Brilliant Blunders: From Darwin to Einstein: Colossal Mistakes by Great Scientists That Changed Our Understanding of Life and the Universe

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Brilliant Blunders: From Darwin to Einstein: Colossal Mistakes by Great Scientists That Changed Our Understanding of Life and the Universe

Format:  Hardcover,

341 pages

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publish Date: May 2013

ISBN-13: 9781439192368

ISBN-10: 1439192367

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Book Information

The following content was provided by the publisher.
WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES. Nobody's perfect. Not even some of the greatest geniuses in history, as Mario Livio tells us in this marvelous story of scientific error and breakthrough.
Charles Darwin, William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), Linus Pauling, Fred Hoyle, and Albert Einstein were all brilliant scientists. Each made groundbreaking contributions to his field--but each also stumbled badly. Darwin's theory of natural selection shouldn't have worked, according to the prevailing beliefs of his time. Not until Gregor Mendel's work was known would there be a mechanism to explain natural selection. How could Darwin be both wrong and right? Lord Kelvin, Britain's leading scientific intellect at the time, gravely miscalculated the age of the earth. Linus Pauling, the world's premier chemist (who would win the Nobel Prize in chemistry) constructed an erroneous model for DNA in his haste to beat the competition to publication. Astrophysicist Fred Hoyle dismissed the idea of a "Big Bang" origin to the universe (ironically, the caustic name he gave to this event endured long after his erroneous objections were disproven). And Albert Einstein, whose name is synonymous with genius, speculated incorrectly about the forces that hold the universe in equilibrium--and that speculation opened the door to brilliant conceptual leaps. These five scientists expanded our knowledge of life on earth, the evolution of the earth itself, and the evolution of the universe, despite and because of their errors. As Mario Livio luminously explains, the scientific process advances through error. Mistakes are essential to progress.
"Brilliant Blunders "is a singular tour through the world of science and scientific achievement--and a wonderfully insightful examination of the psychology of five fascinating scientists.

Specifications

Author:
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publish Date: May 2013
ISBN-13: 9781439192368
ISBN-10: 1439192367
Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 341
Shipping Weight (in pounds): 1.1
Product in Inches (L x W x H): 6.3 x 1.3 x 9.1

Chapter outline

Prefacep. 1
Mistakes and Blundersp. 5
The Originp. 12
Yea, All Which It Inherit, Shall Dissolvep. 37
How Old Is the Earth?p. 60
Certainty Generally Is Illusionp. 84
Interpreter of Lifep. 103
Whose DNA Is It Anyway?p. 136
B for Big Bangp. 157
The Same Throughout Eternity?p. 184
The "Biggest Blunderp. 221
Out of Empty Spacep. 246
Codap. 269
Notesp. 273
Bibliographyp. 303
Indexp. 327

Reviews

Review by Library Journal (2013-06-07)

Astrophysicist, prolific writer, and flogger Livio (Space Telescope Science Inst.; The Golden Ratio) succeeds in his aim to demonstrate that science progresses by fits and starts, with oversights, or conceptual errors (aka blunders), as part of the process. Livio sees blunders as very dependent upon a scientist's milieu-the theories, prejudices, and culture within which the scientist exists. He examines the world-changing key works of Charles Darwin, physicist Lord Kelvin, Linus Pauling, astrophysicist Fred Hoyle, and Albert Einstein via detailed descriptions of the contexts within which their oversights occurred.

His placement of these scientists' work within their historical context makes the technical details of their research more accessible to lay readers and is a narrative approach reminiscent of George Pendle's Strange Angel, his study of rocketeer Jack Parsons. Livio aims to link the men's work under the notion of environment and evolution, defined so broadly that they seem useless and unnecessary threads, the only notable shortcoming of this engaging work.

Verdict: An entertaining and different take on the work of pivotal Western scientists. Recommended.

-Sara R. Tompson, Jet Propulsion Laboratory Lib., Pasadena, CA

(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book description

WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES. Nobody's perfect. Not even some of the greatest geniuses in history, as Mario Livio tells us in this marvelous story of scientific error and breakthrough.

Charles Darwin, William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), Linus Pauling, Fred Hoyle, and Albert Einstein were all brilliant scientists. Each made groundbreaking contributions to his field--but each also stumbled badly. Darwin's theory of natural selection shouldn't have worked, according to the prevailing beliefs of his time. Not until Gregor Mendel's work was known would there be a mechanism to explain natural selection. How could Darwin be both wrong and right? Lord Kelvin, Britain's leading scientific intellect at the time, gravely miscalculated the age of the earth. Linus Pauling, the world's premier chemist (who would win the Nobel Prize in chemistry) constructed an erroneous model for DNA in his haste to beat the competition to publication. Astrophysicist Fred Hoyle dismissed the idea of a "Big Bang" origin to the universe (ironically, the caustic name he gave to this event endured long after his erroneous objections were disproven). And Albert Einstein, whose name is synonymous with genius, speculated incorrectly about the forces that hold the universe in equilibrium--and that speculation opened the door to brilliant conceptual leaps. These five scientists expanded our knowledge of life on earth, the evolution of the earth itself, and the evolution of the universe, despite and because of their errors. As Mario Livio luminously explains, the scientific process advances through error. Mistakes are essential to progress.

Brilliant Blunders is a singular tour through the world of science and scientific achievement--and a wonderfully insightful examination of the psychology of five fascinating scientists.

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