Monday, June 11, 2012

Forbidden History of Unpopular People

Talk of a scientific consensus always gives me a moment of unease. This entertaining video tells of Ignaz Semmelweis, who had some funny ideas that were contrary to the scientific consensus and insulting to his peers.

Contrast with the news last September that an experiment has measured neutrinos traveling faster than light. To do so would violate Einsein's special relativity (E=mc2),The reaction among scientists was anything but hostile. Most people assumed there was a mistake, but couldn't find the mistake. Discussions of what the mistake might be were open and good-natured. In the meantime, the physics community lit up with speculation of what it might mean if it were true. 

Yes, there are ideas in science that are commonly accepted. Call it "consensus" if you like. But science needs to remain receptive to falsifying evidence. If, for whatever reason, a set of principles is not open to challenge from empirical evidence or alternate explanations, we shouldn't call it "science". Instead, we should use the older, broader term: "natural philosophy".

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Who Smells Better: Old Men or Teens?

Did you know that people smell different as they age. What's more, people are surprisingly good at distinguishing between old person smell and young person smell. Guess who smells better.