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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. Renee 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.
C. Renée James is a professor of physics at Sam Houston State University. She is the author of Seven Wonders of the Universe That You Probably Took for Granted, also published by Johns Hopkins.
"Science Unshackled is entertaining, informative, and thought-provoking – the more I read this well-written book, the more I liked it. Renée James weaves together a narrative that breathes new life into the idea that basic research can lead to the development of practical technologies, even though we can't always predict the tangible benefits. She also does a good job of explaining complex scientific ideas without dumbing them down. Both experts and general-interest readers will find this book appealing."
– John M. Henshaw, University of Tulsa, author of A Tour of the Senses: How Your Brain Interprets the World
"With clear descriptions of genetic technology, thrilling details of space science, and riveting descriptions of how curiosity-driven science has led to new cures for pain and potential cures for cancer, James shows the irreplaceable value of pure research. Her expert knowledge, personal experience, and metaphorical felicity provide a rare and spirited defense of pure science with a detailed historical map of the byways from pink Yellowstone slime to genetic fingerprinting, from twitching frog legs to the first battery, and from failed sightings of black hole evaporation to WiFi. The benefits of these kinds of explorations could never be predicted beforehand. They are the results of real science – adults at play, trying to find out about the real world."
– Dorion Sagan, author of Cosmic Apprentice: Dispatches from the Edges of Science
"Science has surprised humans with incredible insights and great strides in the quality of life for centuries. Renée James's book walks you through the amazing relationship between scientific research and producing a better world around us – it's an inspiring, eye-opening journey."
– David J. Eicher, Editor-in-Chief, Astronomy magazine