Iâ€™ve been reading The Best American Science Writing: 2002. It is not, as I expected when I first pulled in off the library shelf searching for something to pass two hours of time while my students were testing, scientific writing by scientists. Instead it is journalists, writers, writing about science and scientists. If a scientistâ€™s writing creeps in, it is not obvious.
Different chapters approach different scientific discoveries in various ways. It is the non-scientific that caught my attention. Two articles complain about Nixonâ€™s cutting of research funding. Another complains of Bushâ€™s limits on stem cell research funding. The funniest, probably because I agree with it and am surprised to find it with other â€œleftieâ€ documents, is a description of France. (I thought perhaps the work had been published in a conservative magazine, but, no, it was first published in Wired.)
France, in particular, is still reeling from the 1980s scandal over HIV-tainted blood that was pumped into thousands of hemophiliacs because the government refused to use an American test to screen the blood supply. The French people blamed their politicians and their scientists (only three or four minor officials paid any penalty), and they blamed the United States because, well, because it was there. Spite is more important that right when it comes to anti-American reactions among the Gauls.
The non-scientific is not the most important nor is it the most interesting. However, it is the easiest to note. The intrusion of politics, even my own, into a discussion of science is like a splash of ice water while you are sunning in a hammock. It gets your attention and it distracts you from the importance of relaxing.
The scientific measure of the book is strong. In terms of information, my brain is full and overflowing and slopping on the floor.