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Discarded Science: Ideas That Seemed Good at the Time... [Hardcover]

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Item description for Discarded Science: Ideas That Seemed Good at the Time... by John Grant...

Alchemy, the flat earth theory, lost worlds, and aliens among us: these ideas once seemed plausible—but now we know they're just plain wrong. Take a fun journey through the history of science as it transforms from a field of wild speculation into a powerful tool of understanding. Explore the world in upheaval as Earth changed from center of the universe to a smallish planet orbiting an average star. Find out about hidden races and unknown creatures (like Yetis); early and bizarre thoughts on evolution; ancient astronauts and UFO crazes; the music of the spheres; the acquisition of virtues through cannibalism, and much more!

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Item Specifications...

Pages   320
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1" Width: 4.5" Height: 7.5"
Weight:   1.2 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Oct 28, 2006
Publisher   Facts, Figures & Fun
ISBN  1904332498  
ISBN13  9781904332497  

Availability  0 units.

More About John Grant

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! John Grant is the executive producer of the "Window to the Sea" television program seen on PBS. His company, Driftwood Productions, produces travel and history programs for public and cable television, including "Legendary Lighthouses" and "West Point: The First 200 Years," This is his fifth book. He lives in State College, Pennsylvania.
Ray Jones is the author or coauthor of numerous books on travel and history, including the bestselling companion to the PBS series "Legendary Lighthouses." He was formerly a writing coach at "Southern Living" magazine and founding editor of "Albuquerque Living "magazine. He lives in Pebble Beach, California.

John Grant currently resides in the state of District Of Columbia. John Grant was born in 1948.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Science > General
2Books > Subjects > Science > History & Philosophy > History of Science

Reviews - What do customers think about Discarded Science: Ideas That Seemed Good at the Time...?

not bad, but too polemical  May 7, 2008
The title misled me into thinking that this book would offer a careful consideration of what made some scientific ideas "seem good at the time." Unfortunately, this is only true of a few of the vast number of outdated ideas considered in this book. The author intends, apparently, to be encyclopedic--everything is considered here, even things no one would claim were ever thought to be scientific hypotheses (e.g., cannibalism to acquire the powers of one's enemies). However, like an encyclopedia, most entrees are brief, the exceptions being the ones the author seems a little obsessed by (intelligent design and religion in general get bashed repeatedly, sometimes amusingly, but usually in a way that makes you embarrassed for the author). George Bush gets beat up a fair number of times too, for related reasons, but this betrays the polemic character of the book, which is often condescending (in the spirit of "look at these quaint or irrational ideas... we know so much better now, unless you're a Christian fundamentalist moron!") (Incidentally, I'm not.) As a scientist myself--I teach physics at the College level--I expected more rigor to the criticisms and more scholarship. For example, not a single quotation comes with a page citation, and several quotations are not mentioned at all in the Bibliography). In short, an easy read, but disappointing.
Doesn't live up to its title  Feb 11, 2008
Perhaps a better sub-title would be "why I'm so smart and everyone else in the past was so stupid." I was looking forward to understanding how some of the scientific ideas in the past came to be and what the logic was given the knowledge of the time. Instead it was mostly a harsh criticism on how "stupid" these scientists were. I was especially disappointed in the amount of effort spent on bashing Christianity without adding anything to what the focus of the book was supposed to be.
Regarding Science-Ejected Vitalism:  Jan 19, 2008
Vitalism is a profoundly science-ejected concept, though many CAM or 'natural health' cabals falsely claim that vitalism survives scientific scrutiny.

Some favorite quotes: "life force (spirit) ['purposeful life spirit'...] this idea, vitalism, was still a respectable theory in the hazy days when qualitative alchemy was being transformed into quantitative chemistry [...] the theory started to fall to pieces in 1828 when [...] Wohler [...] was able to synthesize urea [p.263...and] in 1894 [...when] Rubner [...] found that the amount of energy which the body extracts from food can be predicted by the laws of thermodynamics [...and] 1896 [...] Buchner [...per] fermentation does not require the prescience of living cells was merely the final nail in the coffin [...] yet, vampire-like, the theory refuses to stay in that coffin [...per] Reichenbach [...] odic force, od or odyle [p.264]."

Informative, often hilarious  Aug 18, 2007
This book is an intriguing bestiary of peculiar scientific ideas that were eventually cast aside as hokum. Encompassing everything from Velikovsky's wacky cosmological theories to phrenology to the idea that we're all living inside the earth, Grant's work provides an excellent overview of the pseudoscience of yesteryear. Other reviewers have commented on how Grant goes out of his way to jab at religious folks, but really he's going out of his way to jab at young earth creationists and, let's face it, they probably deserve it. In any event, it didn't hinder my enjoyment of the book, but I can see how some people might find it distracting.

That being said, some of the actual presentation left a lot to be desired. The peculiar red line-art illustrations (to prevent photocopying..?) were kind of an eyesore, and the book itself has kind of peculiar dimensions (very compact yet extremely thick) that make it somewhat unwieldy and unappealing. If you can look past the unattractive presentation, this book is definitely worth a look. It's fascinating to see what bizarre ideas used to lurk in the shadowy periphery of science, even in the relatively recent past.
Take the good with the bad  May 18, 2007
"Discarded Science" is a nicely readable book describing what used to be "known" about the world, life and the universe. For example, when the Earth was flat, how did the best minds of the day explain the movement of the stars? This book tells us. The reader need not be well versed in science to enjoy the book - the writing is very accessible.

However, Grant spends a good amount of time lambasting crackpots who have cropped up from time to time, many of whom were never taken seriously in the first place. The book would have been much more interesting had he stuck to describing what was the orthodox thinking, even if it was wrong. A Rogue's Gallery of Nutcases would have made an entertaining (other) book.

The illustrations in the book are black line drawings with red backgrounds that are very tough on the eyes.

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