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Science Books

February 15, 2008

Charlatan: America's Most Dangerous Huckster, The Man Who Pursued Him, And The Age Of Flimflam
Pope Brock (2008)

Here's a story that is sure to get your goat. In 1917, the infamous conman John R. Brinkley eked out a living selling bogus patent remedies in the Southeast, until he reached a small Kansas town called Milford, where he set up a medical practice. Nothing was above board, of course, and this time Brinkley concocted a surgical method that utilized goat glands to stoke the dying embers of local farmers' virility. Critically acclaimed author Pope Brock, author of the best-selling Indiana Gothic, and who has written for Rolling Stone and Esquire, writes that Brinkley was soon to become America's wealthiest and most prominent "doctor" as a result of his quackery. But this fame came at a cost, writes Brock, as Brinkley's chicanery had attracted the attentions of renowned skeptic Morris Fishbein, who sought to shut him down and bring him to justice. But during Fishbein's pursuit of the evasive Brinkley throughout the 1920s and 30s, Brinkley managed to construct a powerful radio transmitter and offer his "medical" services to a widespread and all too willing audience. Predictably, cases of death and maiming rose proportionally to Brinkley's radio popularity. But Brinkley's dabbling in radio transmission also resulted in a revolution in political campaigning techniques (still used today), and introduced the nation to country, blues, and rock 'n' roll music. Brock captures the mind of this Janus-faced genius brilliantly, and we are left wondering whether to congratulate or condemn Brinkley for his efforts.

Forbidden Science: From Ancient Technologies To Free Energy
Edited by J. Douglas Kenyon (2008)
ISBN: 1591430828

Forbidden Science. Sounds like the title of a 50s B-grade science fiction movie, rather than a serious expose on "cutting-edge" scientific research that has allegedly been "suppressed" by mainstream science. Author J. Douglas Kenyon, editor and publisher of the "alternative" online magazine Atlantis Rising, implies that there is a conspiracy among mainstream scientists aimed at censoring valuable scientific research from the public. Interestingly enough, the scientific "discoveries" that Kenyon claims are being covered up by the scientific establishment would not look out of place in a B-grade sci-fi flick. Comprised of 43 essays by 19 researchers, Forbidden Science examines fantastic research conducted by scientific heretics such as Masaru Emoto, Immanuel Velikovsky, Rupert Sheldrake, Nikola Tesla, and more. Among some of the topics on the scientific establishment's secret blacklist include free energy from space, the real purpose of the Great Pyramid and the megaliths at Nabta Playa, cold fusion, telepathy and ESP. While Forbidden Science keeps a tentative foot in reality by citing the discoveries of scientific luminaries such as Tesla and his work on alternating current, the bulk of the book attempts to validate pseudo-science and the supernatural. Masaru Emoto claims that water can be influenced and shaped by human thought alone, and he believes that the photographed patterns of frozen water crystals exposed to positive or negative thoughts prove this. But Emoto doesn't use double-blind experiments, and the photographers know in advance which sample has been subjected to which thought; a practice that leads to confirmation bias. Notwithstanding this, if you approach Forbidden Science with tongue-in-cheek you can derive quite a bit of enjoyment out of reading this collection of bizarre and eccentric tales. After all, what's wrong with a bit of science fiction?

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