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More Random Walks in Science Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0854980406 ISBN-10: 0854980407 Edition: 0th

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A Random Walk in Science, which was published … as a collection of such fundamental material, has come to be held as a kind of text for all science, the ultimate peak of that pyramid which begins with primary publications at the bottom and then ascends to review articles, reviews of reviews, and so on.

Now this sequel, collecting some 175 or so additional short pieces, can be added to that lofty edifice. Here, for everyone, there is something, whether whimsy like 'The Use of Small Dogs in Physics Teaching' or broad jokes like the investigator who ate dehydrated food for 28 days and then gained 108 lbs in ten minutes while caught in a rainstorm. Parody ranges from the predictably amusing 'I am the very model of …' to the arcane, such as Shelley's Ozymandias ('Two vast and trunkless legs of stone/Stand in the desert … Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair! …'), rewritten as the geology paper 'Twin Limb-Like Basalt Columns and Their Relationship to Plate Tectonics.'

Scientists cannot resist applying scientific observation to their own endeavors, yielding, for example, a description of their university hierarchy, from the dean who leaps tall buildings in a single bound, through professor (leaps short buildings with a running start and favorable winds), graduate student (runs into buildings), and finally department secretary (lifts buildings and walks under them). There is also a piece which rings true on the various obstructionists on committees and panels, and another on the 'game' of refereeing. (The author's goal is to publish a worthless paper; the referee's is to have a major contribution to the field refused, 'No matter what degree of rigor the author uses, the referee replies by saying that it is not the correct one.').

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