In a time of dazzling scientific progress, how are we to separate genuine breakthroughs from the noisy gaggle of false claims? Touching on everything from Deepak Chopra's "quantum alternative to growing old," and "free energy" machines, to unwarranted hype surrounding the International Space Station, Robert L. Park leads us through the dim back alleys of fringe science, down the gleaming corridors of Washington power and even into our evolutionary past to search out the origins of voodoo science. Along the way, Park offers some simple and engaging science lessons, showing us that you don't have to be a scientist to spot the foolish and fraudulent science that swirls around us.
While incorporating elements of high humor, from Joe Newman and his Energy Machine to the French "sniffer plane," this hard-hitting account also tallies the cost: the billions spent by the public on worthless therapies, the tax dollars squandered on huge government projects that are doomed to fail, the investors bilked by schemes that violate the most fundamental laws of nature. But the greater cost is human: fear of imaginary dangers, reliance on magical cures, and above all, a sort of upside-down view of how the world works.
To expose the forces that sustain voodoo science, Park closely examines the role of the media, the courts, bureaucrats and politicians, as well as the scientific community. Scientists, he observes, insist that the cure for voodoo science is to raise the general scientific literacy. But what is it that a scientifically literate society should know? It is not specific knowledge of science the public needs, Park argues, so much as a scientific world viewan understanding that we live in an orderly universe governed by natural laws that cannot be circumvented by magic or miracles.
Physicist Park debunks some foolish and fraudulent scientific claims, such as magnetic defiency syndrome, cold fusion, and free energy.