I enjoyed the article on [Don R.] Swanson's and [Neil R.] Smalheiser's ARROWSMITH program for finding hidden connections in MEDLINE (R. Finn, The Scientist, 12[10]:12, May 11, 1998). I also found the cited opinions of critics and skeptics to be specious.

  1. The claim that "everyone has some skepticism that you can find something new from what's already out there" in the medical literature is curious, since the world is certainly "out there" and scientists find new things all the time. Diseases, elementary particles, and chemical reactions are just as out there as MEDLINE; a main obstacle is simply making the right connections, and ARROWSMITH helps accomplish this using simple and clever methods.

  2. "What if the migraine headache was caused by something we haven't even looked at yet? In that case, no matter how hard the machine flails away at this, it's not going to find an answer." Substitute...

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