A timely, hair-raising must-read.

SCIENCE FICTIONS

HOW FRAUD, BIAS, NEGLIGENCE, AND HYPE UNDERMINE THE SEARCH FOR TRUTH

An unnerving yet much-needed analysis of why so many scientists publish nonsense.

A lecturer in social, genetic, and development psychiatry, Ritchie begins with an account of a respected Cornell psychology professor asking subjects to guess an object concealed behind one of two screens. As expected, they succeeded about half the time—unless the object was lurid, such as a pornographic picture. Then the success rate was over 53%, which, according to his 2011 paper, was “statistically significant” and evidence for extrasensory perception. The media trumpeted the study, and the professor appeared on talk shows. Good studies are repeatable, but when researchers tried it again, they found nothing. Subjects guessed correctly about half the time, pornography or not. The researcher remains a respected Cornell professor. What happened? Ritchie answers with a frighteningly well-documented follow-up to a 2005 article entitled “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False.” He makes it clear that fraud happens regularly. Asked anonymously, 2% of scientists admit to faking data, so the true incidence is undoubtedly higher. Far more disturbing is the massaging of data. As one wit said, “if you torture the data enough, it will confess to almost anything.” Thirteen percent of papers contain serious errors, and most favor the author’s conclusion. Bias distorts research, and serious, well-meaning scientists offend regularly. Everyone deplores media hype, but scientists increasingly litter papers with exuberant adjectives like “innovative,” “unique,” and “groundbreaking.” Ritchie admits that editors, academics, and foundations are growing less tolerant of scientists who game the system, but the difficulty is that scientists, being human, pursue rewards: jobs, promotions, research grants, fame. These follow dramatic announcements and media attention. Career advancement depends on sheer number of publications, and quality becomes irrelevant. Reform requires that scientists search for nature’s secrets purely for the joy of discovery. Some already follow this ideal, but readers may wonder if it will catch on.

A timely, hair-raising must-read.

Pub Date: July 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-22269-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

TANQUERAY

A former New York City dancer reflects on her zesty heyday in the 1970s.

Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and introduced on Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic history as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture in midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress shimmying to blues tracks during 18-minute sets or sewing lingerie for plus-sized dancers. Though her work was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed about, it eventually became all about the nightly hustle to simply survive. Her anecdotes are humorous, heartfelt, and supremely captivating, recounted with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a weathered, street-wise New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive household in Albany in the 1940s, a teenage pregnancy, and prison time for robbery as nonchalantly as she recalls selling rhinestone G-strings to prostitutes to make them sparkle in the headlights of passing cars. Complemented by an array of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia about the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Encounters with a variety of hardworking dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus an account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addled hustler, fill out the memoir with personality and candor. With a narrative assist from Stanton, the result is a consistently titillating and often moving story of human struggle as well as an insider glimpse into the days when Times Square was considered the Big Apple’s gloriously unpolished underbelly. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2022

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

more