CHAPTER 9

INTO THE UNKNOWN

Scientific Questions

WE LIVE IN AN AGE of instant answers. I googled this question: How do we know the earth is round? In less than one second, I had 168 million results at my fingertips. If I spent one minute on each, it would take me 320 years to get through them all.

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We live in an age of assertion. I can fire off a tweet or post an opinion, no matter how accurate or incendiary, and get the attention of the crowd, maybe even go viral. Politicians throw out untruths or half-truths and, even when proven wrong, they will double down and assert again. In 2015, Representative Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, declared authoritatively that climate data clearly showed “no ...

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