Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

NASA Foul Up

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Friday, December 31, 2010

{Ed. Note: This entry was previously password protected, and notated; enter the password: NASAFoulUp}

This brief entry could perhaps be alternately entitled, “How did we manage to foul (or your choice of expletives) up so badly?”

Why?

Remember NASA’s recent debacle with arsenic and microbes at Mono Lake, CA?

The mythology of science is that you look down the microscope and you know what’s what. But it’s a matter of scientists slowly coming to a consensus, and it often takes a very, very long time to reach.
Harry Collins, Cardiff University, Cardiff, England researches the sociology of scientific knowledge

Peer review is like democracy — it’s a lousy system, but there isn’t anything better.
– Dr. Michael Callaham, Editor, Annals of Emergency Medicine, also studies the peer review process to improve it

The Los Angeles Times finally got around to writing about NASA’s debacle… December 22 – nearly two weeks after I had blogged about Jonathan DuHamel’s December 9 article in the Tuscon Citizen identifying the fallacy.

The LATimes article reported in part, that “In physics and math, researchers share their studies online and solicit feedback from the wider community before publishing their results. As a result, papers are vetted by hundreds of experts instead of just a handful. But that approach doesn’t lend itself to fields such as medicine and biology; to test a series of mathematical equations, you don’t have to recruit hundreds of people for a clinical trial.”

To be certain, the reader should be aware that the key term is “recruitment” – that being “an attempt to acquire the services of a person.” In other words, in the fields of math and physics, people volunteer on questions or research autonomously, particularly and especially because the topic upon which they’re working is an interest of theirs, as well.

Again, I leave you with this germane quote, followed by a question.

Within a few months, we’ll either be vindicated or we’ll have a lot of pie in our faces.
– Ronald Oremland, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA, studies how microbes metabolize toxic elements

What flavor is that pie… and why can’t we do better?

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