[PREV - REALITY_DEBASED] [TOP]
February 11, 2012
The reciept tucked inside the book
shows that I bought it in 1998
At long last, I've read the in Palo Alto at Printer's Ink.
novel "Cantor's Dilemma" by
Carl Djerassi (1989). I have an image of Djerassi's
face in my head from somewhere...
Djerassi is known as the Father perhaps I saw him speak there,
of The Pill, and is the very or somewhere over at Stanford.
epitome of someone who one
would expect to Know Something. KNOWS_SOMETHING
He's the kind of guy
you'd expect to be able
Unfortunately, one thing that to pull off the two
he doesn't know is how to cultures cross-over,
impart technical information or at least to
in dialog without it sounding enlighten us outsiders TWOCULT
stilted... but this is about science and the
something that takes science scientific process.
fiction writers years of work
to learn, and I think it's BROCKMANS_THIRD
fair to say he's not bad for
a beginner. There's a lot of largely
irrelevant detail about
Stripping away the mushy stuff the main character's
(the male main characters are interests in classical
busy getting involved with the music, antiques, and
female characters, who despite erotic water colors
Djerassi's best efforts, which I guess is supposed
remain secondary characters), to show how well-rounded
what we have here is a father- he is...
son releationship between
elder theorist and young The game they make
experimentalist that breaks of pretentious
down under the pressures of quotations from
a major discovery they've made-- T.S. Elliot is
a second researcher is having funny, but in
trouble verifying an experimental context quite
result, which raises grave believable.
questions about the integrity
of the experimentalist.
The dilemma of the title is
the difficulty the theorist
is placed in... face his This is something like
cohort with an accusation? the ground that C.P. Snow
Withdraw the published covered in his best work,
result? What? the novel "The Search",
except that here the
His solution is a super-human complexity is turned up
feat of science: he invents another notch:
a second experiment, and
performs it himself, and uses This novel is about the way
the result to distract from a *suspicion* of fraud
the first, possibly dubious affects human relationships,
result. and hence, the scientific
process even when there may
As I was reading this book, be no actual fraudulent
I started thinking about behavior.
some of the scientific
drama I'd seen from the The point is made that
side lines, and I remembered science actually rests
a case where a graduate entirely on a network of
student shifted from one human trust.
advisor to another at a
different school, and And that's a point
(by chance?) this second worth thinking about
team turned into an a little more now that
adversary of the first in we have a number of
a very high-profile social institutions
scientific controversy... we call "the web".
We have experience
It was interesting that Djerassi with a large number
then came up with a plot twist of experiments with
that was very similar to what I human trust networks
had in mind, where the that had only just
experimentalist-in-disgrace begun when Djerassi
shuffles to the other group that was writing this
had trouble reproducing his work. book.
"Cantor's Dilemma" leads
with the quotation:
It seems paradoxical that
scientific research, in many ways
one of the most questioning and
skeptical of human activities,
should be dependent on personal
trust. But the fact is that
without trust the research
enterprise could not function.
--Arnold S. Relman, Editor, _New
England Journal of Medicine_, 1983
[NEXT - AMATEUR_NET]