I Contain Multitudes PDF Summary

I Contain Multitudes PDFThe Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life

I Contain Multitudes” is a verse written by Walt Whitman, used, obviously, in a strictly metaphorical sense.

Well, Ed Yong borrows it to talk about something much more literal.

Of course it’s a book about microbes!

Who Should Read “I Contain Multitudes”? And Why?

“I Contain Multitudes” is a book about the microbes which live inside your body, which means that it’s basically a book about you.

Merely glancing through it, you’ll be surprised by the sheer number of things you don’t know about yourself – let alone by the fact that cleanliness was not exactly next to godliness!

So, germaphobes, gastronomes, and geeks – please, be Ed Yong’s guests!

About Ed Yong

Ed YongEdmund Soon-Weng Yong – more popularly known as Ed Yong – is a British science journalist and beloved popularizer of science.

After receiving a Master of Arts degree in Natural Science (Zoology) from the University of Cambridge, Yong was awarded an MPhil from the University College London for his thesis on the human resolvase in 2005.

Ed Yong is a permanent staff member of “The Atlantic,” and his work has appeared in numerous magazines; his blog – Not Exactly Rocket Science – is published as part of the “National Geographic” blog network.

Critically acclaimed and popularly well-received, “I Contain Multitudes” is his first book.

“I Contain Multitudes PDF Summary”

Animals might be evolution’s icing,” paleontologist Andrew Knoll once said, “but bacteria are really the cake.

And what a cake they are, ha?

But, that description is straight to the point in more senses than one!

Consider it first chronologically: microbes are here for almost the same amount of time as the Earth itself! Being single-celled, microbes are naturally the first forms of life to have ever developed, about 3 to 4 billion years ago!

To put that into perspective, the Earth is barely half a billion years older; modern humans, on the other hand, appeared about 300,000 years ago.

Which, in other words, means that if we think of the Earth’s 4.5 billion years of existence as if one calendar year, then homo sapiens appeared about 30 minutes ago, and microbes have been around ever since March!

Interestingly enough, even though microbes and humans have spent such a small amount of time together, they’ve managed to build a quite flawless type of interaction!

What do we mean by that?

Simply this: out of the 69 trillion cells in your body, 39 trillion are microbial. In other words, about 57% of you is microbes!

And if you think that’s one of those yuck-kind of facts, consider this: your health has depended on each and every one of those 39 trillion microbes ever since you were born!

You may not know what B. infantis is, and it’s certainly of no help to you if we tell you that you can read more about in the Wikipedia article titled Bifidobacterium longum.  

However – who would have thought? – unless that B. infantis bacterium planted itself firmly in the gastrointestinal tract of the baby you, your earliest food intake would have been a lot less nutrient!

Because, you see, even though breast milk contains human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), babies can’t digest them.

And that’s where B. infantis comes to the rescue, processing HMOs and turning them into digestible proteins. Some of these proteins are anti-inflammatory, which means that they assume a role in our immune system afterward!

Speaking of the immune system – did you know that it is actually microbes which calibrate it?

Let’s pause to note how peculiar this all is. The traditional view of the immune system is full of military metaphors and antagonistic lingo. We see it as a defense force that discriminates self (our own cells) from non-self (microbes and everything else), and eradicates the latter. But now we see that microbes craft and tune our immune system in the first place!

In other words, children should be exposed to dirt and dust in their early age, because that’s the only way the organism can adjust its internal “immunostat,” i.e., the thermostat-like functioning immune system.

In case your “immunostat” has been exposed to too few microbes in your childhood years, then it may end up being a bit jumpy later, overreacting to even the smallest of threats like pollen. Hence, serious allergic reactions!

So, you need to balance your alliances with microbes the best way possible.

Because strictly speaking, there aren’t good or bad microbes by themselves – but there are good or bad environments for different kinds of microbes.

A killer in one environment, a microbe may become a rescuer in another. And thanks to science – now we know enough about some of these microbes to use them to our benefit.

Check our “Key Lessons” section for some other interesting microbes-related trivia!

Key Lessons from “I Contain Multitudes”

1.      Microbes Created the Earth’s Atmosphere
2.      Superpowers Due to Microbe/Animals Symbiosis
3.      Microbes, the Puppet Masters

Microbes Created the Earth’s Atmosphere

A million microbes can fit on the head of a single pin!

However, even though they are that small, this doesn’t mean that they are insignificant as well. On the contrary: more or less, they are the reason why we are able to exist on this planet.

You see, microbes were the first organisms who taught themselves to photosynthesize, that is, use the power of the sun to convert carbon dioxide and water into oxygen and sugar.

The latter they used to feed themselves and go on evolving; the former created an atmosphere suitable for the life of more complex organisms.

Superpowers Due to Microbe/Animals Symbiosis

Some microbes have superpowers by themselves, being extremophiles capable of surviving in the most extreme environments.

However, a much more interesting case is when certain microbes and animals form symbioses which provide the single-celled organisms with food and the larger animals with a superpower.

Consider, for example, the bobtail squid. This animal lives in a symbiotic relationship with Aliivibrio fischeri, bioluminescent bacteria which inhabits the special light organ in the squid’s mantle.

The bobtail squid feeds the bacteria sugar and acid and, in return, the bacteria produce light which matches the amount of light hitting the top of the mantle. You’ve guessed it: this makes the squid practically invisible for anyone below it!

Microbes, the Puppet Masters

Our darkest fiction is full of Orwellian dystopias, shadowy cabals, and mind-controlling supervillains,” writes Edward Yong. “But it turns out that the brainless, microscopic, single-celled organisms that live inside us have been pulling on our strings all along.

That’s right: the microbes in your body are capable of controlling your brain from time to time! However, so as to save you a nightmare or two, we’ve opted for an example from, ahem, the much less nightmarish world of microbes and rodents:

The brain parasite Toxoplasma gondii is another puppet master. It can only sexually reproduce in a cat; if it gets into a rat, it suppresses the rodent’s natural fear of cat odors and replaces it with something more like sexual attraction. The rodent scurries towards nearby cats, with fatal results, and T. gondii gets to complete its life cycle.

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“I Contain Multitudes Quotes”

All zoology is really ecology. We cannot fully understand the lives of animals without understanding our microbes and our symbioses with them. Click To Tweet

Your right hand shares just a sixth of its microbial species with your left hand. Click To Tweet

Within 24 hours of moving into a new place we overwrite it with our own microbes, turning it into a reflection of ourselves. Click To Tweet

Much of modern medicine is built upon the foundations that antibiotics provide, and those foundations are now crumbling. Click To Tweet

So, here’s the irony: toilets that are cleaned too often are more likely to be covered in faecal bacteria. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

In a million tiny ways,” – states its blurb – “’I Contain Multitudes’ will radically change how you think about the natural world, and how you see yourself.

We know that many blurbs state unsubstantiated claims such as this, but in the case of Ed Yong’s marvel of a book, this is more than true! God knows how many new things we learned from it, and how many of these things will effectively change the way we act and behave in the future!

Bill Gates more than shares our opinion, calling the book “super-interesting” and describing it as “science journalism at its best.”

It really is.

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On the Origin of Species PDF Summary

On the Origin of Species PDFBy Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life

In 1859, Charles Darwin changed the world.

Read the summary of “On the Origin of Species” to discover how.

Who Should Read “On the Origin of Species”? And Why?

“On the Origin of Species” is the foundational text of the life sciences.

And it’s also one of the most influential books ever written.

So – everybody.

Because everybody says so.

Charles DarwinAbout Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin was an English biologist, geologist, and naturalist, the man who first convincingly demonstrated that evolution is a fact and scientific theory.

One of the most influential figures in human history,” Darwin presented his theory in 1859 in “On the Origin of Species.”

Twelve years later, he applied it on humans in “The Descent of Man.”

And changed everything.

“On the Origin of Species PDF Summary”

No need to tell you this:

At about 500 pages in its original edition, “On the Origin of Species” is Charles Darwin magnum opus and, quite possibly, the most influential nonfiction book ever written.

Even though some of its findings have been modified in the century and a half which has passed since its publication, it’s safe to say that no summary can ever do enough justice to this book.

In other words, you should definitely try to find some time to read this book in the recent future.

In the meantime, here’s a summary which takes a look at Darwin’s most important ideas, tiptoeing around his evidence for the sake of brevity and simplicity.

“On the Origin of Species” is divided into fourteen chapters prefaced by an Introduction which gives an outline of the book and states its purpose.

Chapter I, titled “Variation Under Domestication” sets the terrain for Darwin’s main idea, i.e., natural selection, by providing a suitable analogy the accuracy of which cannot be questioned by anyone.

Namely, Darwin uses Chapter I to explain how speciation occurs in front of our very eyes in domestic environments, and how breeders are capable of selecting the traits of their liking and producing the species of their own imagination almost effortlessly in some cases.

Darwin reminds us of “that most skillful breeder, Sir John Sebright,” who apparently had a habit of saying “with respect to pigeons, that ‘he would produce any given feather in three years, but it would take him six years to obtain head and beak.’”

In other words, many pigeons, cats, and dogs are products of the process of human selection.

Now – asks Darwin in Chapter II, “Variation Under Nature,” – if humans can create (and have created) species, why shouldn’t Nature be able to do the same:

As man can produce and certainly has produced a great result by his methodical and unconscious means of selection, what may not natural selection effect? Man can act only on external and visible characters: Nature… cares nothing for appearances, except in so far as they are useful to any being. She can act on every internal organ, on every shade of constitutional difference, on the whole machinery of life. Man selects only for his own good; Nature only for that of the being which she tends.

Chapter III, “Struggle for Existence” is where Darwin explains how this happens.

And it’s quite simple, since for variation under nature to happen no more than few simple premises need to be accepted:

#1. Organisms reproduce and, through reproduction, they pass some of their traits to other generations;
#2. There is a limited amount of resources, so not all organisms can be supported;
#3. Those who survive are the ones who will pass their traits to the following generations;
#4. Consequently, the traits that will be passed are the ones that have allowed them to survive.

In other words, the struggle for life favors the strongest, i.e., Nature selects the organisms which are best adapted to a certain environment.

Chapter IV, “Natural Selection” is the elucidation of how this works in practice.

Here Darwin explains how much more powerful is natural selection when compared to human selection, especially when time is taken into account.

He then analyzes which circumstances are favorable and which are not for natural selection and how natural selection causes extinction and divergence on the descendants from a common parent.

He ends this chapter (which includes “a diagram of divergence of taxa,” the only illustration in the original edition) with an amazing discovery – that all organic beings can be grouped and traced to a single or few ancestors.

It is a truly wonderful fact,” he exclaims here, “the wonder of which we are apt to overlook from familiarity – that all animals and all plants throughout all time and space should be related to each other.

With the more technical Chapter V, “Laws of Variation,” Darwin wraps up the main points of his “theory of descent with modification” (as he calls it) and in the next three chapters tries to address some of its shortcomings in advance.

Chapter VI, “Difficulties on Theory” attempts to answer two questions: 1) “why, if species have descended from other species by insensibly fine gradations, do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms?” and 2) “Can we believe that natural selection could produce, on the one hand, organs of trifling importance, such as the tail of a giraffe, which serves as a fly-flapper, and, on the other hand, organs of such wonderful structure, as the eye, of which we hardly as yet fully understand the inimitable perfection?”

Chapter VII, “Instinct” and Chapter VIII, “Hybridism” address the remaining difficulties: 1) “can instincts be acquired and modified through natural selection?” and 2) “how can we account for species, when crossed, being sterile and producing sterile offspring, whereas, when varieties are crossed, their fertility is unimpaired?”

Chapter IX, “On the Imperfection of Geological Record” and Chapter X, “On the Geological Succession of Organic Beings” are Inspired by Charles Lyell’s “Principles of Geology” and examine fossil records, while the next two chapters – Chapter XI and Chapter XII deal with “Geographical Distribution.”

The eclectic Chapter XIII, baroquely titled “Mutual Affinities of Organic Beings: Morphology: Embryology: Rudimentary Organs,” abounds with interesting (if sometimes philosophical) evidence of Darwin’s common descent theory.

As suggested by its title, Chapter XIV, “Recapitulation and Conclusion” reviews the most important points of the book, and concludes with a quote-worthy paragraph:

Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

Key Lessons from “On the Origin of Species”

1.      Natural Selection = Selective Breeding + Time – Humans
2.      The Survival of the Fittest
3.      All Species Have Descended from Common Ancestors

Natural Selection = Selective Breeding + Time – Humans

Men are capable of creating species in domestic environments through selective breeding.

Darwin says: well, Nature does the same.

And over eons of time, it has created every species in existence.

The Survival of the Fittest

The survival of the fittest” is actually an expression by Herbert Spencer, but Darwin says that it is equally convenient as his “natural selection.

This is why:

Owing to this struggle for life, any variation, however slight and from whatever cause proceeding, if it be in any degree profitable to an individual of any species, in its infinitely complex relations to other organic beings and to external nature, will tend to the preservation of that individual, and will generally be inherited by its offspring. The offspring, also, will thus have a better chance of surviving, for, of the many individuals of any species which are periodically born, but a small number can survive. I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if useful, is preserved, by the term of Natural Selection, in order to mark its relation to man’s power of selection.

All Species Have Descended from Common Ancestors

If God created all species independently, then why are they so similar?

What can be more curious,” asks at one place Darwin, implicitly suggesting that independent creation shouldn’t be able to survive the Occam’s razor when faced with natural selection, “than that the hand of a man, formed for grasping, that of a mole for digging, the leg of the horse, the paddle of the porpoise, and the wing of the bat, should all be constructed on the same pattern, and should include the same bones, in the same relative positions?

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“On the Origin of Species Quotes”

One general law, leading to the advancement of all organic beings, namely, multiply, vary, let the strongest live and the weakest die. Click To Tweet

Man selects only for his own good: Nature only for that of the being which she tends. Click To Tweet

I see no good reasons why the views given in this volume should shock the religious views of anyone. Click To Tweet

If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find no such case. Click To Tweet

Natural Selection… is a power incessantly ready for action, and is immeasurably superior to man's feeble efforts, as the works of Nature are to those of Art. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

There are not many books more important or more seminal than “The Origin of Species.”

And we can’t stress that enough.

Over to you.

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The Structure of Scientific Revolutions PDF Summary

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions PDFHave you heard of something called “paradigm shift”?

Of course you have: it’s mentioned in every second “Big Bang Theory” episode.

Well, this is the book where that phrase was first invented:

Thomas Kuhn’s immensely influential “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.”

Who Should Read “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”? And Why?

“When it was first published in 1962,” – states the blurb on the 50th-anniversary edition of “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” – it was a landmark event in the history and philosophy of science. Fifty years later, it still has many lessons to teach.

In other words, this is a landmark book: one that has changed the way we understand a certain thing once and for all, and one that will, most probably, never get old.

It is required reading in most curricula for students of philosophy, history, or science. It should be required reading for anyone interested in the history of thought or how progress happens.

Thomas KuhnAbout Thomas Kuhn

Thomas Samuel Kuhn was an American philosopher of science, historian, and physicist, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He is most famous for his 1962 landmark study, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” which not only radically changed the way humans think about scientific progress, but it also questioned the very concept of “objectivity” in the world of science.

Kuhn’s other books include “The Copernican Revolution” and “Black-Body Theory and the Quantum Discontinuity, 1894-1912.”

He died from lung cancer at the age of 73, on June 17, 1996.

“The Structure of Scientific Revolutions PDF Summary”

Since science organizes our knowledge of the world “in the form of testable explanations,” it’s only natural that one assumes that its progress is incremental.

In other words, if an explanation is scientific, that means that it is essentially true, which, in turn, implies that every other explanation must not be contradictory to it and merely build upon and add to the already established knowledge.

However, that doesn’t explain how Ernst Mach was able to resurrect Leibniz’s explanations of space and time and, even less, how, once Einstein came along, suddenly none of the previously existent scientific theories were correct?

What about the centuries between?

What about the geocentric universe and the ether theories? Some of the greatest minds in histories believed and tried testing those? How did they end up being mere myths?

If these out-of-date beliefs are to be called myths,” interrupts Thomas Kuhn, “then myths can be produced by the same sorts of methods and held for the same sorts of reasons that now lead to scientific knowledge.

Wait a second!

That’s a bit controversial, isn’t it?

Because doesn’t that imply that some of our existent scientific theories may be about as correct explanations of life and the universe as Lamarckism and pre-Copernicus models of the cosmos?

Interestingly enough, as Kuhn convincingly argues, it does.

(But hold your horses there, buddy: evolution is here to stay!)

Now, how can that be?

Well, to understand Kuhn’s explanation better, you must first do away completely with your preconceived ideas of what it means to be a scientific innovator.

Because, if history has taught us anything, an innovator isn’t someone who works with a specific goal in mind: most innovations actually happen by mistake.

And there’s a reason for that!

You see, to become a scientist, you need to study a lot. And what is studying if not acquiring the wisdom of your predecessors.

Kuhn calls this wisdom a scientific paradigm, a phrase he uses to refer to the shared framework of knowledge and accepted theories a new scientist operates within. This framework is vast and highly networked, but it is never capable of encompassing everything.

It is in the gaps of the existent framework where most of the normal science happens.

Normal science – writes Kuhn – the activity in which most scientists inevitably spend almost all their time, is predicated on the assumption that the scientific community knows what the world is like.

Or to explain this in an even more vivid manner:

Under normal conditions the research scientist is not an innovator but a solver of puzzles, and the puzzles upon which he concentrates are just those which he believes can be both stated and solved within the existing scientific tradition.

Put simply, most scientists do experiments the results of which they can guess in advance; that’s why most experiments start with a hypothesis.

As Thomas Kuhn says, “The man who is striving to solve a problem defined by existing knowledge and technique is not… just looking around. He knows what he wants to achieve, and he designs his instruments and directs his thoughts accordingly.”

In case you think any differently, just ask yourself: would you be granted any money from a respected scientific fund if you proposed an experiment which should prove that we live in a simulated universe and that we are basically just characters in a game?

No, you’ll have to start a Kickstarter campaign to do that – because the existing scientific paradigm says that something like that is all but impossible.

Which brings us to the main point of Kuhn’s book:

Unanticipated novelty, the new discovery, can emerge only to the extent that [an innovator’s] anticipations about nature and his instruments prove wrong… There is no other effective way in which discoveries might be generated.

To give you an example of this:

A few years back, scientists at the CERN research center in Geneva – more or less established to experimentally prove Einstein’s theory of relativity – announced that they had managed to observe faster-than-light neutrinos!

In the existing Einsteinian scientific paradigm – the one which has helped organize our existing knowledge so well – there is no such thing as speeds faster than light.

So, the observation had to be either an anomalous one or one which proves Einstein wrong.

Many scientists vehemently claimed the former, since the latter would mean that we are operating within a wrong scientific paradigm.

In the end, it turned out that they were right, but many times in history the conservative scientific parties end up on the losing side.

In other words, the anomaly questions the existing scientific paradigm and ushers a new era, the era of extraordinary science.

If proven right by the revolutionaries, then the anomaly becomes the basis of a new scientific paradigm, and a paradigm shift occurs.

Now, suddenly, there’s a new jigsaw puzzle waiting to be solved, and scientists start using their old instruments to see new things.

It’s like that duck-rabbit illusion: once an anomaly inaugurates a paradigm shift, scientists start seeing the same information in a completely different manner.

And they reshape the world.

Key Lessons from “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”

1.      Scientific Progress Is Not Incremental
2.      Paradigm Shifts Are the Result of an Anomaly
3.      Novices, Science Welcomes Your Amateurism

Scientific Progress Is Not Incremental

Science is not linear accumulation of knowledge.

It’s, in fact, progressing in leaps – from one paradigm to another.

The moment Copernicus appeared, the geocentric model was made obsolete; but once we understood the structure of the Milky Way, Copernicus’ heliocentric model was suddenly unscientific as well.

Paradigm Shifts Are the Result of an Anomaly

Most of the time, scientist work within an existing paradigm – a shared body of knowledge, a framework of accepted theories – trying to fill in the existing gaps via experiments.

But once they encounter an anomaly, they are incited to reconsider the existing paradigm.

And that’s when paradigm shifts – radical changes – occur!

Novices, Science Welcomes Your Amateurism

If paradigm shifts happen only when an existing paradigm is questioned, then scientific progress may depend largely on the unconservative novices:

Almost always the men who achieve these fundamental inventions of a new paradigm have been either very young or very new to the field whose paradigm they change. And perhaps that point need not have been made explicit, for obviously these are the men who, being little committed by prior practice to the traditional rules of normal science, are particularly likely to see that those rules no longer define a playable game and to conceive another set that can replace them.

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“The Structure of Scientific Revolutions Quotes”

Novelty ordinarily emerges only for the man who, knowing with precision what he should expect, is able to recognize that something has gone wrong. Click To Tweet

Truth emerges more readily from error than from confusion. Click To Tweet

Science does not develop by the accumulation of individual discoveries and inventions. Click To Tweet

Unanticipated novelty, the new discovery, can emerge only to the extent that his anticipations about nature and his instruments prove wrong. Click To Tweet

To reject one paradigm without simultaneously substituting another is to reject science itself. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

“The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” caused great controversy very soon after it was published since many felt that science is much more objective and scientific than Thomas Kuhn’s book suggests. And even half a century later, numerous scholars keep questioning its core concepts.

However, many others believe that Thomas Kuhn’s book has radically and irretrievably changed the way the world looks at science and that, consequently, it produced the paradigm shift it discusses.

If you’re making a list of books to read before you die,” – the latter think – “Kuhn’s masterwork is one.

We agree with them.

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The Fabric of the Cosmos PDF Summary

The Fabric of the Cosmos PDFHow many times have you encountered upon a book whose subtitle or blurb claims that everything you know about something – success, economics, the world – is altogether wrong?

Chances are: too many to remember them all!

Well, “The Fabric of the Cosmos” doesn’t need a subtitle or a blurb with such a claim (though it does have the later).

But we guarantee you that’s what you’ll be saying to the many people to whom you’ll give this book as a gift.

In other words: prepare to be shaken to your very core!

Who Should Read “The Fabric of the Cosmos”? And Why?

You may be one of the many people believing that physics is not about everybody and that only those who understand equations should dabble with it.

“The Fabric of the Cosmos,” however, is so abundant with perfect analogies and appropriate metaphors that, in addition to being “a must-read for the huge constituency of lay readers enticed by the mysteries of cosmology,” it should also be a comprehensible read for almost anyone.

Be warned, though:

If you have come here without at least some average understanding of physics, then your whole worldview is about to be radically altered.

Bear in mind that very few things in this book are scientific speculations (and, obviously, they all come with an appropriate footnote).

Most of it is cutting-edge science.

And it’s thought-provoking and, well, breathtaking!

Brian GreeneAbout Brian Greene

Brian Greene is an American theoretical physicist and string theorist, dubbed by “The Times” as “the new Hawking, only better.”

After graduating from Harvard University in 1980, Greene earned a doctorate from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar seven years later. Ever since 1996, he has been a professor at Columbia University.

Published in 1999, his first book, “The Elegant Universe,” was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize nonfiction and earned a Royal Society Prize for Science Books.

“The Fabric of the Cosmos” appeared five years later, followed by the children’s book “Icarus at the Edge of Time” (2008) and “The Hidden Reality” (2011).

“The Fabric of the Cosmos PDF Summary”

“The Fabric of the Cosmos” is a gargantuan 5-part 600 pages’ long exposition on the nature of the Universe and some of its most eluding secrets.

So, don’t expect a summary which will do the book enough justice.

We’ll just take a brief look at two of the concepts Greene explores – space and time – and tell you why this very sentence is wrong.

On the flip-side, just like Greene’s previous book (“The Elegant Universe”), NOVA adapted “The Fabric of the Cosmos” into a 4-part documentary series hosted by Greene himself.

As you can see from the full playlist, Greene discusses a few more things:

You may know Sir Isaac Newton as the guy who robbed God of his job when he rendered all motion comprehensible and predictable through his laws of motion.

However, that wasn’t the only thing Newton did.

Among the many other, he also initiated the great debate on the nature of space and time.

In Newton’s opinion, space and time were basically axioms, things which exist in and of themselves as absolutes, “without reference to anything external.”

Newton’s life-long archrival, German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz, couldn’t disagree more: “space” and “time,” in his opinion, were no more than language tricks, just convenient words to talk about ordering and positioning.

In other words, according to Leibniz, space and time are relational categories, and we can’t think of them in the absence of objects.

It would be as if we’re talking about an alphabet without letters!

Both parties traded blows, but then, in 1689 Newton delivered the most damaging one: the water bucket argument.

The argument is relatively simple: take a bucket filled with water and hung it by a cord. Then twist the cord tightly on itself and release. The bucket should start spinning rapidly.

Now, even though the relative motion at the first stage is the greatest, the surface of the water will remain flat.

After a while, however, as the water starts to spin in the bucket, its surface will become concave. And it will remain so even when the bucket is stopped.

The conclusion?

The concave surface can’t be the result of a relational interaction between the bucket and the water since the water assumes different shapes regardless of whether the bucket is spinning or not.

Leibniz conceded defeat:

I grant that there is a difference between absolute true motion of a body and a mere relative change of its situation with respect to another body.

However, as we found out about two centuries later, Leibniz shouldn’t have: it seems he was the one who was in the right.

First Ernst Mach, in the second half of the 19th century, decided to join the discussion by reintroducing Leibniz’s concerns.

In his opinion, Newton’s experiment doesn’t prove that space and time are absolute, but merely that the water is not moving in relation to its immediate surrounding, i.e., the bucket.

But it can be moving in relation to something else – the fixed stars, for example:

Newton’s experiment with the rotating vessel of water simply informs us that the relative rotation of the water with respect to the sides of the vessel produces no noticeable centrifugal forces, but that such forces are produced by its relative rotations with respect to the mass of the earth and other celestial bodies.

And then came Albert Einstein and simply blew everybody away when he proposed that not only Leibniz and Mach were right, but also that the relativeness of space and time was linked and relational to an absolute: the speed of light.

Think of it this way:

You can measure the speed of an object if you divide the distance it travels over an interval by the duration of that same interval.

However, all experiments suggested that the speed of light is always 671,000,000 mph in a vacuum with respect to any reference frame!

But, how can that be?

Shouldn’t the speed of light from the lights of a moving car be faster than the one from the light bulb over your head: the former moves over a greater distance for a shorter period of time.

Strangely enough – it is not.

And as Sherlock Holmes says, “once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

After Einstein, the thing which remained was that space and time must work together to adjust so that the speed of light remains the same!

And that’s how the idea of spacetime was born, a continuum in which space and time are relative, but together they form an absolute.

The consequences of this are too numerous and mind-blowing to list them in a sentence or two.

But be sure the check them out!

Key Lessons from “The Fabric of the Cosmos”

1.      Spacetime Is as Real as You
2.      Gravity Is a Warp in the Spacetime Continuum
3.      Quantum Mechanics Is Incredibly Strange

Spacetime Is as Real as You

Brian Greene has picked just the appropriate title for his work: “The Fabric of Cosmos.”


Because one of the things we’ve realized during the past century or so is that spacetime is real, i.e., there are billions and billions of particles all around you constantly coming into existence and disappearing.

So, thinking about spacetime as fabric may mean something more than a simple analogy!

Gravity Is a Warp in the Spacetime Continuum

Gravity itself is a consequence of the curvature of spacetime, i.e., a warp in the spacetime continuum created by anything that has some mass and energy.

It is gravity which gives us weight.

So that means that if you put a scale under the feet of an object in free fall, the scale won’t register any weight.

Quantum Mechanics Is Incredibly Strange

We didn’t even get to speak of quantum mechanics.

But that may be for the better, because if we speak of it, who knows – we may disturb the whole field.

Just joking!

But appropriately:

Believe it or not, quantum particles assume characteristics only when observed!

For now, let’s leave it at that.

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“The Fabric of the Cosmos Quotes”

Absolute space does not exist. Absolute time does not exist. But according to special relativity, absolute spacetime does exist. Click To Tweet

Observers moving relative to each other have different conceptions of what exists at a given moment, and hence they have different conceptions of reality. Click To Tweet

Our entire existence - everything we do, think and experience - takes place in some region of space during some interval of time. Yet science is still struggling to understand what space and time actually are. Click To Tweet

Scientists have now established that, through the wonders of quantum mechanics, individual particles can be – and have been – teleported. Click To Tweet

The quantum uncertainty ensures that the microworld is a turbulent and jittery realm. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

According to the “Science” magazine, “The Fabric of the Cosmos” is the best exposition and explanation of early 21st-century research into the fundamental nature of the universe as you are likely to find anywhere.

In addition, writing for “The New York Review of Books,” Freeman Dyson – a guy we’ve mentioned here, in relation with another great science communicator – recommended Greene’s book “to any nonexpert reader who wants an up-to-date account of theoretical physics, written in colloquial language that anyone can understand.”

One of the very best books you’ll ever read on any scientific subject.

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Astrophysics for People in a Hurry PDF Summary

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry PDFAre you in a hurry?

Do you, nevertheless, want to know something more about the universe you live in?

Well, then it’s time for few lessons in astrophysics by none other than Mr. Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Ladies and gentlemen, presenting you the summary for –

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.”

Who Should Read “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry”? And Why?

Carl Sagan – the man who made many people fall in love with science in the 1980s – had a habit of saying that astrophysics is the science of humility – in addition to science itself being a character-building endeavor.

Sagan’s widely beloved successor Neil deGrasse Tyson believes in these very same things.

And he shares Sagan’s exceptional capacity of making this clear via illustrative simplification of many seriously complex and even counter-intuitive scientific concepts.

Which is why “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” is not only a book about people who don’t have enough time to learn more about the universe but want to.

It’s also about those who have time but don’t want to.

In fact, if you ask us, it is especially about the latter.

Neil DeGrasse TysonAbout Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson is an American astrophysicist, popularizer of science, and, since 1996, the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium, fully reconstructed during his tenure.

An author of numerous essays and books – “Death by Black Hole” being the most famous one up to “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” – Tyson is probably best recognized as the host of “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey,” the sequel to Carl Sagan’s ultra-popular 1980 series “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage”

Tyson has received numerous awards, including NASA’s Distinguished Public Service Medal in 2004 and the Public Welfare Medal awarded to Tyson by the National Academy of Sciences in 2015 for his “extraordinary role in exciting the public about the wonders of science.”

“Astrophysics for People in a Hurry PDF Summary”

It’s quite difficult to summarize a book such as “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.”

Not only because the subjects it deals with are grand on any scale – the creation of the universe, its structure, dark matter, dark energy, etc. – but also because Tyson presents them in a way which makes the presentation dependent on both his style and his analogies.

Once you conceptualized these, you’ll never forget what they are, in fact, standing for and explaining.

As he explains in the preface, that’s Tyson’s very goal: to make you “culturally conversant in [his] field of expertise.”

And, as you can see for yourself in this video, he is quite good at doing that:

Now, we have only about 1,000 words to recount you briefly the history of nearly everything and, of course, we are going to need to rush through Tyson’s presentation.

Which starts where it all started – including time itself.

The Big Bang.

About 13.8 billion years ago, when the universe started expanding from a very high-temperature and high-density state, creating space, time, physical laws and everything else.

Speaking of physical laws – let’s get one thing straight.

Tyson is quite adamant in insisting that most of the things he talks about are undeniably true. “The power and beauty of physical laws,” he writes, “is that they apply everywhere, whether or not you choose to believe in them. In other words, after the laws of physics, everything else is opinion.”  

So, it’s a fact that the Earth didn’t exist for the first two-thirds of the time the Universe has existed and that it was first formed about 4.5 billion years ago.

Even more interesting, it took billions of years for the earliest plants to appear on the planet and almost a billion more for the earliest apes.

In other words, homo sapiens has been around for no more than, say, 300,000 years, which means only about 0.006% of the time the Earth is around.

And that’s where things get even more interesting: during this time, humanity – basically “stardust brought to life” – has discovered numerous physical laws and has devised hundreds of theories to explain their origin and meaning.

So, it’s basically as if the universe is learning about its beginnings through us!

While explaining Einstein’s prediction of gravitational waves and the importance of their first ever detection in 2015, Tyson beautifully summarizes this full circle.

Namely, when the now-detected gravitational waves were generated (by a collision of black holes in a galaxy 1.3 billion light-years away), there were only single-celled organisms on this planet.

And while these gravitational waves were traveling, the Earth would manage to “evolve complex life, including flowers and dinosaurs and flying creatures, as well as a branch of vertebrates called mammals.”

The primates branched out of these mammals, and then – in the last 10,000 years – “a single branch of these primates would develop a genetic mutation that allowed speech, and that branch – Homo Sapiens – would invent agriculture and civilization and philosophy and art and science.”

Then came Einstein and he devised the theory of relativity which predicted the existence of these gravitational waves.

A century later, people developed technology powerful enough to see these waves, and humanity “would finally catch up with the prediction, just days before that gravity wave, which had been traveling for 1.3 billion years, washed over Earth and was detected.”

Now, that’s beautiful!

But, as deGrasse Tyson, demonstrates: it’s merely the beginning.

Since as much as we know – or, as in this case, have probably predicted well enough about the universe – there’s much more that we don’t know.

Take dark matter and dark energy, for example!

They make up most of our universe, and, still, we know nothing about them except for the fact that they exist.

It’s basically as if we know nothing about water.

So, there’s still plenty to learn.

And all of it promises to be a magnificent adventure!

Key Lessons from “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry”

1.      You Drink the Water Genghis Khan Once Drank
2.      Isaac Newton Robbed God of His Job
3.      The Cosmic Perspective

You Drink the Water Genghis Khan Once Drank

We mentioned water at the end of our summary.

Here’s an interesting fact about that all-important substance:

Every cup that passes through a single person and eventually rejoins the world’s water supply holds enough molecules to mix 1,500 of them into every other cup of water in the world. No way around it: some of the water you just drank passed through the kidneys of Socrates, Genghis Khan, and Joan of Arc.


Or, maybe, ugh?

Isaac Newton Robbed God of His Job

Even after it was conclusively proven that the Earth is not the center of the Universe, philosophers still believed in some divine presence, because some of the planets’ motions were inexplicable.

Then Isaac Newton came, and he rendered all motion comprehensible and predictable.

What should the Creator do now? – asked the theologians. And if there’s nothing he should do, doesn’t that mean that he might as well not exist?

DeGrasse Tyson – and many other astrophysicists – don’t think that these are difficult questions.

According to them, the facts prove conclusively: even if God does exist, he has absolutely no explanatory value.

The Cosmic Perspective

If you ask us, the most important chapter of this whole book – the culmination to which all other chapters build to – is the last one, “Reflections on the Cosmic Perspective.”

What it all boils down to?

First of all, that “the universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.”

And secondly, that the Earth is a nothing more than a mote. But “it’s a precious mote and, for the moment, it’s the only home we have.”

How important is this revelation, this cosmic perspective of our existence?

Well, let’s see what Tyson has to say on the subject:

Now imagine a world in which everyone, but especially people with power and influence, holds an expanded view of our place in the cosmos. With that perspective, our problems would shrink—or never arise at all—and we could celebrate our earthly differences while shunning the behavior of our predecessors who slaughtered each other because of them.

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“Astrophysics for People in a Hurry Quotes”

The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you. Click To Tweet

We are stardust brought to life, then empowered by the universe to figure itself out—and we have only just begun. Click To Tweet

The power and beauty of physical laws is that they apply everywhere, whether or not you choose to believe in them. In other words, after the laws of physics, everything else is opinion. Click To Tweet

We do not simply live in this universe. The universe lives within us. Click To Tweet

People who believe they are ignorant of nothing have neither looked for, nor stumbled upon, the boundary between what is known and unknown in the universe. Click To Tweet


Our Critical Review

“Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” is mostly a collection of Tyson’s “Natural History” essays published during the decade between 1997 and 2007.

Because of this, most of it may be familiar to fans of Tyson’s work.

Even so, none of it should be boring to anyone: exceptionally well written, full of Tyson’s recognizable wit and even more recognizable analogies, “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” is both an accessible and illuminating work.

So – as “BBC Sky at Night” advises – don’t rush through it.

Take your time and savor each chapter.

This book can radically alter your opinion about, well, everything.

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Oxygen Summary

Oxygen SummaryThe molecule that made the world

Do you know the nature of oxygen? Do you know what happens when you breathe?

Do you know the role oxygen has not only in keeping you alive but for the evolution of the species as well?

If not, this is a good place to start finding out the answers to those questions.

Who Should Read “Oxygen” and Why?

“Oxygen” is a book about the gas that keeps us alive, and as you will see once you read the book, poisons us really slowly.

We recommend it to all readers who would like to know the role oxygen played in the evolution of organisms, and how the world became as it is today, as well as to those who wish to understand the process of breathing and how it affects our bodies.

About Nick Lane

Nick LaneDr. Nick Lane is a prolific author who holds a degree in biochemistry from the Imperial College in London.

“Oxygen Summary”

If we ask you what is Oxygen, then you will probably tell us that it is what keeps you alive, right?

But did you know that Oxygen also kills you?

Yes, breathing both keeps you alive and slowly kills you at the same time.

With every breath you take, some toxic byproducts are produced and stored in your body, and over time these byproducts harm you.

It is not like you can stop it.

If we found the answer to this – we would have stopped aging already.

Anyway, let’s not get ahead of ourselves and start from the very beginning.

Today, in the air we breathe, there is around 21 percent oxygen. However, that was not the case around four billion years ago when the atmosphere had very little oxygen.

Then, after the Cambrian explosion, the only survivals on earth were plants.

In order to survive the harsh conditions, they had to do much photosynthesis and produce vast amounts of oxygen in the process.

The single cellular organisms which were not used to this amount of oxygen tried to escape it, but not being able to, they ultimately had to group themselves, and that is how the multi-cellular organisms evolved.

After some time, in the air there a lot of oxygen – almost double of today’s levels.

This percentage made it easier for cells to grow and thus the giant animals were created. However, this percentage did not only make it easier for the animals to grow, but they could also move more easily, which made hunting easier as well.

One significant name to note during our explanation of the topic is the world-renowned Marie Curie.

Curie is a Nobelist which discovered radiation. However, her discovery seemed to be fatal since she died of leukemia when she was 67.

But why is Curie important to oxygen?

Because her discoveries of radiation are closely related to oxygen as well.

Do you remember that we told you that oxygen could kill?

Well, Curie’s findings show that the biological damage as a result of radiation and oxygen poisoning are almost the same.

Wait, what?

Yes! I was just as surprised when I read this information as well!

When radiation pierces the body, it breaks water into oxygen and hydrogen, in the process producing toxic byproducts.

When you breathe, however, these byproducts are turned into water.

So, breathing is poisoning you – it just does it very slowly.

But, if it is so, how can you protect yourself? You cannot stop breathing, can you?

Filling yourself up with antioxidants is one way of doing it. Another technique is to exercise cardio exercises – to run.

Although there are many innovations nowadays, we cannot seem to answer the one question that has been pressing people forever: how to stop aging.

In the modern world, two theories of aging exist stochastic and programmed theories.

The first ones argue that aging has nothing to do with genes. This is where the oxygen poisoning theory comes into play.

The programmed theories, on the other hand, are those that believe that aging is mainly genetical.

The author of the book believes that the truth about aging is somewhere in between.

And until someone proves it – we cannot state anything for certain. However, it is quite reasonable to think that the fewer toxins we enter in our body, the slower the aging process will be.

The question is, how can we stop oxygen from producing toxins that harm us in the long term?

Key Lessons from “Oxygen”

1.      Multi-Cellular Life Developed Thanks to the Increase in Oxygen
2.      Giant Animals Can Exist Only With High Levels of Oxygen
3.      Breathing Determines the Speed of Aging

Multi-Cellular Life Developed Thanks to the Increase in Oxygen

Most of the organisms we interact with in everyday life are multi-cellular.

However, primate life was not like that. Multi-cellular organisms developed thanks to the increase in oxygen that happened because the plants that survived the Cambrian explosion started photosynthesizing a lot of oxygen to survive.

Giant Animals Can Exist Only With High Levels of Oxygen

The giant animals from the past could only exist because of the huge levels of atmospheric oxygen. When these animals live, there was 35% oxygen in the air. To compare it with, today we have only 21% oxygen in the air.

Oxygen made it easy to grow and breathe, but also it eased the movement as well.

Breathing Determines the Speed of Aging

Did you know that breathing both keeps you alive and kill you?

With every breath you take your body produces toxic byproducts, and stores them. These byproducts over some time are the cause of damage.

However, there is not a limit of how much oxygen you can breathe – it all depends on your body.

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“Oxygen Quotes”

Our bodies are historical accidents of evolution and ultimately can only be understood from an evolutionary perspective: how things got to be the way they are. Click To Tweet Mitochondria, as we have seen, are only passed on in the egg, so all 13 mitochondrial genes come from our mothers. If these genes really do influence lifespan, and we can only inherit them from our mothers, then our own lifespan should… Click To Tweet As conventionally stated, the idea that breathing oxygen causes aging is disarmingly simple. Click To Tweet Unlike infections, aging is not easily reversed: mitochondrial damage accumulates continuously. Click To Tweet The expression of normal genes in an oxidized environment is the basis of their negative pleiotropic effects in old age. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

This is not a book you pick up to read for fun, but it is filled with so many interesting information that you would not come across.

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The Double Helix Summary

The Double Helix SummaryA Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA

As far as you know, scientists are serious and rather dull guys in white coats doing experiments, talking gibberish and trying to get to the bottom of all things unexplained and seemingly unexplainable.

Enter James Dewey Watson, an ambitious 24-year-old American womanizer at Cambridge who’d go so far as to even filch an idea if Nobel-worthy. The name sounds familiar?

Probably because it was one of the first you learned in your biology class. Yup – that’s the guy who discovered the structure of DNA.

And “The Double Helix” is his thriller-like account of that immensely important scientific journey.

Who Should Read “The Double Helix”? And Why?

The Double Helix” has everything a book should (and shouldn’t) have: determination and hunger for fame, against-all-odds story of success and caricatural portraits of famous people, friendships, betrayals, and even bigotry and chauvinism.

You should read it because you want to be a smarter fellow; after all, the discovery of DNA changed so many things about the world. Read it for the gossips and the unabashedly honest behind-the-scenes depictions of celebrated scientists – if you want juicy details from a world you taught had none.

Read it for the sheer joy of research – once you finish it, you’ll certainly get a better picture of the process by which scientists come across great discoveries. And read it for pleasure – if you are tired of novels and other types of fiction.

Because – sometimes – real life is just incalculably more interesting.

About James D. Watson

James D. WatsonJames Watson is an American geneticist, molecular biologist, and zoologist, a co-discoverer of the structure of DNA with Francis Crick.

For this discovery, he shared the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with his partner and Maurice Wilkins, “for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material.”

He worked on Harvard for two decades (1956-1976) and served as either director or president of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory from 1968 to 2007. He resigned after making one possibly racist remark.

“The Double Helix Summary”

It was April 25, 1953.

If you were subscribed to “Nature” and opened the magazine on page 737, you would have come upon these two sentences:

“We wish to suggest a structure for the salt of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). This structure has novel features which are of considerable biological interest.”

Above them, a descriptive combination of title and a subtitle: “Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid.” Below them – no more than 900 words and a simple “purely diagrammatic” figure unlike this one:

the double helix pdf

But beyond that – an event which will irretrievably change the course of history. Because what we just described was the article and the day the world first saw the double helical structure of the DNA we have grown accustomed to in the meantime.

If that doesn’t send shivers down your spine, let us rephrase that: 25 April 1953 was the day we discovered the secret of life.

Published a full decade and a half later, “The Double Helix” is James Watson’s personal account of this discovery.

You may think that it’s too scientific and unintelligible, too dull and mind-scratching for a person who doesn’t know anything about biochemistry.

But that only means that you don’t know James Watson.

A post-doctoral research fellow in Copenhagen, Watson was an ambitious man who wasn’t at all interested in the work of his mentor, Herman Kalckar. Fortunately for him, he accompanied Kackar to a meeting in Italy, where he heard Maurice Wilkins talk about his X-ray data on the structure of DNA.

So, the autumn of 1951, he went to Cambridge University and joined the group working in the Cavendish Laboratory. Officially – to work on three-dimensional structures of proteins. Unofficially – to make a discovery which will grant him a Nobel.

And, oh yes – to meet a “popsy” or twenty.

If you don’t want to lose time checking that word in your dictionary, let’s just say that it means precisely what you think it means: “an attractive young woman.”

After all, Watson was a man; and he was barely 23.

Now, when he wasn’t seducing Cambridge au pair girls, Watson was spending time with Francis Crick, who thought this book was all but a betrayal of their friendship. You think he may have overreacted? Well, this is the first sentence of the book: “I have never seen Francis Crick in a modest mood.”

There are many even harsher about practically every single person Watson ever met during this period. Himself included.

Anyway, Watson and Crick may have had dreams of greatness, but neither of them had any clue how they were supposed to be the first to discover the structure of DNA when everybody who meant something in the world of biochemistry at the day was trying to achieve the same thing.

To put it mildly, the odds were against them.

In London, Wilkins was working with Rosalind Franklin, gathering and analyzing data. And over the Atlantic, in Watson’s home country, Linus Pauling had been studying DNA for years. And – in case you forgot – Watson and Crick weren’t even supposed to be working on DNA models.

But, you know how it goes: scarcity breeds invention – especially after hours. And, as Machiavelli once said, the end justifies the means. Michael Scott’s alteration may be even more applicable in this case: the end justifies the mean.

First, Watson managed to get an invitation to a Franklin lecture, and then, after Linus Pauling’s latest theory was found to have fundamental flaws, went to Franklin’s lab and used, without her permission or knowledge, the best X-ray diffraction image of crystallized DNA available: Photograph 51.

Now, Watson and Crick were on to something. And everybody was aware that they were. The director of the Cavendish Laboratory, Sir Lawrence Bragg, announced the discovery on April 8, 1953, at a conference in Belgium.

The press didn’t even report the story.

But, after the “Nature” article and few talks by Bragg, by the next month, the world was in awe of the importance of the discovery. Watson and Crick were stars.

A decade later, they shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Wilkins.

Unfortunately, four years before that, Rosalind Franklin succumbed to the ovarian cancer she was suffering from, at the very early age of 37.

Key Lessons from “The Double Helix”

1.      Sometimes You Need a Lot of Ambition and Stubbornness to Win a Nobel Prize
2.      You Can Make Fundamental Mistakes – Even If You’re One of the Best Scientists in History
3.      The 1950s Weren’t a Good Time to Be a Woman – No Matter How Smart

Sometimes You Need a Lot of Ambition and Stubbornness to Win a Nobel Prize

True, some scientists are in it for the potential contribution they can make to a better future for humanity. But, not few are in it for the money or the fame. And some – maybe even the majority of them – are in it because of all of that.

“The Double Helix” tells this in no uncertain terms. The reason why James Watson got interested in the study of DNA was not because of the importance of the discovery itself, but because he wanted to be the one to make it. In other words, even if Watson was working merely on his thesis, someone else would have undoubtedly discovered the model of DNA.

But, that was not the point. The point was that the discoverer would leave a mark in history and be remembered for all times.

Watson was a brilliant scientist with a brilliant mind, but he also had very human ambitions. Which, of course, meant that he felt excitement and joy the moment he realized that Linus Pauling made a fundamental flaw in his model of the DNA. “Though the odds still appeared against us,” he writes in “The Double Helix,” “Linus had not yet won his Nobel.”

And James Watson will win it because, against the Cavendish board advices, he will work after hours on his models. And because he will decide to use other people’s data instead of working on acquiring his own.

Bitter scientific rivalries?

You betcha!

You Can Make Fundamental Mistakes – Even If You’re One of the Best Scientists in History

Now, what happened with Linus Pauling?

He is, after all, a household name for a reason: the 16th greatest scientist in history (ahead of Curie, Hubble, Fermi, Euler…), Pauling is the only person ever to win two unshared Nobel Prizes. And at the time Crick and Watson had to borrow both time and money to work on the DNA model in hiding, he had both the funds and the equipment to work out a solution before everybody.

Not only he didn’t, but his model – triple helix – exhibited several serious mistakes and one fundamental flaw: a proposal of neutral phosphate groups.

You don’t need to understand what that means. You just need to compare the word “neutral” to the word which stands behind the last name of the DNA acronym: “acid.”

Now, how can anything – let alone a constitutive element – remain neutral in an acid environment, right?

Well, Pauling didn’t see that. He later stated several reasons which resulted in his mistakes, but, really, he shouldn’t have bothered. The fact is – he was merely human. And humans – even the best specimens – make mistakes.

Speaking of which: James Watson has incited a fair share of controversies himself.

The 1950s Weren’t a Good Time to Be a Woman – No Matter How Smart

Even though James Watson claims that the tragic figure in “The Double Helix” is Maurice Wilkins, that title, much more deservedly, goes to Rosalind Franklin, an X-Ray crystallographer whose data – especially, Photo 51 – was of crucial importance to the discovery of DNA.

She died of cancer four years before Watson, Crick, and Wilkins won the Nobel Prize. To add insult to injury, Watson paints her in “The Double Helix” in an unfavorable light. Not because she lacked something – but because she was a she, a woman.

In later years, Watson will repent doing that, claiming in an added epilogue that she had “honesty and generosity,” and that he had realized “years too late the struggles that the intelligent woman faces to be accepted by a scientific world which often regards women as mere diversions from serious thinking.”

Sounds like an oxymoron. But it’s the cruel reality women scientists had to face for most of the 20th century.

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“The Double Helix Quotes”

In the end, though, science is what matters; scientists not a bit. (Steven Jones, from the Introduction) Click To Tweet One must admit that his intuitive understanding of human frailty often strikes home. (Sir Laurence Bragg, from the Foreword) Click To Tweet One could not be a successful scientist without realizing that, in contrast to the popular conception supported by newspapers and mothers of scientists, a goodly number of scientists are not only narrow-minded and dull, but also just… Click To Tweet Worrying about complications before ruling out the possibility that the answer was simple would have been damned foolishness. Click To Tweet Excitedly, I pilfered Bernal and Fankuchen’s paper from the Philosophical Library and brought it up to the lab so that Francis could inspect the TMV X-ray picture. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

James Dewey Watson’s “The Double Helix” – as Robin Mackie laconically states – “combines the plot line of a racy novel with deep insights about the nature of modern research.”

In the same article – which, by the way, uncovers how close we were to never having the privilege of reading Watson’s book – Mackie writes something almost everyone who has heard its title already knows: “The Double Helix” is “consistently ranked as one of the greatest books written about science in the past century.”

So consistently, in fact, that, by now, accolades are in the book’s DNA!

(Ha – see what we did there?)

We name just three: “The Double Helix” was placed on Library of Congress’ list of the 88 “Books That Shaped America.” It was voted the 7th best nonfiction book of the 20th century by the Modern Library. And the 15th by “Guardian.”

Sounds familiar?

Possibly because you’ve already encountered upon a similar description in our list of the “best nonfiction books of all time.”

Still need our critical review?

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Silent Spring Summary | FREE PDF |

Silent Spring PDF

Our Silent Spring PDF Summary examines how Rachel Carson’s famous book almost singlehandedly brought an end to the uncontrolled usage of DDT and other pesticides, and how it inspired ecologists and environmentalists worldwide to take a stand.

In January 1958, Olga Owens Huckins, a worried American citizen, wrote a letter to “The Boston Herald,” claiming that many birds around her property had died in torment as a result of a recent aerial DDT spraying operation, directed primarily at mosquitos.

Her friend, the famous marine biologist Rachel Carson, got a copy of the letter. After reading it quite a few times, and dedicatedly researching for the next four years, she realized that the letter wasn’t merely a peculiar observation, but a painful cry for help.

Not just on behalf of Huckins. But on behalf of Nature itself.

Silent Spring” was Carson’s heart-wrenching attempt at giving Nature her voice. And, fortunately for us, the generations living after, the people of her time heard.

And responded.

Who Should Read “Silent Spring”? And Why?

Published on 27 September 1962, “Silent Spring” was almost single-handedly responsible for turning the eye of the American nation – and, subsequently, the world – to the possible adverse effects of DDT and other synthetic pesticides.

And, as former U.S. presidential candidate and Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore wrote in the foreword to the anniversary 1992 edition, it “had a profound effect.” And that may even be an understatement – see “Our Critical Review” section for more.

In other words, even if you haven’t read “Silent Spring,” you may already adhere to it in your behavior. If you love nature and hate chemicals – it’s Rachel Carson’s fault. Read the book she’s most famous for and find it how.

About Rachel Carson

Rachel L. CarsonRachel Carson was an American marine biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Soon after, she turned to writing and, during the 1950s, she completed a critically lauded and lyrically written sea trilogy.

Published in 1951, “The Sea Around Us” was so successful that it was turned into an Academy Award-winning documentary the following year.

“The Edge of the Sea” followed, together with a reissuing of her first (then poorly selling) book, “Under the Sea Wind,” recognized today as one of the “definitive works of American nature writing.”

In 1958, she started writing “Silent Spring” which she completed in 1962, even though bedridden with diseases and diagnosed with cancer which will ultimately claim her life in 1964.

“Silent Spring” started an environmentalist revolution, and irreversibly changed the course of history.

“Silent Spring PDF Summary”

“There was once a town in the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings.”

That’s how “A Fable for Tomorrow,” the first chapter of “Silent Spring” commences – with a fictional story about a fictional idyllic town about to have some real-world problems.

Because, out of nowhere, a strange blight begins to creep over the area and everything starts to change. Maladies strike the animals; the farmers speak of family illnesses; several sudden and unexplained deaths baffle the town doctors.

A strange silence looms over the city; there are no birds in the sky. The spring is without voices – only silence lays over the fields and woods and marsh.

And the reason for all this?

A white granular powder – which “some weeks before… had fallen like snow upon the roofs and the lawns, the fields and the streams.”

“No witchcraft, no enemy action had silenced the rebirth of new life in this stricken world,” concludes Carson the story. “The people had done it themselves.”

silent spring summary

Because the white granular powder has a name. In fact, over 500 of them. And they are almost all neatly packed under a falsely reassuring umbrella-term: “pesticides.” The government tells you that they are helping us fight diseases.

The truth, however, may be much closer to the moral of the bleak cautionary tale: pesticides kill. And not just insects.

And already in the next chapters – “The Obligations to Endure,” “Elixirs of Death,” “Surface Waters and Underground Seas” – Carson puts her money where her mouth is. She starts documenting numerous tragedies stemming from pesticide use. According to her, specialists interested in making them more efficient, have begun ignoring the overall picture.

The result?

Pesticides are more and more efficient in eliminating certain insects, but are less and less efficient in doing that without harming the environment.

Birds suffer, fish suffer; even the human nervous system suffers from time to time. Water treatment plants don’t remove the chemicals because some of them form irreducible toxic compounds. Thus, Carson fears, even the water may become more and more polluted in the future, resulting in the rise of cancer victims.

Here are just two examples illustrating the dark and worrying way these pesticides pollute the environment.

During the fall of 1959, writes Carson in the seventh chapter of her book, “Needless Havoc,” about 27,000 acres were heavily dusted “with clay pellets containing one of the most poisonous of all the insecticides – a chemical called aldrin.”

The purpose?

Eliminating the whole population of Japanese beetles, noted pests of over 200 species of plants, first imported in the U.S. by accident sometime before the beginning of World War I.

Some perspective before we go on.

You see, now we know that aldrin is a notorious persistent organic pollutant (POP), but back in 1962 when “Silent Spring” was published, spraying it over an area caused as much an outrage as heavy summer rain.

In fact, people were explicitly told over the radio that they can go on doing whatever they were doing at the time since the pesticide was supposed to be harmless.

It wasn’t.

Highly lipophilic – i.e., dissolvable in lipids – aldrin can’t be washed away by water easily, since, on the contrary, its water solubility is very low. So, it stays to do damage well after the dusting occurs.

Not much time passed before people started noticing a large number of dead birds all around. They couldn’t know that even the birds which survived had their reproductive systems irreparably damaged. Veterinarians reported many cases of pet poisoning – cats especially. And doctors had problems to pinpoint the reasons behind the outbreak of nausea, vomiting, chills, and fever.

The sad part of the story?

There was absolutely no need for any dusting. The number of Japanese beetles hadn’t increased for over thirty years. It was merely the cheapest pesticide available.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only way some animals – especially birds – suffered.

“Over increasingly large areas of the United States,” writes Carson, “spring now comes unheralded by the return of the birds, and the early mornings are strangely silent where once they were filled with the beauty of birdsong.”

A chilling description – but a largely correct one. Especially if you take into account how easily environmental changes can affect the birds.

The second story proves this best.

In 1930, Dutch elm disease – a fungus disease which spreads by spores – was accidentally imported into the U.S. from Europe. The American elm tree is directly linked to the lifestyle of robins, so a twofold alarm was raised. And in 1954, the spraying began.

Two ornithologists working at Michigan State University soon noticed how the sprayed campus transformed into a sort of “graveyard for most of the robins that attempt to take up residence in the spring.”


Because robins ate earthworms that had consumed the sprayed bark!

And as if these stories are not enough – though the book has many more – Carson points out two more reasons why spraying insecticides is not only unnecessary but downright unintelligent.

First of all, it results in a disruption in the checks-and-balances system developed by nature through the million-year-long process of natural selection.

Now, insecticides didn’t only kill harmful insects – it also killed their predators. So, in a way, in trying to eliminate our enemy, we were eradication our allies as well.

This, in turn, resulted, not only in over-reliance on pesticides – but also in insects’ resistance to them. And if you’ve ever watched Del Toro’s 1997 “Mimic” you already know where that may ultimately take us.

Key Lessons from “Silent Spring”

1.      Humans Are Part of Nature – Not Out of It
2.      Pesticides Don’t Usually Work – for Two Reasons
3.      The Dangers of the New Era

Humans Are Part of Nature – Not Out of It

Wherever there’s some system, there’s also some balance in it. The Universe itself – as giant as it is – is a system: and a self-regulated one, indeed.

The Earth is a system as well. And its biosphere a system within this system.

However, humans tend to forget that. Starting from the very fact that they’re, in fact, animals – just a bit more evolved than most. And ending with a simple truism: when you are a part of a system, you can’t make changes within it, without being affected yourself.

But, don’t let us tell you.

Hear Chief Seattle’s speech – as read by beloved mythologist Joseph Campbell. Here’s the most relevant excerpt: “Man did not weave the web of life. He’s merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”

Pesticides Don’t Usually Work – for Two Reasons

In a fragile system, every action counts.

Pesticides are humanity’s way of adapting this system to their needs. Because – never forget! – to the mind of a Japanese beetle, it is not really a pest. It merely eats to survive. Humans are the ones who have a problem with them – because the Japanese beetle eats the things they (the humans) like better than them.

However, the use of pesticides is based on a very simplified worldview. Namely – that you can use eradicate one species and do no damage to the other. This is not the case. In fact, by killing the insects we hate, we also kill the ones who eat them. And they, in this case, are our allies.

The second problem is pesticides is even more severe: pests become resistant after a while. And then, even we can’t think of ways to stop them.

The Dangers of the New Era

When Carson was writing “Silent Spring,” Soviet scientists had already started using the term “Anthropocene” to describe the age we’re living in. Nowadays, even journalists use the term to characterize the new era, the Era of Man.

It’s a double-edged sword this power we have, predicted and warned Carson. And, very recently, Elizabeth Colbert echoed the alarm: we’re in the middle of a new extinction of species. Unlike the five which precede it, this one’s unnatural. Or to be more exact, human-made.

The bittersweet part: we’re doing it to ourselves. And we can stop it.

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“Silent Spring” Quotes

This is an era dominated by industry, in which the right to make a dollar at whatever cost is seldom challenged. Click To Tweet Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and… Click To Tweet Why should we tolerate a diet of weak poisons, a home in insipid surroundings, a circle of acquaintances who are not quite our enemies, the noise of motors with just enough relief to prevent insanity? Who would want to live in a world… Click To Tweet Nature has introduced great variety into the landscape, but man has displayed a passion for simplifying it. Thus he undoes the built-in checks and balances by which nature holds the species within bounds. Click To Tweet How could intelligent beings seek to control a few unwanted species by a method that contaminated the entire environment and brought the threat of disease and death even to their own kind? Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” created a social movement, an irreversible revolution of thought.

The deep ecology movement, the grassroots environmental movement, ecofeminism – these all stemmed from “Silent Spring.” The book, wrote H. Patricia Hynes, “altered the balance of power in the world. No one since would be able to sell pollution as the necessary underside of progress so easily or uncritically.”

Soon after “Silent Spring” was published, the pressure of the public resulted in the formation of Environmental Defense Fund. A few years later, the Environmental Protection Agency – described as “the extended shadow of ‘Silent Spring’” – was established, and by 1972 (a decade after “Silent Spring” first saw the light of day) DDT use was restricted to emergency-only cases.

But, the most significant victory of “Silent Spring” is something much less tangible than an act banning the use of DDT. It’s the way the book verbalized ecology as a new way of thinking about the world around us. As a title of a recent book on Carson describes it, it’s the way of “the gentle subversive.”

“Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’ played a large role in articulating ecology as a ‘subversive subject’” – writes Gary Kroll in an interesting essay, “as a perspective that cut against the grain of materialism, scientism, and the technologically engineered control of nature.”

Unsurprisingly, “Silent Spring” is considered by many to be one of the greatest nonfiction books ever written. 78th according to the editors of “National Review;” 16th in the opinion of the editors of the “Discover” magazine.

And David Attenborough claims that “Silent Spring” is “the book that most changed the scientific world,” other than Darwin’s “Origin of Species.”

And who are we to think otherwise?

Far from it:

Read it, reread it – never forget it. The world is too young to be silent.

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The Greatest Show on Earth Summary

The Greatest Show on Earth SummaryThe Evidence for Evolution

By now, you’d think that developments in genetics should have vindicated Darwin once and for all. Unfortunately, one-third of Americans don’t believe in it, with another third thinking that it was actually guided by God.

In “The Greatest Show on Earth,” Richard Dawkins tries to clear things up.

About Richard Dawkins

Richard DawkinsRichard Dawkins is a British evolutionary biologist and ethologist. He was a Professor of Zoology at the University of California at Berkley and a Professor for Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford.

A revered public intellectual and a beloved science popularizer, Dawkins has authored numerous books on biology and atheism, including “The Selfish Gene,” “The Blind Watchmaker,” and “The God Delusion.”

“The Greatest Show on Earth Summary”

“This book,” writes Richard Dawkins in the preface to “The Greatest Show on Earth,” “is my personal summary of the evidence that the ‘theory’ of evolution is actually a fact—as incontrovertible a fact as any in science.“

And, when you think about it, really, what is there to debate about? The evidence for evolution is everywhere around us.

Just look at all the dog breeds!

Most of them are man-made, through a careful process of selection, which, for some breeds, has lasted for thousands of years! Because, intuitively, people knew that reproduction works by combining half of the genes from the father with half of the genes from the mother. And with these genes, unique characteristics are also passed on.

Thus, by artificially choosing the mothers and the fathers, people created breeds with the characteristics they specifically wanted in them.

Well, the same thing happened with evolution as well. The only two differences: it happened naturally, and it lasted for millions of years!

But, you may wonder, if everything started from common ancestors, how is it possible that there are so many species on the planet today?

Simply put, it’s because these common ancestors evolved separately. In the early days, due to the super continent separating into few other continents; then, because of earthquakes and floods within these continents. And, sometimes, because of strange occurrences we can’t even imagine.

For example, green iguanas arrived on Anguilla in 1995 – by floating on pieces of driftwood!

Out of the numerous iguanas which probably started the journey, only 15 made it to the Caribbean island. The other died of hunger and injuries. These 15 were the strongest; in other words, their genes deserved to be passed on.

That, right there – that’s natural selection for you!

And, believe it or not, decades from now, the Anguillan iguanas will start to differ greatly from the green iguanas that were their grandparents. That has happened and we have observed it! Namely, in 1971, scientists moved a small population of lizards from one Mediterranean island to another. What they found in 2009 was a new lizard subspecies.

Add time – and that’s how trillion of species were created!

And the mechanism is all but commonsensical.

For example, if some genetic mutation happens in an antelope giving it longer legs and making it faster, that specimen will have better chances to survive and procreate. Consequently, the gene responsible for the longer legs will have a better chance of mutating further. Of course, this will affect the cheetahs as well: only the fastest among them will survive. The others will die out of hunger.

So, both antelopes and cheetahs will strive to be faster. Evolutionary biologists call this process the evolutionary arms race.

But, despite the differences, there are also many similarities between species; relicts of the time they diverged in the evolutionary tree. For example, bats have wings and humans hands – but their skeleton is homologous, i.e. it follows the same layout.

In other words, in some distant history, humans and bats had a common ancestor. Bat wings are actually elongated and stretched finger bones – and the other way around!

Speaking of relics – do you know that you have a tail?

Key Lessons from “The Greatest Show on Earth”

1.      Evolution Is Not a Theory – It’s a Scientific Fact
2.      Your Body Betrays Your Evolution – And Forever Will
3.      We Will Never Find a Crocoduck – And That’s Evidence for Evolution

Evolution Is Not a Theory – It’s a Scientific Fact

One in two Americans believe that evolution is a theory. And a wrong one, mind you!

However, this is simply not true. Evolution is not a theory, nor just a good scientific hypothesis. It was the latter back in the 19th century when Darwin proposed it. By now, it has been proved beyond any reasonable doubt.

In other words, whether you believe in it or not, evolution definitely happened.

Your Body Betrays Your Evolution – And Forever Will

Creationists believe that the Earth is no older than 6,000 years (the Bible says so, apparently) and that there was no time for evolution to work its magic. Moreover, that the earth’s age is a conclusive proof that God created all life on earth as it currently is.

But, this begs few questions.

First and foremost, why did God bother to give you a tail you will never ever need? And why do you have an appendix? Or wisdom teeth?

Next, have you ever wondered where do goose bumps come from? The answer is: from the you’re your ancestors needed to regulate your body temperature.

Thirdly, why did God create an eye which actually looks upside-down? Instead of bothering the brain to correct the image, he could have made a perfect eye, couldn’t he?

And finally, do you know that the human genome contains a gene which, in most other mammals, produces a Vitamin-C-synthesizing enzyme? Humans don’t need the gene. But it’s still there. Turned off and disabled.

We Will Never Find a Crocoduck – And That’s Evidence for Evolution

In 2007, Kirk Cameron – yes, the guy from “Growing Pains” and “Like Father Like Son” – and Ray Comfort presented a strange argument against evolution. Namely, if it happened, then why aren’t we able to find a fossil of a crocoduck, an animal with the head of a crocodile, and the body of a duck.

The answer is: because evolution doesn’t work that way. True, crocodiles and ducks have some common ancestor – but probably it looked like neither of them. In fact, if we actually do find a crocoduck – then we’ll have to rethink the concept of evolution.

But, don’t worry: we’ll never find one.

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“The Greatest Show on Earth” Quotes

Evolution could so easily be disproved if just a single fossil turned up in the wrong date order. Evolution has passed this test with flying colours. Click To Tweet Why would an all-powerful creator decide to plant his carefully crafted species on islands and continents in exactly the appropriate pattern to suggest, irresistibly, that they had evolved and dispersed from the site of their evolution? Click To Tweet Even if it were true that evolution, or the teaching of evolution, encouraged immorality that would not imply that the theory of evolution was false. Click To Tweet If the history-deniers who doubt the fact of evolution are ignorant of biology, those who think the world began less than ten thousand years ago are worse than ignorant, they are the deluded to the point of perversity. Click To Tweet It would be so nice if those who oppose evolution would take a tiny bit of trouble to learn the merest rudiments of what it is that they are opposing. Click To Tweet

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The Demon-Haunted World Summary

The Demon-Haunted World PDFScience as a Candle in the Dark

If there’s any part of you interested even slightly in astronomy and cosmology, you probably owe a lot to Carl Sagan. He popularized these disciplines as nobody before him. And in “The Demon-Haunted World” you can see how he managed to popularize skeptical and scientific thinking as nobody ever since.

About Carl Sagan

Carl SaganCarl Sagan was an American astronomer, cosmologist and astrophysicist, and probably the man responsible for bringing these disciplines to the mainstream. His 1980 TV series, “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage”, is the most watched scientific TV series in history, so far seen by half a billion people in over 60 countries.

He wrote many bestselling books; among them: “The Dragons of Eden”, “Broca’s Brain” and “Pale Blue Dot.”

“The Demon-Haunted World PDF Summary”

You probably think of scientists as nerdy guys in white coats who solve equations and experiment on rats. You may even think that they are working on boring stuff that doesn’t concern you.

Well, have a look around: almost everything you see was once devised by some kind of a scientist. The very fact that you’re reading this article is a tribute to the power of science.

It was the mind of a scientist where the Internet was invented, where the smartphones and the laptops were first born.

And it all stemmed from something scientists adore: skeptical, or critical thinking.

The Demon-Haunted World” is a book which explains why skeptical thinking is practically the only actual way of thinking and how you can practice it best.

And it starts by exploring uncritical thinking.

For example, in the Middle Ages, people believed that demons called incubi entered women’s rooms and impregnated them during the night.

Sounds funny?

It’s not – because thousands of Americans report being abducted by aliens every year. Without offering a single shred of evidence for it! And millions believe that they are right. According to Carl Sagan, neither of these two groups uses its mental capacity to think skeptically.

Because, if they did – they’d understand that, by the same logic, I can claim many odd things. Such as, for example, that I have an invisible dragon in my garage. (See our “Key Lessons” section for more.)

And that’s dangerous for many reasons. What’s not – is challenging other people’s beliefs.

And that’s what science does. And, by doing it, makes humanity better. First of all, by helping it avoid dangers; then, by improving the material conditions of the poor through technological advancements; and finally, by allowing us to grapple with some of the most important questions.

But, lack of science is dangerous for society as well.

Because, then, people can be easily manipulated into believing the completely wrong things. For example, racial segregation. Concepts such as slavery (see: drapetomania) and the Holocaust happened because scientific theories were left untested.

And governements protected them.

Science makes mistakes, but it’s democratic and it’s based on few concepts democracy is also based upon. Some of the most important among them: diversity, skepticism, trial-and-error, the quest for objectivity.

It is the last which makes science wondrous and beautiful. And even more miraculous than religion. Just think about it: is it a greater miracle to be created by an omniscient being or by stardust?

Well, science says the latter is, in fact, undeniably true:

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff”

Key Lessons from “The Demon-Haunted World”

1.      Don’t Hide Invisible Dragons in Your Garage
2.      Learn How to Form a Good Hypothesis
3.      Use Sagan’s Baloney Detection Kit on a Daily Basis

Don’t Hide Invisible Dragons in Your Garage

Few centuries ago, Descartes realized that the only thing he can be sure about is his ability to question things. Sagan agrees: skeptical thinking is what has gotten us – as a species – thus far. Everything else is bushwa!

Like, for example, the invisible dragon in your garage. If Sagan comes to your house and asks for a permission to spread flour on the floor so that he can see his footprints, it’d be nice of you to allow him. Because if you suddenly realize that the dragon floats in the air, you’re just making stuff up to be right; you don’t care about the truth.

After all, as Sagan would ask, “what’s the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all? If there’s no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists? Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true.”

Learn How to Form a Good Hypothesis

As you can easily deduce from the above story, good hypotheses have few traits that other claims don’t.

First of all, they are testable. Or, in other words, if astrologers are so good at seeing the future, why don’t they predict for you the winning lottery numbers? Simply put: because you can test this. You can’t sentences such as “one beautiful summer evening, you’ll discover your strengths and talents”.

Secondly, you can independently confirm a good hypothesis. Or, to pose this as a question: why there are never witnesses whatsoever for any case of alien abduction?

Thirdly, good hypotheses are based on truths exclusively – not on half-truths. For example,

And, finally, good hypotheses take real causality into consideration. Say, you get a little tipsy from drinking a glass of half water/half wine, a glass of half water/half brandy, and a glass of half water/half whiskey, it’d be wrong to conclude that it’s the water making you drunk.

Use Sagan’s Baloney Detection Kit on a Daily Basis

Sagan offers a great “baloney detection kit” for everyone to use. It consists of many tools. Never forget to use the more important ones on a daily basis.

For example, always ask about the source from where the information comes. Next, try to see if that source has some kind of an agenda; if the information works to support it, then take it with a grain of salt. Thirdly, try to falsify his theory.

Next, see if the theory explains some of the anomalies the old theories were unable to. Fifth: learn if the theory adheres to the rules of the specific field. And, last but not least, understand fallacious arguments and remember the most common types among them.

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“The Demon-Haunted World Quotes”

Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality… The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both. Click To Tweet For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring. Click To Tweet The dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media. Click To Tweet Nature is always more subtle, more intricate, more elegant than what we are able to imagine. Click To Tweet Avoidable human misery is more often caused not so much by stupidity as by ignorance, particularly our ignorance about ourselves. Click To Tweet

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