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A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."

It's attributed to Max Planck, who knew a few scientists.

Years ago while reading for entertainment, not for research, I read of an American dinosaur hunter, a full professor somewhere, who needed a skull for a dino skeleton and put the wrong skull on it. While he lived he refused to listen to people who pointed out the error.

If I'd been reading for research I would have made notes.

Has anyone else seen that story, or other stories of refusals to correct errors?

Tags: errors, in, science

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I think Redmond O'Hanlon told a story like that in his TV-series O'Hanlon's heroes. The story was about Othniel Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope.

Thanks, Plinius. As I read the Wikipedia article on Marsh and Cope I recalled that I had seen the PBS program.

One of their many battles might have been over the dino head but the written story I saw mentioned no other battles between the protagonists. Its author might have wanted to tell only the one story.

The stories of scientists' achievements say nothing of their human foibles. Six years after my year in the graduate school at Florida State University I was working for a small company in Austin, Texas, two blocks from the University of Texas. I was able to take noontime classes and heard of the feud in the math department, in which professors of pure and applied math were not on speaking terms.

I was doing applied math and enjoyed repeating the toast, "Here's to pure mathematics; may it never be of use to anyone."

I was doing applied math and enjoyed repeating the toast, "Here's to pure mathematics; may it never be of use to anyone."

Apparently you're comfortable with cognitive dissonance - since applied math uses pure math.

Applied math uses pure math?

According to a history of math I read decades ago, applied mathematicians found that calculus worked years before pure mathematicians proved it correct.

I'm okay with the tease; I do the same to lawyers.

I remind them that legislative bodies use parliamentary law:

1) to enact lawyers' much more profitable statutory law, and

2) to regulate courts, which produce lawyers' also-more-profitable case law.

I know p'tary law and have told many lawyers I should get more per hour than they get. One lawyer grinned and replied, "We have a stronger union."

Consider cognitive dissonance's potential for fun.

I never got around to installing a suitably-heavy gyroscope into luggage, checking into a hotel, and watching a bellhop carry the luggage to my room.

I have for years appreciated two actions so much that I have their names in picture frames on a wall: cognitive dissonance and paradoxical intention.

Dictionaries define the latter in ways that hide its potential. With more than my share of serendipity, I used the method before I found that psychologists use it to help clients surmount obstacles.

The Univ of Fla where I got a BA taught applied math and graduated engineers. Fla State Univ where I did a year in grad school taught pure math and graduated math professors. I applied to FSU because it had a mainframe computer. In a numerical analysis class I used it and asked my professor, "People will pay me to do this?" He said they would. Job offers persuaded me and two chums to leave school.

You really don't think that applied mathematicians use or learn pure math? 


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