Mario Livio

discusses

Brilliant Blunders:
From Darwin to Einstein—Colossal Mistakes by Great Scientists That Changed Our Understanding of Life and the Universe

This event includes a book signing

Date

Sep
24
Tuesday
September 24, 2013
7:00 PM

Location

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Tickets

This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store is pleased to welcome astrophysicist and award winning author, MARIO LIVIO, as he discusses his latest book, Brilliant Blunders: From Darwin to Einstein—Colossal Mistakes by Great Scientists That Changed Our Understanding of Life and the Universe.

We all make mistakes. Nobody’s perfect. Not even some of the greatest geniuses in history, as Mario Livio tells us in this marvelous story of scientific error and breakthrough.

Charles Darwin, William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), Linus Pauling, Fred Hoyle, and Albert Einstein were all brilliant scientists. Each made groundbreaking contributions to his field—but each also stumbled badly. Darwin’s theory of natural selection shouldn’t have worked, according to the prevailing beliefs of his time. Not until Gregor Mendel’s work was known would there be a mechanism to explain natural selection. How could Darwin be both wrong and right? Lord Kelvin, Britain’s leading scientific intellect at the time, gravely miscalculated the age of the earth. Linus Pauling, the world’s premier chemist (who would win the Nobel Prize in chemistry) constructed an erroneous model for DNA in his haste to beat the competition to publication. Astrophysicist Fred Hoyle dismissed the idea of a “Big Bang” origin to the universe (ironically, the caustic name he gave to this event endured long after his erroneous objections were disproven). And Albert Einstein, whose name is synonymous with genius, speculated incorrectly about the forces that hold the universe in equilibrium—and that speculation opened the door to brilliant conceptual leaps. These five scientists expanded our knowledge of life on earth, the evolution of the earth itself, and the evolution of the universe, despite and because of their errors. As Mario Livio luminously explains, the scientific process advances through error. Mistakes are essential to progress. 

Brilliant Blunders is a singular tour through the world of science and scientific achievement—and a wonderfully insightful examination of the psychology of five fascinating scientists.

"Scientists make mistakes all the time, but those bumps in the road are often smoothed out in the legends that surround the greatest discoverers. . . . Thoughtful, well-researched and beautifully written, Brilliant Blunders offers a distinctive—and far more truthful—perspective on the journey to scientific discovery." —The Washington Post

“Enlightening. . . . For many people, being a great scientist means being above error. . . . Livio’s book is a valuable antidote to this skewed picture. . . . Thanks to his deep curiosity, Livio turns Brilliant Blunders into a thoughtful meditation on the course of science itself." —The New York Times Book Review

Mario Livio
Mario Livio

Mario Livio

Mario Livio is an internationally known astrophysicist and bestselling author who has appeared on The Daily Show, 60 Minutes, and NOVA. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Besides Why? What Makes Us Curious, he is the author of The Golden Ratio, winner of the International Pythagoras Prize and the Peano Prize; The Equation That Couldn’t Be SolvedIs God a Mathematician? (which was the basis for the 2016 Emmy-nominated NOVA program “The Great Math Mystery”); the national bestseller Brilliant Blunders; and The Accelerating Universe. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

Photo credit: J. Coyle Jr

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes

As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.

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