October 10, 2011

eppur si muove

The WSJ Ed Page goes grasping for a present day parallel to this tale

Mr. [Dan] Shechtman, who last week won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, is credited with the discovery in 1982 of quasicrystals, patterned but nonrepeating atomic structures that resemble the mosaics found in medieval Islamic art. For observing under an electron microscope what the scientific community held to be a physical impossibility, Mr. Shechtman was accused of "bringing disgrace" on his lab. Linus Pauling, the chemistry (and peace) Nobelist, called the discovery "nonsense" and denounced Mr. Shechtman as a "quasi-scientist." It took two years before a scientific journal would deign to publish his findings.

Today, Mr. Shechtman's observations have been fully validated and quasicrystals are beginning to have commercial applications. But his story is a reminder that a consensus of scientists is no substitute for, and often a bar to, great science. That's especially so when the consensus hardens into a dogmatic and self-satisfied enterprise


Deleterious Anthropogenic Warming of the Globe Posted by John Kranz at October 10, 2011 11:41 AM

Those in the engineering field are familiar with the term Not Invented Here, describing the contempt heaped upon ideas that come from some department other than that of the favored bureaucrat. This story is the research science equivalent: Not Discovered Here.

Posted by: johngalt at October 10, 2011 3:10 PM | What do you think? [1]