Announcing my Next Point of Inquiry Guest: Deb Blum, Author of The Poisoner’s Handbook
Posted: 19 April 2010 07:11 AM   [ Ignore ]
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In the next installment of Point of Inquiry, I’m going to be cutting back on the heavy science policy stuff for a moment, and instead exploring a recent, dramatic success in the realm of science popularization. That success is science writer Deb Blum’s marvelous The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York. There is no better way, I think, to get a chemistry lesson and not feel bored by it….and of course, Blum’s book has been selling like hotcakes thanks to the power of her narrative.

Here’s one of many rave reviews, this one from the Washington Post:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/19/AR2010021902182.html

You can get Blum’s book online here, and as usual I will be taking questions for her here at the Point of Inquiry forums. So send them in now…and we’ll get some of them on the air. The show records Wednesday, to air Friday, so questions received after Wednesday early am won’t be in the running…

Chris

[ Edited: 23 April 2010 07:28 AM by dougsmith ]
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Posted: 20 April 2010 06:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Sounds like a fascinating book, and topic. What were some of the techniques that the first forensic scientists had to use to convince ignorant judges and juries? Are there any lessons there we can take away for designing courses on critical thinking for children or adults?

I’d also wonder about the overlap here with quack sciences in the courtroom, like phrenology, or even “spectral evidence” that convicted Giles Corey back in colonial america. One does often hear in the media about the the ability to gain information by “spiritual” means, yet I wonder about the history of such evidence in courts of law.

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Posted: 20 April 2010 07:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Doug,
Great question, the book really gets into this and I’ll ask it on the air.

Hope we get some more.

chris

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Posted: 20 April 2010 12:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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That sounds like a great topic, Chris.

By the way—if you didn’t know, Massimo Pigliucci’s got a new book coming out soon about the difference between science and pseudoscience. Could be a good interview.

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Posted: 20 April 2010 11:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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The DNA evidence against OJ Simpson seemed pretty compelling to me. He appeared to benefit from the ignorance of the jury. I partially blame the prosecuters for not explaining the ramifications of the the evidence, and taking the time to educate the jury. I am also concerned about the unrealistic expectations of juries today, after watching CSI, believing that no case is complete without a full DNA investigation, such as they see on the boob tube.

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Church; where sheep congregate to worship a zombie on a stick that turns into a cracker on Sundays…

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Posted: 20 April 2010 11:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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My question is, why to the vast majority of people accept the evidence for DNA in the courtroom and yet reject it areas where it conflicts with their personal believes (i.e genetics is perhaps the most powerful proof of evolution). Cognitive dissonance, or is it they can readily see the practical application in the judicial system?

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Posted: 21 April 2010 03:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Sounds like a really good book—like “Gotham City” with scientists instead of Batman…

1. The reader is really expecting that Charles Norris is ficitonal and that this is a patsiche of many different cases told with a single ‘hero’ to
make the story clearer. I had to look in NYTimes archives… there seem to be lots of articles about him.
Was Blum suprised that one real guy had all these amazing cases?

2. How did Deb Blum investigate these stories—did she dig through NY Times archives, piecing stuff together, or was there some other way.

3. Were there any interesting cases she found that didn’t fit with the book’s storyline (after Charles Norris or in Chicago or something)


This got a really neat review in NY Times

[here]
The review opens mentioning this murderer “Frederic Mors”—a poisoner who “gets off virtually scot-free after confessing to multiple killings by poison”—-
The Times archives suggest there is more to the story, with some followup like [ Mors escapes from Asylum] etc.

[ Edited: 21 April 2010 04:26 AM by Jackson ]
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Posted: 23 April 2010 07:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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OK, now that the podcast has been recorded and the “official” podcast thread is up, please go HERE to post comments.

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