Science Errors & Conflicts
Get flash to fully experience Pearltrees
Superconducting Super Collider Laboratory/Photo Researchers Construction of an underground shaft for the Superconducting Super Collider in Texas. The SSC was supposed to be the largest particle accelerator in the world, but its funding was canceled by Congress in 1993.
A 2007 artist's conception of the James Webb Space Telescope in operation. Science is expensive, but the payoffs more than justify the costs. Let's focus here on basic science, that is, science that doesn't have the goal of being "useful" in the short run through technological or medical applications, and through generating wealth (usually for the shareholders).
Two recent astrophysics studies found meaningful results in nothing By Nadia Drake Web edition: April 26, 2012 Forlorn graduate students sometimes turn to a publication called The Journal of Negative Results .* In graduate student mythology, it’s the repository for toiled-over experiments that produced nothing — no effects, no detections, no differences, nothing . (*This actually does exist for specific disciplines.
Science thrives on freedom of expression and must be at the forefront of defending it THE words "science" and "censorship" do not sit easily together. And yet over the past decade, science has come to occupy an increasingly important role in debates over free speech. This is partly due to public clashes between science and politics, from the censoring of climate science in the US under the Bush administration to David Nutt's dismissal as the UK government's adviser on drugs after voicing his views on the safety of ecstasy. But it also reflects a revolution in access to information which has exposed every sector of society to an unprecedented level of scrutiny. From WikiLeaks to phone hacking , the tension between openness, privacy and confidentiality has become one of the defining issues of our time.
Illustration by Robert Neubecker. For a few hours last week, I'd planned to write a column about the " five-second rule ." Scientists at Manchester Metropolitan University in England had released a study showing that some foods (ham, cookies) were safer to eat than others (dried fruit, pasta) after being left on the floor to collect germs. The Huffington Post picked up the story, as did Gizmodo and Good Morning America and the TODAY Show .
Read full article Continue reading page | 1 | 2 For a few hours last week, I had planned to write a column about the " five-second rule ."
Web edition : Tuesday, April 24th, 2012 Text Size MADISON, Wis. — The arc of science has faced roadblocks for centuries, but the pattern of denying the weight of evidence has taken on new virulence recently. Highly motivated people openly cast doubt on well-established evidence — the theory of evolution, the human effects on climate change, the value of vaccines and other findings that have achieved an overwhelming consensus in the scientific community. Researchers and science writers tasked with reporting on these issues gathered April 23–24 at the University of Wisconsin at a meeting titled “Science Writing in the Age of Denial.” Some noted that seemingly spontaneous denial of science in the populace is quite often a carefully choreographed attack.
A December 18 Washington Post poll , released on the final day of the ill-fated Copenhagen climate summit, reported “four in ten Americans now saying that they place little or no trust in what scientists have to say about the environment.” Nor is the poll an outlier. Several recent polls have found “climate change” skepticism rising faster than sea levels on Planet Algore (not to be confused with Planet Earth, where sea levels remain relatively stable).
All else being equal, if you pay for something bad, you will get more of it. If you punish something good, you will get less of it. These basic rules of economics apply as much to junk science and scientific integrity as they do to junk food and political candor. Science and the scientific method are the jewels in the crown of Western civilization.
A few days ago, news reports claimed that 16 per cent of cancers around the world were caused by infections. This isn’t an especially new or controversial statement, as there’s clear evidence that some viruses, bacteria and parasites can cause cancer (think HPV , which we now have a vaccine against). It’s not inaccurate either.
Image: Illustration by Alex Robbins Climate deniers are accused of practicing pseudoscience, as are intelligent design creationists, astrologers, UFOlogists, parapsychologists, practitioners of alternative medicine , and often anyone who strays far from the scientific mainstream. The boundary problem between science and pseudoscience, in fact, is notoriously fraught with definitional disagreements because the categories are too broad and fuzzy on the edges, and the term “pseudoscience” is subject to adjectival abuse against any claim one happens to dislike for any reason. In his 2010 book Nonsense on Stilts (University of Chicago Press), philosopher of science Massimo Pigliucci concedes that there is “no litmus test,” because “the boundaries separating science, nonscience, and pseudoscience are much fuzzier and more permeable than Popper (or, for that matter, most scientists) would have us believe.”
Third genders, two spirits, and a media without a clue. Author’s Note: Earlier this month the UK Daily Mail reported on continued excavation at an archaeological site near Prague where researchers described an individual with an alternative gender identity. The following post originally appeared at Neuron Culture hosted by Wired after the original report last year. "Cave Painting" by Nathaniel Gold In 1993 the reputable German weekly Der Spiegel printed a rumor that Otzi, the 5,300-year-old frozen mummy discovered in the Otztal Alps two years earlier, contained evidence of the world’s earliest known homosexual act. “In Otzi’s Hintern,” wrote the editors, referring to the Iceman’s hinterland, “Spermien gefunden worden.”
Creationist infiltration of scientific conferences seems outrageous, but banning them would do more harm than good WHAT should a scientific society do when creationists want to participate in its conferences? This question faces many scientific organisations in the US. At meetings of the Geological Society of America (GSA) in 2009 and 2010, young-Earth creationists, who think Noah's flood was a historical event and the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, presented posters, gave talks and led field trips. I attended a number of these events, and I can attest that the creationists were careful to give mainstream presentations using standard geologic methods.
There’s scientific knowledge. There are the dedicated scientists who make it, whether laboring in laboratories or in the fields, fretting over data analysis, refereeing each other’s manuscripts or second-guessing themselves. And, well, there are some crackpots. I’m not talking dancing-on-the-edge-of-the-paradigm folks, nor cheaters who seem to be on a quest for fame or profit. I mean the guy who has the wild idea for revolutionizing field X that actually is completely disconnected from reality.
Richard Feynman From a Caltech commencement address given in 1974 Also in Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! During the Middle Ages there were all kinds of crazy ideas, such as that a piece of of rhinoceros horn would increase potency. Then a method was discovered for separating the ideas--which was to try one to see if it worked, and if it didn't work, to eliminate it. This method became organized, of course, into science.