I don't think I've read any other book in recent memory that has changed my views so much on a topic. Johann Hari goes all the way in depth on the hisI don't think I've read any other book in recent memory that has changed my views so much on a topic. Johann Hari goes all the way in depth on the history of the drug war, including views form people involved - from lawmakers who use the drug war as racist tactic, to law enforcement who see that the drug war is driving up crime, to addicts who live where drugs are legal and thus can get proper treatment, to drug trafficking criminals and their victims. Hari tactfully approaches controversial topics such as the idea that addiction is a symptom of trauma, not a disease itself, and the evidence showing that the effect of drugs on the body are vastly overblown and stem mostly from the chemical impurities of illegal street drugs. A must-read for anyone interested in psychology, society, law, race, policy, and social justice. ...more
I was really interested in this book because I consider myself a supersmeller and love to read about the science behind things. But I started readingI was really interested in this book because I consider myself a supersmeller and love to read about the science behind things. But I started reading and quickly became disappointed with it. It's not a good book, it's not well written, and only maybe 5% of it is interesting at all.
As someone who has a science job and reads and writes about science all the time, let me explain why:
1) What an arrogant ass. Talking so much about how a book was written about him, the endless figures in the book that have no reference to the text or explanation (I guess he's too good for that), how great he is for making an acid-resistant citrus scent, and talking about scents as metaphors that make no sense, like "so and so smells like the essence of brown," or "if you add this to that the smell goes from grey to pink." What does that even mean? I'll tell you. It means nothing at all. It means he's an ass. Oh and he "defies" anyone who's not an expert in the field to name any ingredient in Coke. O YA? I Knew 3 right away by scent alone and can make a mean cocktail that VERY much resembles coke just by using stuff in my cupboard. So challenge accepted, ass.
2) The science is not well explained. He says he hopes non-scientists will read his book, and he starts off at a level so basic in the beginning that I skipped over it, but then starts explaining things really, really terribly. One example is when he starts talking about the polarograph. After he talks about himself a bunch, and how important the polarograph is, he starts explaining how easy it is to make one, before explaining what the hell a polarograph even is. Seriously, what is it? Is the explanation in here where he's explaining how to make one? I really don't know.
3) The explanations are not well written. One marker of a good science writer is that when you start explaining a difficult topic, you have to constantly remind readers WHY you are explaining that, and how is that relevant to what you're ultimately trying to say. I know enough chemistry to understand what he was saying and it was very clear to me that he most certainly does not do that, and uses terminology that only an expert would understand. Except of course when he tries to use similes and metaphors with everyday things. Which leads me to:
4) All those garbage similes and metaphors. Terrible, awful, nonsense things. Like some molecule or another doing something is "like asking Tommy Lee Jones to play a nun." WHAT? What are you talking about? Really? And "calling yourself a theoretitian in biology is considered a perversion, like preferring erotic literature to real sex." Really? Okay. Many, many comparisons in there that are non-sequitur and make zero sense. Maximum cringeworthiness all the way.
5) Seriously though, what an ass. Let's talk about the structure of the book. Most of the book consists of long boring explanations of how this or that old theory of smell is wrong. So-and-so is wrong because of this-and-that, blah blah, until at the very end we get to the author's theory. This comes across as extremely self-serving and indulgent. Just get to the effing point already.
Which leads us to the 5% of the book that was interesting. Spoiler alert: scent is detected not by the shape of the molecule but by the vibrations it emits. There you go, the whole book in one sentence. Now you don't have to read it. You're welcome. ...more
On Fracking is a thoroughly well researched resource for anyone wanting to understand the complexity of the issues surrounding fracking and water. ItOn Fracking is a thoroughly well researched resource for anyone wanting to understand the complexity of the issues surrounding fracking and water. It shows in full the terrible current state of water protection and makes a very compelling case for the urgency to create an appropriate regulatory framework surrounding unconventional oil and gas extraction. Recommended to anyone wanting to learn more about this issue....more
A collection of some well-known and other quite new sociology and psychology experiments that show how our subconscious dominates most aspects of ourA collection of some well-known and other quite new sociology and psychology experiments that show how our subconscious dominates most aspects of our lives, how easily manipulated we are, and how our conscious mind is pretty much a bullshit excuse generator that makes us think we are in control. It offers an interesting perspective on some social justice issues as well. Definitely recommended, especially for that person who drives you crazy for always saying they're "not influenced by advertising"...more
I finished this a few months ago so I can't find the exact passages that stuck with me the most. While I definitely appreciate the defense of humanistI finished this a few months ago so I can't find the exact passages that stuck with me the most. While I definitely appreciate the defense of humanist morality (and this book really is an important, well-written read, though not necessarily new - see The Moral Animal: Why We Are the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology), I can't help but think that the skeptic/humanist world is too saturated with the old white male perspective.
Perhaps this is what lies behind de Waal's criticism of the "dogmatic" atheist and scientific community. In what appeared to me to be a rant against these men, de Waal seems to think that the worst negative effects of religion currently are merely preaching creationism and a flat earth. Let me then reply-rant: this completely ignores the groups of people who are the most damaged by religion in the western world, namely women and non-Christian people of colour, whose lives are actually, literally, endangered by religious dogmatism. And let's remember these are not fringe groups, but people with considerable political power.
In the last chapter, de Waal mentions a certain "Dr. Benjamin Carson," probably unknown to most people when this book was written, but you'd have to be living under a rock to not know who he is now. In the past few months, Dr. Carson has provided us with an tremendous assault on anything related to reality, truth, rationality and logic. He can only do this because he is able to appeal to the only group of people who appreciate this rhetoric of absolute ignorance, the religious extremists. Regardless of religion, throughout history, extremists have waged wars against knowledge and inquiry - and this is what is at the heart of the problem with religion.
It's not enough to show with rational arguments that morality is innate and doesn't come from religion. You can't win an argument using logic with someone who is completely irrational. However, I do get where he's coming from in defense of spirituality, and if anyone who is an atheist/skepting has an interest in appreciating the benefit of the search for spiritual meaning and traditional knowledge, I highly suggest reading The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World. May I suggest as well searching for humanist ethic books written by women and PoC, because while I respect de Waal's views tbh I'm getting bored of this same old tired perspective. ...more
An amazing and potentially life changing book about the potential of the brain and the science of brain plasticity. It's just too bad about the animalAn amazing and potentially life changing book about the potential of the brain and the science of brain plasticity. It's just too bad about the animal experiments, that was really not pleasant to read about. ...more
A great collection of case studies illustrating the power of music on the mind. I wish this had some kind of audio accompaniment so that I could hearA great collection of case studies illustrating the power of music on the mind. I wish this had some kind of audio accompaniment so that I could hear the music that he was talking about (though the ear worms can be left out). ...more
Everyone should read this book, especially those of us who think that we know everything, that our common sense is solid, that we make rational decisiEveryone should read this book, especially those of us who think that we know everything, that our common sense is solid, that we make rational decisions. ...more
in these transcribed lectures Carl Sagan speaks in such a clear, concise way that it puts everyone to shame who has written on the subject. even overin these transcribed lectures Carl Sagan speaks in such a clear, concise way that it puts everyone to shame who has written on the subject. even over 10 years later, his ideas are as current as ever. He's a legend. ...more
a very interesting, very quotable book. there were some things I didn't quite agree with, but the message is very positive: that women shouldn't use ma very interesting, very quotable book. there were some things I didn't quite agree with, but the message is very positive: that women shouldn't use men and their interests and behaviour as a standard to emulate; instead they should consider their own wants and needs....more