Dilution to Dissolution

Two Day, and back to gym. As mentioned, the gym was closed yesterday as part of its on-going program of denial of service. So yesterday was a hard day.

The exercise was welcomed this morning, as was the scant population. But the podcast, an episode of The Guardian’s Science podcast, was dismal. The podcast was an interview with three “award winning” writers of science books. 

If these are the best of who is writing these days I can well understand the dismality of contemporary science books.

To clarify, I want to distinguish between books about science and books of science. The latter are textbook and collections of papers from conferences and such intended for nerds or the science education of the young in a classroom environment. The former fall primarily into two categories: outreach books written by academics or academia employed journalists; and books written for profit by journalists.

I am probably doing a bit of disservice to some of these authors but inasmuch as the composition and style of most of them is indistinguishable from that of contemporary journalists the aggregation seems accurate.

I should also comment that I do not read a lot of books about science. By that I mean that I start reading a lot of such books but seldom get beyond the first, or occasionally, second chapter. And yes, the books are that bad. Revolting in fact. As in almost nauseating.

The reason for this is the, at best, poor, most often, blatantly inaccurate descriptions of science matters. Descriptions that are so bad that they revolt me even in the fields where I am not a practitioner and am only peripherally and superficially informed.

Sadly, the outreach books are almost as bad, which leads me to conjecture an overall process by which a scientist explains something to an author, diluting and distorting, who in turn writes their own explanation, further diluting and distorting. What is said and what is bear less connection than a doughnut and a coffee cup mathematically.

In addition, the outreach books seem to be written with the same heavy hand of grammar and an absence of story telling rather like a turn crank journal article.

I should be tempted to say that books about science were better in my youth but since I was less knowledgeable and more adaptable then I am sufficiently uncertain to do so. But my emotional response is exactly that.

For these reasons, I will attempt in future to redirect my efforts to blog more about the successes and failure of contemporary science books. But don’t expect much. After all, I am ORF.