The Hidden Half: How the World Conceals its Secrets
Why does one smoker die of lung cancer but another live to 100? The answer is 'The Hidden Half' - those random, unknowable variables that mess up our attempts to comprehend the world.
We humans are very clever creatures - but we're idiots about how clever we really are. In this entertaining and ingenious book, Blastland reveals how in our quest to make the world more unders...more
1. When genetically identical Marmorkreb crayfish are grown in the same environment and given lots of food, they all grow to very different sizes (published in Nature!), it proves that we simply don’t know what affects their size on top of their gene and environment. It is not bias or measurement error, but a fundamental property.
2. The biggest study about delinquent boys and adult crime found absolutely no factors that can pr ...more
Blastland opens with the story of a parthenogenic crustacean that seems to demonstrate that, despite having near-identical nature and nurture, a collection of the animals vary hugely in size, length of life and practically every other measure. This is used to introduce us to the idea that our science deals effectively with ...more
The book is a fast-reading and delightful collection o ...more
Even when we're in total control of everything there are hidden parameters that can have outsized proportions.
Blastland observes that even when we try to control for all discrepancies, there are so many hidden factors that it becomes effectively impossible to reproduce the same conditions twice. This has obvious applications in the Replication Crisis in academia as well as in politics, where it is impossible to show ...more
Regardless, the opening of the book really spoke to me:
“Instead of saying ‘I really need to know this,’ we need to say, ‘I can’t know this and how do we manage in a worl ...more
Lots of great examples including the cause of the drop in teen pregnancy in the UK (some argue the case for the impact of Little Britain’s Vicky Pollard ...more