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Mental Arithmetic

Nicholas Wade, 7 January 1993

Genius: Richard Feynman and Modern Physics 
by James Gleick.
Little, Brown, 532 pp., £18.99, October 1992, 0 316 90316 7
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... Richard Feynman was one of the élite group of American and British physicists who developed atomic weapons with the Manhattan project in the Second World War. He flashed back into the public eye in 1965, when he won a share of the Nobel physics prize, and again two decades later when his formidable presence on the committee inquiring into the crash of the Challenger space shuttle forced the cause of the disaster into the open ...


Nicholas Wade, 20 September 1984

A Feeling for the Organism: The Life and Work of Barbara McClintock 
by Evelyn Fox Keller.
Freeman, 235 pp., £13.95, July 1984, 0 7167 1433 7
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A Slot Machine, A Broken Test Tube 
by S.E. Luria.
Harper and Row, 229 pp., £12.50, May 1984, 0 06 015260 5
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... Eureka! Scientific discoveries, as everyone knows, are made by those flashes of insight in which the mind of a scientist perceives some previously hidden truth about nature. The deeper truth, occasionally alluded to but seldom pursued, is that scientists as individuals have little importance in scientific discovery. The reason is simple. Scientists are fungible ...

Stone Cold

Nicholas Wade, 29 August 1991

Too hot to handle 
by Frank Close.
W.H. Allen, 376 pp., £14.99, January 1991, 1 85227 206 6
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... In the last few years the University of Utah has bestowed on the world two much-trumpeted scientific achievements, the artificial heart and cold fusion. That two such seriously cracked ideas should sprout on the same ground is a matter that should worry the State of Utah considerably. Indeed, there’s enough embarrassment left over for others to share, especially from the hilarious tale of cold fusion ...

The Benefactor

Nicholas Wade, 19 April 1984

Alexander Fleming: The Man and the Myth 
by Gwyn Macfarlane.
Chatto, 304 pp., £12.50, February 1984, 0 7011 2683 3
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... How are scientific discoveries made? By geniuses, thinks the public. By great men, say historians of science. By giving us enough money, scientists tell their governments. Scientific discovery is evidently a dimly understood process. The new biography of Alexander Fleming by Gwyn Macfarlane sheds some unusual light on the fog. One reason for the prevailing lack of understanding is that the canons of writing in professional scientific journals – the ‘scientific literature’ – enforce a style of reporting that is profoundly anti-historical ...

When big was beautiful

Nicholas Wade, 20 August 1992

Big Science: The Growth of Large-Scale Research 
edited by Peter Galison and Bruce Helvy.
Stanford, 392 pp., $45, April 1992, 0 8047 1879 2
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The Code of Codes 
edited by Daniel Kevles and Leroy Hood.
Harvard, 397 pp., £23.95, June 1992, 0 674 13645 4
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... Under the Reagan Administration the United States embarked on a fistful of big science projects, from the space station to the superconducting supercollider and the human genome project. The usefulness of these ventures, by and large, lies in inverse proportion to their cost. The $30,000 million space station will serve little detectable purpose save making work for hungry defence contractors, whereas the $3000 million human genome project could one day allow the history of evolution to be read like a book ...

Scientific Fraud

Peter Medawar, 17 November 1983

Betrayers of the Truth: Fraud and Deceit in the Halls of Science 
by William Broad and Nicholas Wade.
Century, 256 pp., £8.95, July 1983, 0 7126 0243 7
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... Dr Oliver J. Gillie. In the present book, which gives a lot of attention to this case, Broad and Wade illustrate the inefficacy of scientific monitoring within the profession itself – of the procedures which those of us who maintain the integrity of scientists believe prevent or rectify scientific fraud. But the reason Burt’s findings were not subjected ...

Race doesn’t come into it

Meehan Crist: Am I My Mother-in-Law?, 25 October 2018

She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions and Potential of Heredity 
by Carl Zimmer.
Picador, 656 pp., £25, August 2018, 978 1 5098 1853 2
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... paternity trial and the partial myth of Kunta Kinte and Roots, alongside the discovery of Nicholas and Alexandra’s murdered children and what this reveals about the matrilineal inheritance of mitochondria – ‘the mother’s mitochondria, and only the mother’s mitochondria, becomes the mitochondria of her child’. ‘We use words like sister ...

Scientific Antlers

Steven Shapin: Fraud in the Lab, 4 March 1999

The Baltimore Case: A Trial of Politics, Science and Character 
by Daniel Kevles.
Norton, 509 pp., £21, October 1998, 0 393 04103 4
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... to pederasty among priests’. Two New York Times science journalists – William Broad and Nicholas Wade – were outraged at what they saw as bland indifference to the problem on the part of leaders of the scientific community, and in 1982 they published a book – Betrayers of the Truth – that alleged widespread fraud and judged science’s ...

Blackberry Apocalypse

Nicholas Guyatt: Evangelical Disarray, 15 November 2007

American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America 
by Chris Hedges.
Cape, 254 pp., £12.99, February 2007, 978 0 224 07820 7
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... office in 1977. He didn’t seem exercised by the Supreme Court’s pro-choice decision in Roe v. Wade, he put pressure on Israel to return land to Egypt and he was insufficiently bullish towards America’s godless Communist enemies. He even chose a humanist, Walter Mondale, as his vice-president. In the early 1970s, Christian leaders had started building ...

Two Americas and a Scotland

Nicholas Everett, 27 September 1990

Collected Poems, 1937-1971 
by John Berryman, edited by Charles Thornbury.
Faber, 348 pp., £17.50, February 1990, 0 571 14317 2
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The Dream Songs 
by John Berryman.
Faber, 427 pp., £17.50, February 1990, 0 571 14318 0
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Poems 1959-1979 
by Frederick Seidel.
Knopf, 112 pp., $19.95, November 1989, 0 394 58021 4
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These Days 
by Frederick Seidel.
Knopf, 50 pp., $18.95, October 1989, 0 394 58022 2
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A Scottish Assembly 
by Robert Crawford.
Chatto, 64 pp., £5.99, April 1990, 0 7011 3595 6
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... bleat to die? Nothing: you are not: woman blonde, called Chris. It is I lope to be your sheep, to wade Thick in my cordial blood, to howl and sigh As I decide ... if I could credit this. In 1948 Berryman wrote the first two stanzas of his ‘official’ rendition of the deadlock between duty and desire, the one for public consumption. When Homage to Mistress ...

Burning Witches

Michael Rogin, 4 September 1997

Raymond Chandler: A Biography 
by Tom Hiney.
Chatto, 310 pp., £16.99, May 1997, 0 7011 6310 0
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Raymond Chandler Speaking 
edited by Dorothy Gardiner and Kathrine Sorley Walker.
California, 288 pp., £10.95, May 1997, 0 520 20835 8
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... into the Velma of Farewell, My Lovely, who kills to protect the secret of her criminal past. Ellen Wade in The Long Goodbye, the object of Chandler’s most idealising prose, has murdered her alcoholic author husband and the woman with whom he had an affair. In the first novels the impotent older men could be wish-fulfilment versions of Chandler’s father or ...

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