Review by Clare Fieseler

This is a book about Mars science, yet its narrative holds relevance, and even lessons, for the unpredicted mission now facing the scientific community.

Before Carl Sagan, a polo-playing businessman was the face of extraterrestrial life detection on Mars. Percival Lowell popularised the idea that geometric lines on Mars’s surface were irrigation canals engineered by intelligent Martians. It took the first NASA fly-by of Mars in 1965 to put the theory fully to rest.

Image for post
Image for post
Sarah Stewart Johnson: The Sirens of Mars: Searching for Life on Another World, Allen Lane, 2020; 288pp

The canals of Mars were an appealing cocktail made by one man’s unbridled optimism and an optical illusion. Before his death in 1916, Lowell mapped a geometric web on Venus’s surface, too. In 2003, ophthalmologists provided evidence that Lowell’s map of Venus was practically a carbon copy of the human retina. …

Review by Guoyan Wang

Over recent years, issues such as genetically modified food, human gene editing, environmental issues, the location of the P-Xylene project and other hot topics have caused extensive debate in Chinese society. This book focuses on the increasingly controversial technological issues that have caused fierce conflict within and between the government, the scientific community, the media and the public.

Image for post
Image for post
Jianbin Jin: Science Communication: Social Perceptions and Cognitive Changes of Controversial Technologies, Tsinghua University Press, 2018; 265 pp

Jianbin Jin is a science communication scholar at the School of Journalism and Communication in Tsinghua University. …

Review by Alan Irwin

In this book Horton raises a series of key issues and succeeds in conveying the breadth, multi-dimensionality and severity of the crisis.

At a time when so many lives are still being lost to COVID-19, it might seem too early to ask ‘what’s gone wrong?’. As at least one senior government official has argued, we can’t learn any useful lessons while we are still in the middle of a crisis. Shouldn’t we wait before analysing the causes and consequences?

Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, has little sympathy with the argument for holding back. In a strongly-worded critique of the political response to the COVID-19 crisis, he is actually more concerned by the silence of critical voices and by the absence of challenge. As he presents it on every page, we need to ask difficult questions. We need to explore what good can come from a very bad situation. We need to identify the mistakes made and act upon that awareness. …


Public Understanding of Science Blog

Public Understanding of Science is a fully peer review international journal covering all aspects of the inter-relationships between stemm and the public.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store