Science Unshackled

Science Unshackled

How Obscure, Abstract, Seemingly Useless Scientific Research Turned Out to Be the Basis for Modern Life

eBook - 2014
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Written by a physics professor, this book responds to the argument that basic science research costs too much and never did anybody any good. The author tells true stories of scientists and their research which seemed to have no practical purpose at the time, and which led in ways no one could have predicted to areas of knowledge and kinds of technology that people depend on every day. Much of the work showcased here is not famous, but led directly to discoveries which are. The stories range from how astronomy led to the GPS devices in your smartphone to how a hot-springs bacterium which survived because of the conservation of Yellowstone National Park became the key to paternity testing, identifying people lost in disasters, and giving people advance warning and treatment options if they are at risk for genetic diseases. The stories are written in short chapters which segue from one to the next, linked by a framing device that asks the reader to imagine they are on the way to the hospital to be with their child, who needs a heart transplant. Each of the wildly varied stories of basic research in zoology, botany, medicine, astronomy, chemistry, physics, technology, and exploration turns out to be a necessary part of getting the reader to the hospital and saving the child's life. The book is written for general readers in a style designed to be engaging, and is suitable for older children interested in science and for adults at any level. Annotation ©2015 Ringgold, Inc., Portland, OR (

Johns Hopkins University Press

Why in the world are we paying for all this "basic" research? The answer to this question becomes clear in this romp through the "seemingly useless" world of pure science, where one thing leads to another in ways that result in major scientific advancements.

With a novelistic style, C. Renée James reveals how obscure studies of natural phenomena—including curved space-time, poisonous cone snails, exploding black holes, and the precise chemical makeup of the sun—led unexpectedly to WiFi, GPS, genetic sequencing, pain medications, and cancer treatments. Science Unshackled brings both science and scientists to life and shows how simple curiosity can result in life-changing breakthroughs.

Scientists engaged in basic research, funded in large part by governments around the globe and throughout the centuries, never know when exploring small questions will have big impacts. But, by following the scientific method, disciplined inquiry can lead to wondrous and practical discoveries that benefit all of us in the end. The next time someone asks you why "the government" wastes its money on weird research, recall the intriguing stories James has told and tell them the answer.

Publisher: Baltimore, Maryland : Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014
ISBN: 9781421415000
Branch Call Number: 507.2 J2317s 2014
Characteristics: xvi, 198 pages ; 24 cm


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