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

3.60  ·  Rating Details  ·  316 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
Brilliant scientific successes have helped shape our world, and are always celebrated. However, for every victory, there are no doubt numerous little-known blunders. Neuroscientist Simon LeVay brings together a collection of fascinating, yet shocking, stories of failure from recent scientific history in When Science Goes Wrong.From the fields of forensics and microbiology ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published March 25th 2008 by Plume
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(showing 1-30 of 954)
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David
Apr 09, 2008 David rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2008
This book was a major disappointment. I'd seen an interview with the author on "The Daily Show" and wasn't that impressed, but bought the book anyway because of the promise inherent in its subject matter. Sadly, that promise remains largely unfulfilled in this pedestrian, and often irritating effort by LeVay. The book is arranged in twelve chapters, each considering a specific instance of what LeVay deems to be 'scientific failure'. These specific aspects of the book bothered me:

1. Several vigne
...more
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
This was a fascinating book. Couldn't put it down. LeVay details twelve instances of scientific mistakes, fraud, and just plain bad science. I had only heard of two of them, the St. Francis dam disaster and the eruption of the volcano Galeras in Colombia, before. The rest were new to me. I was struck with the fact that, in many of these cases, the responsible parties failed to take responsibility, opting to pass the buck instead. I can't believe how the victims of the medical treatments gone awr ...more
Abu Hasan
Jan 19, 2016 Abu Hasan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
يعرض الكاتب لاثنتا عشرة قصة حول بعض الأبحاث العلمية التي عثر فيها العلماء وضلوا الطريق مما أدى إلى أخطاء فادحة نتج عنها موت أو إصابة أشخاص إصابات بليغة
وكل قصة فيها عبر وفوائد
تتفاوت جودة قصص الكتاب ومدى جذبها للقارئ، لكن يعوض عنها الأسلوب العلمي والجهد التوثيقي الذي بذله الكاتب، وطريقته في عرض الأحداث في قالب قصصي جميل
أكثر ما شدني في الكتاب قصتين:
علم الفضاء يحيد عن مساره
علم تشريح التخاطب: دراسة الوحش
Thomas
Oct 29, 2008 Thomas rated it liked it
In these accounts, "science" per se did not go wrong. Science being a process and discipline of applying observation, measurement, logic, and reason to a specific issue, had it been followed well would not have produced some of the stories in this book. The accounts in this book were of science and technology woefully misapplied.
Yael
Dec 12, 2008 Yael rated it it was amazing
Shelves:
The subtitle is, Twelve Tales From the Dark Side of Discovery, and a very dark side it is. The scientific disasters included in this book include:

A surprise hurricane makes a violent appearance on land despite repeated assurances that the hurricane doesn't exist (LeVay says that Michael Fish, Britain's best-known and most arrogant weatherman, who told Britain that the hurricane "didn't exist," should have been hanged; eighteen people died because of it, and the damage caused by the hurricane mou
...more
Allison Hiltz
Jan 02, 2015 Allison Hiltz rated it really liked it
From The Book Wheel:

When I first picked up this book I immediately went to Goodreads to see what other people thought. One of the biggest complaints is that it was too “sciency” or technical, which baffled me because it’s aboutsciencegoing wrong. That’s right – science. Of course it is going to have some scientific jargon! A chapter about hurricanes would be incomplete without a mention of the Coriolis effect, so I didn’t factor these complaints into my decision to read it. But while most of the
...more
Mike
Jan 17, 2011 Mike rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone
Mostly I enjoyed reading this book and I wish there was a "3.5" to award to it. The topic, "science mistakes" was the incentive for me to pick it up. Although I have not read any other books by the author, he has developed a clear and informative writing style that makes the book easy to pick up and follow along. I know that this is supposed to be a collection of notable, some might say 'spectacular', failures of science, but I consider at least three of them to be engineering errors, rather tha ...more
Stefanie
Mar 21, 2012 Stefanie rated it liked it
My gut reaction to this book is "meh." The stories in it are objectively interesting, but the delivery is quite bland. It reads a lot like a series of scientific reviews- there's an attempt to make it accessible to a layman, but this falls short frequently. I found myself having to look back to re-read certain sections fairly often, which is a bad sign in a person who actually reads scientific papers on a regular basis. A few of the stories lacked credible sources- though this was exhaustively d ...more
Rudrangshu Das
Sep 21, 2011 Rudrangshu Das rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in science
Shelves: non-fiction
It is a book of real misadventures in the field of science. But contrary to what the title would suggest, the science was not so much wrong in most case, as were the scientists, the people applying the science. In that sense science can sometimes be fallible because it is handled by fallible creatures.
It is one of the best science books I have read. the 1st chapter - The runner's brain is still vivid in my memory. The author being a neurologist himself wrote this 1st story on Parkisnon's disease
...more
Kayla
Jun 06, 2015 Kayla rated it liked it
The actual incidents in the book were interesting and there was a variety from the field of science. I found it to be generally informative however it felt like some chapters just kept going on and on when the misadventure in science could be summed up in a couple of pages. It wasn't terrible as a read but it's not a page turn thriller of misguided science experiments. Just something to read to understand how science can and does go wrong.
Christopher Fox
Jul 23, 2015 Christopher Fox rated it really liked it
Interesting stuff, this. What I found amazing, apart from the details in each of the cases, was that LeVay, a neuroscientist by training, made himself enough of an expert in diverse, unconnected scientific disciplines (meteorology, volcanology, geology, nuclear physics an chemistry) to be able to write cogently, insightfully and with full explanations that were available to the general reader.

A fascinating series of true stories.
Michele Lee
Review by Jason Lush

Really should have been called "When Humans with College Educations To Really Stupid Things", but I guess that wouldn't be sensational enough.

When Science Goes Wrong is informative and engaging, but I believe it may have been rushed to press to capitalize on some event. The book covers twelve events in recent history in which seemingly smart people committed decidedly careless or outright stupid deeds, always at the cost of others.

Each of the twelve stories are factual and i
...more
Molly
Dec 25, 2009 Molly rated it did not like it
The concept of this book is incredibly interesting and, given the direction of my thesis, could have been valuable, but the writing in it was so impressively f-l-a-t that I couldn't bring myself to enjoy it. Reading it was tedium (I have a fastidious habit of wanting to finish books I start, no matter what, as one cannot know if it gets better in the end). I knew from my husband, who read it first, this wouldn't be the case, that I would feel as if I were reading my freshmen comp students' essay ...more
Sara
Apr 04, 2014 Sara rated it liked it
There is some interesting information in this book but it is so awkwardly written that I found it hard to ever be fully engaged with the text. Additionally, some of the writing was so technical that I found myself skimming. (I have a biology degree and read "popular" science books frequently; I imagine the technicality of some of it would be very off-putting to a general audience.)
Jeannie
Feb 01, 2015 Jeannie rated it liked it
Interesting read but there are some very dry areas that it takes a lot of motivation to slug through.
Bryce
Feb 07, 2013 Bryce rated it it was ok
I think a better title for this book would have been "When Scientists Go Wrong." Each of the twelve horror stories presented were directly caused by the laziness/hubris/ambition of the people behind the projects.

I admit to skimming and skipping around through a lot of this book. Although I tried hard, I'm just not interested in the failed mathematics behind an industrial engineering catastrophe. It didn't help that LeVay seemed to write with the assumption that his readers were experts in a gre
...more
Melissa
Nov 08, 2015 Melissa rated it really liked it
First, b/c of character limits (I'm assuming) the email l got from my library that this book was ready for pick up had it subtitled, "Twelve Tales From the Dark Side of Disco." Which is a book I would totally read!

This book is a series of short stories about various scientific mishaps. What I enjoyed most was each story was very detailed b/c often one must understand some background to understand how the mistake in question happened. Because this background is done so well i enjoyed reading the
...more
Jan Bryld
Apr 23, 2014 Jan Bryld rated it did not like it
Shelves: books
cant help but feeling I just put down a copy of Science Illustrated... I expected more..
Joshua
May 06, 2014 Joshua added it
I enjoyed this book a lot.
Rachel (Sfogs)
Aug 13, 2015 Rachel (Sfogs) rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, library
Makes for very thoughtful reading.
Kendra
Jun 10, 2009 Kendra rated it did not like it
Despite the one star this wasn't a horrible book. I just wouldn't recommend it :) I liked reading the stories of the crazy mixed up science problems, but I didn't like how there was so much SCIENCE! Don't laugh :) I had to skim many things because I didn't understand them or just didn't care about the history. It was like reading a science book, ugh. But, I did read the whole chapter on stuttering :) So if you like science-type things, I could see this being a very entertaining book.
Dan
Oct 19, 2009 Dan rated it liked it
This is an odd little book, in part because it doesn't really seem to have much of a point. It's not anti-science, nor does it really make much attempt to delve into the lessons learned from each of the twelve mistakes described in its stories. When things go horribly wrong, it can make for an entertaining story, and LeVay does a good job describing these stories. But it never really rises above grim fascination, and at the end of the book it seems a bit lurid to have enjoyed it.
David R.
Jun 30, 2012 David R. rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
LeVay's twelve essays on "science gone wrong" are really much more about mistakes made in various realms of scientific inquiry (vulcanology, speech pathology, meteorology, neurology, etc.) What is more disturbing is that in these accounts the mistake, or those making the mistake receive the benefits of some kind of coverup. This circle-the-wagons mindset has and always shall vex the growth of science, and that's especially true in the modern age.
Michelle
Dec 09, 2008 Michelle rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Interesting book. The author takes a more in-depth look at some high profile cases of research and/or technical projects that have gone awry. He covers several different fields--neuroscience, volcanology, meteorology, etc. and the background information is sometimes a bit too technical and convoluted to be easily understood without careful reading (and re-reading!) but overall it was an entertaining read.
Liz Zmoos
Apr 11, 2008 Liz Zmoos rated it it was amazing
Ok, this book is not for everyone... it's got a lot of science content! The book describes 12 situations in which scientist got a little too cocky and make some serious mistakes. Like the meteorologist that said that said a hurricane didn't exist then it hit land and was one of the most devastating in Briton's history killing 18 people. Genius!!! The writer is very funny in a dry scientist kind of way.
Kim
Jul 25, 2008 Kim rated it really liked it
This is totally fascinating! Author's writing style is a bit dry, but otoh he doesn't sensationalize either. Just the facts as unbiasedly presented as possible.
ETA: Now that I've finished tho whole thing, I have to say the stories aren't as "dark" as the title suggests. But I still enjoyed them, am glad I read the book.
g-na
Feb 11, 2012 g-na rated it liked it
An interesting book about different, major screw-ups in various branches of science. This was written by a scientist and goes into some detail about what actually happened to cause the problem. While the book could easily stray down the path of sensationalism, luckiliy it does not, and instead makes for a semi-intelligent read.
Jeff Toner
Apr 28, 2008 Jeff Toner rated it liked it
Recommended to Jeff by: Alyce
Overall the book was interesting; however I’m not too sure if the title is appropriate. Majority of stories relate to man’s psychological problems –especially on the subject of one’s ego. The author should continue with a follow-up book based on the same concept but using industrial chemistry as a backdrop.
Glenda
Jan 16, 2015 Glenda rated it it was ok
It was okay, some of the stories more interesting and engaging than others (to me). Lots of science/math details for those of you who are interested in that.

The title really oversells the book; and it's a bit more about scientists or highly educated people do less than smart things.
Jennifer
Oct 27, 2008 Jennifer rated it really liked it
This book is a really good reason for being pro-IRB. While all almost all of science works for advances for the good of man-kind, here are a few good examples of why regulation and oversite are EXTREMELY important. The first story about the guy who grows a fetus in his brain... READ IT!
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Dr. Simon LeVay is a writer and lecturer with a background in neuroscience. He is best known for his research on the brain and sexuality, but has also spent many years studying the visual system. He has written or co-authored several books on sexuality, and coauthored books on such diverse topics as earthquakes and volcanoes, extraterrestrial life, and Parkinson's disease. He has even written a no ...more
More about Simon LeVay...

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