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Alice Bell
The Independent
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Popular Science

Michael Brooks

Free radicals

Science is often seen as a pure search for truth in which scientists argue using logic alone, staying away from personal and political battles. Michael Brooks sees things rather differently, in Free radicals: the secret anarchy of science he argues that scientist will use all sorts of tricks to promote their ideas.

Brooks shows that supressing data which disagrees with your ideas is far more common than you might think - even Einstein went in for it. And the word 'Prion' - does it indicate a discovery of a new way diseases can be transmitted, or can its meaning be changed to reflect later discoveries? The book also describes the lengths that those in authority will go to in order to hold on to their power.

To start with I wasn't very comfortable with the direction the book was taking. Brooks seemed to be following Feyerabend's 'Anything goes', implying that it was all pretty much a sham. In fact that isn't the path the book takes, Brooks is very much in favour of science and want more scientists to be 'free radicals'. This book is really about the uneasy relationship of scientists with authority structures, and looked at in that light it is well worth reading.  |  Chronon Critical Points  |  Recent Science Book Reviews