Read Free Radicals: The Secret Anarchy of Science by Michael Brooks Online


They present themselves as cool, logical, and level-headed, when the truth is that they will do anything --take drugs, follow mystical visions, lie and even cheat --to make a discovery. They are often more interested in starting revolutions than in playing by the rules. In Free Radicals, bestselling author Michael Brooks reveals the extreme lengths some of our most celebraThey present themselves as cool, logical, and level-headed, when the truth is that they will do anything --take drugs, follow mystical visions, lie and even cheat --to make a discovery. They are often more interested in starting revolutions than in playing by the rules. In Free Radicals, bestselling author Michael Brooks reveals the extreme lengths some of our most celebrated scientists --such as Newton, Einstein, and Watson and Crick --are willing to go to, from fraud to reckless, unethical experiments, in order to make new discoveries and bring them to the world's attention....

Title : Free Radicals: The Secret Anarchy of Science
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ISBN : 9781590208540
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 320 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Free Radicals: The Secret Anarchy of Science Reviews

  • Margaret
    2019-01-15 12:59

    I enjoyed this book. The author discusses the way that science is ACTUALLY conducted. Gone are the white coats and the methodical approach replete with orderly trial and error. Instead we have stories of top academics ingesting psychoactive drugs, fist fighting in hospital hallways, and experimenting on themselves when they cannot get permission to test their theories on others. The author shares these stories in the hopes that the public will see that true innovation comes at the price of messiness. Although I enjoyed this book I gave it three stars. I felt like the author had a clear bias while writing it and that it read more like a persuasive paper than an unbiased anything. I also felt that sometimes the sensationalism used in the story didn't always match up with the argument the author was making. Lastly, although I enjoyed many of the stories and I found the book incredibly thought provoking I felt that my somewhat limited scientific background made it difficult to truly absorb some of what the author was saying. My limited background is not the author's fault, but I thought it might be useful for other readers to think about before starting the book.

  • Mark Mcintyre
    2019-01-07 10:46

    " I do not think that word means what you think it means". While the premise is interesting - scientists are human too, but science has missold itself as somehow a more perfect way - few if any of the example scientists Brooks cites as 'anarchists' were anything of the sort. He uses the term 'anarchist' to loosely collect together young people in the 70s who dabbled in LSD, scheming Renaissance italians, doctors who experimented on themselves, people who had flashes of inspiration, feuding scientists who did their best to damage each other's reputations and so on - all described as anarchists. Well, gosh, students in the 70s doing drugs? Shurely not. And people scheming and being political in Renaissance italy - anyone for the Borgias? Similarly, claiming Einstein was an anarchist because he had a flash of inspiration, well that just annoyed me. The guy had been thinking about relativity for months if not years, so having a dream or a sudden inexplicable idea - hardly a surprise. Thats how minds work. Finally - sorry but the chapter suggesting peer review was bad was just muddle headed. For sure its not perfect and some people use their influence inappropriately. But thats the fault of journal editors for not properly weighting opinions (for example downweighting a rival who is known to favour an alternate theory or is working on thte same topic), not the process. If he'd said nonconformist or political I'd have been happier, but I guess 'the secret nonconformity and politics of science; isn't so snapppy.

  • Susan
    2019-01-10 11:54

    Although this book had a fair number of interesting tidbits of information, the way it was written annoyed me. First of all, to quote my husband, the author "uses the term anarchy the way the Smurfs use the word smurf" so that it kind of lost meaning. He used anarchy to mean not following protocol, just plain being mean, and so on. One of my major complaints about this book is how the author stressed how a lot of ideas "just came to" the scientists as a result of dreams, drug use or almost magic. I'm sure that many scientists work on things for years, seemingly without results, and then have an "Ah-ha" moment as described by the author. However, that "ah-ha" is due to years of study, work, and pure talent. It's not like I, with very little background, would all of a sudden have an idea on, let's say, a medical cure come to me out of nowhere. I think the author deemphasizes the sheer drudgery that is needed before a discovery or invention comes about.I am already all too aware of the competition and pettiness that comes with academia. These are usually even more intense in the hard sciences than in social science and humanities. If people aren't aware of the intellectual thievery, deceit and so forth that occurs in high level science, they might find this part of the book interesting. I just found it depressing.

  • Stephanie Szostek
    2018-12-24 06:04

    Some good stories, but it got repetitive at times.

  • Kathrin Passig
    2019-01-03 08:47

    Eigentlich dreieinhalb Punkte, hier fehlen sie mir ausnahmsweise mal. Nach oben gerundet, weil ich doch viele Stellen zur Weiterverwendung markiert habe.

  • Steve
    2018-12-24 10:50

    Ignore my rating - I rated the wrong book!!

  • Wendi
    2018-12-26 05:07

    One of the best quotes:"If we want more scientific progress, we need to release more rebels, more outlaws, more anarchists. The time has come to celebrate the anarchy, not conceal it."--from epilogue, pg. 260

  • Neal Alexander
    2018-12-30 07:52

    The original title of this book was ‘Free Radicals’ so the ‘Anarchy’ shouldn’t be taken seriously. Doubtless via hasty editing, some supposedly ‘anarchic’ behaviours, such as belonging to a North American labour union, clearly are not.Still, the book has a point. Some scientists insist we follow, or should follow, ‘the’ scientific method even though they can’t say what it is. Experiments, for example, are not vital to all sciences, such as astronomy. The book gives deserved mileage to Feyerabend’s ‘anything goes’ assessment. Although Feynman is quoted a few times, his description of science as ‘organised scepticism’ isn’t mentioned, perhaps for fear of making the book seem verbose and superfluous.At school I was taught the ‘tongue map’ of flavour zones. In fact, if memory serves, I got different substances dropped onto my tongue and was asked to affirm the theory: doubtless I obliged. The trouble is that there’s no evidence for this theory. At least, that’s what Wikipedia says. No, I haven’t checked the primary sources: no-one can do that for everything they rely on, so there are always likely to be some false ‘facts’ circulating. One of the book’s examples is Watson and Crick being misled by incorrect textbooks, with Crick concluding that he shouldn’t ‘place too much reliance on any single piece of experimental evidence’. We’d like to think that scepticism will self-correct such errors, although this may be far from reliable (see eg last year’s ‘Trouble at the Lab’ article in The Economist).The book’s serious and valid points are cheapened by its bluster, for example introducing a chapter on scientific rivalries by way of a bridge-blowing scene from For Whom the Bell Tolls.

  • Charlene
    2019-01-16 11:46

    One of the best books I have read in a while. There is no need to have a firm understanding of science to enjoy this book. Sometimes sensational but always entertaining, Brooks take on the scientific community is thoughtful and necessary. I highly recommend this book to anyone even remotely interested in the history of science, how ego affects science, how drugs helped some scientists make discoveries, or why we we make our kids hate science and promote sports culture (this last point is in epilogue and is fantastic.) This books provides an easy, fast paced, light (yet comprehensive) read. Bravo Michael Brooks. Well done!

  • Hannah
    2018-12-26 05:54

    An enjoyable peak into the politics of science they don't tell you about at school or at university. Apparently the world of scientists is not a noble as they would have us believe. This book is an interesting read full of great statistics, stories and anecdotes that you wouldn't have thought scientists would be capable of. It also confirms what i have begun to suspect recently, that scientists don't really play by the rules they're supposed to at all which is kind of funny given that they invented them.

  • Beatrix Tung
    2019-01-15 06:13

    Ugh. Bad arguments. But excellent trove of anecdotes for use in essays.

  • Marjolein
    2019-01-13 11:16

    I have not read this book yet. Brainpickings reviewed it though. Sounds interesting:

  • Mary Quantrell
    2018-12-31 09:11

    I cannot think of anything more destructive, today, than a "pseudo-accomplished" physicist who authors a book under the guise of relaying scientific knowledge to the public in confidence of helping those understand scientific concepts whilst using nonscientific language, but, however instead, relies solely on false descriptions and linguistic manipulations that have unquestionably been exhumed from the outskirts of scientific integrity. I suppose one or two examples are in order.From the text:"In fact, several major developments in physics that made the bomb possible occurred as a result of an irrational, unpredictable - some would say unscientific - moment of revelation or inspiration" (Brooks, p. 31).These are not words that usually flow so freely from a scientist. In fact, these words infer the opposite of science. No scientific breakthrough "just happens"—Science is rational, predictable, and has nothing to do with mysticism and/or the supernatural.I’ll provide the definitions/synonyms for his choice of words just to be a little clearer on why I find his choices deceptive:Irrational: groundless, baseless, unfounded, unjustifiableUnpredictable: unforeseeable, uncertain, doubtfulUnscientific: not in accordance with scientific principals or methodology; lacking knowledge of or interest in scienceRevelation: the divine or supernatural disclosure to humans of something relating to human existence or the worldInspiration: the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creativeBrooks uses heightened ‘mystical’ words, such as “revelation”, but inferior, or ‘unscientific’ words when describing substantiated and well documented cognitive processes.A second example:“Were Snyder and Fermi’s experiences unusual? Yes, in that scientists do not make such significant discoveries every day. But if we restrict ourselves to the realm of significant scientific discoveries, the answer seems to be no: they invariably come from apparently nowhere” (p. 33).Really, Brooks ? Nowhere ? What kind of scientist says this ?I had to go find my cognitive psychology textbook for reassurance:“A problem occurs when there is an obstacle between a present state and a goal and is not immediately obvious how to get around the obstacle” (Goldstein, 2015, p.336 & 359).“Problem solving, for the Gestalt psychologists, was about (1) how people represent a problem in their mind and (2) how solving a problem involves a reorganization or restructuring of this representation” (p. 336).“[P]roblem solving is not simply about getting an idea in a flash of insight, although that may happen, but about having a base knowledge that makes the idea possible” (p. 359).When Brooks uses the word "revelation," I, instead, would suggest the word "insight." These "people" who have made breakthroughs were not random people, but physicists and other scientists that had been working on these problems for a very long time. When they ‘suddenly’ discover or solve something when not working on the project in that moment, this is called insight, where specialists reconstruct what they know into solving a problem—This is the typical, cognitive process of problem solving. Furthermore, it can be difficult for specialists, such as physicists, to solve problems that require more creative and mental flexibility (outside-the-box) due to their strong base knowledge; they obviously need the strong base knowledge, but sometimes it takes a little longer to make a breakthrough, hence resulting in a "breakthrough" ..He used his authority within the scientific sphere making things seem more 'clear' to the lay public, but rather flagrantly misinterprets known scientific processes whilst instead provoking mystical explanations in place of known scientific processes.I have to mention this, also ! Somewhere Brooks refers to Einstein as a “mystic.”Let's now think of the word 'mystic': “a person who seeks by contemplation and self-surrender to obtain unity with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute, or who believes in the spiritual apprehension of truths that are beyond the intellect.”Einstein couldn’t have been more of the opposite of ‘mystic’…"Much unfortunate confusion is caused by failure to distinguish what can be called Einsteinian religion from supernatural religion. Einstein sometimes invoked the name of God (and he is not the only atheistic scientist to do so), inviting misunderstanding by supernaturalists eager to misunderstand and claim so illustrious a thinker as their own" (Dawkins, 2006, p. 13).Three of my favorite quotes to close:“Language is power, life and the instrument of culture, the instrument of domination and liberation” (Angela Carter).“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought” (George Orwell).“Mastery of language affords remarkable power” (Frantz Fanon).ReferencesBrooks, Michael. (2013). Free Radicals: The Secret Anarchy of Science. New York, NY: Overlook Press.Dawkins, Richard. (2006). The God Delusion. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company.Goldstein, E. Bruce. (2015). Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research and Everyday Experience, 4th Edition. Boston, MA: Wadsworth Publishing.

  • Petar Vrgoc
    2019-01-01 05:08

    Through our education we build picture on how things happen. After reading this book, Free Radicals, one may change the picture, things or solutions are coming in one, slightly, different way. Michael Brooks has stile that makes reading exciting.

  • Richard
    2019-01-08 10:04

    Unfortunately, scientists and researchers are people who have egos and a tendency to stick with the status quo. This book explores how science can be held back for by the very people whose job it is to lead us into the future. Very insightful.

  • David Abigt
    2018-12-28 11:59

    Interesting history behind some discoveries but he seems to be saying and in fact advocating that all scientific progress is based on flawed data filtered to prove someone's theory. Climate change deniers would have a field day with this book.

  • Liz
    2019-01-16 09:06


  • Abraham Lewik
    2018-12-26 11:56

    Rather good, to be honest, not flawless. Some really frustrating inconsistencies diminish the case the author builds, nevertheless he delivers. Very enjoyable anecdotes and the specific skeletons, once closeted, have room enough to dance along these pages. Be warned that science is a nebulous concept in these pages, it does not always mean the method (predictability, records etc.) nor individuals.An example of failure is using the frequency of publication as a standard to defend Mr. Sagan, whilst later attacking that very standard as stifling progress. Also, a few pages prior mentioning his wide margin of error in a study, which is less predictive and so less valuable when measured with the scientific method. Also on that, in the last chapter, mentioning a study of Mr. Sagan's of which he himself is dubious. All this undermines a certain expectation of consistency, that a critic will have a superior alternative in mind (constructive criticism) as well as hurting trust that Mr. Sagan is more scientist than demagogue (I use the word aware of the negative connotations).What I want to change though is simple. Put a bloody asterisk when there are notes in the rear pages. Those notes are extra chips in bag, so to speak, and had cooled, gone gross, when I turned the final page and found them there.

  • Nick Davies
    2019-01-04 11:56

    Reading this was a very strange experience. The opening two or three chapters really irritated me with the extent to which the author spouted inaccuracy and hypocrisy, and focussed on random 'inspiration' as being most important in science (when in truth 99% of it is hard work and experimentation) and criticised the 'cherry-picking' of researchers choosing data that backs up their argument, ignoring evidence which doesn't - the author himself cherry-picking a number of examples to back up his assertion, ignoring many examples which don't.The remainder of the book was a lot less annoying, and more honestly and straightforwardly discussed many aspects of the scientific field which the casual reader might find surprising. There was a lot of credit given to scientists who were denied their rightful appreciation earlier on, there was a lot of discussion of ethics which was interesting, there were examples of researchers (including a former lecturer of mine who infected himself with parasitic worms!) that made for quirky examples. So yes, a funny mixture. I'd recommend it to anyone willing to skip the opening two or three chapters, with several caveats of me understanding the subject might not be interesting to everyone.

  • Letya
    2019-01-08 08:51

    Sajnos csalódtam a könyvben, mert többet vártam tőle. Valódi anarchiát vártam, nem pedig csak lázadásokat és szabályszegéseket. A tudomány anarchiáját, nem a tudósét. Valódi anarchiát, nem csak a szó 1001 ismétlését a kötetben.A leírtak többsége nem volt újdonság számomra, így talán ez is hozzájárult ahhoz, hogy leminősítsem a könyvet.Michael Brooks egyes fejtegetéseivel és álláspontjával nem tudok maradéktalanul egyetérteni. Valamint a kötet felépítésével sem, hiszen 95%-ban olyan tudósokat említ, akik a szabályok megszegésével, bár a saját életüket is kockáztatták, a siker útjára léptek. Pedig hány olyan tudós volt, aki nem élte túl a kísérletet, vagy maradandó sérüléseket szerzett vele magának. Ha egy fiatal tudóspalánta olvassa a könyvet, úgy érezheti, hogy nyugodtan kockára teheti az életét, hiszen másoknak is siker koronázta tettét.Az LSD-vel indít, mintha sok tudósnak ez, vagy ehhez hasonló hallucinogén szerek segítettek volna az előrejutásban. A végén pedig azzal zár, hogy nincs rá bizonyíték, hogy bárki is hasznát vette volna ezeknek a szereknek. Csalódott vagyok és szomorú. Többet és jobbat vártam. Remélem, hogy a következő könyve amit olvasni fogok, már jobb lesz.

  • Raul
    2019-01-04 11:46

    Cuando adquirí el libro pensé que sería el repositorio de una serie de anécdotas interesantes, incluso hasta divertidas, de las situaciones por las que han pasado grandes mentes para hacer sus inventos y descubrimientos. Pero Brooks toma esas situaciones como pie para mostrarnos de una manera legible lo humanos que los científicos pueden llegar a ser. Ver lo imperfectos, anacrónicos, y suertudos, pero también lo agresivos, impulsivos y ególatras que pueden ser. La ciencia no es una rama de actividad perfecta y de pasos lógicos y esperados para encontrar respuestas, a veces hay que arrebatarlas.Estupenda recopilación y manejo de la información para llevarnos a darnos cuenta de lo importante que es la ciencia y cómo podemos llegar a ella, aprender y agradecer de los beneficios que gozamos, pero también de los peligros a los que nos podemos enfrentar si no sabes darnos cuenta.Si te gusta la ciencia, aunque sea a manera de recreación, no dejes de leer este libro.

  • Timothy Burbage
    2018-12-23 11:11

    I enjoyed this non-fiction book. It took a look at scientists to show that they are not mindless robots, but emotional human beings capable of breaking the rules.This goes through how IVF broke taboos, how a heart surgeon performed surgery on himself as he couldn't find volunteers, how the scientific establishment ignored facts and data, and the "normal misbehaviours" that scientists do every day. As a former scientist (and not a very good one) I especially understood the normal misbehaviours.The only thing stopping this from being 5 stars was the open and close. The opening pushed the fact that people had creative ideas as rebellious anarchists, while the last chapter pushed a personal agenda on peer reviews.Not only did I learn a lot (especially about Stanford Ovshinsky - legend) but I also enjoyed the writing style.

  • Linne
    2018-12-23 05:04

    I'm not sure that everyone would rate this one five stars, but I found Michael Brook's arguments eloquent and convincing. This book highlights the importance of being open minded to new knowledge and ideas in a world where the historical or political context might not necessarily support them. Through examples like Copernicus' theory of the earth moving around the sun (and not the other way round), and the environmental calamity caused by CFCs in the 70s and 80s, the importance of overcoming ignorance in order to innovate is made clear. After reading this book I feel grateful to the many great thinkers who took their social responsibility to communicate their expertise on certain subjects to the public seriously, often at great personal cost to themselves. Highly recommended!

  • Patrick
    2018-12-31 10:12

    amazon review:The thrilling exploration of the secret side of scientific discovery --proving that some rules were meant to be broken scientists have colluded in the most successful cover-up of modern times. They present themselves as cool, logical, and level-headed, when the truth is that they will do anything --take drugs, follow mystical visions, lie and even cheat --to make a discovery. They are often more interested in starting revolutions than in playing by the rules. In Free Radicals, bestselling author Michael Brooks reveals the extreme lengths some of our most celebrated scientists --such as Newton, Einstein, and Watson and Crick --are willing to go to, from fraud to reckless, unethical experiments, in order to make new discoveries and bring them to the world's attention.

  • Jason Yang
    2019-01-18 09:08

    Science as a profession is many things: creative, inventive, scholarly. But one thing it is not is impartial and impersonal. In Free Radicals, Michael Brooks makes the case that some of the most influential minds in human history behaved with unglamorous, human depravity: cheats, frauds, back-stabbers, anarchists. Perhaps that's a bit extreme, but those who stand out were definitely those who cut against the grain. It's pretty fascinating to read this little biographical vignettes about some folks got ahead, or what some scientists had to do to get recognized. Definitely a fun and interesting read. Would highly recommend.

  • Max
    2018-12-31 11:12

    A really eye-opening insight into the modus operandi of modern scientist and how they interact with science. This book, though definitely not watered down, is never too dense to properly understand, even with a very basic understanding of science. Michael Brooks uses several interesting examples to illustrate each of his points (anarchy of scientists etc.), but what I found most interesting was each of the examples themselves- I learned a lot of things about both science and scientists while just reading this book- call me impressionable, but I found my appetite for science rekindled. Overall, an fascinating, well researched book that I learned a lot from

  • Mary Baldwin
    2019-01-01 07:03

    This book won't be for everyone, and will no doubt have already pissed off several scientists. The content isn't thrilling but you're left with a new angle on the science world; a take that's less science-y and more human-y. So that said, you don't need to be experienced in the fields of science to get something out of it.The books highlights the artistic side of science, and that the rules of a 'fair test' we all had to recite over and over to pass school exams, aren't as important as we'd think when it comes to qualitative discoveries. Don't judge a scientist 'til you've given this a go.

  • Dan
    2019-01-10 13:05

    Machiavelli would be proud.This was very entertaining. Scientists are human, and they sometimes behave badly. I especially liked the story of the discovery of H. Pylori, the bacteria that causes stomach ulcers. (That story included the grossest true event that I've ever read.) The political infighting and backstabbing in academia is no better than what we deal with in the private sector.This book is not science -- it's a series of narrative insights into scientists. It's not overly technical. It's an entertaining read, for fans of popular science, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  • Sam Randall
    2018-12-27 09:52

    Quite an interesting read, it's refreshing to know that some of the most intelligent people in the world are still quintessentially normal human beings. The book is written well and I never found myself getting bored, which is more than can be said for some other books in the popular science genre. Readers new to science should have no problem with this book as few complex concepts are discussed in detail. The primary focus is on the minds of scientists behind the discoveries, the 'secret anarchists' as the author describes them. Science may not be as boring as you first thought.

  • Laurentk
    2019-01-17 09:13

    I get what this book is trying to say by how bureaucracy and human flaw impedes knowledge and inspiration for answers to difficult questions, whether it be extremely technical or just inspiration for unlocking answers can come from things such as the unconscious, drug use, and a non-formal education it still doesn't address if structuring knowledge is a truly useless endeavor. Would like to do more extensive reading to understand why Feyreband's brand of epistemological anarchism was so controversial.