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In science, how do we know what we know?
At first, the answer to this question may seem obvious: We follow the principles of the scientific method, which has brought rigor and structure to the acquisition of knowledge for centuries.
But as we all know, the process does not end when the observations are complete and the paper is published. The true test of a novel finding comes in the months and years that follow, when other scientists replicate, or repudiate, our results. These intellectual conversations, which can span the globe, are central to honest and productive scientific inquiry. 
Over the past weeks, as I've read the news, I've been troubled by the widespread public misunderstanding of this process. When an epidemiological model is revised, or an initial medical study is refuted by further research, many journalists and government leaders seem to respond with a "gotcha," commenting that the findings demonstrate the sad fallibility of science.
I was thinking about this troubling issue over the past week, as we marked the centennial of the "Great Debate." As you'll see in the article linked below, the debate brought together two renowned astronomers who presented their conflicting visions of the size and structure of the universe. To me, however, the most important aspect is not the debate itself, but the papers presenting their arguments that the two dueling astronomers published the following year. Those publications supported and extended the ongoing scientific inquiry into their central question
-which was, of course, answered fairly definitively by Carnegie's Edwin Hubble just a few years later.
In these difficult times, I think that we as scientists have an increased responsibility to speak out about the ways in which scientific inquiry progresses and evolves. Now more than ever, it is important for the public to understand that we have neither the power nor the desire to set ourselves up as unerring arbiters of eternal truth. Our job is simply to follow the evidence, present it honestly, learn from our experience, and move forward
Even in a world that is desperate for certainty, we must make it clear that science has never been a source of infallible, immutable answers. Instead, science is the process through which we continue to learn, to ask deeper questions, and to challenge ourselves and our colleagues to new and greater discoveries.

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Trustee Rothrock profiled

Carnegie Trustee Ray Rothrock's dual expertise in nuclear energy and cybersecurity, combined with his seeming ability to see around corners, make him an invaluable voice in crafting solutions to global crises. This excellent profile of Ray in the Texas A&M Foundation's Spirit Magazine details his impressive work.
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Summer student astrophysicist wins Soros Fellowship

Sal Wanying Fu was an outstanding summer student when she worked with Josh Simon at the Observatories as an undergraduate. We're very proud that she is part of the 2020 Class of Paul & Daisy Soros Fellows, which provides up to $90,000 in education funding to first- and second-generation Americans.


BioEYES brings scientists to students (virtually)  

Project BioEYES, based at our Department of Embryology, is a K-12 science education program that brings live zebrafish to classrooms to teach students about biology. Now, while school buildings are closed, they're continuing their important outreach through weekly webinars featuring inspirational young scientists.


Marking the "Great Debate" Centennial  

Observatories Director John Mulchaey provided valuable historical insights in Astronomy magazine's feature on the centennial of Heber Curtis and Harlow Shapley's "Great Debate." Their famous dispute continues to shape the ways we think about-and argue about-the fundamentals of science.
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Looking at antibiotic effects on the microbiome

An antibiotic can knock out a single pathogen. But what is the impact of an antibiotic on the body's complex microbiome?  Embryology's Will Ludington joined colleagues at Stanford and Berkeley to investigate these interactions in fruit flies and found a new form of antibiotic tolerance.
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Neutrino experiment's finding could explain skew in matter, anti-matter

Physicists at the T2K experiment in Japan have found an intriguing asymmetry between neutrinos and antineutrinos that could be fundamental in explaining the existence of the universe.


MagQuest seeks 21st century successor to Carnegie's wooden ships

More than 100 years ago, Carnegie scientists ventured out in wooden ships to map and measure Earth's magnetic field. Now the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency's MagQuest contest seeks the 21st century successor to that historic endeavor.


Comet 2I/Borisov cracks reveal interior structure

Comet 2I/Borisov is shedding fragments of dust and ice, giving astronomers around the world a glimpse of what lies beneath the surface of this interstellar visitor.


Pandemic creates seismic stillness

The global self-quarantine is causing seismic silence, with fewer cars, trucks, planes, and even footsteps contributing to background noise. Seismologists worldwide are tracking this new silence and wondering what it will mean to research.

About Carnegie Science

Carnegie empowers our investigators to demonstrate intellectual courage, challenge conventional ideas, and transform the world.  Our research breakthroughs have fundamentally changed how we understand our cosmos, our planet, and the synergy of molecules that make life possible.

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