The 1987 Nobels: Keep Your Eyes on the Prize: A Very Silly Experiment Bears Fruit

A couple of years ago two eminent scientists performed an experiment. Nothing unusual in that, you might think. Think again; when did the eminent scientists of your acquaintance last perform an experiment personally? Come to that, when did you? These eccentrics proceeded in an odd way. They do not seem to have debated whether what they were proposing to do was respectable in Popperian terms, or only those of Feyerabend. No—they just did the experiment. They cannot have spent hours

Simon Roman
Nov 15, 1987

A couple of years ago two eminent scientists performed an experiment.

Nothing unusual in that, you might think. Think again; when did the eminent scientists of your acquaintance last perform an experiment personally? Come to that, when did you?

These eccentrics proceeded in an odd way. They do not seem to have debated whether what they were proposing to do was respectable in Popperian terms, or only those of Feyerabend. No—they just did the experiment.

They cannot have spent hours in the library looking into established knowledge and theory, for any newly graduated chemist or materials scientist could have told them what to expect. No, they shunned the library, left the office, entered the laboratory and performed an experiment. A very silly experiment; an undergraduate could have told them that they were measuring the conductivity of an insulator or, at best, a semiconductor. Predictably, it gave a very silly result:...

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