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One Example of Why the Scientific Method Works

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One Example of Why the Scientific Method Works

Postby really? » 17 Jun 2010, 03:45

This is a brief article; a sad tale of woe it is, about the once golden child physicist Jan Hendrik Schoen and what happens when peer review does just that reviews and finds you can't support your claims.

From Cocktail Party Physics
So, the Spousal Unit and I clicked on the Science Channel last week for a bit of Monday evening viewing to unwind after a long day's work. Being of a macabre bent, Jen-Luc Piquant thoroughly enjoyed the documentary on the latest "unveiling" of the "real" Jack the Ripper, particularly the intensity of the actor playing the role of the supposed killer -- he wielded that knife during the re-enactments with wild abandon and even managed just a bit of that telltale psychotic gleam in his eye. Really, an Emmy-worthy performance. Then there was a quite good documentary on lie detection that perhaps might have emphasized the naysayers a bit more, but certainly could be considered a fair treatment of the topic.

We should have stopped there. But the next documentary -- originally aired in 2008 -- was about bad boy physicist Jan Hendrik Schoen, once a Bell Labs wunderkind who disappeared in disgrace when it was discovered he'd falsified data on his revolutionary "breakthroughs." (Episode title: "The Dark Secret of Hendrik Schoen." Ooh! Spooky!) I perked up: what's this? Actual materials science getting play on the Science Channel? On any channel? Because let's face it, theoretical physics, cosmology, neuroscience, and biomedical stuff usually hog the lion's share of the TV science coverage. And I've written about Schoen in the past, so it's a topic of interest to me. Unfortunately, it was... well, kind of weird in how the the makers chose to frame their raw material. (And I'm not the only one who thought so.)

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