 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

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