Jen’s Library – The Fly in the Ointment

The Fly in the Ointment: 70 Fascinating Commentaries on the Science of Everyday Life
by Dr. Joe Schwarcz

Dr. Schwarcz was one of my professors at McGill University. He’s the director of the Office for Science and Society, which is dedicated to spreading information and debunking bad science about all sorts of health and food topics. They do a wonderful job using radio, the internet, and public lectures to make science accessible to the average person. I took one of his “World of Chemistry” courses at school, and it was a ton of fun.

He’s written several books, all very easy for the layperson to understand and enjoy, so go ahead and read whichever of them you can get your hands on. Pesticides, bezoars, bottled water, fake blood, broccoli, lithium: he tackles each topic with a short essay, examining and explaining their history and chemistry in a way that’s easy to understand and enjoy.

I love that he’s writing these books and doing his radio show, and hosting lectures for the public, because there is so much misinformation out there, and someone’s got to fight it. The more educated people are, the less they’re likely to be confused by all the new nutrition information coming out of scientific studies (coffee is good for you! but it’s not! yes it is!), and the more critical they will be of TV stories about the newest greatest miracle cream. A little more critical thinking never hurt anyone (except maybe the quacks selling the new miracle cream), and I think Dr. Schwarcz is doing a good job pushing people in that direction.

A lot of the lectures from the World of Chemistry courses are available online for you to listen to, and I highly recommend them as a productive and educational waste of time.

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