Pandora's Lab

Pandora's Lab

Seven Stories of Science Gone Wrong

Book - 2017
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What happens when ideas presented as science lead us in the wrong direction? History is filled with brilliant ideas that gave rise to disaster, and this book explores the most fascinating-and significant-missteps- from opium's heyday as the pain reliever of choice to recognition of opioids as a major cause of death in the U.S.; from the rise of trans fats as the golden ingredient for tastier, cheaper food to the heart disease epidemic that followed; and from the cries to ban DDT for the sake of the environment to an epidemic-level rise in world malaria. These are today's sins of science-as deplorable as mistaken ideas from the past such as advocating racial purity or using lobotomies as a cure for mental illness. These unwitting errors add up to seven lessons both cautionary and profound, narrated by renowned author and speaker Paul A. Offit. Offit uses these lessons to investigate how we can separate good science from bad, using some of today's most controversial creations-e-cigarettes, GMOs, drug treatments for ADHD-as case studies. For every "Aha!" moment that should have been an "Oh no," this book is an engrossing account of how science has been misused disastrously-and how we can learn to use its power for good.
Publisher: Washington, D.C. :, National Geographic,, [2017]
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9781426217982
Branch Call Number: 001.96 Off
Characteristics: 287 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm


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Mar 23, 2019

While I have great respect for Dr. Offit's work promoting vaccination, in this book he makes the same mistake he accuses others of making. There are no footnotes, but in the chapter about DDT he sadly cites the Cato Institute, a right-wing think tank with no scientific credibility. Dr. Offit has fallen into the trap of letting his conservative views sway his thinking. He uses bald eagles as an example of how DDT really didn't matter when it is clear that some bird species, such as the Brown Pelican, were nearly wiped out by DDT, and their recovery dates from preventing use of the pesticide. He also ignores the fact that mosquitos adapt to DDT and continue to proliferate, so it isn't the panacea for malaria he imagines it to be. The other chapters might be good, and I have enjoyed some of his other books, but this one is seriously flawed. This has evidently been brought to his attention, but he is ignoring it so far. One chapter in the book is about Nobel prize winners who become enamored with their own ideas and unable to rationally consider the science in other areas. Sadly, Dr. Offit has fallen prey to this same phenomenon.

SCL_Tricia Feb 08, 2019

An interesting and accessible read. I found that I had bought into some of the science that just wasn't factual (like thinking DDT was the worst thing ever). Reading this book could give you some fodder for informative and fun cocktail party banter.

Nov 12, 2017

Really easy read and eye-opening. I found myself wanting to verify what Dr. Offit was writing but difficult to do so because not all is his citations are included. I learned a great deal.

Sep 23, 2017

Stories from what happens when policy makers, researchers, inventors and surgeons make mistakes. Offit explains pitfalls and errors in thinking that cancan lots of unintended harm.

Apr 14, 2017

This looks to be a good book [haven't read it yet, on the order list as I skimmed it at the book store and it looks mighty interesting] as the author writes to distinguish Real Science from Corporate Science, a most important and life-saving difference.

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