This week, I have good news for those of you who think science sucks. I know you’re there because you haven’t gotten vaccinated, you pop ivermectin and you don’t wear a mask. OK, you win. Science is not doing well at all; It has been in decline for a long time. You were among the first to feel it.
How do I know this? Because, apparently, there aren’t so many new ideas coming through research these days. The good old days when a scientific paper revealed something mind-blowing that no one knew existed and led to amazing breakthroughs—well, those days are fast disappearing.
To reach this conclusion, three scientists, Michael Park, Erin Leahey and Russell J Funk, analyzed six decades of data covering 45 million papers and 3.9 million patents. They ranked the papers on a scale of whether they were consolidative (reconfirming what was already known) or disruptive (deconstructing existing knowledge, replacing old rules with new ones). Einstein’s general theory of relativity was disruptive. So was Watson and Crick’s discovery of the structure of human DNA.
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Why? Because there is too much knowledge around. Google and ChatGPT know everything. Finding something new that no one knows about requires a lot of education and expertise and a lot of money.
Immersed in instant knowledge, scientists everywhere are sifting through millions of the same papers, scrambling to find something unresolved. A bit like trying to decide which Netflix movie to stream.
Since a scientific paper is evaluated based on the number of times it is cited, it is safer to confirm old knowledge than to rock the boat with new knowledge. According to a 2020 study there are more incentives for incremental science rather than high-risk projects that “are more likely to fail, but which are the fuel for future successes”.
Don’t be surprised by recent discoveries like the COVID-19 vaccine and nuclear fusion technology. They are outliers in a world of dwindling research; Much of today’s science is hot leftovers.
You must be wondering what trivial, useless nonsense they are reading these days. Here are glimpses of some of the recent Wingdingers.
The bigger the doorknob, the more fingers you’ll need to grip it. Japanese industrial design researchers discovered this surprising fact by asking 32 participants to turn 47 assorted doorknobs. Who knew?
Vanilla essence can be extracted from cow’s fart. A group of Japanese scientists discovered that vanillin, a flavor and aromatic compound extracted from vanilla beans, can be easily extracted by cooking cow feces. The Boffins thawed one gram of cow dung with a little water and heated it in a reactor under high pressure to 300 °C for 60 minutes, analyzing the chemical composition of the sludge with a gas chromatograph. At 200 °C, he hit gold and detected vanillin. One gram of cow dung is good for 50 micrograms of vanilla. great success!
Four hundred and twenty-seven different species of bacteria live and thrive on the chewing gum on the streets of Singapore. It’s a surprising victory for the city, making it the world leader in bacterial colonization of chewing gum. The research involved collecting eight different types of chewing gum from the streets of Greece, France, Spain, Turkey and Singapore, and extracting genetic information from an advanced sequencing process.
If the earth was made of blueberries, things would go horribly wrong. This planet-changing research has come to us from the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University. If our planet were somehow transformed in an instant into the same amount of closely packed but uncompressed blueberries, physics as we know it would be unchanged. In the extreme low gravity of Blueberry Planet, you would weigh about 87 percent less. While you rejoice, the berries collapse under their own weight, squeezing out the inter-berry air. The berries would eventually explode, creating a globe of blueberry jam that would heat up to 143 °C as the collapse continued. Oceans of boiling jam will be formed, due to which the atmosphere will become fruitful and blue.
More Gems — People who think their feet stink do, and those who don’t, don’t.
Knives made from frozen feces don’t work very well.
Uranus smells like rotten eggs.
My favorite research breakthrough is in a league of its own, the kind of subject only an absolute genius—or inexplicable idiot—could have thought up. Logitech Launches a Global Remote Control Trends Study, Spending Thousands of Dollars to Investigate the Number One Question That Bothers Us All: Where’s That Remote? The findings were eye-opening.
There is about a 50 percent chance that your TV remote is stuck between the sofa cushions!
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The views expressed in this column are those of the individual and do not represent the views of the paper