RTC dinner on Anarchy of Science (21 June 2011)

Free Radicals: The Secret Anarchy of Science

For more than a century, science has cultivated a sober public image for itself. Best-selling science author Michael Brooks joins us to show that the truth is very different. Many of our most successful scientists have more in common with libertines than librarians.

Brooks’ new book Free Radicals: The Secret Anarchy of Science is a fast-paced exploration of some of the greatest breakthroughs of the last century, and reveals science to be more rock ‘n’ roll than the Rolling Stones. He introduces us to Nobel laureates who get their ideas through drugs, dreams, visions and hallucinations. To get ahead, fraud is sometimes necessary – as are unethical or reckless experiments. When the evidence won’t play ball, scientists will indulge in dangerous and manipulative PR games, sidestep the criticism of their colleagues or establish careers on unproven ideas. They rebel against authority, fight with those who threaten them and ignore all the rules of the establishment. Knowledge is to be pursued by any means necessary. In science, anything goes. It is anarchy.

The evening will also include an update by RTC member Charles Ross on the RTC’s work with the Brain Mind Forum, and comments by Michael Brooks on the forum’s 21 key questions for cognitive neuroscience, which are being published in cooperation with New Scientist.

Michael Brooks

Michael is an author, journalist and broadcaster, and holds a PhD in quantum physics. He is a consultant at New Scientist, and author of the best-selling 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense and the techno-thriller Entanglement. Michael’s writing has also appeared in the Guardian, the Independent, the Observer, the Times Higher Education, the Philadephia Inquirer and (his proudest byline) Playboy. He has lectured at New York University, Cambridge University and the American Museum of Natural History. Michael’s broadcast experience includes being a guest on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme and Material World, a regular live slot on the George Lamb Show on BBC Radio 6 Music, and television appearances in a Channel 4 documentary on time travel (which he co-scripted) and More 4 News (discussing alien invasions). He is also a regular speaker and debate chair at the Brighton Science Festival.