Friday, October 17, 2008

Science of the past is still science, is still relevant

Wired has a most interesting article "Forgotten Experiment May Explain Origins of Life". It is worth a read, please do. 

For me the most interesting part of the story is that this science still exists because its material has been handed down after the death by the original scientist to one of his former graduate students. Using modern tools on the original material provided information that was not available at the time. 

A lot of scientific work has been done in the past. Good science is repeatable, but as this example shows, the results are dependent on the tooling available. As the results of experiments were still available it was cheap and easy to analyse again and it led to new insights.

This is a lucky break that resulted from the understanding of competent scientists. It is a lucky break because much scientific fact is no longer available to us. Many papers were published and are not really available because they have not been digitised. Some material may still be available on diskettes but, who can find this material in the Internet age?

Scientific endeavour has been compared to "standing on the shoulders of giants". The works of these giants often exist only in a paper trail and in order to have their work available, it needs to be digitised. I am convinced that many results as profound as the work of Stanley Miller is there for the finding.
Thanks,
      GerardM
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