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Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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How to make a lot of scientists squirm uncomfortably. [20071127|13:24]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
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There's always some tension between the Space Physics and Atmospheric Physics halves of our group. Most of the time it's a fairly friendly rivalry. Occasionally, it's a bit more barbed.

At our weekly group meetings, one member from each half of the group gives a 20-minute progress report on his or her research. This week, one of the plots shown during the Space talk contained data that showed a pronounced gradient change at a particular point in time. The plot didn't include error bars, however.

Atmos professor: "So what are the error bars?"
Speaker: "About 10 degrees at most."
Atmos professor: "Oh. Because I was going to suggest if they were big enough, you just do a linear regression on the whole data set and ignore the gradient change."
Space professor: "Is that how you guys discovered climate change?"

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[User Picture]From: nanila
2007-11-30 10:24 (UTC)
Everyone laughed. Just...rather uneasily.
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[User Picture]From: taische
2007-11-27 15:00 (UTC)
For some reason, that reminds me of a researcher from Harvard Medical School who flew down to visit my lab and give a presentation because he was convinced that he was seeing "dynamical chaos" in the eyes of rabbits when injecting a certain solution with destructive results. You may recall that the reporter-friendly term "chaos" put nonlinear dynamics in the press a lot a few years back, and it seems people wanted to see chaos everywhere for a while- whatever it was:

Me, after politely letting him go on for ten minutes: "Wait- I want to make sure I understand the parameter space. So you're basically saying that when you inject water nothing happens, and when you inject substance X in any concentration the cellular matrix is spectacularly destroyed?"

HMSR: "Well..."

Me: "Is that statement consistent with all the tests you have run?"

HMSR: "Yes."

Me: "I see. Firstly, you're not seeing anything like dynamical chaos. Secondly, all your experiment really shows is that substance X destroys rabbit eyes."

HMSR: "But (pointing at the slide) look at residue left by the event- the complexity of the structures... that looks chaotic to me."

Me: "Nope. That just means substance X is really, really bad for rabbits' eyes..."
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From: alice_mccoy
2007-11-27 15:24 (UTC)

Yonks ago I was told that during the race to discover the structure of DNA. A famous scientist submitted his suggested structure... which turned out not to be an acid.

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[User Picture]From: nanila
2007-11-30 10:31 (UTC)
Apparently no one ever told him you're not supposed to use a "Jump to Conclusions" mat to explain your observations. >:E
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[User Picture]From: nimoloth
2007-11-28 12:36 (UTC)

Oh. Is it just me that finds it funny?

Oh well. Space scientists win!
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2007-11-30 10:30 (UTC)
No, everyone laughed! Slightly uncomfortably, though. ;-)
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