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Ehrlich, Robert. Nine crazy ideas in science.

Princeton Univ. Press. 244p, illus. notes. bibliog. index. c2001.0-691-09495-0. $16.95. SA

More guns, less crime? AIDS not caused by HIV? Sun exposure and low doses of nuclear radiation are good for you? Two suns for our solar system? "Fossil fuels" don't come from organic matter? Time travel is possible? Some particles move faster than light? The Big Bang never banged? Robert Ehrlich--a physicist at George Mason University with a flair for explaining science--tackles each of these nine "crazy" ideas, illustrates them with zany cartoons, spells out the arguments for and against them, and rates them on a scale from zero to three cuckoos.

This is a wonderful book for getting high school and college students to open their minds to unconventional ideas. Even readers who can't follow the math or technical details in some chapters can get a feel for the ways controversial ideas arise, why they can be good for science, how scientists go about testing them, and how ordinary citizens can evaluate unorthodox scientific and medical ideas that affect our daily lives. The discussion on abiogenic origins of oil, gas, and coal and the consequences for public policy if the theory is right (Ehrlich thinks it is) alone are worth the price of the book to anyone who teaches earth sciences, environmental sciences, energy issues--or who is trying to decide what kind of car to buy.

As science editor at Rutgers University Press, I published Ehrlich's books The Cosmological Milkshake (1994) and What If You Could Unscramble an Egg (1996). I like his light-hearted approach to tough scientific problems, and I would have been proud to be his editor for this one, too. Karen Reeds, Princeton Research Forum, Princeton, NJ
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Author:Reeds, Karen
Article Type:Book Review
Date:May 1, 2003
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