- Project Portfolio
- About Us
- Connect With Us
- Contact Us
Online, Michael Brooks can be found on twitter, on his website, or on his Free Radicals blog. I also found his writings in a new and entertaining book The Secret Anarchy of Science. This book is not a history of science, yet it exposes the behind the scenes account of many stories in the history of science. He talks about Newton, Galileo, Watson and Crick. We hear about the precarious journey towards a Nobel Prize for a wide range of Nobel laureates from Svante Arrhenius to Robert Wilson. We learn what inspired scientists such as Albert Einstein and Kary Mullis to come up with their ideas. The book is full of anecdotes about well-known names such as Faraday, Fermi, McClintock and Tesla. I also learned of scientists whose names are not familiar to me, yet I realized that I was well aware of their work when reminded by Brooks as he portrays many of the battlegrounds for ideas which had ultimate winners and losers. Brooks relates to us many a story of scientists who took a long time to gain recognition by their peers. He quotes Max Planck to illustrate: ‘A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die’.
Brooks worries that scientists may become straightjacketed by their lab coats and the society’s expectation of what science is all about. He wants us to know that “This book is a call for more scientific anarchy, and for the creation of a culture in which it can thrive.”
One of the major themes Brooks weaves through the book describes situations where scientists break the rules to get their ideas accepted. He gives examples of where the model is so pleasing that the data is either gently massaged to fit it, or ignored entirely and left for future generations with better measuring devices for verification. I’m not sure that Brooks intended this, but I was getting the impression that he thinks a successful scientist might be a cross between a liar and a thief whose inspiration comes while high on drugs and then fights with the establishment when sober. Science teachers or school librarians would need to be aware of this aspect prior to ordering this book for a school library.
Brooks suggests that science education should let students know “what science and scientists are really like” so that it avoids being a dull and dismal road. I agree fully with him that children learn better by doing. If you have been following my blog, you know that I am a long-time advocate of inquiry-based learning to support critical thinking in science. Like Brooks, I believe it is not as important for students “to learn all of the scientific information on the science curriculum”. However, even he chronicles how some anarchists read and know everything on a topic prior to adventuring out on their new paths of knowledge. I think that it is still important to teach children how to apply scientific problem solving so that they develop the appropriate thinking skills. We know that a student driver does not start off learning to drive by intentionally breaking rules whereas an experienced driver knows that there are times to take appropriate and safe risks.
Michael Brooks in his book The Secret Anarchy of Science succeeds in presenting more than a “string of entertaining anecdotes”; in fact, he leads us to additional thought and discussion.
Click here for a complete list and links to the books I have reviewed.
You can find me on