Extended Audio Sample

Download The Half-life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample The Half-life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date Audiobook, by Samuel Arbesman Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (155 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Samuel Arbesman Narrator: Sean Pratt, Lloyd James Publisher: Gildan Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: September 2012 ISBN: 9781469085494
Regular Price: $29.98 Add to Cart
— or —
FlexPass™ Price: $14.95$5.95$5.95 for new members!
Add to Cart learn more )

New insights from the science of science

Facts change all the time. Smoking has gone from doctor recommended to deadly. We used to think the Earth was the center of the universe and that Pluto was a planet. For decades, we were convinced that the brontosaurus was a real dinosaur. In short, what we know about the world is constantly changing.

But it turns out there's an order to the state of knowledge, an explanation for how we know what we know. Samuel Arbesman is an expert in the field of scientometrics-literally the science of science. Knowledge in most fields evolves systematically and predictably, and this evolution unfolds in a fascinating way that can have a powerful impact on our lives.

Doctors with a rough idea of when their knowledge is likely to expire can be better equipped to keep up with the latest research. Companies and governments that understand how long new discoveries take to develop can improve decisions about allocating resources. And by tracing how and when language changes, each of us can better bridge generational gaps in slang and dialect.

Just as we know that a chunk of uranium can break down in a measurable amount of time-a radioactive half-life-so too any given field's change in knowledge can be measured concretely. We can know when facts in aggregate are obsolete, the rate at which new facts are created, and even how facts spread.

Arbesman takes us through a wide variety of fields, including those that change quickly, over the course of a few years, or over the span of centuries. He shows that much of what we know consists of "mesofacts"-facts that change at a middle timescale, often over a single human lifetime. Throughout, he offers intriguing examples about the face of knowledge: what English majors can learn from a statistical analysis of The Canterbury Tales, why it's so hard to measure a mountain, and why so many parents still tell kids to eat their spinach because it's rich in iron.

The Half-life of Facts is a riveting journey into the counterintuitive fabric of knowledge. It can help us find new ways to measure the world while accepting the limits of how much we can know with certainty.

Download and start listening now!

amu6

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Alexandria Steele | 2/14/2014

    " This book was really interesting, but I feel like he jumped around. Some of his supporting arguments felt very underdeveloped. Still, it kept my attention. Lots of good facts. I'm not sure what I took away from it that I can apply to my life, other that than math is really cool. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Robert | 2/12/2014

    " There are a few interesting observations in here, but you have to work to find them. I skimmed the last couple of chapters. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michelle | 2/9/2014

    " This was pretty interesting; more theoretical than I had counted on, but the examples and stories in there WERE very good. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Brock Ray | 1/31/2014

    " I kept hoping for more meaning to the book. It just didn't have the impact it should have. In addition the book should have been titled, "The Half-Life of Human Knowledge". It played a little too loose with the word "fact" for my taste. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kevin Nuut | 1/25/2014

    " It gets repetitive but wraps with a good message. In the spirit of the book, I will soon forget it's advice. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Su | 1/24/2014

    " This writer wants so badly to be Malcolm Gladwell, to build an edifice of anecdata to support a compelling, counter-intuitive thesis. Alas, the book doesn't seem to have a thesis, compelling or otherwise, and the various ways Arbesman approaches thinking about facts and human knowledge not only fail to hang together, but contradict each other. There are a few interesting anecdotes, but as I read I found myself less and less engaged as the anecdotes failed to cohere into anything larger than themselves. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 B. | 1/18/2014

    " A fun account of misinformation and changes in knowledge. There isn't all that much of a unifying narrative though. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Patricia | 1/13/2014

    " Very interesting. Interesting information mixed with interesting stories "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Larry Rogers | 12/17/2013

    " It was interesting but tedious at the same time, and it reinforces what happens when smart people who aren't empirically oriented (but are abstract thinkers) attempt to describe the world's patterns. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Matt | 12/15/2013

    " Interesting, but not all that substantive. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Chloe | 12/13/2013

    " Repetitive, obvious, long-winded, and writing was dull. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Naveen | 12/9/2013

    " Unusually well researched and referenced "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Morgan | 11/27/2013

    " Not bad. Interesting subject, but a lot of generalities on the math. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Wesley Goi | 10/25/2013

    " amazing amazing amazing, cant stop reading it... "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Fred | 8/22/2013

    " Sorry, I simply can't tell if this book is numerology or not. I gave an extra star because the title was thought-provoking. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Frank | 5/5/2013

    " An essay stretched into a book. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Mary | 4/16/2013

    " should have been an article. . . "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Aj Calhoun | 2/13/2013

    " A brief and fascinating study on how what we know and learn isn't always true. Its a short read and covers everything from dinosaurs to dentistry. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mark Shainblum | 1/4/2013

    " Absolutely brilliant. I'll say more soon, but if you're interested in science and knowledge, do yourself a favour and read this book. "

Write a Review
What is FlexPass?
  • Your first audiobook is just $5.95
  • Over 90% are at or below $12.95
  • "LOVE IT" guarantee
  • No time limits or expirations
About the Author

Samuel Arbesman is an applied mathematician and network scientist. He is a senior scholar at the Kauffman Foundation and a research fellow at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Atlantic, Wired, New Scientist, and the Boston Globe.

About the Narrators

Sean Pratt, a working actor for over twenty-five years, has performed at numerous regional theaters around the country. He is the author of To Be or Wanna Be, and he has recorded over seven hundred books in just about every genre, earning eight AudioFile Earphones Awards and four Audie Award nominations.

Lloyd James (a.k.a. Sean Pratt) has been narrating since 1996 and has recorded over six hundred audiobooks. He is a seven-time winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award and has twice been a finalist for the prestigious Audie Award. His critically acclaimed performances include Elvis in the Morning by William F. Buckley Jr. and Searching for Bobby Fischer by Fred Waitzkin, among others.