How It Drives Science

Book - 2012
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Knowledge is a big subject, says Stuart Firestein, but ignorance is a bigger one. And it is ignorance - not knowledge - that is the true engine of science. Most of us have a false impression of science as a surefire, deliberate, step-by-step method for finding things out and getting things done. In fact, says Firestein, more often than not, science is like looking for a black cat in a dark room, and there may not be a cat in the room. The process ismore hit-or-miss than you might imagine, with much stumbling and groping after phantoms. But it is exactly this "not knowing," this puzzling over thorny questions or inexplicable data, that gets researchers into the lab early and keeps them there late, the thing that propels them, the very drivingforce of science. Firestein shows how scientists use ignorance to program their work, to identify what should be done, what the next steps are, and where they should concentrate their energies. And he includes a catalog of how scientists use ignorance, consciously or unconsciously - a remarkablerange of approaches that includes looking for connections to other research, revisiting apparently settled questions, using small questions to get at big ones, and tackling a problem simply out of curiosity. The book concludes with four case histories - in cognitive psychology, theoretical physics, astronomy, and neuroscience - that provide a feel for the nuts and bolts of ignorance, the day-to-day battle that goes on in scientific laboratories and in scientific minds with questions that range from thequotidian to the profound. Turning the conventional idea about science on its head, Ignorance opens a new window on the true nature of research. It is a must-read for anyone curious about science.
Publisher: Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, c2012.
ISBN: 9780199828074
Characteristics: viii, 195 p. ; 19 cm.


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Oct 19, 2015

Well written, entertaining and enlightening. Great suggestions for attitude and advice in teaching science.

Aug 28, 2014

I personally did not enjoy this book as much as I thought I would. I've learned about it on a science podcasts about viruses TWIV, and podcast's hosts were really excited about the book and liked it a lot. I found it was written in a very difficult to get English, and maybe that is why I did not get the bug, because English is a third :) language for me.. .anyway, I found the title a bit deceptive, it is not about the ignorance the way it is most commonly perceived and generally book did not reveal much to me. I'm a scientists, so I knew most of the things book described anyway, because I know the system and rules of today science and was in it for more than 13 years already... The author himself was working in art industry before he turned to science at the age of 30 and you can really see his artistic side in the way he writes. Native English speakers might find this book more interesting, I had to consult my dictionary for unfamiliar words many many times while reading this book, and generaly I do not need to.


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at APL

To Top