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46 of 54 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Expected a bit better, November 10, 2012
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This review is from: The Half-Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date (Kindle Edition)
This is a book on a very interesting subject that mostly irritated me in the end.

I think the biggest issue I had with it was the very myopic view applied to the topics. And the fact that I think that Mr Arbesman really makes too much of the methods he relies on to tell a story. Basically the book relies on the idea that you can graph anything that you can put a number on, and then using math that is complicated compared to, say what you learn in high school, you can fit a line to any graph and a lot of times that line is a particular family of curves. He makes it sound very magical but its not really - sometimes the fit is great and you can learn a lot from it but you can do this, like I said for anything. It doesn't per se, mean anything major. It isn't really even uncovering any secrets of how things are organized in nature or the world - we're fitting the lines after all.

Plus, when he talks about science he seems to ignore lots of factors that would make his "story" messier or just different. He talks a lot about citations of research papers but without seemingly understanding how people actually function in science. Finally, at the end, he has a chapter that promises to discuss the "human" aspects of knowledge generation but he doesn't really do that there either. What I mean is, he attributes the fact that few references in papers appear to have been actually read by the authors to laziness and doesn't talk at all about how social networks among scientists influence choice of citations (i.e. I cite what my boss cites, or even better, what he wrote) despite have a whole chapter on the social movement of information just earlier in the book! Lame, I say!
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 12, 2013 5:29:54 PM PST
An example of irritation: phase change is "when dry ice becomes carbon dioxide." Aargh! One of dozens of such malaprops.

I'm irritated enough with the book, IB I'll put it aside for awhile.
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