Bogus Science

This page is for my Agora Days class on bogus science.  I taught it in '07, '09,  '11, '13, and '15.  I use the term "bogus" to encompass pseudo-science, pathological science, fraudulent science, and other ways to goof up the scientific method.  Here is an outline, with the scientific method on the left and some goof ups on the right.


Bad ScienceBen Goldacre.  Chapter 9 shows how drug companies can warp clinical trials .

Quantum Leaps in the Wrong Direction : Where Real Science ends-- and Pseudoscience Begins, Charles M. Wynn, and Arthur W. Wiggins ; cartoons by Sidney Harris.  Short, but covers lots of topics, and easy to read.  Brief mention of pseudo-history.

The Demon-Haunted World : Science as a Candle in the Dark, Carl Sagan.  Eloquent description of science vs. non-science, and their consequences in our society.  Chapter 10 is titled “The Dragon in My Garage”.

Why People Believe Weird Things : Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time, Michael Shermer. Good sections on thinking fallacies, aliens from outer space, medieval and modern witch crazes, evolution vs. creationism, history vs. pseudo-history.

The Invisible Gorilla, Christopher Chabis and Daniel Simons.  Your brain does not work nearly as well as you think it does.  

The Half-life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date.  Explains why knowledge is tentative.  Did you know that in the 1930's, humans had 48 chromosones? 

The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins.  Classic on evolutionary theory.  

How To Lie With Statistics, Darrell Huff.  A short classic.

A Mathematician Plays the Stock MarketJohn Allen Paulos.  How mathematics and psychology relate to the stock market.

The Healthy Skeptic: Cutting Through the Hype About Your Health, Robert J. Davis.  Explores how many health claims are backed by agendas, not science.

Autism’s False Prophets, Paul A. Offit.  Sad tale of how desperation and the media can drive pseudoscience, and the harm it can cause.  Early 2015 marked the worst measles outbreak in the US in 20 years.

Bad Pharma, Ben Goldacre.  Explores in depth how pharmaceutical companies can warp medical decisions.

Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation: The Definitive Guide to the Evolutionary Biology of Sex, Olivia Judson.  Covers slime mold with 13 sexes, and much more.


Miscellaneous  ESP experiment where computer reads your mind!  Museum of Unworkable Things.   Comprehensive collection of perpetual motion devices and explanations of why they do not work.  Elegant versions of Hero’s Fountain. Most plausible perpetual motion machine that I have ever seen..

Pseudo-science Most outrageously priced HDMI cable that I could find on 2/1/2015.  The sarcastic reviews are a good laugh.  James Randi Educational Foundation.  Weekly news on the latest pseudoscience and scams.  Win US $1,000,000 if you can demonstrate any psychic, supernatural or paranormal ability under satisfactory observing conditions.  The Crackpot Index.  Scoring system for crackpots.  The Left Handed DNA Hall of Fame.  Fun collection of reversed artwork on stamps, cartoons, magazine covers, and professional displays. Presentation on Trofim Lysenko.

Pathological Science Irving Langmuir’s classic speech on pathological science. Excellent of presentation of cold fusion debacle.

Replication Issues Article on replication problem. Article by author of rejected replication study.  Criticism of arsenic bacterium paper Conclusion on arsenic bacterium

Weird But True Real Science Excellent cartoon introduction to relativity. Do viruses or getting chilled give you a cold?  Answer is surprising.  

My Favorite Crackpot Sites

Pseudo-Physics  Crackpot anti-Einstein physics.  Denies existence of neutrino and charge invariance.  Sells devices for gullible audiophiles.  Has many technical buzzwords that sound scientific.

Pseudo-Biology  Bizarre alternative to evolution and creationism.  

Non-Euclidean Geometry

Mathematics relies on a deductive approach, starting with assumptions ("axioms" or "postulates").  Change the assumptions and you change what you can deduce.  Here are some of my favorite materials on the subject. Interactive program for non-Euclidean geometry constructions.

Flatterland, Ian Stewart.  Written in the style of Alice in Wonderland style.  It introduces math that’s probably missing from your textbooks, including hyperbolic geometry, fractional dimensions, topology, and many puns.