Is This Wi-Fi Organic? A Guide to Spotting Misleading Science Online
© 2021 Dave Farina
In The Demon-Haunted World, Carl Sagan warned readers: “We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.” Dave Farina has made it his life’s mission to remedy such wholesale ignorance, hosting a youtube channel in which he addresses popular misconceptions about the natural world. He adds to his work with Is This Wi-Fi Organic, in which primers on physics, biochemistry, and energy precede and inform take-downs of various spurious claims. Farina focuses on those with a direct bearing on human health (diet and medicine), though after the two-thirds mark he moves to the area of the obnoxious-but-not-dangerous category, the likes of astrology and such. Farina takes serious issue with the “nature good, artificial bad” conceit so ubiquitous in our culture, frequently reminding readers that nature can be capricious and destructive as easily as it can be beneficial. The author’s experience as an online educator is definitely on display here, with clear explanations and helpful illustrations; there’s also a good dash of humor, sometimes snark, when he’s addressing particularly ludicrous claims. The book is most helpful in constantly keeping readers tied to the foundation: we begin with chemistry and physics, and even as Farina builds on that to explain how cells work, or muscle tissue is created, he continually reminds readers of these processes’ ultimate electrochemical origins. Is This Wi-Fi Organic is both educational and fun, but it has its quirks. Farina’s passion for creating a scientifically literate populace is admirable but leads him to a naive technotriumphalism at times — championing a command economy and cold fusion, for instance. Farina might be served looking at a history or economics book once in a while. Despite this, I think the book is helpful as an introduction to the basic goings-on of the natural world and ourselves, especially if paired with something like A Survival Guide to the Misinformation Age, which focused more on skills on interpreting graphs, parsing statistics, etc.
The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe: How to Know What’s Really Real in a World Increasingly Full of Fake, Steven Novella et. al. From the hosts of “The Skeptics Guide to the Universe“, a skeptical/science/geek podcast I’ve been listening to since 2006.
The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, Carl Sagan
A Survival Guide to the Misinformation Age, David Helfand
50 Popular Beliefs that People Believe are True, Guy Harrison