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Inflating the Venn May 8, 2009

Posted by fetzthechemist in Uncategorized.

Ψ*Ψ of Carbon Based Curiosities had a post which got me thinking. She had a figure, a Venn diagram, describing a hellish job where expectations are nigh onto impossible given the laws of nature and the available tools.


The dark pink area is the main focus of the woe. That is if our world was static.

Research scientists are in the business of pushing the other circles. The area in pink shifts. Some of it becomes subsumed into blue, brown, or green. It also expands into new areas of its white periphery.

Yes, sometimes this can feel like a quixotic battle because nature may be obstinate, you have a difficult project to research in or the tools are not adequate or your theory of how to do it is not accurate – it poorly predicts the real world. But that is the job, expanding into that pink area.

All too often we just toss aside our failed experiments. Clever scientists learn not to do this so precipitously. They assess the results and how they differ from predict. They realize that we fit models onto nature, not the other way around. They rethink the theory and come up with better, different approaches.

Available tools are always part of the game, as any visit to a museum of science will show you. The instrumentation, methods, syntheses, and reagents of past decades would make the mundane tasks of today seem impossible (and they were!). WE do add to the knowledge base, stand on the shoulders of giants and thousands of ordinary-sixed scientists of the past.

If you are good and lucky, you conquer some of that pink.



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