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Free Radicals: The Secret Anarchy of Science Kindle Edition

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Length: 311 pages Word Wise: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews


"'Brooks' take on science is not just ingenious, it's also hilarious' (George Lamb) 'Entertaining... engagingly written...a worthwhile read for budding explorers of new worlds' (Independent) 'Brooks is an exemplary science writer' (William Leith, Daily Telegraph) 'Tightly plotted tales of rebellion, drug use and Machiavellian intrigue in the pursuit of enlightenment' (We Love This Book)"


"A salutary reminder that scientists are as human and fallible as anyone else."
(--Daily Telegraph )

"Free Radicals is an exuberant tour through the world of scientists behaving badly."

"Fun to read. Brooks . . . capers through the exploits of scores of brilliant and often ruthless rogues."
(--Financial Times )

"A call to arms . . . Not some idealistic crusade; it has important implications."
(--BBC )

"Brooks raises intriguing questions about the value of peer review panels and ethics boards, while illuminating much of the gritty real work performed in ivory towers around the world."
(--Publishers Weekly )

"Not all scientists are nerds. In Free Radicals, physicist Michael Brooks tries to dispel the notion that scientists are stuffy, pen-protector-polishing bookworms."
(--Washington Post )

"Insightful . . . a page-turning, unvarnished look at the all-too-human side of science."
(--Kirkus Reviews )

"Mr. Brooks call for scientists to lift their heads and raise their voices while the rest of us ask hard questions and demand institutions that will bring more visionaries into play . . . Free Radicals presents a solid case."
(--New York Journal of Books )

"Free Radicals illuminates the role of the irrational in science, the mistakes that make scientists human, and reveals that breakthroughs that change our lives in the most fundamental ways may have the most serendipitous origins."
(--Brain Pickings )

"[Free Radicals] goes a long way toward making scientists--and science--a lot more real to the public."
(--Science 2.0 )

"Free Radicals reminds readers that scientific advances sometimes require creativity and vision . . . A fascinating book."

"Brooks lays out, in fascinating--and often horrifying and discomfiting detail--the anarchy that underlies the scientific endeavor . . . it is a must read for every scientist on the planet, as well as anyone interested in science."

Product Details

  • File Size: 513 KB
  • Print Length: 311 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1590208544
  • Publisher: Overlook Books; 1 edition (April 26, 2012)
  • Publication Date: April 26, 2012
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0087GZB8K
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #938,886 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Sam Santhosh VINE VOICE on July 10, 2011
Format: Paperback
What really goes on in the world of Science? Except for the rare evil scientist shown in movies, normally scientists are portrayed as cool, logical, level headed personalities - maybe slightly timid but nevertheless those who follow the rules. Now in "Free Radicals", Michael Brooks shows how wrong this picture is.

According to Brooks, in Science anything goes. The competition is so tough and the prizes so valuable that no punches are pulled. Drugs, lies, fraud, politics - all are part of the game. He exposes famed personalities from Newton to Einstein - showing how human they all are; and how the successful ones never hesitated to break the rules. Most of us have heard of Newton's famous statement on '..standing on the shoulders of giants', but we would not have heard of his skill of stomping down other scientists!. Any literate person would have heard of Einstein and his E=MC2 equation, but it is unbelievable to hear that he could not fully prove it in spite of eight attempts!!

Well researched and narrated in a fast pace, this book beats most fiction novels. I was enthralled at the stories, though in the beginning some of the `exposes' did give me a shock. But as I proceeded in the book it was clear that the author's intentions were honorable - the objective was not to deride the scientists but show that they are human just like the rest of us. Being an expert in one discipline does not make a person super human - nor does that expertise translate into other areas. I was also surprised at how `close minded' experts are and how difficult is for new ideas to break though - even in a field which is supposed to foster open thinking.
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48 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Quasiparticle on June 26, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I wanted to like this book. I am a practicing physicist at a well-respected laboratory and am quite aware of the humanity behind the science-- the drama and the creativity as well as the conservatism and thinking-in-the-box inertia. In this book I get the sense the Brooks is acting as a bit of a sensationalist in pushing his 'secret anarchist' notion on a public that, I fear, is already distrustful of scientists.

Brooks seems to constantly reiterate the notion that truly innovative work is done outside the strictures of a tightly confining scientific establishment, yet the support he furnishes seems to be a lot of unrelated anecdotes about maverick scientists and the stodgy establishment types who are either fame whores or too dull to recognize innovation when they see it.

What should not be a surprise is that science is done by a wide range of personalities and like many other communities, has its leaders and innovators and as well as those who are happy to live and work in the middle behaving well within the norm. Just like other work environments you get people being jerks to each other, acting out of spite and jealousy, but you also have generous, giving types who are interested in pushing their communities forward.

I guess this book rubbed me the wrong way because it seemed to try to push a cute, sensationalist title a little too far. There are several examples in the scientific community where high impact work was done by boring, nice people who didn't have important connections and weren't shunned or mistreated as in the anecdotes that Brooks describes. These kinds of stories are maybe too boring to sell books, but the thesis that Brooks hangs this whole book around is empty and not productive to the discourse between the scientific public and the community.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By George Poirier on July 9, 2014
Format: Paperback
In this most engaging book, the author recounts various stories about scientists in various fields who simply did not follow what we would expect to be normal protocol in science. Often as a result of these deviations, remarkable discoveries have been made resulting in several Nobel Prizes being awarded. The author calls this “anarchy of science”. Many fields of science are discussed; however, I found that the life sciences, e.g., biology, medicine, etc. seem to feature a more frequently in this book than the physical sciences such as physics and chemistry.

Over the years I became aware of some of these stories through reading other books. I must say that, as a scientist, I was quite surprised. In fact, learning that some of those whom I regarded as gods in science, e.g., Robert Millikan, Arthur Eddington and even Albert Einstein, have displayed less than pristine yet all too human traits was disappointing to me. It simply goes to show that one’s conviction of how science is done does not always reflect reality. However, I do agree with some of the reviewers who pointed out that this type of anomalous behaviour is not at all the norm. After having spent over thirty years in science, I have very rarely seen anything like it.

The author’s writing style is very friendly, captivating and lively; as a result, the book is very difficult to put down. I believe that this book can be enjoyed by anyone; however, because of the many scientific descriptions that are included, science enthusiasts would likely relish it the most.
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