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Is That a Fact?: Frauds, Quacks, and the Real Science of Everyday Life Paperback – May 13, 2014


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: ECW Press (May 13, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1770411909
  • ISBN-13: 978-1770411906
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #307,653 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

If you combined the rigorous scientific approach of Ben Goldacre (Bad Science, 2010) with the enthusiasm and outspoken prose of James Randi (the noted skeptic and debunker), you would have Joe Schwarcz, chemist, science writer, and radio host. Here, in his latest collection of essays, he tackles a wide variety of topics: bogus self-help products, quackery, homeopathy, misinformed celebrities (i.e., celebs who make ridiculous statements because they don’t know they’re misinformed), fish-oil supplements, weight-loss plans, Dr. Oz, Jamie Oliver, GMOs, and the list goes on. It’s important to note, too, that he doesn’t take a hard-core debunking tack to everything he discusses: the book is divided into three broad categories called black, gray, and white (black representing things for which there is no scientific evidence, white being those for which there is hard evidence, and gray being those in between). The author’s entertaining writing style and clear, precise explanations make the book a joy to read, and his choice of subjects is so wide-ranging that there really is something for everyone here. --David Pitt

Review

“Written with a light touch and refreshing humor, this book provides a solid, authoritative starting point for anyone beginning to look at the world with a skeptical eye and a refresher for those further along that path.” — Library Journal

"The author's entertaining writing style and clear, precise explanations make the book a joy to read, and his choice of subjects is so wide-ranging that there is really something for everyone here." —Booklist

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Steve G on May 8, 2014
Format: Paperback
Author Joe Schwarcz packs a lot of material into a small space. There is no fluff or dilly-dallying here. Schwarcz explains the science behind pseudoscience. Later in the book Schwarcz also delves into the history of science and does a very credible job in this area. Those of us well-acquainted with science will appreciate the author’s humor and derisiveness about pseudoscience. Those less familiar with science but are open minded will learn a lot and should definitely read this book. I fear that the people who most need to read this book won’t or even if they do, will be unwilling to accept the message about real science. I strongly recommend this book to people who are confused about how science and pseudoscience appear in the mass media and who want to learn more. I also recommend this book to people who like science and just want to see it from a different perspective.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ariel on May 28, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is nice and falls into the genre of "debunking" books, to which I am particularly attracted. It does deconstruct standard myth/misinformation about homeopathy, herbal "therapies," the GMO "controversy" (that doesn't exist in rational science), molecular water, and other pseudoscientific topics. He uses a lot of quotes which, while good ones, are kind of noticeable in their number. The writing style can be a bit flip at times, which is a little concerning to me, as these misconceptions are important ones that need to be seriously debunked, and his language might be off-putting enough to those who disagree so as to fuel their determined disagreement. Still, I notice that this is an author who writes material clearly targeted to a lay audience, so perhaps that's why it reads the way it does (eg, it doesn't read like, say, Paul Offit's books on the same topic). As a scientist, I also feel that some sections are incomplete or surprisingly outdated for a recent publication. I suspect that my "issues" with this book probably stem from the fact that I'm not exactly the right target audience, but his content is good, and the message is important.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Wendy B. Hanawalt on May 23, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book starts out strong, attacking some of the most powerful myths of the present day. The author's grounding in scientific research makes him a good person to explain why some ideas are just plain wrong. But towards the end, he veers off into a "fun facts" kind of reporting. He's all over the place, talking about lots and lots and LOTS of little stories you may or may not have heard, and may or may not care much about. But if you're a lover of obscure information, you'll love the whole thing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By G. Poirier on June 12, 2014
Format: Paperback
In a very engaging, generally accessible and friendly prose, the author sifts through a variety of cases where science, pseudoscience, quackery and fraud play varying roles. The book is divided into three main sections: nonsense (17 cases), some element of truth (21 cases) and factual (29 cases). Throughout the book, the author, a chemist, does not shy away from including the names of the various chemicals involved in his stories. As anyone familiar with chemistry knows, some of these names can be quite a mouthful. Their inclusions here will likely please the most dedicated chemistry enthusiasts. Overall, I found that the great majority of the cases presented pertain to health, i.e., nutrition, medicine, etc. However, there are a few that deal with non-health matters.

Although some passages dealing with the detailed mechanics of various chemical reactions would likely be a bit tedious for some, I believe that this book can still be enjoyed by a fairly broad readership - even by those with little or no interest in chemistry, since overall there is much here to ponder.
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By Annette on September 20, 2014
Format: Paperback
What’s attractive about book debunking urban myths and exposing frauds? It’s not just the promise of being well-informed, but very much the satisfaction of laughing at the expense of those we imagine are too stubborn or stupid to see the light. The latest book in this genre of exposé is Joe Schwarcz’s Is That a Fact? Frauds, Quacks, and the Real Science of Everyday Life.

The book starts off promising to entertain with a great introduction, stressing the need to think critically, assessing the problem of popular scientific misinformation, and discussing the limitations and difficulties that plague scientific research. But it quickly goes downhill with a rather boring review of should-be-obviously-wrong beliefs. Unlike similar debunking books that are upbeat in tone and fun to read, Schwarcz is dull. His explanations are bogged down in a lot of scientific lingo, and too often he just resorts to the “Well, it’s obviously stupid to believe this” sort of attitude. As if that’s actually going to help the reader!

When discussing things whose status is verified or yet to be determined, Schwarcz is a lot more balanced and easier to read. However, by then I was disillusioned with the book. Schwarcz just doesn’t deliver. Worse yet, he proves that even he’s not immune to quackery, eagerly taking up the banner of his favorite fad diet. Given his heavy use of science, readers with backgrounds in chemistry might appreciate Is That a Fact. However, the majority who just want to be entertained by a scientist uncovering the truth about Youngevity and Dr. Oz should probably look elsewhere.
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