I totally just touched my book

August 29th, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in onanism | 48 Comments »

imageOkay, this is all a bit indulgent, but it was a total mission, so I will now cheerfully declare, to my childishly ecstatic delight, that in a rather exciting moment a few minutes ago my book totally arrived in my hand. I quite like it. Since there are those who doubted whether I would ever finish the beast, and you’re all plainly bastards, here is a clumsy picture of me holding it before I dash out to the Nature Scienceblogger Conference drinks. It’s out on Monday.

As you can see from the picture, on the front cover Charlie Brooker says “the most important book you’ll read this year, and quite possibly the funniest too”, and Sir Iain Chalmers, a founder of the Cochrane Collaboration, co-author of the best lay text on evidence, and in many respects something of a hero of mine, says: “Bad Science introduces the basic scientific principles to help everyone become a more effective bullshit detector”. Basically a knight says bullshit on the front of my book, and so I can die a happy man.

(The full and more precise quote from Chalmers was: “Ben Goldacre has succeeded where the ‘public engagement in science’ organisations have so signally failed. Bad Science introduces the basic scientific principles – reducing the effects of biases and the play of chance – to help everyone to become a more effective bullshit detector”.)

This is a book which I hope will be given in frustration as much as in love, to flaky relatives and friends, and what’s more I look forward to changing my mind about bits of it, and updating the next edition in the light of comments from readers.

For an alternative view on the whole project you may prefer this review on the amazon.com site from Roger Coghill, star of Bad Science and all round self-satirising comedy genius. It is funnier if you’ve read the book. Excitingly Coghill has a new product on the market, and already seems to be quietly sidestepping my questions over email.

To the pub, and hurrah!


If you like what I do, and you want me to do more, you can: buy my books Bad Science and Bad Pharma, give them to your friends, put them on your reading list, employ me to do a talk, or tweet this article to your friends. Thanks! ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

48 Responses

  1. Mikee23 said,

    August 29, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    Nice one Ben! But who is the 12 year old lad in the picture?

  2. Sili said,

    August 29, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    I totally just touched my book

    Tsk tsk tsk, young man. Does your mother know you do such things? You can go blind, you know? And your breath will turn bad and your palms hairy.

    Shame on HarperCollins, though. Or might Coghill be a clever Poe?

  3. rogerhyam said,

    August 29, 2008 at 9:40 pm

    Congratulations Roger Coghill. Brilliant review. It quite made my Friday night. If Ben’s book is half as entertaining it will be worth the money.

  4. tomtubbs said,

    August 29, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    Just searched Roger Coghill’s name on Amazon. I see now why he might see you as a threat!

    Here’s to the voting on voting scheme Amazon has…

  5. ChrisR said,

    August 29, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    So you are now in the same media stable as those bastions of sober reporting namely The Sun and Fox News. (The book is published by Fourth Estate, which is owned by Harper Collins, which is part of News Corp, which is at the heart of the Rupert Murdoch empire).

    Good to see you embracing capitalism, red in tooth and claw. Next, sponsorship from big pharma!

  6. PO8 said,

    August 29, 2008 at 11:05 pm

    Sounds like a great book!

    I understand the desire to name the book after your column. However, among the multitude of books and other things that already have the title “Bad Science” is one of my favorite books on the subject, Gary Taubes’ “Bad Science: The Short Life and Weird Times of Cold Fusion”. I hope the duplicate title won’t cause confusion.

  7. jackpt said,

    August 30, 2008 at 12:45 am

    Excellent – will buy ASAP. In the photo you look like a someone sheepishly owning-up to shoplifting a book.

  8. thaumaturge said,

    August 30, 2008 at 1:20 am

    Looks like he couldn’t stand up to his words. The review’s been deleted.

    Any idea when it will be available in Canada, or will I have to import it?

  9. mjs said,

    August 30, 2008 at 2:19 am

    Edit above to say “Amazon.co.uk”

    The American amazon.com still accepts reviews. (Hear that, Roger?)

    Oh, and hey — congrats on your book, Ben!

  10. JC said,

    August 30, 2008 at 5:18 am

    Is there anything in the book that you haven’t written on this site? Can I have a free copy?

    I threw in the second question on the off chance…

  11. nigel edwards said,

    August 30, 2008 at 8:33 am

    Amazon appear to have taken Coghill’s comment down, presumably on the not unreasonable grounds that you can’t review a book if you haven’t read it.

    Oddly Amazon.com thinks that if you are interested in the book you will also want to see:

    The Chav Party Game
    www.chavmaster.com Get the ultimate Chav Party pack It takes a real loser to win!

    Is it just me or have they misunderstood their audience?

  12. geehigh said,

    August 30, 2008 at 9:36 am

    Coghill’s petty rot has indeed been removed from Amazon.com. An attack of conscience, or a victim of a complaint. The worls holds it’s breath…

    I’ve had this book on pre-order for ages, and I look forward to reading it. Congrats Ben.

  13. Toenex said,

    August 30, 2008 at 9:36 am

    If you think that’s a biased review, you should see what Roger Coqhill said about the Bosch PSR18V Cordless Drill. The man is such a harsh critic, I mean it comes with a 2nd battery for God sake!

  14. Michael Power said,

    August 30, 2008 at 9:46 am

    Congratulations Ben.

    I know that you are a very busy man, particularly this weekend. But, you should make time to complain to Amazon about their removing Roger Coghill’s comments. They are the outrageous rantings of a failed magnet and light healer. But, Amazon by stifling free speech, is threatening the side of rationality.

    You might want to take up Roger Coghill’s challenge to expose some unethical and anti-science workings of Big Pharma. In yesterday’s BMJ (www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/337/aug29_2/a1487) there is a report about NICE introducing a cost sharing scheme for ranibizumab (Lucentis, marketed by Novartis) used to treat the wet form of age-related macular degeneration. The report ends by saying that “Another drug, bevacizumab (Avastin), which also works against vascular endothelial growth factor, and which is licensed to treat bowel cancer, has been used off label to treat AMD, but NICE was unable to make recommendations on its use in AMD because its manufacturer has not sought a license for this indication.”

    The BMJ report does not speculate why Genentech (manufacturer of Avastin) has not sought a licence. Googling “genentech novartis” reveals that Genentech and Novartis have some interesting business relationships, see, for example www.ahrp.org/infomail/05/04/05.php

  15. Michael Power said,

    August 30, 2008 at 9:54 am

    I Just discovered that the Avastin website offers you a $15 voucher at Amazon.com if you complete their questionnaire. (You have to accept the offer quickly, otherwise it disappears for ever!)

    It would be great if Genentech could subsidise the purchase of a few copies of Bad Science!

    Go to www.avastin.com/avastin/index.jsp?sourceid=navclient&hl=en-GB&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4GGIH_en-GBGB270GB270&q=avastin

  16. Epoch Santiago said,

    August 30, 2008 at 10:28 am

    Excellent, I will definitely be buying the book and also keeping an eye out on Amazon for hilariously one-eyed reviews.

    It also appears that Roger’s book is lacking in reviews here: www.amazon.co.uk/Healing-Energies-Magnets-Roger-Coghill/dp/1856752240/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1220088362&sr=8-3

    Though hopefully that is because no-one has taken time out to read it…

  17. woodchopper said,

    August 30, 2008 at 11:51 am

    Congratulations. I ordered it about a year ago and am looking forward to reading it.

  18. doctormonkey said,

    August 30, 2008 at 1:31 pm


    Also congratulations on the nice little bit on the Breakfast sofa on Friday morning – it is refreshing to see someone challenging the “conventional” on its’ evidence base as well as the “unconventional” (plus I like annoying GPs)

    I will work out how to quickly get my hands on the book without all of my family buying it for me too… well maybe we should just get several copies each?

  19. Mojo said,

    August 30, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    It’s just a pity that Coghill’s testimonial turned up too late to be used for the back cover blurb.

  20. Michael Power said,

    August 30, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    It is not too late for the paperback!

  21. seventhrib said,

    August 30, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    I’d forgotten who Coghill was and mistakenly had identified him as one of the science bloggers, and was totally convinced that his review was a very well written parody, right down to the ‘pity amazon doesn’t have a negative star system’ punchline at the end. I even thought commenters deriding him were fools missing the joke. my bad.

  22. Dead Badger said,

    August 30, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    Congratulations; I’m currently sustaining myself in the later stages of a PhD by going on binding services’ websites and envisaging how beautiful my thesis will look (the cover, in my case, belying the horrific tripe contained within), so I can guess how satisfying that must’ve been.

    I can empathise with the expression in the photo, too. 🙂

  23. Robert Carnegie said,

    August 31, 2008 at 2:04 am

    …Coghill’s never got a patent on a magnetic petrol-improver product, has he? They’ve been on the market since steam cars went out. No innovation there. Expect to see them in Poundland made in China. Already Poundland sells car accessories that baffle me, one more won’t hurt.

    Here’s a thought though, “fridge magnets” for cars. Leave yourself a note by the door lock, “You’ve left your handbag / briefcase on the sunroof.” Extra strong to stay on at high speed. Now all that I need to do is patent – whoops 🙂

  24. Mojo said,

    August 31, 2008 at 10:54 am

    I notice that the story only says that it “is being patented”, not that it has a patent. How long does an application usually take? I see from this post at JREF that Cogill has been advertising it since at least 2004. Doesn’t prior publication make things a bit tricky ar far as patents are concerned?

  25. Mojo said,

    August 31, 2008 at 10:55 am

    Sorry – link didn’t work. The post in question can be found here:


  26. Junkmonkey said,

    August 31, 2008 at 11:28 am

    Whoo-hoo! That’s Christmas sorted for a couple of people I know.

  27. projektleiterin said,

    August 31, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    Bribe me and I will buy your book. 😀

  28. Arthur Embleton said,

    August 31, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    I’ve just bought myself a copy of the book from Waterstones online for £6.49 and getting free delivery because I’m picking it up from a Waterstones store. I think that is the best deal out there for this book.

    Looking forward to getting it; and will probably be buying more copies for Christmas presents!

  29. mdimmick said,

    September 1, 2008 at 9:28 am

    If you are trying to save fuel, read www.fuelsaving.info/ For example, here’s his page on magnets: www.fuelsaving.info/magnets.htm.

    Congratulations on the book, I may decide to pick it up.

  30. Jo the Hat said,

    September 1, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    Ben – any chance of the book in audio format too?

  31. Ben Goldacre said,

    September 1, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    interesting question, how does that kind of thing work? i’d imagine publishers only do it for blockbuster type sellers, which i can’t believe i’m likely to be. happy to do whatever it takes to get it to whoever, i wonder if maybe someone like RNIB would know more about how to shift the balances and make things like that happen?

  32. Mojo said,

    September 1, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    “i’d imagine publishers only do it for blockbuster type sellers, which i can’t believe i’m likely to be.”

    Well, the amazon.co.uk page for the book currently says:

    “Amazon.co.uk Sales Rank: 11 in Books”

    Just above The Secret. 😉

  33. Mungus said,

    September 1, 2008 at 9:42 pm

    Amazon may say sale rank 11, but they also say that the book is only available for pre-order. I want mine!

  34. csrster said,

    September 2, 2008 at 9:29 am

    My front-page on amazon.co.uk now says

    “Customers With Similar Searches Purchased
    The Healing Energies of Magnets Paperback by Roger Coghill”

  35. ashley said,

    September 2, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    Is there no hardback?

    This makes me very sad.

  36. WoollyMindedLiberal said,

    September 2, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    Mr Coghill (PhD not even failed), what was your “normal” or “average” distance to a mast and how did you calculate it?

    Sorry, sorry, force of habit. Will buy the book obviously but seriously Ben what were you thinking when you strolled up to the Grauniad blog and told them that Science News and reporting was wrong? I like the style, I like the courage, but that went down like a cobra in a lucky dip!

    Maybe you could use Coghill’s review for the second edition?

  37. WoollyMindedLiberal said,

    September 2, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    That isn’t Ben Goldacre in the photo – that’s a character from Lab Rats!

  38. Jammydodger said,

    September 3, 2008 at 12:52 am

    Checked my order status (on Play.com), and it won’t be despatched until 10th September! I pre-ordered back in March!


    To be fair they have dropped the price… Selling yourself short there again Ben?

    And I so wanted to read it all first before I ordered a copy to my lovely sister for her Birthday… after she raved to me at length about the benefits of the Vacunaut weight loss system she was using (for money that could have bought her a nice holiday!)

    When I laughed at her, she dismissed my scepticicsm, with the really sciencey stuff they put on their website…

    Now as a scientist with a little limited knowledge of metabolism, fat storage etc. I would be hard placed to disprove conclusively the claims made (and the effects paid for) by this system in an instant. Who knows – it might actually work (I seriously doubt it!). But as an objective Scientist, I can say that nothing they have shown has demonstrated that the system works with any statistical degree of significance.
    Lots of syllogistic leaps (My dog has legs, a cat has 4 legs, so my dog is a cat etc.)

    Are the proponents of the system (a) well intentioned misguided zealots (b) crooks and sophists or (c) …er actually right i.e. pioneers!
    Well.. I don’t know & don’t care.
    But I do know they will charge alot of money for it without
    sufficient proof of beneficial outcome. And relatively Intelligent people are taken in.

    Scarily… My sister is a Secondary school teacher… charged with shaping the minds of successive generations.

    Why can’t we have “healthy scepticism” as a curriculum subject…?

    Now that would be cool… teaching sarcasm to 14 year olds??? Money for old rope… man …I have found my new vocation!

    Anyhow – Could someone tell me while I’m waiting.. in the interests of health and safety… how much does the book actually weigh, and are there any sharp edges?

    (I was wondering about the projectile behaviour .. I may need to conduct a risk assessment at some point, since I suspect that sooner or later the urge to smack someone in the forehead with a copy may well become overwhelming!)

  39. Wonk411 said,

    September 3, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    From the US, go to Amazon UK and place your order. It has shipped:

    Greetings from Amazon.co.uk,

    We thought you would like to know that the following item has been sent

    San Francisco, CA

    using Royal Mail.

    For more information about delivery estimates and any open orders, please

    Your order #026-2969807-[XXXXXXX] (received August 25,2008)
    Ordered Title Price Dispatched Subtotal
    Amazon.co.uk items (Sold by Amazon EU S.a.r.L.):

    1 Bad Science £6.49 1 £6.49

    Shipped via Royal Mail

    Subtotal: £6.49
    Delivery Charge: £6.98
    EB Pre-order Guarantee £0.00

    Total: £13.47

    Our Pre-order Price Guarantee covers one or more item(s) in this order.
    If the Amazon.co.uk price decreases between the time you place your order
    and the release date, you will pay the lowest price. Terms and conditions

    This completes your order.

  40. plastictastic said,

    September 4, 2008 at 10:50 am

    Order from Amazon.co.uk thumped onto my desk this morning – marvellous.

  41. westendwookie said,

    September 5, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    I’m totally expecting my copy to be at home when I get back from work. Looking forward to reading it especially as I’ll be seeing my credulous in-laws tomorrow.

  42. Getonyerbike said,

    September 10, 2008 at 9:01 am



    I’m sending my FOUR copies back and i’m going to wait for the second edition.

  43. Ben Goldacre said,

    September 10, 2008 at 10:19 am

    yeah i was annoyd about that, communication breakdown. they told me i would pay for the index to be made, 300 quid, i raised my eyebrows in “arent you all skanky” surprise, but didnt say, like, “no” (although i might have said “you skanky fuckers”). then it was all a bit rushed getting it to the printers on time what with things like BULLYING MORONS trying to sue me for daring to question their ideas (they may regret this, as you and they may come to see in the next few days i think) and i only noticed they’d not done one at the last minute, they said they thought i didnt want one, that it didnt need one, and it was too late. so soz about that. i did want one. annoying. maybe i should make a “print out ‘n’ keep” one now on the web?

  44. Robert Carnegie said,

    September 11, 2008 at 12:55 am

    “A gross oversight in this day and age” – Amazon review by Z. Carey. Meaning the index. “2 of 2 people found this review helpful” – so far.

    Ah well – when does Google Books get it?

  45. Jane Smith said,

    September 11, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    I’ve just stuck a review up on Amazon, but mine doesn’t begin to approach the poetry of Mr Coqhill’s who is to be commended for his fabulous piece of what ever it was.

    Ben, audiobooks aren’t restricted to big blockbuster novels: just to books that might have a market in that area. Get your agent onto the job.

  46. Getonyerbike said,

    September 12, 2008 at 9:57 pm

    you’re forgiven (about the index) Same thing happened to my wife’s book. I think its a first book thing.

  47. Nicola Slade said,

    September 15, 2008 at 8:07 pm

    You really don’t need to have a blockbuster, Ben, to get an audiobook deal. My first novel, Scuba Dancing (pub.Transita) was a romantic comedy and went into both audio and large print. Have just heard that my latest book, Murder Most Welcome, a Victorian mystery, is to go into audio and large print too. Both published by small independent publishers and as for blockbusters… I wish!

  48. Lemonade Lily said,

    September 25, 2008 at 9:58 am

    I just totally touched up your book. Almost had an orgasm when I found it on the door mat on return from my hols. Sod unpacking – I put my feet up and devoured it voraciously – loved it, laughed out loud, read bits out to my increasingly annoyed husband and generally had fun! Intellectual ambrosia. Yum indeed! God I feel enthused and my BS detector is now set at DefCon2. I am now looking forward to a new semester at wooniversity for all the wrong reasons! As (ehmmmm) an annoying scientist doing a second BSc in a CAM subject (sympathy please – it is bloody hard to stay sane) I am going to recommend my university (sic) library import a box of your book.
    And that it is added to the essential reading list of all core modules…well I can dream! Thank you Ben!