Cantor's Dilemma: A Novel
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on February 20, 2015
Very good start and middle. I was expecting a bigger ending.
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on May 11, 2015
Needed it for a class and I actually enjoyed it.
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on March 2, 2015
excellent novel
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on May 28, 2015
love it
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on March 10, 2015
Great!
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on January 26, 2015
great
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5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on January 12, 2005
This little book (Cantor's dilemma) came to my attention ironically not because of its well celebrated English version, but because of the new Chinese translation, which bore a new name (The prisoner of the Nobel Prize). Anyway, I spent a whole evening enthusiastically (at the beginning) perusing it (the English version), but was left with more or less joy.

Many people in Amazon.com have praised this little book presumably without any reservation. I would also first congratulate the author's great effort to write a novel on scientific ethics, and in particular for the psychoanalysis of scientists. However, in terms of literature and science, I would say this book is not worth much attentions.

The plot in this novel is too simple. A serious professor had a brilliant idea (which is flawed based on biology, by the way), two worked experiments (probably), and the Nobel prize, but suffered by unverified experiments due to suspicious manipulations of his postdoc. It surprised me that he won the prize within a year. This oversimplified the reality. If the professor didn't publish his experiment details and furthermore the experiments couldn't be replicated in other labs (officially), it is impossible to get the Nobel prize, let alone within a year. It would be better that the professor didn't get the Nobel prize and was constantly suffered from unverified experiments, rumors of data fabrication, and science politics. The deft handling of these crisis is more interesting for future academic seekers.

One of the key components in this book is about research ethics. We have heard many rumors about research ethics. This book talked about a similar situation occurred in the Noble Laurel David Baltimore's lab, in which a postdoc was involved some manipulations of data. I like the author's way of presentation: hinted but never gave a definite answer whether the postdoc did something wrong with the experiment or not.

In terms of science ethics, I would like recommend people reviewing one of the most horrible studies in modern history: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment. This study was initiated by the United States Public Health Service, together with the Tuskegee Institute in 1932. The study recruited 399 black men diagnosed with syphilis in Macon County, Alabama to determine the effects of untreated syphilis. The study would last until 1970, way after the discovery of penicillin in 1943, which is the most effective drug to treat syphilis. Unfortunately, these black men, with the highest education at 7th grade, were only treated by aspirin and an iron supplement. It was till mass media caught this horror that halted this experiments. By then, many had died of complications of syphilis.

Although the book spent quite some length talking about trust, responsibility, authorship , lab rules, and in particular the peer pressure and jealousy, advisor seeking, tenure system, and gender discrimination, the author barely scratched the surface of publishing process, grant application and management, and other important research activities. It is possible that the author thought his intended readers are most likely undergraduates or beginning graduates. However, beginning graduates are eager to know how these research activities are like so that they can decide whether they want to seek academic jobs or not. Most time advisors are reluctant to talk about these issues with new graduate students.

The author also devoted some pages on sex, especially on teacher-student type of sex. I am not sure why he blended sex in this book but it did add some vintages in it. The depicting of female scholars in this novel is too optimistic. That a fresh female chemistry PhD can get an assistant professorship in Harvard, Cal tech, and Wisconsin is amazing, if not shocking.

In terms of writing skills, the author seemed to have adopted a film making style. However, sometimes background events cut into flow of story too abruptly. Furthermore, the author lacked the ability to write juicy words when he was describing romantic events. His view of sex and romance was also old fashioned.

I think the ending is the worst part of this novel. As we all know, academic people are good at insinuating things. A famous professor will never write a blunt insulting letter to another professor. I guess the author tried to give solutions to all problems left in the novel instead of giving some hints. This reflects his lack of confidence to his readers, which are at least college students ( I doubt a not prepared high school student can understand many concepts discussed in his book).

In summary, if you don't know much about scientists, this book will give you a good kick start. If you are a graduate student who talk with your advisors very often, this book may be too simple to you. If you are a seasoned researcher, it is probably wiser to use your time on other amusements.
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 6, 1999
Kudos for Dr. Djerassi for sharing with us his knowledge about the inner works of science in an entertaining way. Anyone interested in a career in hardcore science in the U.S. should read this book.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2012
The main character fails to be the shallowest I've ever encountered only by virtue of his contrast to the female love interest, a fembot with interest in three (and only three) things: working out, research and screwing male scientists. Seriously, it's the worst book I've ever read, and I've read "Racing in the Rain." Awful.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 25, 2013
This book was terrible. It is nothing more than a trashy romance novel disguised as a book about academic dishonesty. The science was present for no reason other than for Djerassi to jack himself off to let us all know that he is intelligent. Poorly written, bad characters, and overall a horrific read.
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