Wednesday, 24 June 2009

science on Earth

About 15 years ago, I read the short sci-fi story entitled Mr. Tompkins and Candide Meet Their Ancestors. (It was written by Horace Drew, not by George Gamow.) I tried to find the full text on the web but without any success.
The arrogance of the human-Neanderthal hybrid was, to the Captain, its most amazing trait, after the sexual luster. Could the two be related? All of these big “science laboratories” were run by aggressive male primates in the same way that a gorilla kept his harem.
Visiting Caltech:
“Excuse me, is this place one of the great scientific labs, where Delbruck, Feynmann and Gell-Mann once worked?”
“Yes,” said the Professor, “but they are all gone now. Today we study astrophysics and cosmology, and string theory, and quantum chromodynamics, and many forms of mathematics.”
“But how do you know such studies are real,” asked the Captain, “if you can only look through a telescope and not go there, or if you do not really understand 4-D spacetime or the underlying structure of matter and energy, which are just two of your words for the same thing?”
“We are sure because we are sure, and certain because we are certain, even if there are no data. All of us agree, or we cut off the funding for the ones who don’t, because it would just be a waste of money if they have other views.” The Professor had written 100 papers in the most respected physics journals, on black holes, superluminal expansion, and cosmic strings, and now he was sure these were real things, and had convinced many others.
Learning about transcription:
He <Professor Dr. H.Q. Rotcaf> looked just like a male gorilla, as the Captain hoped. “Please ask my least-busy secretary to give you copies of my last 100 papers, from Science or Cell. I am a Leader in Transcription. I found many new factors, and factors upon factors. My grants total $10 million dollars a year. I write two papers a week. I lead the citation-indices in my field. I chaired six meetings and gave 22 lectures last year, in March alone. If a few in my group kill one another, that will just be Evolution of the Fittest, to make a stronger group. Now I must go to the airport, unless you are a newspaper reporter.”
Here the Captain had found what he wanted on Earth. What a classic example of the perversions that would result, from applying sexual-dominance principles to even an austere field such as science, which in all probability was the lowest of all Earth primate achievements, when measured against the existing knowledge and technologies on other civilized planets.
“Have you made any important medical advance or invention recently?”, asked Candide.
“I told you I published 123 papers last year in major journals, and led the nation in the Citation Index, and got the highest ratings in my Study Section. What more could you want?” said the great Professor Rotcaf. “Even the Boston transcription workers cannot match that, such as Professor Pool Ledom. I rule my group with an iron hand, when I see them between trips. I review 3 papers a day, and say what can and cannot be published about transcription. Here, look at how well I do that:”

“This paper presents important results, but is just not a Cell paper. I suggest the authors try some specialist journal such as Mol. Cell Biology which is really where they belong.”

“I have results in my lab which disagree with those proposed here, so their results cannot be correct, and I cannot recommend publication.”

“I have results in my lab which already precede those presented here, so they are not novel, and should in no way be published. Regrettably, my secretary mislaid this paper for several months, so the review is late.”

“These authors have never presented their results before in an American journal.”

“There are two kinds of paper from that group: results which have been done by others before and are not novel, and new results which have not yet been reproduced by others. I worry about both of them, and cannot recommend publication.”

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