1. Patients launch $1.27 million crowdfunding campaign for ME/CFS gut microbiome study.
    Check out the website, Facebook and Twitter. Join in donate and spread the word!
Give ME the Money
Graham McPhee spells out some of the cold, hard facts about the dismal state of ME research and politics, and has some suggestions as to what we can do about it ...
Discuss the article on the Forums.

Learning from Previous Scientific Controversies

Discussion in 'XMRV Research and Replication Studies' started by joshualevy, Jun 3, 2011.

  1. joshualevy

    joshualevy

    Messages:
    48
    Likes:
    24
    I think that that if we want to understand the XMRV saga (and it is really becoming a saga) then it makes sense to read about scientific controversies of the past. After all, scientific disagreements happen all the time. I would particularly recommend this book:

    Bad Science by Gary Taubes (which is about the Cold Fusion fiasco in Physics in 1989)

    And this lecture:

    Pathological Science by Louis Langmuir (which is about even older scientific controversies)
    http://www.cs.princeton.edu/~ken/Langmuir/langmuir.htm
    http://www.colorado.edu/physics/phys3000/phys3000_fa10/langmuir.pdf
    (Although of the 6 "symptoms of pathological science" he talks about, the first 2 apply mostly to physics, and much less to virology.)

    Taubes won a Pulitzer prize for his work, and Langmuir won a Nobel prize (for other work).

    Don't be put off by the fact that this book is about science which turned out not to be true. It is well worth reading to understand any scientific controversy, including XMRV. Remember, we all went to school, and in school they taught us about good science; science that worked. Usually important science. But that is only half the story, and no matter if XMRV pans out or not it makes sense to know about both sides: successful and unsuccessful science. One of the good things about reading about a scientific fiasco in physics is that it is less emotional, compared with something that effects you directly.

    Joshua (not Jay!) Levy
     
  2. Esther12

    Esther12 Senior Member

    Messages:
    5,372
    Likes:
    5,852
    I was thinking of e-mailing Taubes about CFS (non-XMRV) stuff recently. It sounded like some of his scientific dis-likes tied in rather well with a lot of the poor psychological work that circulates around CFS. He's just promoting a new book though, so I expect he's rather busy with that, rather than looking for a new subject.
     
  3. floydguy

    floydguy Senior Member

    Messages:
    650
    Likes:
    238
    I think you need to go back and consider the "bad science" revolving around cold fusion. There is more evidence for cold fusion than hot fusion which has received millions of dollars in federal funding.

    Here is an expose about how MIT fraudulently messed with data to slam Pons and Fleishmann apparently to protect their hot fusion program.

    Google E-catalyzer and Rossi. Cold fusion - or LENR - has continued to progress. The lesson may be that scientists can be more conservative than Actuaries and probably should be in a different field if they have propensity to be so conservative that they can't pursue what they don't understand or can't be explained by existing paradigms.


    http://www.scribd.com/doc/3436415/MIT-and-Cold-Fusion-a-Special-Report
     
  4. Angela Kennedy

    Angela Kennedy *****

    Messages:
    1,026
    Likes:
    154
    Essex, UK
    Well - currently, being compared to 'cold fusion' proponents is a frequent ad hominem attack on the ME/CFS community. I've seen it used on Wikipedia and Bad Science for one.

    So- I'm interested in how you think the Taubes book would be helpful to ME sufferers and supporters Joshua. Do you think ME/CFS sufferers and their supporters are akin to cold fusion proponents? Or are you trying to get across a different point? Have you noticed that many people (possibly most) in this community are actully expressing concern to see good science done and have identified problematic 'science' in the claims the XMRV is unrelated to ME/CFS, rather than behaving like 'true believers' in XMRV, even though they are being misrepresented by others on the various blogs, forums etc.

    Esther, sadly, I've noticed people claiming a nose for spotting 'bad science' have a massive blind spot when it comes to the absurdities of psychogenic explanations for illnesses - Ben Goldacre being a case in point with his 'true believer' attitude towards notions of 'placebo effect' (and more lately 'nocebo' effect, the domain of voodoo and curses and colonial anecdotes). Reading his book 'Bad Science' for me, quite a long time ago when I was a little bit more innocent than I am now (!) was like reading a plot twist in a novel when you find out the hero protagonist is actually the villain (lol!). The way he suspends all his critical faculties and arguments and skeptic style to promote the 'placebo effect' in what he's claiming as a critically analytical book about problems in science comes as a shock!

    I'm not saying you shouldn't approach Taubes (I don't yet know much about him)- but I worry he may also have that blind spot when it comes to the excesses of claims in psychiatry, psychotherapy etc. pertaining to illnesses such as ME/CFS. I've approached various people in the past just to find the above problem.

    It might be worth a try though. I'm just outlining some problems I've found myself in previous encounters: forewarned is fore-armed and all that ;)
     
  5. Esther12

    Esther12 Senior Member

    Messages:
    5,372
    Likes:
    5,852
    Well... I don't think all psychogenic explanations for illness are absurd, but I know what you mean about some 'scepticism' really just being about a deference to a certain kind of authority. From what little I know of Taubes, it sounds like he is quite keen to take on respected scientific positions if he think the supporting evidence is poor... and he seems to think that it often is. It seems like quite a few of those involved in 'hard science' are rather dubious about the way softer statistical tinkering rides the coat-tails of 'Science'.

    Here's a recent interview with Taubes (I'm not sure if I'd really encourage you to spend your time watching it on such a lovely day, but if you're interested it might be worth a look): http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/35831

    ? I'm confused by this.
     
  6. floydguy

    floydguy Senior Member

    Messages:
    650
    Likes:
    238
    Only making the point that it appears that MIT was trying to protect their hot fusion program, which they were receiving millions of dollars in federal funds, by messing with the cold fusion data. At least in retrospect, it would seem that cold fusion has been far more promising.

    Citing cold fusion doesn't seem to make a lot sense as research has continued and there appears to be some evidence of a low energy nuclear reaction occurring.

    The more interesting analogy are those that were scoffed by the mainstream media and "scientists" of the day.

    Here's one about Robert Goddard - father of American Rocketry. This is a New York Times article about his concept of sending a rocket into space:

    "That Professor Goddard with his "chair" in Clark College and the countenancing of the Smithsonian Institution, does not know the relation of action and reaction, and of the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to reactto say that would be absurd. Of course he only seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools". NY Times Editorial

    Whoops I guess thrust is possible in space after all. Forty-nine years later the Times retracted their statement and apologized.
     
  7. Esther12

    Esther12 Senior Member

    Messages:
    5,372
    Likes:
    5,852
    Ahh... so you mean as a commercialised energy source? I've just been enjoying a bit of hot fusion today, so thought I must have misunderstood something. Isn't currently used fusion power 'hot fusion' though? Ah well... it's not something I know much about.
     
  8. Angela Kennedy

    Angela Kennedy *****

    Messages:
    1,026
    Likes:
    154
    Essex, UK
    I don't mean every psychgenic explanation for every somatic disturbance is absurd: only that there are many, fundamental absurdities within psychogenic explanations for illnesses. I do think all psychogenic explanations have the capacity to be unsafe because of the logical fallacies that dog them, and therefore should only ever be made with extreme caution, after very careful analysis of the problems in psychogenic explanations, and must be ready to be removed without prejudice as soon as that explanation shows a sign of being unsafe. They should NEVER be made on the basis of 'we don't really know what's happening'- i.e a default explanation for a lack in medical knowledge. Currently, that seems to be the main circumstance in which psychogenic explanations are made.

    thanks for this Esther. I'll have a look when the sun goes down : )
     
  9. toddm1960

    toddm1960 Senior Member

    Messages:
    155
    Likes:
    3
    Rochester, New York
    "good science" would dictate two sides are allowed to publish their work, both sides airing differing ideas. That's not what is happening, one side is allowed to go public, the other is silenced and branded as wrong. How is this "good science"?
     
  10. Angela Kennedy

    Angela Kennedy *****

    Messages:
    1,026
    Likes:
    154
    Essex, UK
    Exactly. It's not.
     
  11. richvank

    richvank Senior Member

    Messages:
    2,717
    Likes:
    758
    Hi, floydguy and the group.

    It happens that in my previous career, I was closely involved with the so-called "cold fusion" episode. I can testify that many of us who were involved in fusion research at that time were actually quite excited by the report of Pons and Fleischman, and were very hopeful that their results would turn out to be valid. I, together with a group of my colleagues from various groups at Lawrence Livermore National Lab, hastily assembled a rod of palladium, some heavy water, and the appropriate electrochemical and radiation detection instruments, and set about to reproduce their experiment as it had been reported on TV, but not reported in a scientific journal or a scientific meeting so that there had been no peer review. People brought sleeping bags into the lab to be able to monitor the experiment around the clock, and as I recall, it was the Easter weekend! I remember sitting with a group including the late Prof. Edward Teller (who had been called, to his chagrin. the "father of the hydrogen bomb," which operates by nuclear fusion), reviewing a recording of the TV program frame by frame. We also stayed on top of what was being done at the other national labs as well as university nuclear engineering departments. We set up sort of an informal "brain trust" composed of nuclear chemists, electrochemists, chemical engineers, nuclear engineers, physicists, and others, and we reviewed all the information coming in. I personally phoned people at several universities who were reporting positive results in the media daily to get information on the details of what they had done and to ask them questions that were formulated by our group.

    Not only did we not see any positive results in our hastily prepared experiment, we also one by one found that each of the institutions that were reporting positive results had made one mistake or another in their work, and one by one they retracted their earlier reports. I well recall having to meet one-on-one with Prof. Teller and explain to him the misinterpretations of "cold fusion" experiments made by others, and I can tell you that he was disappointed.

    I was also involved in a hastily convened meeting at U.S. Dept. of Energy headquarters in Wash., D.C. to which representatives of all the national labs were summoned on short notice one afternoon. From California, we had to hop a redeye flight to make it to the meeting on time, which was to take place at 0800 the next day. The only national lab not represented was Idaho, because they could not get a flight at such short notice. At the meeting, I think it was reported there were one or two people at Los Alamos who were still holding out hope that it would work. but all the rest had negative results. I will never forget the report from the representative of the Brookhaven lab. He said something like most of their staff thought it was extremely unlikely, and the rest were less optimistic!

    It took a while before essentially everyone came to terms with the failure of "cold fusion," and there may still be some who have hope, but I don't know of any serious scientists who still do.

    What I think we reconfirmed from this experience is that it is very important when doing experimental research in a technical field to get enough experience with the types of equipment and techniques that you are using so that you can recognize when they are malfunctioning and when the results you are seeing are real. Pons and Fleischman had no prior experience with measurement of nuclear radiation or isotopes. When we examined their work in detail, we found that they had made mistakes with nearly every type of measurement they made. Unfortunately, the same was true of many of the university departments that hastily tried to reproduce their results. So experience really counts, and those of us at the national labs were able to pull together groups of people who had extensive experience in the various specialties involved, who could help us to avoid the mistakes others were making.

    The other thing I think we reconfirmed is that it is important not to be too quick to ignore well-founded theory when you hear of a new experimental result that is counter to it.
    The fundamental thing we all should have reminded ourselves about is that the scale of energies involved in electrochemistry is in the range of electron volts, while the scale of energies involved in inducing nuclear reactions is millions of electron volts, or at a minimum 10s to 100s of kiloelectron volts. It is simply not possible in an electrochemical experiment to achieve the energy levels necessary to cause positively charged ions to come close enough together to undergo a nuclear fusion reaction. Those of us who had some nuclear physics background knew that, but I can tell you that in the enthusiasm of the moment, many forgot it. And of course, many of those who had been trained in electrochemistry, but not much in nuclear physics, were simply not aware of this. And of course. the people in the media did not have a background in either, so they were really stirring the pot. When everyone calmed down and resumed thinking rationally, the "scientific revolution" involving "cold fusion" was over. It certainly was an exciting time, though.

    Best regards,

    Rich
     
  12. Esther12

    Esther12 Senior Member

    Messages:
    5,372
    Likes:
    5,852
    I get you - and quite agree. Some can think a presumption of a psychogenic pathology is the sceptical default, instead of just an acceptance of our current ignorance. People dislike uncertainty, and like to come up with comforting beliefs instead - often this ends up hurting people though.
     
  13. ukxmrv

    ukxmrv Senior Member

    Messages:
    3,524
    Likes:
    2,065
    London
    Thanks Rich, did sound exciting, thank you for sharing that with us all.
     
  14. floydguy

    floydguy Senior Member

    Messages:
    650
    Likes:
    238
    fyi....Dennis Bushnell, A Chief Scientist, NASA - What do you think Rich??

    Let me back up a little. [Stanley] Pons and [Martin] Fleischmann came out with an experiment that they labeled cold fusion about 22 years ago which had replication issues at the time. Also, all of the fusion theorists came out and said absolutely This is not fusion. And, of course, they were exactly correct, this is not fusion.

    Theyve gone through 20 years of massive experimentation worldwide, in almost every country, where theyve been able to produce this effect. But all of the energy produced by these cold fusion experiments over the last 22 years didnt produce enough heat to boil water for tea. So people didnt get too interested in it and nobody knew what it was.

    Back in 2005, 2006, [Allen] Widom [and Lewis] Larsen came out with a theory that said, no its not cold fusion, its weak interactions using the Standard Model of quantum mechanics, only the weak interaction part. It says that if you set up one of the cells, and you dont have to use deuterium, hydrogen works fine, nickel works fine and you dont need palladium.

    If you set this up you produce an electron proton connection producing ultra-weak neutrons and if you have the right targets out there you produce beta-decay which produces heat.

    At that point, in 2006, 2007 we became interested and started setting up a set of experiments that were just about ready to start finally, where were trying to experimentally validate this Widom-Larsen theory to find out whether or not it explains whats going on. And in the process, we used quantum theory to optimize the particular surface morphologies to do this.

    Then, as you mentioned, in January of this year [Andrea] Rossi, backed by [Sergio] Focardi, who had been working on this for many years, and in fact doing some of the best work worldwide, came out and did a demonstration first in January, they re-did it in February, re-did it in March, where for days they had one of these cells, a small cell, producing in the 10 to 15 kW range which is far more than enough to boil water for tea. And they say this is weak interaction, its not fusion.

    So I think were almost over the We dont understanding it problem. I think were almost over the This doesnt produce anything useful problem. And so I think this will go forward fairly rapidly now. And if it does, this is capable of, by itself, completely changing geo-economics, geopolitics of solving quite a bit of [the] energy [problem.]

    http://nickelenergy.wordpress.com/2011/06/02/chief-scientist-at-nasa-langley-acknowledges-andrea-rossi-e-cat/
     
  15. richvank

    richvank Senior Member

    Messages:
    2,717
    Likes:
    758
    Hi, floydguy.

    This is really mind-blowing. After reading your post, I googled the Widom-Larsen theory, which I hadn't heard of (I retired 9 years ago from nuclear work, switched to working on CFS. and haven't followed what has been going on with fusion since then). I'm not enough of a physicist to pass judgment on every aspect of it, but it doesn't seem to violate physics in the areas I am familiar with. Probably the toughest part for me to come to terms with is the notion of absorbing fairly high energy gamma rays in distances of a couple of microns. I can see why Garwin asked them about that. It usually takes centimeters or more of heavy material to do that.

    I'll have to look into this some more. If it really is valid, it is a real game changer. And if it can be done with nickel and ordinary hydrogen, and it doesn't need thick shielding and really doesn't produce long-lived radioisotopes as waste, it's like it's almost too good to be true! I wish Edward Teller were still alive. He would love this!

    What they're talking about isn't fusion. It's a reversal of the well-known decay of a neutron into a proton and an electron, but nobody has known how do that at a useful rate before. They're able to accomplish it in this metal-hydrogen system because of the extreme conditions at the interface. The neutron is produced almost standing still, so that it is readily captured into the nucleus of one of the atoms its wavelength spans. That's really remarkable. The nucleus decays by emitting betas and gammas, as would be expected. The most amazing thing to me is that the gammas are absorbed within a couple of microns. That's amazing. It's also hard for me to believe that there wouldn't be some longer-lived radionuclides coming out of this, but it probably depends on what materials are present to absorb the neutrons.

    Thanks very much for posting this. I need to look into it some more. I spent quite a few years working on "hot fusion," or at least materials for building a hot fusion reactor. I wish this had come along a little earlier. :)-)

    Best regards,

    Rich
     
  16. Angela Kennedy

    Angela Kennedy *****

    Messages:
    1,026
    Likes:
    154
    Essex, UK
    It's interesting that people on this forum have been discussing a really interesting episode around a 'controversial' issue in science.

    But elsewhere- 'cold fusion' is akin to believing in unicorns, and the ME/CFS community as nutty as those creationists, cold fusionists and unicorn believers.

    I think it goes to show how massive campaigns of deliberate ad hominem and a certain type of irrational appeal to authority is proscibing honest science in so many public forums and knowledge domains.
     
  17. floydguy

    floydguy Senior Member

    Messages:
    650
    Likes:
    238
    Rich,

    I would be interested in any more comments that you have on this. I may bring this up to someone that I would prefer not to think of me as a "unicorn" believer.

    Physics is probably near the bottom of my knowledge but my understanding is copper (of all things) is being produced as part of the reaction.

    As Angela said, I am more interested in this from the perspective of the parallels of CFS and other things. Cold fusion got put in the category of cranks, snake charmers, etc and hardly anyone is talking about it despite there being some evidence that something might be there.

    Best,

    Andrew
     
  18. richvank

    richvank Senior Member

    Messages:
    2,717
    Likes:
    758

    Hi, Andrew, Angela and the group.

    I understand your point about these unfortunate episodes in the history of science, and I think it's an important one to keep in mind.

    I think it's in the nature of scientific research and human nature that these things are going to happen sometimes, even when everyone involved is well-meaning and trying to discover the truth. And incidentally. my experience as a working scientist over a period of 40 plus years is that generally speaking scientists are motivated to find the truth, even though they are subject to succumbing sometimes to the same failings that all humans have, including pride, fear, greed and the rest.

    I think that the reason these episodes occur in scientific research is a combination of the "groping in the dark" nature of it, combined with a developed body of theory that people are tempted to believe is complete and correct. When you are trying to find out what's true in an area that no one yet understands, you don't have much to go on, and you just have to try things and observe carefully what happens. If you find something unexpected, you have to be willing and able to track it down to see if it is real, or if you have made some kind of a mistake, and this is not always easy to find out. If you can't attribute it to a mistake, and you have tried everything you know of to find that out, then you have to have the courage to tell others what you have found, risking that they might find an error in what you've done and prove to the whole world what an idiot you really are! If that happens, you will probably find it difficult to get funding for your next research proposal! That's why scientists don't share much about their unexpected results except with close friends until they are more sure of it. It takes guts to come out publicly with something really new and unexpected. Look at the gauntlet Judy has had to run!

    From the theoretical perspective. it should always be kept in mind that all scientific truth is tentative. It's true unless and until new evidence from observation or experiment in the natural universe shows it to be false. This statement risks making the entire scientific enterprise look more "shaky" than it actually is, though. We are pretty sure of some scientific principles. Few of us are ready to challenge Newton's law of gravity (as modified by Einstein, of course) by jumping off a cliff. But there are other scientific principles that are less tested and less certain, and we need to maintain some kind of a balance between being open-minded but not "having a hole in our heads." That's not an easy thing to do, and I've made mistakes on both sides of that.

    With regard to the particular episode that came to be called "cold fusion," it looks as though one fundamental problem that led to this debacle was that it was called fusion.
    This was not possible for a valid theoretical reason; namely that fusion involves two nuclei coming together to form a heavier one, with the release of some energy in the form of energetic particles (neutrons in the case of the fusion of hydrogen isotopes).
    The fact that the two nuclei have positive charges means that they will strongly repel each other initially according to Coulomb's Law (the so-called Coulomb barrier), and it's only when they get quite close together that they will attract each other by means of what is called the "strong nuclear force." To get them close enough together to be able to experience this attraction, you have to get them moving very fast, so that they will penetrate the Coulomb barrier when they collide and be able to experience the attraction due to the strong nuclear force, so that they will stick together and not just fly apart. (A rather clumsy analogy might be your girlfriend playing "hard to get" at first, until you make greater efforts to demonstrate your sincere interest!:rolleyes:)

    Anyway, the only ways that have been found to do this are to accelerate one of them in a nuclear accelerator ("atom smasher") and slam it into the other one, or heat a gas containing both of them to a very high temperature while keeping it confined, so that they will bang against each other (plasma fusion) or laser fusion or the hydrogen bomb. Plasma fusion uses confinement by strong magnetic fields. Laser fusion and the H bomb happen fast enough that the reactants are inertially confined, i.e. they started out being close to each other, and don't have a chance to fly apart before they react by fusion.

    So when Pons and Fleischmann claimed that they had achieved nuclear fusion basically in a test tube at room temperature, there was a good theoretical reason to doubt that. How could they have overcome the Coulomb barrier? And of course, the answer is that they hadn't, and what they were doing was not nuclear fusion, cold or hot.

    There turned out to be good experimental reasons to doubt the claim of fusion, also. There were no externally observed gamma rays or neutrons, and there was considerable doubt as to whether any radionuclides were produced.

    So there was no nuclear fusion, hot or cold, in these experiments, and that's where the matter stood.

    But then there continued to be claims of excess heat being produced in experiments of the type initiated by Pons and Fleischmann, which were continued by a few "die-hards." Most scientists in the fusion field didn't take them seriously, suspecting that there was something wrong with their calorimetry (accounting for all the inputs and outputs of energy and heat). Doing accurate calorimetry in an open system is known to be very difficult.

    But then, as I now understand it, a couple of guys who understood theoretical physics took these reports seriously, and started looking for other possibilities to explain how a nuclear reaction could be going on, even though the temperature was low and no neutrons or gammas seemed to be coming out.

    They abandoned the notion of nuclear fusion and the involvement of the strong nuclear force, I would guess for the reasons I cited. That left only the weak nuclear force (there are only two nuclear forces known, at least, so far! :D). How could the weak force be involved? I don't know how they came to it, but they decided to consider reaction of a proton (which is what a hydrogen nucleus is, and hydrogen was one of the two main constituents of the chemical systems being studied, the other being palladium) and an electron (free electrons (that is, electrons that are not tightly bound to nuclei in atoms) are abundant in metals, such as palladium). It was well-known that a neutron by itself is unstable, being held together by the weak nuclear force) and will decay by splitting into a proton and an electron. They got the idea that maybe this reaction could be reversed at a useful rate under the conditions of this type of experiment. (That was a real leap of faith, and if it pays off as it sounds like it might, I think they will be a shoo-in for the Nobel prize in physics.)

    But then they went beyond this. What would happen to the neutron? Well, it would have very low predicted kinetic energy, and that would mean it would have a very high probability of being captured by nuclei in the area (a high "capture cross-section"). So that could explain why you don't find neutrons coming out of the test cells.

    But when neutron captureeactions occur, the resulting nucleus becomes too rich in neutrons and moves out of the "valley of stability" on the chart of the nuclides. The result is expected to be that the nucleus will undergo beta decay, emitting an energetic electron. And the resulting nucleus will usually be in an excited state, so it will also emit gamma rays to get rid of excess energy and get down to its stable "ground state." So why don't we see betas and gammas coming out?

    Well, they figured out an explanation for that, too. The betas and gammas are absorbed in very short distances under the conditions that exist at the interface of the metal and the hydrogen. I don't have a good grasp of this part yet.

    Anyway, what it amounts to is that the experimental configuration used by Pons and
    Fleischmann now appears to be able to produce excess heat output from a nuclear reaction that occurs under relatively low temperature conditions, but the reaction is not nuclear fusion, which involves the strong nuclear force, but nuclear reactions between electrons and protons, which involve the weak nuclear force. So those of us who maintained that nuclear fusion could not be induced in the system they were using were correct. The problem was that none of us (including Pons and Fleischmann) understood that this other nuclear reaction was involved and was even possible under their experimental conditions.

    So what can we learn from this that can be applied to ME/CFS and the retroviruses? Well, I think we have to keep doing careful experimental work, keep our minds open to new theoretical developments, pray a lot (!) and hope for the best. I'm glad that the Lipkin study and the blood working group study are continuing. Note that the reason new developments came to light in the "cold" nuclear reaction field is that some die-hard experimentalists kept banging on it, even though most of their colleagues told them they were nuts, and some guys who understood theory were willing to stretch their minds into a previously unknown area.

    Best regards,

    Rich
     
  19. joshualevy

    joshualevy

    Messages:
    48
    Likes:
    24
    I'm not comparing the people at all. But I think you can read about the process of science, and learn about that. Here are the key things that can be learned from previous scientific controversies. I don't have time/energy to discuss them all here, but I hope to in the future.

    (BTW: I know that Taube's book is called Bad Science, but I think for this discussion the difference is really between science that turns out to be right, and science that turns out to be wrong. The term "bad" can only be applied after the fact. But good science is often unsuccessful, or wrong, and that is the nature of scientific progress. There is a huge difference between science that just turns out to be wrong and science which is done badly.)

    Big issues:

    1. The importance of looking at the entire field of research, rather than focusing on specific studies, once several studies are completed. (I call this the "seeing the forest rather than the trees" issue.) This is the most important lesson to be learned from previous scientific controversies.

    2. The natural progress of science which is wrong, as different than the progress of science which is correct. We all know what happens with successful science. We studied in school and have good mental pictures for what happens with successful science, but not unsuccessful science. So what behaviors should we expect? How does unsuccessful science flow from discovery to eventual end point? What is the end point?

    3. The Collapse of the Middle. I think this term was invented by Langmuir, but it's an important milestone that can help us all tell the difference between science that turns out successful and that which fails.

    More specific issues:

    * The "double-blind double cross" type behavior.
    * Comparing bad calorimetry to contamination as possible source of error.
    * "you never proved my experiment was bad" / "other people's bad results don't prove my experiment is wrong; it proves their experiment is wrong"
    * Lots of science supports X, but none of it can be published!

    I'm sure there are a lot more.

    But note that none of them involve comparing people who supported one vs. another.

    Joshua (not Jay!) Levy
     

See more popular forum discussions.

Share This Page