The author’s attacks on alternative medicine are often misguided, but he provides a valuable service in exposing the...

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BAD SCIENCE

QUACKS, HACKS, AND BIG PHARMA FLACKS

British National Health Service physician Goldacre shoots down what he considers to be quackery.

This updated version of the UK edition, published in 2008, begins with the statement, “Homeopaths are morons.” However, the author’s real targets are not proponents of alternative medicine—although he considers their remedies to be no more effective than “sugar pills”—but the ignorance of the vast public who are led astray by media hype and advertisers. The author writes the weekly “Bad Science” column for The Guardian, which, like the book, is intended to help people “who are angry about the evils of the pharmaceutical industry and nervous about the role of profit in health care.” While his dismissal of concerns about the use of MMR vaccine—an immunization shot against measles, mumps and rubella which many suspect may trigger autism in some children—are a bit cavalier, his purpose in writing is not to defend “big pharma” but to give the reader the tools to understand “how a health myth can be created, fostered, and maintained by the alternative medicine industry, using all the tricks on you, the public that big pharma uses on doctors.” This edition includes an account of a libel suit filed against Goldacre and The Guardian, which was settled (in his favor) in 2008. The author had investigated the nefarious activities of a group of big-money entrepreneurs who had spread a conspiracy theory in South Africa. In order to market vitamins as a replacement for antiretroviral therapy in the treatment of AIDS, they circulated the big lie that the pharmaceuticals not only did not retard the disease but were responsible for its spread. For Goldacre, it is these “journalists and miracle cure merchants” who undermine people’s understanding of the scientific basis for good medicine.

The author’s attacks on alternative medicine are often misguided, but he provides a valuable service in exposing the countless examples of bad science being perpetrated throughout the medical community and in the press.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-86547-918-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2010

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THE GREAT BRIDGE

THE EPIC STORY OF THE BUILDING OF THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE

It took 14 years to build and it cost 15 million dollars and the lives of 20 workmen. Like the Atlantic cable and the Suez Canal it was a gigantic embodiment in steel and concrete of the Age of Enterprise. McCullough's outsized biography of the bridge attempts to capture in one majestic sweep the full glory of the achievement but the story sags mightily in the middle. True, the Roeblings, father and son who served successively as Chief Engineer, are cast in a heroic mold. True, too, the vital statistics of the bridge are formidable. But despite diligent efforts by the author the details of the construction work — from sinking the caissons, to underground blasting, stringing of cables and pouring of cement — will crush the determination of all but the most indomitable reader. To make matters worse, McCullough dutifully struggles through the administrative history of the Brooklyn Bridge Company which financed and contracted for the project with the help of the Tweed Machine and various Brooklyn bosses who profited handsomely amid continuous allegations of kickbacks and mismanagement of funds. He succeeds in evoking the venality and crass materialism of the epoch but once again the details — like the 3,515 miles of steel wire in each cable — are tiresome and ultimately entangling. Workmanlike and thorough though it is, McCullough's history of the bridge has more bulk than stature.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1972

ISBN: 0743217373

Page Count: 652

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1972

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As much a work of philosophy as of physics and full of insights for readers willing to work hard.

THE ORDER OF TIME

Undeterred by a subject difficult to pin down, Italian theoretical physicist Rovelli (Reality Is Not What It Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity, 2017, etc.) explains his thoughts on time.

Other scientists have written primers on the concept of time for a general audience, but Rovelli, who also wrote the bestseller Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, adds his personal musings, which are astute and rewarding but do not make for an easy read. “We conventionally think of time,” he writes, “as something simple and fundamental that flows uniformly, independently from everything else, uniformly from the past to the future, measured by clocks and watches. In the course of time, the events of the universe succeed each other in an orderly way: pasts, presents, futures. The past is fixed, the future open….And yet all of this has turned out to be false.” Rovelli returns again and again to the ideas of three legendary men. Aristotle wrote that things change continually. What we call “time” is the measurement of that change. If nothing changed, time would not exist. Newton disagreed. While admitting the existence of a time that measures events, he insisted that there is an absolute “true time” that passes relentlessly. If the universe froze, time would roll on. To laymen, this may seem like common sense, but most philosophers are not convinced. Einstein asserted that both are right. Aristotle correctly explained that time flows in relation to something else. Educated laymen know that clocks register different times when they move or experience gravity. Newton’s absolute exists, but as a special case in Einstein’s curved space-time. According to Rovelli, our notion of time dissolves as our knowledge grows; complex features swell and then retreat and perhaps vanish entirely. Furthermore, equations describing many fundamental physical phenomena don’t require time.

As much a work of philosophy as of physics and full of insights for readers willing to work hard.

Pub Date: May 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1610-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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