Dr. Offit’s latest book will be released by National Geographic Press on April 4, 2017. Pandora’s Lab: Seven Stories of Science Gone Wrong discusses how scientific discoveries can be misused or mishandled to cause damage — sometimes with deadly consequences. Dr. Offit details seven examples:
- Opium — from discovery of the opium poppy to the current opioid epidemic.
- Trans fats — cholesterol, margarine and heart disease.
- Nitrogen fixing — from feeding the world’s population to creating chemical warfare.
- Genetics — Mendel’s pea plant experiments, creation of a master human race, and how these ideas still show up today.
- Neuroscience — physical alterations to the brain, such as lobotomy, and the notion that this would be a “quick fix” for anxieties and neuroses.
- Pesticides — from Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and the movement against pesticides to the impact on malaria control.
- Vitamins — how the support of a Nobel Prize recipient legitimized the birth of an industry based on unsubstantiated science.
Summarized at the end of each chapter and discussed in more detail in the book’s final chapter, “Learning from the Past,” Dr. Offit shares lessons from these stories. In addition, as he discusses each lesson, he applies it to modern day topics, including e-cigarettes, genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), and bis-phenyl A (BPA), among others.