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Quantum Leaps in the Wrong Direction : Where Real Science Ends...and Pseudoscience Begins Paperback – May 17, 2001

4.0 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this lightweight little book, Wynn, a professor of chemistry, and Wiggins, a professor of physics, follow up their Five Biggest Ideas in Science with what might be called The Five Biggest Ideas in Pseudoscience: UFOs and aliens, out-of-body experiences, astrology, creationism, and ESP. Into this mix they throw every suspect (usually money-making) pseudoscience they can think of. Their inclusion of graphology might be questioned, since it has long held a higher reputation in Europe than in the U.S., and the matter of Holocaust deniers is better dealt with elsewhere. The chapter on creationism is unlikely to change the opinions of many believers, and an ill-considered section on life after death may cause some readers to set the book aside. Angels fear to tread into discussions of the immortality of the soul, and these authors should have too. Wynn and Wiggins apparently were aiming for a serious discussion leavened with humor, but their approach seems incoherent. Sidney Harris, well known for his work in the New Yorker, has contributed cartoons, but they are rather hit-and-miss and just add to the uneven tone of the book. The authors make some interesting points (Noah's ark, if built to the dimensions given in the Bible, wouldn't have been seaworthy), but it's doubtful that readers who believe in astrology, ESP or UFOs will pick this book up to begin with, let alone be convinced by the authors' arguments. (June 5)Forecast: It won't be long before this title takes a quantum leap into the remainder bins.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


"...succinct and jargon-free style... The strength of this book resides in such sparkling prose." -- Journal of the American Medical Association, April 3, 2002

"...worthy and well-meaning...readable and likeable..." -- THE SKEPTIC MAGAZINE, 2001

"Peppered with humorous cartoons of Sidney Harris...offers valuable tips for anyone pondering the shaky claims of bogus science." -- Stacey's Booksellers, Staff Review, November 2001

"Quantum Leaps in the Wrong Direction is a very approachable book on pseudoscientific subjects." -- Alberta Skeptics

"This is non-technical but very good. Unfortunately most Americans will be off reading pseudoscience trash rather than this." -- Leptonic's

"an excellent primer on Science and Pseudoscience, complete with a set of straightforward techniques for telling the difference between them." -- New England Skeptical Society, July 2001

...the public has much to gain from the authors' contrast between the nature of scientific evidence and the stories of pseudoscience that fill the media. -- Dr. Arthur Eisenkraft, National Science Teachers Association President 2000-2001

Here we have, in their book, a clearer look at the misconceptions and outright deceptions that plague us. Lots of sunlight, and a dash of disinfectant! -- James Randi, aka The Amazing Randi

Quantum Leaps is one of a far too small cluster of rational books that responds to 'voodoo science' issues such as UFO's, astrology, and other such nonsense. -- Leon M. Lederman, winner of the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physics

This book is an enjoyable and informative primer...with wonderful cartoons by Sidney Harris that complement the text. -- Lawrence M. Krauss, author of Atom: An Odyssey from the Big Bang to Life on Earth...and Beyond

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 226 pages
  • Publisher: Joseph Henry Press (May 17, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030907309X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0309073097
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.7 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #957,350 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The real value of this book is in the first three chapters, which contain a simple yet powerful description of how science works, and why pseudoscience is, well, pseudoscience. The remainder of the book covers a variety of pseudosciences grouped into five major categories. While detail is a bit thin on the individual entries, the authors do an excellent job of showing why pseudoscientific hypotheses fall down in the face of science. Hard-core skeptics will find nothing new in the pseudoscience sections, but it's always valuable to have so much information in one place to use as a handy reference. The cartoons by Sidney Harris add humor and include some classics - don't be surprised if you find yourself thumbing through the book just to find the next cartoon. This book could easily be used as the basis for a course on Science and Pseudoscience.
A few words about the 'Editorial Review' above - It's clear the reviewer needs to read the book again, because he or she completely missed the point. The reviewer ignores the excellent initial chapters on the nature of science, and then makes a series of gaffes. The fact that Graphology has a better reputation in Europe than in the US doesn't make it any less pseudoscientific. The truth is not a popularity contest. Similarly, the fact that true believers in creationism won't be converted doesn't matter. Converting true believers isn't the point - providing information to those who haven't made up their minds yet is far more important. Holocaust denial is an excellent example of a pseudoscience that doesn't fit the standard 'debunking the UFOs' model of skepticism, and shows how to apply the techniques of critical thinking more generally.
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Format: Paperback
When we're younger, and think we have the whole world figured out, we look for patterns while also looking for a means to be different. What we are too often led to is the subject matter of this book.
The authors cover a whole series of fads and pseudosciences by which we're frequently insulted, e.g., astrology, tarot cards and I Ching, and a host of others. The subjects are handled with a bit of wit, but not the cutesy angle of the "idiots guide to..." books.
I'm pretty well read on skeptical literature so for me there was little new. However, the silly fads covered in the book are often considered far more acceptable than critical analysis or thinking. Therefore, the book should be assigned to maybe high school seniors or college freshmen, those inclined to fall into such traps, i.e., into believing such nonsense. At least, then, when they get through their post adolescent turmoil, they'll have had a direction, a reference to put the foolishness in perspective. I'm not so naive to think that young people won't pass through such fads--most of us did at one point or another in our lives. But, again, seeds will be planted when most mature to a more complicated world in which we rely on evidence to come to conclusions.
And they DO cover what constitutes a scientific examinination of something, i.e., a contrast to the "intuitive," testimonial or anecdote-based, or merely "faith" angle they're trying to refute. That is a valuable contribution to the seed for future critical thinking.
The book does, however, have its weaknesses. One petty one, for instance is that the authors referred to the Greek gods for whom the planets are names. I believe their named for ROMAN gods (the biggest, gas giant, for example, being Jupiter, not Zeus).
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Format: Paperback
This small 189 page book is a great read and an excellent introduction to both science and critical thinking.

After introducing information about how the scientific method works, the authors proceed to describe various paranormal phenomonon with an eye towards what science says about:

-- Visits by ET (science hasn't authenticated any but it sure is trying);

-- Past life regression (invariably a trick of faulty memory or purposeful deception);

-- ESP and related phenomenon (more the provence of a magician's trickery than anything else);

-- Creationism vs. evolution (render to science its legitimate purview and to faith its legitimate purview); as well as other interesting issues like

-- The Loch Ness monster, Bigfoot and crop circles (all confessed to be purposeful falsifications for which there's been no reliable evidence).

As can be seen the issues are without exception interesting stuff and a great way to show lay people the scientific method in operation.

Highly recommended!
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Format: Paperback
Pretty much a book that dissects human beliefs and offers rational explanation for everything. It takes the fun out of things like alien invasions and ghosts, but it makes the reader more informed. Good for people who want scientific explanation for everything, but a harsh reality check for those who engage in more whimsical and alternative belief systems.
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