Broken?

If you follow the headlines, your confidence in science may have taken a hit lately.
Peer review? More like self-review. An investigation in November uncovered a scam in which researchers were rubber-stamping their own work, circumventing peer review at five high-profile publishers.

Scientific journals? Not exactly a badge of legitimacy, given that the International Journal of Advanced Computer Technology recently accepted for publication a paper titled “Get Me Off Your Fucking Mailing List,” whose text was nothing more than those seven words, repeated over and over for 10 pages. Two other journals allowed an engineer posing as Maggie Simpson and Edna Krabappel to publish a paper, “Fuzzy, Homogeneous Configurations.”

Revolutionary findings? Possibly fabricated. In May, a couple of University of California, Berkeley, grad students discovered irregularities in Michael LaCour’s influential paper suggesting that an in-person conversation with a gay person could change how people felt about same-sex marriage. The journal Science retracted the paper shortly after, when LaCour’s co-author could find no record of the data.

Taken together, headlines like these might suggest that science is a shady enterprise that spits out a bunch of dressed-up nonsense.

Engineers rule

Technologie heeft geen wetenschap nodig.

Andersom wel: veel wetenschap is het gevolg van technologische vernieuwing. Astronomie bloeide op in de eeuw van de grote ontdekkingsreizen. De ontdekking van de structuur van DNA werd mede mogelijk door Rontgen kristallografie van biologische moleculen – die techniek werd weer door wolproducenten ontwikkeld op zoek naar betere textiel. En waar komt technologie vandaan? Het is eigenlijk een zichzelf voedend organisme, vergelijkbaar met een koraalrif; het is een levend ding dat afhankelijk is van andere organismen – in dit geval: mensen. En nu hebben we ook nog internet. In 2010 waren en ruwweg net zo veel hyperlinks als ons brein synapsen heeft. Dus dat organisme is de facto onuitroeibaar geworden. Nieuw boek van Matt Ridley, ‘The evolution of everything.’

Blu

Artist Blu (previously) recently finished work on this staggering mural in Italy depicting a timeline of natural history from the tiniest single-cell creatures at the bottom, through the evolution of dinosaurs and mammals, up to the age of humans. The rainbow-hued evolutionary path eventually crumbles under its own weight, devoid of color, with images of industry and war. You can see a few more views on StreetArtNews.

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