Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Publishing controversial science

One of my pet peeves is the commonly repeated phrase by pseudo scientists, i.e. creationists, anti-vaccers, UFO-oligists, GMO haters, etc, that the findings of their studies showing their view is correct cannot be published as they are being discriminated against. This line of reasoning misrepresents the scientific method and shows that these people have no idea how science actually works. In this post I want to put this dumb argument once and for all by showing two examples that demonstrate beyond doubt that controversial science can be published.

Example 1: Cold Fusion
The idea of cold fusion, that is nuclear fusion at room temperature has been thoroughly debunked. Please do not confuse cold fusion with other processes that are termed cold fusion but are in fact other processes. However, for a short while the idea of cold fusion seemed plausible when Pons and Fleischmann published their scientific report in the prestigious Nature journal in 1989.

However, this study did not stand up to the scrutiny of the scientific process and later was retracted. But this example shows in fact that highly controversial science can be published as the idea of a nuclear fusion reaction happening at room temperature was thought to be impossible even before this publication.

Example 2: Graphene

The idea that a two dimensional one atom thick sheet could ever exist was considered almost impossible in reality as it was deemed unstable. However, in 2004 Giem and Novoselov published a ground breaking study in the journal Science showing that this is in fact possible.

However, before publication in Science this manuscript got rejected twice, see pg 13. However, this same manuscript that got rejected twice ended up in these two "rejects" wining the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010. Again an example of publishing controversial science with a massive payoff. Here is another great link if you want to understand more about Graphene.

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In concluion, the next time a pseudo scientists says there is a conspiracy prohibiting their publications, just ask them about graphene and cold fusion. I believe this is another bad argument put to bed.