“The Half-Life of Facts” is easily one of the best books of the year on science.
…engaging, insightful jaunt across the backstage of scientific knowledge. Packed with interesting tidbits…the book explains how facts spread and change over time.
The book takes us on a whirlwind tour of emerging fields of scientometrics, and undertakes a broader exploration of metaknowledge…Arbesman is a delightful guide to the territory, patently in love with this emerging field. He is also a skilled storyteller, and his wide-eyed reporting invigorates material that could have been dry and academic.
…A fascinating and necessary look at the pace of human knowledge.
An engaging book…It’s a vivid account of the surprising ways in which new facts are accumulated, and how old knowledge is overturned.
Absorbing and approachable treatise on the nature of facts: what they are, how and why they change and how they sometimes don’t (despite being wrong)…Facts matter. But when they change—as they seem today to do with alarming frequency, we begin to lose that control. In his debut, Arbesman…advises us not to worry: While we can’t stop facts from changing, we can recognize that what we know “changes in understandable and systematic ways.”… With this, he introduces “scientometrics,” the science of science. With scientometrics, we can measure the exponential growth of facts, how long it will take, exponentially, for knowledge in any field to be disproved—say, 45 years for medical knowledge…like a good college professor, Arbesman’s enthusiasm and humor maintains our interest in subjects many readers may not have encountered before…[The Half-Life of Facts] does what popular science should do—both engages and entertains.
The Half-Life of Facts offers a pop science primer on the epidemiology of epistemology — that is, the process by which ideas about the nature of knowledge and knowing spread throughout a discipline, a profession and a culture.
What does it mean to live in a world drowning in facts? Consider The Half-Life of Facts the new go-to book on the evolution of science and technology.
Tyler Cowen, Professor of Economics, George Mason University, and author of An Economist Gets Lunch
How many chromosomes do we have? How high is Mount Everest? Is spinach as good for you as Popeye thought – and what scientific blunder led him to think so in the first place? The Half-Life of Facts is fun and fascinating, filled with wide-ranging stories and subtle insights about how facts are born, dance their dance, and die. In today’s world where knowledge often changes faster than we do, Sam Arbesman’s new book is essential reading.
Steven Strogatz, Professor of Mathematics, Cornell University, and author, The Joy of X
The Half-Life of Facts teaches you that it is possible, in fact, to drink from a firehose. Samuel Arbesman, an extremely creative scientist and storyteller, explores the paradox that knowledge is tentative in particularly consistent ways. In his capable hands, we learn about everything from how medieval manuscripts resemble genetic code to what bacteria and computer chips have in common. This book unravels the mystery of how we come to know the truth–and how long we can be certain about it.
Nicholas A. Christakis, MD, PhD, co-author of Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives
The Half-Life of Facts is a rollicking intellectual journey. Sam Arbesman shares his extensive knowledge with infectious enthusiasm and entertaining prose. Even if the facts around us are ever-changing, the lessons and fun in this book will have a very long half-life!
Michael Mauboussin, Chief Investment Strategist, Legg Mason Capital Management, and author of Think Twice