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The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon. Sir John Eric Ericksen, British surgeon, appointed Surgeon-Extraordinary to Queen Victoria 1873

What's the book about?

Science starts to gets interesting when things don’t make sense.

Science’s best-kept secret is this: even today, there are experimental results and reliable data that the most brilliant scientists can neither explain nor dismiss. In the past, similar "anomalies" have revolutionized our world, like in the sixteenth century, when a set of celestial anomalies led Copernicus to realize that the Earth goes around the sun and not the reverse, and in the 1770s, when two chemists discovered oxygen because of experimental results that defied all the theories of the day. And so, if history is any precedent, we should look to today’s inexplicable results to forecast the future of science. 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense, heads to the scientific frontier to meet thirteen modern-day anomalies and discover tomorrow’s breakthroughs.

13 Things opens at the 23rd Solvay physics conference, where the scientists present are ready to throw up their hands over an anomaly: is it possible that the universe, rather than slowly drifting apart as the physics of the big bang had once predicted, is actually expanding at an ever-faster speed?

No study has ever been able to definitively show how the placebo effect works, so why has it become a pillar of medical science? Is 96 percent of the universe missing? Is a 1977 signal from outer space a transmission from an alien civilization? Might giant viruses explain how life began? Why are some NASA satellites speeding up as they get farther from the sun—and what does that mean for the laws of physics?

Spanning disciplines from biology to cosmology, chemistry to psychology to physics, Brooks thrillingly captures the excitement, messiness and controversy of the battle over where science is headed. "In science", he writes, "being stuck can be a sign that you are about to make a great leap forward. The things that don’t make sense are, in some ways, the only things that matter."