The Power of Doubt

Petri Dish
Petri Dish. Photo by believekevin.

There’s an inter­est­ing story on the BBC News site about the woman who dis­covered AZT could help inhibit the devel­op­ment of AIDS. It’s inter­est­ing because it shows what is usu­ally the reac­tion to a dis­cov­ery. She was examin­ing petri dishes and found one sample where no cells had died after infec­tion.

I rang my super­visor, then I said: ‘I won­der if I for­got to put the virus in these 16?’” she recalls.

That tends to be my reac­tion. “That’s inter­est­ing!” fol­lowed by “I won­der what I did wrong?” In my exper­i­ence that ques­tion is cru­cial because often the reason I’ve found some­thing inter­est­ing is because there’s a gap in my know­ledge rather than find­ing some­thing new. It seems to be the reac­tion of people I work with. It’s com­mon to ask a friend to look over what you’ve done and bounce ideas off people because it is pos­sible that a simple mis­take has been made.

It’s import­ant because it’s the dif­fer­ence between scep­ti­cism and cyn­icism. Continue read­ing

My Seven Wonders


I couldn’t get excited about the New 7 Wonders vote. As John Romer noted seven is a small num­ber to choose which makes the choice per­sonal. I’m wary that a list chosen by com­mit­tee could mean any­thing. Unlike K. Kris Hirst, I thought the vote res­ult was pretty bad. You have to mock any Seven Wonders list which doesn’t include an Egyptian pyr­amid. So I’ve put together my own choice. The rules I’ve adop­ted are that there must be some­thing to see, so things like the Colossus of Rhodes are out. The other is that I’m only pick­ing a max­imum of one won­der from any one coun­try, as I’d like it to be a world-wide list. There’ll be six other posts in the run up to Christmas, and I’ve already chosen them, but if you want to add your own list you can do it below, or choose on your own web­log and send me a link.

The first choice is obvious.

The Giza Plateau

Pyramids of Giza. Photo (cc) Bruno Girin.

Continue read­ing