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Easy to follow book on the changing nature of facts and how they help make our current foundation for science. He illustrates his points by many great vignettes such as why even today spinach is falsely believed to contain a lot of iron. That story alone makes the book worth a listen.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
What did you like best about The Half-life of Facts? What did you like least?
The overall story was ok and some really interesting insights were made. However, the author frequently conflates facts with our understanding of facts. He doesn't distinguish between temporal facts (like the current tallest building) with absolute facts (atomic properties). Also, his claim that facts change is flat out wrong. Facts don't change - that is what makes them 'facts'. Our understanding of what the facts are about something may alter or change as we learn more about things, but the facts are always the same. Even the temporal ones are constant, only requiring an extra dimension to quantify it.
One example of the misused logic the author uses is the magnetic properties of iron. He states that the magnetic properties changed over time as we became more capable of purifying the iron to measure it magnetic properties. This is wrong. The magnetic properties of iron never changed one bit. Our ability to measure the properties changed. The fact remained constant, our understanding of the fact improved.
While it seems that the author may actually understand these nuances, as some of the points he makes are very good and require this basic understanding; that he does not articulate this key difference can leave other readers with the wrong impression of what a fact is. This is what causes confusion when the general public argues against scientific knowledge (e.g. climate change or evolution) trying to claim that science is always wrong and our facts keep changing. By not distinguishing the difference, the author is reinforcing this perception.
11 of 13 people found this review helpful