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Brilliant blunders - Mario Livio

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Brilliant blunders - from Darwin to Einstein - colossal mistakes by great scientists that changed our understanding of life and the universe
Mario Livio
Simon & Schuster
UK Publication Date

We all make mistakes. Nobody is perfect. And that includes five of the greatest scientists in history -- Charles Darwin, William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), Linus Pauling, Fred Hoyle, Albert Einstein. But the mistakes that these great scientists made helped science to advance. Indeed, as Mario Livio explains in this fascinating book, science thrives on error; it advances when erroneous ideas are disproven.

All five scientists were great geniuses and fascinating human beings. Their blunders were part of their genius and part of the scientific process. Livio brilliantly analyses their errors to show where they were wrong and right, but what makes his book so enjoyable to read is Livio's analysis of the psychology of these towering figures. Along the way the reader learns an enormous amount about the evolution of life on earth and in the universe, but from an unusual vantage point -- the mistakes of great scientists rather than the achievements that made them famous.

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Mario Livio is an internationally known astrophysicist at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland. He is the author of The Golden Ratio, a highly acclaimed book about mathematics and art for which he received the International Pythagoras Prize and the Peano Prize; The Equation That Couldn't Be Solved; Is God a Mathematician?; and The Accelerating Universe.

"Mario Livio sets the discoveries of five great scientists who were also remarkable personalities in their social context, showing how they emerged from confusion and controversy. His archival research allows him to debunk several myths that have been given currency through less thorough biographies. You don't need to be a scientist to be fascinated by this scholarly, insightful and beautifully written book."
Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal and author of From Here to Infinity: A Vision for the Future of Science

"After reading Livio's account, I look on the history of science in a new way. In every century and every science, I see brilliant blunders."
The New York Review of Books - Freeman Dyson

"Scientists make mistakes all the time, but those bumps in the road are often smoothed out in the legends that surround the greatest discoverers. . . . Thoughtful, well-researched and beautifully written, Brilliant Blunders offers a distinctive - and far more truthful - perspective on the journey to scientific discovery."
The Washington Post - Marcia Bartusiak

"Enlightening. . . . For many people, being a great scientist means being above error. . . . Livio's book is a valuable antidote to this skewed picture. . . . Thanks to his deep curiosity, Livio turns Brilliant Blunders into a thoughtful meditation on the course of science itself."
The New York Times Book Review - Carl Zimmer

"Elegant, entertaining, and instructive."
The Lancet - Andrew Robinson

"It is said that genius is the ability to make all possible mistakes in the least amount of time. Livio's genius is to show us just how much those mistakes have taught us."
Adam Riess, Thomas Barber Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Johns Hopkins University, Nobel Laureate in Physics 2011

"Taking risks is part of genius, and genius is not immune to bloopers. Mario Livio's Brilliant Blunders leads us through the circumstances that surrounded famous gaffes. . . . Mr. Livio helps us see that such spectacular errors are opportunities rather than setbacks."
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health

"Mario Livio wears many hats: scientist, sleuth, storyteller. In Brilliant Blunders, a delightful intellectual synthesis, he reminds us that he's also one of the best science writers in our galaxy."
Steven Strogatz, professor of applied mathematics, Cornell University, and author of The Joy of X

"In Brilliant Blunders, Mario Livio leaves no historical detail untold, as we re-walk the error-filled pathways along which human understanding of the universe slowly emerged."
Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrophysicist, American Museum of Natural History, and author of Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier

Mr. Livio is a gifted storyteller. . . .[He] shows how science works partly by feeding on past mistakes: Once recognized, the errors sparked creativity in other scientists. An incorrect view of the world is not simply a mistake; it's a catalyst that leads to better understanding."
The Wall Street Journal - Samuel Arbesman

"At last we have a book specifically devoted to scientific mistakes. . . . For someone who wants the whole story, Livio's book is a page turner."
Physics Today - Donald Simanek

"One of the most important things that distinguishes science from religion is that in science we (eventually) are happy to change our minds. This is called learning. As Mario Livio eloquently describes in this far-reaching and thoroughly enlightening book, many famous scientific advances involved either false starts or dead ends. In my own field, Einstein is purported to have said that inserting the cosmological constant into his equations of General Relativity was his 'biggest blunder.' In hindsight, as we find ourselves living in a Universe whose future may be determined by this quantity, most of us would now pay our eye teeth to have made such blunder!"
Lawrence M. Krauss, Director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University and Foundation Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration

"Entertaining accounts of how five celebrated scientists went wrong. . . . An absorbing, persuasive reminder that science is not a direct march to the truth."
Kirkus Reviews

First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition
Keyword Index
Errors, Scientific.
Country of Publication
New York (State)
Number of Pages

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