A crucial point about science I couldn’t have put any better. Science is an ongoing conversation, not a series of absolute determinations. Anytime a radical result is announced, we should really think about its implications in terms of if the results are replicated or hold up under further analysis. Every paper is only part of that conversation.
So there’s this notion in the popular press that when a new scientific paper comes out, that paper should be taken as the final definitive word on an issue. Science has spoken. This is a scientific fact now. But that is not how science works.
When new research is published, you should expect there will be followup research, and then that followup research will be followed up by even more research. A new scientific paper really shouldn’t be seen as a proclamation of fact but rather as the beginning of a dialogue among scientists, or perhaps as the continuation of a dialogue that’s already in progress.
The recent detection of phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus has turned out to be a fantastic example of this ongoing dialogue in action. The initial research was published in two separate papers (click here or here). Basically, astronomers found the…
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