13 Things That Don't Make Sense: The Most Intriguing Scientific Mysteries Of Our Time
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13 Things That Don't Make Sense: The Most Intriguing Scientific Mysteries Of Our Time

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  2,821 ratings  ·  315 reviews
Science starts to get interesting when things don't make sense. Even today, there are experimental results that the most brilliant scientists can neither explain nor dismiss. In the past, similar anomalies have revolutionised our world: in the 16th century, a set of celestial irregularities led Copernicus to realise that the Earth goes around the sun and not the reverse.

Paperback, 265 pages
Published February 5th 2009 by Profile Books (first published January 1st 2008)
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Thirteen things that don’t make sense

I worried about starting this book – worried much more than I ought to have worried – but worried nonetheless. I mean, things could only be bad. Here was a book that was going to tell me about thirteen things that required a ‘paradigm shift’ in science. It was the number 13 that bothered me more than anything else. The world is full of morons and one of the surest ways of spotting such a moron is via numerology. Crystals are also good, well, as is homeopathy....more
Mike (the Paladin)
Fairly interesting account of certain anomalies in science. Dark matter, Cold Fusion and some others. A lot of what comes out here is the fact that the scientific community is as human as the rest of us. So often if findings fly in the face of "established scientific fact" the person making the finding or following up on the research is completely ruined.

As in a researcher with a doctorate ending his days as a clerk in a stockroom or a Nobel laureate forced into retirement.

I got this out of cur...more
14th thing that doesn't make sense: Covers on public toilet seats. I mean no-one ever puts it down, and if they do, do you want to touch a public toilet seat cover to lift it up? I don't.

15th thing that doesn't make sense: Most people have two feet, thus two socks. Most people put two socks into the wash, there surely can't be many who sniff their socks and decide that one of them could go another day. So what happens then? It is a complete mystery to me how the collection of single socks comes...more
In 13 Things That Don't Make Sense, Michael Brooks takes a brief look at 13 thorny problems which science has no good solution to. The problems are explained in simple terms, and include such things as death, sex, life, dark matter, and the placebo effect. What Brooks shows is that despite the best efforts of generations of scientists, and all the marvels of modern technology, we are far from understanding even such basic things as what the universe is made of and what it means to be alive.

A re...more
I really enjoyed this book. In a world where most geographical frontiers have already been explored it's inspiring to read about the wild west of science where our knowledge is small and great discoveries are still to be made.

The author did a good job of interweaving the 13 things so the book felt like a single work and not 13 distinct essays. There are interesting humans elements to the book. It's fascinating how the careers of so many scientists were affected by their 'discoveries.' The final...more
Consistently mind-blowing - until about the halfway point, where the focus shifts from the cosmic to the prosaic. Now granted, I'm a scientific ignoramus, but I can't be alone in feeling that cosmology is just way sexier than biology, so to go from heady speculations about a multiplicity of universes to - of all sublunary things - the wonders of homeopathy -- well, it kind of killed my buzz.

Highly recommended, in any case, especially for those who, like me, are impatient with the nuts and bolts...more
The further into the book I read the more I got into it as it progressed from the cosmological to the physical to the biological. Most intriguing to me were the looks at cold fusion, free will, the placebo effect, and homeopathy. With thirteen areas examined, including life, sex and death, there is probably something here for everyone. Everyone, except those who are unwilling to challenge their assumptions.
Jigar Brahmbhatt
The purpose of this book is to show, by 13 different examples, how science has a long way to go before it can assure us that "all is under control". Somehow, we are aware of this limitation. I am still unsure of the writer's stance. Is he in favor of science? He explains one set of difficulties scientists faced in a certain area of research, before moving on to another. There are interesting bits of information peppered in, which is all this book has to offer in my opinion, so that you can sound...more
13 Things That Don't Make Sense is a quick overview of some of the current questions that are still left unanswered by science. The role of the book is important in that it nicely outlines a few areas of our ignorance but I feel that some things were skipped while others were played up. I also feel that the book succumbs to a bit of false equivocation but does so in the spirit of "everything's not quite solved".

The section on the dark matter problem gives excess weight to modified newtonian dyna...more
A decent overview of some the unsolved questions that modern science is currently puzzling over (how to explain all the "missing" matter in the universe) or lacks the data to answer conclusively any time soon (is there life on other planets? do we really have free will?). Then there are a few chapters concerning what might be described as fringe science (e.g. cold fusion, the placebo effect, homeopathic medicine). While I appreciate the spirit of inquiry, I suspect that homeopathic medicine is p...more
Cassandra Kay Silva
Any book that makes you ponder subjects that are seemingly inherently necessary (find a necessity for sexual reproduction or death) in a new light are going to be getting a thumbs up from me. I enjoy that, it is defiantly on my track of thinking. He took on a number of controversial topics and some of them (homeopathy for example) I don't think I will ever agree with given the current state of affairs but the author doesn't really ask you to agree with anything. He just says there are things tha...more
Joel Tone
The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but “That’s funny …”
– Isaac Asimov

I recently read 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense by Micheal Brooks. It’s a popular science book that opens with the above quote and discusses thirteen things that are “funny” about modern science. I really enjoyed this book.

Each of the chapters in this book describes something that’s a little (or a lot) off when described by the current best theory. W...more
Harold Smithson (Suicide punishable by Death)
A while ago, I read an article on Yahoo (Almost always a bad idea, but it happened nevertheless) about a scientist who claimed that we were an inch away from completely disproving god from a purely objective standpoint. I was unimpressed with the article, but I found the comments on the article to be great reading.

Namely because the article was universally reviled by atheists and agnostics as much as the religious. Though they did not believe in god, they claimed that our grasp of the universe w...more
Tim Pendry
Michael Brooks' survey of anomalies in contemporary science (2009 - UK Edition) might be regarded as a riposte to the 'end of science' thesis promoted by John Horgan in the mid-1990s. He makes a very good case although one has the suspicion that it is not that there is nothing else to know (which this book shows would be an absurd proposition) but perhaps that there are things that, because of the limitations of ourselves as human observers, we may never know.

Brooks adopts a systematic approach,...more
I realized, before starting this book, that some of the topics might be "old hat". I've read about the dark matter/dark energy mystery in a number of books. But I wasn't ready for the other fascinating mysteries, that truly surprised me. For example, I thought that the placebo effect was well understood. But evidently not. For example, the common drug Valium (dizaepam) has a strong effect; but only if the person taking it understands what the effect should be. Tests have shown that the drug is n...more
I liked this book a lot. Complicated, but accessible discussions of dark matter, dark energy, changing universal constants, life, death, sex, free will, giant viruses, the placebo effect, homeopathy, and three other things I can't remember at the moment. I listened to this as an audiobook, and the British narrator brings a dry sense of humor to his narration that makes the book easier to follow.

The title of this book could have been "!3 Things That Don't Make Sense if God is Taken Out of the Eq...more
I genuinely liked this book. It might not be the greatest scientific book I might've read this year but it was informative enough to enjoy and absorb few things I was unaware of. Must say, I was not baffled by all 13 things, but, I did like what Author had to say about Cold Fusion and Placebo Effect. A decent read.
Michael Brooks only really had about 11 interesting things that science has trouble explaining. "Homeopathy" and "Free Will" seemed kind of tacked on in order to reach 13. "11 things that don't make sense" being the far less catchy title.
'13 Things' gives layman descriptions for 13 anomalies in modern science, which I thoroughly enjoy because I happen to be of said layman type.

This book is a good read for those of us who loved science class, but have never had the time to acknowledge (or even care about) today's top questions in science.

This book will NOT allow you succeed in a scientific debate with an actual scientist.

This book will however introduce you to some interesting topics, which then allows you to go back to your lif...more
Pete Jones
I was told that I should be reading boring books before bed; this seemed an obvious choice. The problem with that is that in many places this book reads like some of my classes in my senior year of statistics—the type where the whole class was devoted to proving a theorem. The prof would start on one blackboard and continue around the room erasing his earlier writings to make room for more. At the beginning of the class you understood what was to be proved and you followed the proof step-by-step...more
A highly-scientific read that will likely leave you asking more questions than it attempts to address. It's incredibly well written, but be forewarned that it is often weighed down by its own jargon and examples. The two sections I found most compelling were the cold fusion study, and the discussion on homeopathy. If you've ever followed the case of cold fusion some years ago, even on the surface, it is quite a story. This section also probably humanizes its participants the most, especially sur...more
A thought-provoking and very readable tour of thirteen questions that many scientists would like to see answered. Among other things we discover that the 1970s Viking Mars landers did find some evidence of microbial life (not as conclusive as NASA wanted and compromised by equipment failure, resulting in an official report that did not mention it), that there may be something in cold fusion after all, and that sex and death are not as easily explained as you might think.

I found some of the topic...more
Mary Warner
The topic that attracted me to this book was homeopathy, and wouldn't you know, it was covered in the very last chapter of the book. I do, however, enjoy reading about various topics in science, so it was no chore to read the entire book. In fact, Michael Brooks does a fine job of describing what can be very complicated scientific subjects in such a way that the lay person (me!) can understand them.

The book is targeted at explaining 13 mysteries of science and the stories behind why these partic...more
Very interesting book! makes for a good complimentary read to a book such as "The Grand Design". Whereas the grand design starts from a perspective of "this is what we can explain", this book starts from the opposite side of the coin - i.e. "this is what we can't explain". Why i quite liked the book, is that the perception (of a layman such as me certainly) when reading a book such as Grand Design is one of "wow, we've pretty much got it all mostly figured out, now we're just filling in some min...more
(Composite rating)

Thirteen topics, each with a chapter. Chapters 1-4 are fantastic, especially if you are interested in theoretical physics or astronomy. The weight of the universe, spacecraft flouting our current model of gravity, universal constants and the ever-popular matter of cold fusion. Chapter 8, detailing a monster virus, is interesting even to those who may not be into biology. But that is where the greatness ends.

The rest of the topics range from the mildly interesting to the slow a...more
Jo Green
This book probably would have gotten 5 stars instead of 4 if I understood more of it, but what I got was a lot of fun. This is stuff that is consistent but why? The expanding of our universe, and when they got to the equations, I just duh-ed out! Dang though this stuff is cool, I wish I was smarter in physics. They really could have put more in this book and it would have been fine, because the stuff that I did get it was well presented and fascinating. We've come so far and then something just...more
Apr 07, 2011 David rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Science nuts
I didn’t expect to like this book. With a title like “13 Things that Don’t Make Sense” I assumed that Brooks was simply going to throw out 13 mysteries that we all wonder about. What I read was a well thought out treatment for every one of the 13 “Things”. That said, there were parts of this book that I liked, and parts that I did not like. There are clearly objective mysteries presented in the area of particle physics where it is clear that nobody currently knows the answers to certain basic qu...more
Dean Wangerin
Overall I enjoyed this book. I feel that the early chapters about the mysteries of physics seemed like the ones in which the author was the most familiar. This would make sense, as the author is a PhD physicist. I particularly enjoyed learning about the mystery of the Pioneer spacecraft, which is drifting ever so slightly too close to the sun on its 6-million mile journey out to the edges of the solar system. It may turn out to be nothing, but it's interesting to think that we could be just a ti...more
Todd Martin
In 13 Things That Don't Make Sense, Michael Brooks investigates some of the mysteries that are currently baffling scientists. For the most part the discussions are informative and interesting, but Brooks loses his way repeatedly, giving undue weight to fringe positions where none is due.
1 & 2: Dark Matter, Dark Energy and the failure of Newtonian gravitation - Brooks does a good job outlining the subject, but gives far too much weight to the view that the expanding universe may be due to er...more
Great topical look at 13 anomalies we can't explain or reason yet in science. There is an overriding theme--taken from Kuhn about how science deals with anomalies that sometimes lead into giant paradigm shifts. I appreciated how Brook went after each topic both objectively but definitely with narrative--making sure to include the naysayers and bandwagon folks in each topic to give a really thorough outline at what had been tried on that specific anomaly

Brooks starts out in the cosmological, then...more
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“There are reasons to doubt that what we call the laws of physics necessarily apply everywhere in the universe—or that they were applicable to every time in its history.” 3 likes
“The definitive study of the herd instincts of astronomers has yet to be written, Fernie said, but there are times when we resemble nothing so much as a herd of antelope, heads down in tight formation, thundering with firm determination in a particular direction across the plain. At a given signal from the leader we whirl about, and, with equally firm determination, thunder off in quite a different direction, still in tight parallel formation.
(quoting an observation made by astronomer J. Donal Fernie)”
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