In this book, Michael Brooks covers thirteen science cannot figure out… yet. These thirteen things are completely baffling to our current understanding: dark matter, dark energy, cold fusion, homeopathy, placebos, evidence of life on Mars and many others. When things get weird in science, science either digs in or denies everything. Brooks not only discusses the problems and possible solutions, but he shines the light on science and their tendency to dismiss anything outside the tight circle of understanding. The book stimulates one to think about these anomalies and to question some things we have been taught to believe.
A good example is cold fusion. In the early 1980s, Pons and Fleischmann announced discovery of cold fusion and were subsequently professionally destroyed when others couldn’t reproduce their experiments. Brooks reveals the continued research in this area and how it has been completely ignored by the press and scientific journals. Yet, several experiments have confirmed their research. Most of the research has been conducted by the military under code names so no one would realize the topic of study and point the finger of derision. There appears to be something to cold fusion, but science is a little to conservative to take a second look.
The book is interesting, but can get a little long winded and tough to consume in spots. Brooks does a good job of explaining deep science to the lay reader, but some of the descriptions can get a little tedious. The material is interesting, but unapproachable for most of us. I understand the problem with dark matter in the universe presents to science, but have no context of what can be done about it or even why I should care. It is just a novelty for me. Most of the mysteries explained cannot be brought home as to why these problems should concern us beyond the trivial. If you want that kind of an explanation of science, try Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything: Special Illustrated Edition.
In the epilogue, Brooks admits he is hoping to stimulate the future scientists who can solve these problems, much as his science teacher did for him. For that, I applaud him. Something or someone needs to spark the minds of tomorrow. However, I believe the ship has sailed for this closet physicist.