Thursday, January 3, 2008


I've been catching up on my scientific reading lately and have been astounded by the abundance of published research that is unfinished. I understand that you guys want grants and other sources of funding to keep going, and you need to make a name for yourself in order to continue your research. But similar projects will be funded with or without your help, and I think it would be in the best interest of science if you just back off, stay in the background or just quit! Did you ever think that maybe you're taking money away from real scientists who may have some actual research to do?

All you "scientists" who subscribe to the idea that science is unprovable should really tone it down. If you feel the need to be near lab equipment, why don't you get a little cart with wheels? You can use this cart to fetch flasks, beakers, books, coffee, doughnuts, and other science related equipment. Yes, you can have a doughnut, but don't shove it into a flask and write a paper about it, that's not your job anymore.

Imagine a world where everyone waited to speak until they produced a genuine thought. Imagine a world where no one published articles unless they said anything new. Imagine yourself actually helping to facilitate the realization of such a world.

The beggar on the street makes up crap too when he thinks he can get some money from someone, but at least he doesn't publish his findings in science journals. The nightly news is filled with error, misinformation and hack, but at least they throw in a generous dusting of "allegedly".

I know the blame doesn't rest *entirely* in the hands of you "pseudo scientists", you only start the wheels of misinformation rolling, the "editors" have to take a healthy portion of blame pie as well. After all, they are the ones who checked for spelling, grammar and clarity of thought, yet they never bothered to check and see if anything was actually accomplished by your writing. A good question for an editor to ask would be, "Was any new, interesting or even documented data presented?"

I know, I shouldn't expect that being a scientist should be any different than any other job, where politics, recognition and power get in the way of a job well done. But I like to think of science as beyond all that. I know it isn't, and I know that most of what is called science is marketing fluff and office (lab) politics. But wouldn't it be great if the content was as powerful as the headline?

For you non scientific people who actually read this far... Generally, what is written in the science tabloids is based on some factual data or on an observation that cannot be reproduced. I have to admit to having perpetrated a science hoax myself.

Once upon a time when I was a young lad, I was looking up at the stars through an opening in the clouds and a small spark came down, hit my brother's truck and disintegrated into many tinier sparks. I ran in to the house to tell everyone what I saw. NOBODY believed me. I was so upset that I was disbelieved that I formulated a hoax. I dug a small hole in the driveway, placed a rock that would look like a meteorite into the hole and super heated the rock with my dads oxy-acetelene torch. Then I ran into the house *acting* excited about the meteor that I had seen land in front of the garage. Everyone believed me, it didn't matter that I was a bad actor and the rock was clearly a fake, the rock was hot and in a hole so it must have dropped from the sky.

The rock was so hot in fact that you could ignite matches on it by touch for a few minutes afterward. It was so hot that it shattered the glass bottle we tried to pick it up in. Any doubt that was generated by the fact that the rock was sitting in a hole dug with a tablespoon instantly abated when the match test (which I recommended) was administered. In fact I remember comments about how it wouldn't be possible to heat the rock up that hot.

Well, there was one small hiccup to my family hoax. My mom wanted to call the local "authorities", the college, the planetarium, that kind of thing. Realizing that this hoax would have been seen through by even the least competent scientist, I conveniently lost the rock. If you looked at it closely, you could see that it was full of seashells and was basically sandstone. Not the stuff meteors are made of. I imagined a scientist coming to the house to test it and laughing when he couldn't even get a magnet to stick to it, then turning to me and saying, "thanks for wasting my time and by extension the time of the entire world of science."

Now that I'm older, I realize that the odds of that scenario playing out were slim to none. I had a true story with a false outcome that would have created a cloud of buzz that you couldn't cut with an electric buzz knife. The "scientist" would have taken it to the lab and written page after page of observations. The sheer bulk of words would lead others to believe that I really found something. And everybody else that wanted a little taste of my fame pie would hop on board no matter how skeptical, in fact they would have reasoned that after they get fame and funding they could separate themselves from the issue and wriggle out of the pit of scientific whoredom they had now bedded down in for the short haul.

You can understand it when put in this context, because the rock I saw fall COULD have been sandstone, and it COULD have been full of little sea shells. It can never be proven so it can never be disproved. When you lie about something you believe, all you need to do is create enough reason to suspend disbelief long enough to present the evidence that proves your lie. I guess that's science.

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