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Failure: Why Science Is so Successful
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Failure: Why Science Is so Successful

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  164 ratings  ·  23 reviews
The general public has a glorified view of the pursuit of scientific research. However, the idealized perception of science as a rule-based, methodical system for accumulating facts could not be further from the truth. Modern science involves the idiosyncratic, often bumbling search for understanding in uncharted territories, full of wrong turns, false findings, and the oc ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published October 1st 2015 by Oxford University Press (first published January 1st 2015)
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3.79  · 
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 ·  164 ratings  ·  23 reviews

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Sep 10, 2016 rated it it was ok
For me, this was a failure, which I suppose the author will take as a compliment.

The writing is clunky, e.g. "Because science does, after all, have a lot of facts. For all my ranting against the overly hallowed attitude toward facts, in this book and my earlier one, Ignorance, the truth is that science has facts, lots of them." While some points are interesting, too many are painfully obvious. The author states that the book is not for scientists because they will find nothing new here. But non-
Brian Clegg
Dec 01, 2015 rated it liked it
I am a big fan of Stuart Firestein's previous book Ignorance. It does a superb job of demolishing the traditional picture (as seen from outside) of scientific endeavour. As the author makes clear, facts may sometimes be interesting, but the driver behind real science is far more likely to be exploring our delicious areas of ignorance.

This meant I had huge expectations for this follow-up title, and it's entirely possible that this anticipation resulted in an unnecessary feeling of being let down
Oct 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is fantastic! It's clearly well researched, but I also appreciate that it's much more than a scientist writing about something that fascinates him; Dr. Firestein is a wonderful author, and I think he could still make a great book even if focusing on a mediocre topic. However, what makes the book really good isn't just his writing, but the fact that the topic is anything but unimportant. It's a fascinating journey about how the contributions of failure (including accidents, ignorant the ...more
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Not particularly profound, but a good book on science nonetheless. There aren’t many books that talk about the process of science.
Aug 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Firestein makes the point that, while failure's essential role in science advancement is obvious to scientists, it is not known to the general public. So he's set out to remedy that. He makes a very good point. And then in the pursuit of a neat picture, he over-simplifies things here and there, but I can forgive him for that.

Firestein's previous book, on how ignorance drives science (title: Ignorance), was more directed at explaining science as a process to the general public. While that is his
Oct 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Stuart Firestein's follow-up to Ignorance, Failure, is a worthy sequel. They work together well in that one addresses, for the most part, the curiosity that comes from acknowledging one's ignorance and seeking to find answers while the other addresses the need to keep that curiosity alive through the many failures one will sustain while seeking more and better answers.

I saw a comment from another reviewer I think bears repeating, these chapters are essentially separate essays, so if the topic of
Nov 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
A little difficult to get through but worth reading. I came away with a better understanding of how science really works and how important failure is.
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
More home runs in the first more than the last half but a worthwhile read
Jon Miner
Apr 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Took me much to long to get through, but Failure gives a great history and argument for how failing is what makes Science and academia in general great. Chock full of great detail and examples.
Nov 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
What a fun and interesting book.

Firestein, a biologist by training and professor of biology with experience in the history and philosophy of science, investigates and argues persuasively that science, and progress in science, is a messier and less-certain endeavor that most people believe. Furthermore, he shows that progress is driven by slow and continual failure just as much as through instants of profound insight, or through serendipities accidents. As such, science is really advanced by rep
Apr 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a Great book and I'm pretty sure my review won't do it justice.

What is this book about? Is about the making of science, about the long, painful and sometimes contradictory history of trial and error in science before we called her science. It's about the need and requirement of failure and enough leeway so we can stumble into unexpected results and inquire more about them.

Science must walk not just the most traveled road, but also the less traveled one. And sometimes walk back and inve
Ignorance was a better book. Failure suffers from the fact that Firestein never comes down with a clear definition of the thing that he's writing about. Once again there are thought provoking ideas and a few great passages that I will come back to. But overall this was a less complete idea than its predecessor.
Ian Rose
Dec 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
It isn't perfect (could use an edit and a better Kindle formatter, among some other qualms) but it was thought provoking enough to be more than worth the read. It's a very good defense of pluralism in general, not just in science but everywhere in human life, but has some very interesting things to say about the practice of modern science too.
Nov 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
A very interesting book about science and how integral failure is to the process. It was interesting even to a layman like myself and I recommend reading it to anybody who wants to expand their knowledge on science and how failure can be a good thing.
Jun 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
"In science failures are as informative as successes, sometimes more so, and, of course, sometimes less so. Failures may be disappointing at first, but successes that lead nowhere new are short-lived pleasures."
Pete Welter
Oct 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Reviewed this along with Ignorance: How it drives science in Ignorance review.
Diane Henry
Apr 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
a bit of a dry read, and less engaging than his previous book, Ignorance, but still thought-provoking and interesting.
SG Library
Feb 06, 2016 marked it as to-read
Shelves: november-2015
november 2015
Dec 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
I was so excited when I won this on Goodreads. And I was mostly not disappointed. I found I could not read it while there was distractions. Other than that I liked it.
A Southern
Oct 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Just got notifications that I won this bad boy. Super excited, the reviews were great. Will post a review soon as she's in my hands and read her. So excited
Garrett Dunnington
May 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Pro-scientific--- He still acknowledges how non-linear the process and scientific progress is.
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Oct 21, 2015
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Jan 27, 2016
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Stuart Firestein is an American neuroscientiest and biologist.
After earning his Ph.D. in neurobiology, Firestein was a researcher at Yale Medical School, then joined Columbia University in 1993. At the Columbia University Department of Biological Sciences, Firestein is now studying the sense of smell.

Dedicated to promoting the accessibility of science to a public audience, Dr. Firestein seeks to r
“If a machine is expected to be infallible, it cannot also be intelligent. —Alan Turing” 2 likes
“Failures provide a certain kind of feedback that is then used in a process we call error correction. With this simple loop in place, knowing that something doesn’t work can be as valuable as knowing that it does. Of course once again there are” 1 likes
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