REVIEW - No-Nonsense Guide to Science


No-Nonsense Guide to Science


Jerome Revetz



New Internationalist (2005)




Ian Bruntlett


February 2007



This book discusses science from the anti-science lobby to the pro-science lobby, discussing this spectrum with enviable objectivity. It quotes Bill Joy's GRAIN acronym - standing for Genomics, Robots, Artificial Intelligence and Nanotechnology. The downfall of science is given an acronym, M&M - Malevolence&Muddle - and its counterpart, SHE - Safety, Health&Environment - is introduced. The old, applied science is shown to have relatively few uncertainties whereas a new extreme PNS - Post-Normal Science - is introduced.

Conventionally, science is taught as a subject that moves inexorably from one discovery to another. This book details some of the errors made by key scientists in history - this does not belittle them, it makes them more human and makes their discoveries shine even brighter.

The industrialisation of science from small science to big science to mega science is discussed. The biopiracy committed by some unscrupulous corporations is discussed - misuse of science is an issue that cannot be swept under the carpet these days.

Although computer science may or may not be a science, ICT may be moving from being an "applied science" to a "Post Normal Science" where the stakes and uncertainties are high.

The role of political structure and high finance are discussed in a chapter on "Science and democracy" which has the following set of questions about new technology:

  • Who needs it?
  • Who will benefit from it?
  • Who will pay its costs?
  • What happens when it goes wrong?
  • Who will regulate it, how and on whose behalf?

This book concludes with the old assumptions, the political questions and a table of personal questions so the reader can evaluate their own contribution to science.

An interesting read.

Book cover image courtesy of Open Library.

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