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Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud (Voodoo Science #1)

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  1,389 Ratings  ·  67 Reviews
In a time of dazzling scientific progress, how can we separate genuine breakthroughs from the noisy gaggle of false claims? From Deepak Chopra's "quantum alternative to growing old" to unwarranted hype surrounding the International Space Station, Robert Park leads us down the back alleys of fringe science, through the gleaming corridors of Washington power and even into ou ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published November 1st 2001 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 2000)
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aPriL does feral sometimes
I estimate 1/3 of the physics explained in 'Voodoo Science' was over my pay grade, but the rest is certainly clear as glass. I recommend everyone read this, even if you pick up only the outline of why some recent 20th-century 'discoveries' are either scams or don't work. Don't waste time beating up on yourself if some of Park's explanations are too hard to understand - Congress and some scientists are also often easily tricked by sales pitches full of pseudo-science and excited but ignorant main ...more
Lena
Jun 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
This highly readable book is an excellent discussion of how the lack of scientific literacy in America affects all of us.

Physicist Robert Park begins this wide survey of bad science with a discussion of how the media is helping to confuse Americans by regularly covering stories of exciting, but highly improbable, scientific claims. In a detailed discussion of the cold fusion disaster of 1989, he then goes on to look at basic human nature and how wishful thinking on the part of a scientist can l
...more
David
Jan 12, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2010
In 1983, Robert Park, then chairman of the Department of Physics at the University of Maryland, agreed to set up and direct a Washington office of public affairs for the American Physics Society. This book evolved as a result of his continuing efforts in that role for the next 16 years, synthesizing material from weekly bulletins, op-ed columns and various articles in the popular press.

Park is refreshingly clear that he is not writing for other scientists. His target audience is the general, no
...more
Hilary
May 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Maura
Shelves: non-fiction, own, science, 2009
Science!

Is there anything it can't do?

Voodoo Science offered an in depth look into the pseudoscience the plagues the National conscious. The book examined some of the more popular aspects of pseudoscience (i.e. perpetual motion machines, homeopathy, Roswell, etc.) and the reasons why such claims are inherently false. Throughout the book a nod is given to the scientific method, as well as a sobering account of why such a method is importance.

Scientists are not cast as infallible, but rather as hu
...more
Alisha
Apr 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Alisha by: Rachel Brisson
Shelves: self-education, 2010
A MUST read. SERIOUSLY.

Very much a fan of his explanations on homeopathic medicine and energy field cleansing, not to mention how the media "dumbs down" society in terms of actual scientific logic, findings and theory.

Some of it was a little heady for me because I am NOT strong personally in science, so I had to backtrack a little when I realized my comprehension was down (EMBARAAAASSING).

I liked that he explained WHY we want to believe in voodoo/pseudo/junk science (though his personal lack of
...more
Shabbeer Hassan
Apr 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book is written not so much for scientists but more for anyone with an interest in scientific misconduct/fraud. Robert Park writes in "Voodoo Science" that voodoo science has a way of evolving ... from self-delusion to fraud. He uses the term voodoo science to cover them all: pathological science, junk science, pseudoscience, and fraudulent science. In pathological science, scientists fool themselves. Junk science refers to scientists who use their expertise to befuddle and mislead others ( ...more
Eric Troy
Jul 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
There is a part which mentions "pseudosymmetry," which is a term coined Christopher Toumey in "Conjuring Science." This is the illusion that scientists are equally divided on claims that may have little or no scientific support. Even in strength training, so much simpler than physics, I am always telling people, "There is no debate here," in regards to ridiculous claims and ideas for which people imagine there are two sides, equal in expertise and number, arguing about it. Fun read.

Pat Cummings
Aug 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
His examples may be slightly dated, but the concept is crucial: science is a specific discipline, not just anything with that label. Professor Robert L. Park discusses the ways junk science masquerades as the real thing, and details how much accepting such claims costs all of us.

It’s Not News, It’s Entertainment opens the book. This is a crucial point; if the largely entertainment-focused media did not supportively cover these topics as it does, most junk science claims would not get very far. T
...more
Book
Feb 25, 2012 added it
Shelves: science
Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud by Robert L. Park

"Voodoo Science" is a very entertaining and informative book that will help people judge which claims are science and which are voodoo. Emeritus professor of physics at the University of Maryland, Robert L. Park take the readers on a ride on forces that seem to conspire to keep alive voodoo science: pathological science, junk science, pseudoscience, and fraudulent science. This enlightening 240-page book is composed of the follo
...more
Jennn
Oct 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009, non-fic
I found this book interesting and very disconcerting. Being a part of society that doesn't exactly understand physics and most sciences (except for my beloved paleontology and geology), I found this book terrifying and eye-opening. It's one thing to say that voodoo science is out there (in all its ambiguity), but it's another thing to be shown examples: this is where you're being screwed and how.

Park is what you'd expect from a Physics professor - a little dry, skeptical, but willing to explain
...more
Richard
Feb 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A series of less well know stories of how pseudo and junk science costs society money and trust. I like to think I am well read in this area but a lot of this was new to me. eg 200 million dollars lost on a French oil find plane ; Cold fusion and the Mormons ; space shuttle and SDI
Margot
Feb 08, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Park discounts "voodoo science" by exploring examples that have surfaced since he's been writing newspaper articles explaining science to the general public. He makes a distinction between foolishness and fraud, with both coming under his umbrella term "voodoo." He reserves the most vitriol for those scientists who intentionally mislead, passing the point of no return when they could have admitted their mistakes. Many of the examples he uses became a menace to the public by attracting the frenzi ...more
Edward
Aug 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is a fine book on the uses and abuses of science, particularly the latter. Science works on the basis of pattern recognition - once a pattern is recognized in the phenomena being observed, then a valid generalization can be articulated and worked upon.
When it's abused, then erroneous patterns are announced and people act on these questionable or downright wrong assumptions. Errors take place for all kinds of reasons - there is money involved in peddling fraudulent claims, one repeated ma
...more
Andres
Sep 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a very good book detailing the abysmal scientific knowledge that the average consumer possesses. This results in some extremely beneficial and harmless technologies being demonized and rejected by a public that has no clue as to how they work, yet allow themselves to be swayed by fearmongers with or without an agenda who end up making a living out of their stupidity. On the flip side, it also results in useless, harmful and/or cost-prohibitive technologies being readily adopted and suppo ...more
TonyAlmeida
Excelente livro de Robert Park, onde o leitor é confrontado com formas, digamos assim, menos sérias de fazer ciência. São vários os motivos que podem levar um cientista por caminhos menos sérios. Tal como qualquer humano, o investigador tem convicções, que podem interferir no seu julgamento, e pode cometer erros. E se o cientista teima em não reconhecer o seu erro? O que acontece se as suas convicções se sobrepõe a análise imparcial dos resultados obtidos e teima em seguir o caminho que ele ente ...more
Todd Martin
Sep 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Voodoo Science is a well written, entertaining and sarcastic look at many of the popular pseudo–scientific claims people believe despite the fact that no evidence exists to support them. The list includes: homeopathy and magnet therapy, perpetual motion/energy machines, cold fusion, the scientific value of the space station, adverse health affects of magnetic fields, UFOs, quantum intelligence and others. He also provides a good overview of the scientific method and how its self regulating mecha ...more
Kirsten
Jun 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Robert Park tackles a number of scientific hoaxes and examples of just plain bad science in this illuminating book. He examines several different types of "voodoo science," with examples. There are sciencists that apparently starts out well-intentioned, but want so badly to believe in their own results that they ignore flaws in their research, and eventually start falsifying or obscuring evidence; the chapter on cold fusion covers this rather nicely. There are out-and-out hucksters, like the guy ...more
Sesana
Mar 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
A promising book derailed by the author's pet annoyances. I've become very interested in the debunking of pseudoscience and supposedly paranomal phenomenon, probably in large part because of an X-Files hangover. I've read a fair few books in this vein, and I usually enjoy them immensely. For me, skeptical books are far more enlightening and awe-inspiring than any number of paranomal books. This one is fairly well written, but it has one big problem. It keeps coming back to the author's pet peeve ...more
Jeannette
Nov 02, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who enjoy Physics, cold fusion and thermodynamics
I've read articles from Robert Park in Skeptics magazines and I saw him as a commentator on Penn & Teller's BullSh!t and so enjoyed what he had to say that I picked up this book. Sadly it was chore for me to get through, which is sad because reading should never be a chore. I would often find that I had gotten to the bottom of a page and not remember anything that was said so I had to go back and reread it. The problem was that I found this book so boring that I had a hard time playing atten ...more
Nuclearlee
Jan 23, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Nuclearlee by: Christymae
He blatantly states at the beginning that this book is not for scientists. I really enjoyed reading it, but because it was a lot of stories about stuff I understand already, it was a very slow read. I was too young to remember much about the cold fusion fiasco, so I have to say the story about Pons and Fleischman was the most interesting of all of the depressing stories. I highly recommend this book for people who are either overly optimistic about science (think that science will someday save t ...more
Courtney
Jan 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book encourages critical thinking through blending humor with a careful scientific debunking of various societal myths and mistakes. It touches on the diverse range of "pseudoscience" in the world today, from several of NASA's failed projects, to the folly of Cold Fusion, to homeopathic medicine, and more. While the author is not quite as impartial as he would like readers to believe (he makes a couple prejudiced jabs at general religion/spirituality, for example)he does use good logic and ...more
Brian
Sep 13, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
My biggest criticism of this book is that it was dated. Having just finished a Dan Simmon's big space opera quartet, I was hoping to find a grounding in real science. Robert Park fit the bill. Director of some Washington bureau of science, Park takes us for a ride through the scientific process into the fringes of pseudoscience and fraudulent claims. I would have enjoyed more anecdotes; he spent a lot of time talking about three or four different cases. His chapter on space exploration was the m ...more
Kaille
Feb 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
Park has a very engaging writing style, and he's good enough to make me take the time and try to understand the science, rather than skip through it. His explanations I found really clear, actually, and was pretty pleased with myself for 'getting it'.

My real issues were that being that it's his book, it's riddled with his biases. I agree with them, but that doesn't make it less biased. I also felt like he took forever and a half to actually get to the meat of the Cold Fusion story. Park, if you'
...more
Frank Jude
Aug 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those interested in science as well as those who fancy themselves "New Agers."
Shelves: general-science
Robert Park, professor of physics, has offered a work that I only wish those who need it the most would read. And who needs to read this book? New Agers and folk who are mystified -- or think they don't understand scientific, rational thinking!

Park exposes the forces -- psychological, economical and political -- that sustain voodoo science. So, what's "voodoo science?" PLEASE, read this book to find out. But be forewarned, Park holds no punches, and one of your sacred cows may just be on the blo
...more
Sara Gauldin
Oct 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book is an in-depth look at the cultural acceptance of false of pseudo-science that is allowed to take the place of authentic and quantitative scientific methodology. The Author sites many intriguing examples of studies and products that are hailed publicly as a scientific breakthrough, but in reality, they have little or no validity when examined using the scientific method. The common thread is the lack of possibility of refuting or replicating the proclaimed results, either through veile ...more
Caroline Ure
Sep 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
I read this book for a class at BYU entitled "Voodoo Science: the Underpinnings of Modern Scientific Thought" and in my opinion, the book is really well-written and extremely enlightening. Park uses concrete examples to prove his points and in the end, there is no doubt that the book is well-researched and that Park knows what he's talking about. Although it contains some bias, that doesn't detract from the overall effectiveness of the ultimate message: those who present extraordinary claims mus ...more
Allisonperkel
Aug 20, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, science
this really deserve 3.5 stars as it was a decent book that does deal with how people are fooled by charlatans (especially cold fusion and Deepak Chopra and new age healers...)

If the book was a little less dry and spent only half as much time on cold fusion I would have liked it more - still if its in the library and you really want something to read (and you can forget about the recent questions on cold fusion) its not a bad read
Jennifer
Jan 14, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: science
Although I liked the expose effect of this book, I was really let down to know my time machine is completely unrealistic. Robert Parks writing voice seems annoyed and he angrily denounces faulty science. He praises the head of CERN for attending every cold fusion conference, but it's a grudging praise. This book evaporated any crazy mad scientist idea I ever had. I threw out my enormous magnet and cried.
Kelly Wagner
Jun 27, 2012 rated it liked it
This was probably a really good essay when it first appeared, but as a book, it's rambling and repetetive, and weakens his point. I do agree with the point, which is that humans seem to be really susceptible to pseudoscience because we WANT to believe. Pointing out what science is and how the scientific method works, over and over and over again, doesn't seem to make much of a dent on people, but Park doesn't have anything better to suggest.
Tim
May 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An enjoyable read, albeit a rather self-indulgent one for me, since I need no persuading that (for instance) the memory of water is a con. But it's impressive to see him go to work on such bad ideas, and his demolition of homeopathy is definitive. But it was interesting to read the details of fallacious perpetual motion machines, power cable lukaemia scares and other more subtle scientific frauds, like cold fusion.
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Robert Lee Park is an emeritus professor of physics at the University of Maryland, College Park and a former Director of Public Information at the Washington office of the American Physical Society. Park is most noted for his critical commentaries on alternative medicine and other pseudoscience, as well as his criticism of how legitimate science is distorted or ignored by the media, some scientist ...more
More about Robert L. Park

Other Books in the Series

Voodoo Science (2 books)
  • Superstition: Belief in the Age of Science
“Society, in fact, often holds it to be a virtue to adhere to certain beliefs in spite of evidence to the contrary. Belief in that which reason denies is associated with steadfastness and courage, while skepticism is often identified with cynicism and weak character. The more persuasive the evidence against a belief, the more virtuous it is deemed to persist in it. We honor faith. Faith can be a positive force, enabling people to persevere in the face of daunting odds, but the line between perseverance and fanaticism is perilously thin. Carried to extremes, faith becomes destructive—the residents of Jonestown for example, or the Heaven’s Gate cult. In both cases, the faith of the believers was tested; in both cases, they passed the test.” 1 likes
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