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Discarded Science: Ideas That Seemed Good at the Time...

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  200 ratings  ·  25 reviews
Alchemy, the flat earth theory, lost worlds, and aliens among us: these ideas once seemed plausible—but now we know they’re just plain wrong. Take a fun journey through the history of science as it transforms from a field of wild speculation into a powerful tool of understanding. Explore the world in upheaval as Earth changed from center of the universe to a smallish ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published October 28th 2006 by Facts, Figures Fun (first published September 28th 2006)
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Jan 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommended to C. by: Small Creek and Suzy (thanks guys!)
I thought this was going to be one of those toilet books - dip in and dip out, with short articles about each bit of 'discarded science', whatever that meant. I don't read in the toilet. I hate that kind of book.

Instead, it was actually very good! Grant resisted the temptation to only write about the weird, or the amusing; theories that were genuinely scientific, but just happened to be wrong, are included alongside the ones that were totally crackpot, deluded or (in my opinion) downright evil.
Jan 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
In short, this is a nice "bathroom book"; short overviews of various attempts to describe the natural world that have not quite panned out (like spontaneous generation) mixed with the usual psuedo-science (UFOs) and the religious/mythological explanations of the natural/historical world (Creationism/Ancient Astronauts). The book isn't what I would call deep - many of the individual ideas the author examines get a few pages, at most.

But, the writing is crisp, the succinctness works to the authors
Mar 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
I am not a scientist. On the other hand, I tend not to enjoy literature about science that is patronising. John Grant walks a happy middle line that tends to spin from people who so obviously love their subject.
Richard Willsea
Jun 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: research-only
Not nearly as much fun as I had hoped, lots of weird 17th century "theories". Not as much "real" science. But I bet "Discarded 1800's myths", would not sell very well. However there are some real Gems in here as far as where did the Atlantis myth come from. What are the various theories of the Nazca lines ect. what are the humors and where did they come from. Its a Great reference work, if your a writer, or roll player. Well written ie easy to read.... Do not let the 2 star fool you. Its is OK, ...more
Alvaro Gonzalez
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have read other books by John Grant and this is one of his finest.
He discuses scientific ideas from Pythagoras to today, that were generally accepted at the time they were proposed, but that we now today are wrong.
If you are a science geek, this book is for you.
Belle Meade School
Jan 06, 2020 marked it as 500-599-natural-science
Alison C
Mar 04, 2015 rated it liked it
Discarded Science: Ideas that seemed good at the time..., by John Grant, is a rather odd mishmash of information about the history of science: it includes chapters on theories about the formation of the world and the universe; theories about how human beings developed, were created or evolved; whether alien beings visited or are currently visiting Earth; theories concerning the "hard sciences"; and ideas of human health and medicine. Some of the chapters are straightforward science history, that ...more
tom bomp
Aug 29, 2013 rated it liked it
Pretty interesting book that goes through a lot of unusual ideas at a pretty rapid pace. This doesn't really give any time to go into any detail or appreciate the context - sometimes he talks about what the actual explanation of something is but it's a bit too hurried. He repeats a few things that I recognise as myths but they're not important and hardly anyone bothers to correct. He does seem pretty credulous at times - I don't expect HARDCORE SCEPTICISM at all times but it was weird that he ...more
Rachel Rogers
Oct 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Oddly enough, this book caused me to laugh aloud numerous times. It was interesting, scary, and funny. A little dense at times. Seemed to stop very apruptly.

Essentially Grant takes a look at the many scientific theories that have been held and then dismissed over time, going back to the Greeks. Of course the multiple opponents to Evolution play a major role but there are other views that have been held. Like Huygens in the 17th Century who thought that because Earth's moon existed for "no other
Ira Therebel
Mar 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
This book is a bit hard to rate. It has a lot of information on the topic of discarded science, but it is really not fun o read because it feels more like encyclopedia than anything. After all the reading I remember basically nothing, except for a few topics that interested me and that I want to look up more on.

So it is an ok book. It serves its purpose of giving you a broad idea and selection of topics you may like, but it is not an enjoyable read in general. Maybe it is also because when it
Kozmo Kliegl
shows that that people could rely on incorrect info well after the real truth becomes evident as well as some outright quackery preying on ignorance & gullibility.

An example not mentioned is the idea of a Geocentric Universe could hold until centuries after Galeleo found proof otherwise but the Church refuse to lose face (despite that they were using the Heliocentric model in secret)could support the Ptolemaic view and it turned that Aristarchus had the correct idea in the 3rd Century BCE.
Dec 07, 2011 rated it liked it
This one left me a little uneasy. It's easy to look back at some of the wackier ideas that once dominated scientific discourse, but it's alarming to think at how dogmatic scientists have been throughout the ages. It makes you wonder which of today's sacred cows are doomed to fall before an increased understanding of the universe. A little humility is a positive thing, but thanks to John Grant, it's not without some laughter.
Apr 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
What a fantastic way to explore science: by delving into all the erroneous thinking and garbage that's been tossed off so the truth can emerge. It reads like a more fleshed-out Skeptic's Dictionary. The writer doesn't entirely stay on message though. He spends more time on intentional bunk and charlatans than the title implies. Nevertheless, the book is quite an education.
Jun 30, 2008 rated it liked it
If you think you have had some bad ideas just read over this.

Grant takes a survey of some of the not so clever ideas in various sciences. He likes to poke fun at Nazi Science, and the negative influences of Christianity on scientific thought.
Robert Collette
Feb 21, 2014 rated it liked it
A great read for anyone who wants a history or pseudoscience and general quackery. You won't believe what people used to believe and it makes me wonder what things we believe today that could end up in a future edition of this book...
Deus Ex 10tklz
Mar 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Fun, fascinating, and well written! Our history and current social zeitgeist are rife with discarded and pseudo science, the author did a great job in deciding which subjects to write about and keeping a feeling of continuity and flow throughout the book. I strongly recommend this book!
Nick Kugel
Nov 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
Discarded Science is about scientific theories that were believed at one point. I find this book both funny and interesting. The ludicrous ideas some people came up with make this book pretty good. I can best describe it as the freak show of science.
Oct 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Good overview of misguided theories throughout history. The only reason this does not get 5-stars is that it lacks references. But a really good book otherwise.
Raphael Rosen
Feb 13, 2008 rated it liked it
I was disappointed with this book. The topic is very interesting, but the author's prose was a little too dismissive and juvenile.
Justin Watson
Oct 07, 2011 rated it liked it
A bit dry at times, this was definitely a book that I read in very small chunks, thereby taking me about 6 months to read it.
Aug 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Fun Science book about some ideas that didn't quite work out.
Aug 16, 2012 rated it liked it
I was a little disappointed with this book. It was sort of a mismash of stuff. At times extremely interesting, at others pretty boring.
Craig Perl
Aug 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Too dry for leisure reading.
Jan 04, 2009 marked it as to-read
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John Grant is author of over eighty books, of which about twenty-five are fiction, including novels like The World, The Hundredfold Problem, The Far-Enough Window and most recently The Dragons of Manhattan and Leaving Fortusa. His “book-length fiction” Dragonhenge, illustrated by Bob Eggleton, was shortlisted for a Hugo Award in 2003; its successor was The Stardragons. His first story collection, ...more