THE TRAGEDY OF AMERICAN SCIENCE

FROM TRUMAN TO TRUMP

An indictment of American science so critical that it seems beyond hope.

An angry polemic about how American science has deteriorated catastrophically.

Science historian Conner dates the onset from the 1942-1945 Manhattan project, the first “big science” project in which the government spent massively on developing the atom bomb; after this, science became big business. In a series of grim chapters, the author describes the “corporatization” and militarization of American science. Nutrition science is especially debased. Incompetent research, industry-sponsored hype, bribery, and obliging regulators produce wildly contradictory dietary guidelines. Unsurprisingly, “Coca-Cola Company has been particularly culpable in its efforts to misdirect nutrition science regarding sugar.” With the help of well-paid scientists, tobacco companies held off government action for decades, and fossil fuel industries have successfully adopted their techniques to quash efforts to reduce global warming. Denouncing the “green revolution” in agriculture, Conner points out that it has vastly increased food production but that politics and war—not lack of food—cause famines today. He adds that its costly fertilizer and seed enrich large farmers and impoverish poor ones and that the additional chemicals pollute waterways. Military research is an easy mark because so much is genuinely horrible. It’s old news that during World War II, Nazi and Japanese researchers performed sadistic experiments on prisoners. American leaders welcomed them in the hopes of acquiring their expertise. When it comes to weapons that kill innocents, military researchers display an unnerving lack of sympathy, and civilian superiors, Democrat as well as Republican, tend to go along. The author urges vigorous government regulation independent of corporate influence—a no-brainer but spotty in previous administrations, to say nothing of the current one—and 100% government funding and control of research. Though this was a disaster in the Soviet Union and Mao’s China, Conner gives high marks to Cuba. Many democracies exert far stricter government control, which smacks of socialism, a poisonous word to American ears.

An indictment of American science so critical that it seems beyond hope.

Pub Date: June 23, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64259-127-9

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Haymarket Books

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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ELON MUSK

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.

To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781982181284

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023

NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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