Author Topic: Trust No One  (Read 285 times)

Zenpatista

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Trust No One
« on: August 29, 2018, 03:16:00 am »
Once again, I learned the value of "Trust No One". This is the most important thing I teach science students. It's a generic response to "I tried everything and nothing works." It's certainly better than what I'm muttering through clenched teeth when I hear those complaints....

"Trust No One" is the lab motto. New students (young scientists) sometimes react against this. It's nothing personal. It's just that after a life time of messing up experiments, I've learned that every single experiment works. Every. Single. One. It's just that they don't always work out the way *you* want them too. Why don't they always work out? Well, that involves troubleshooting which takes time, money and experience. Something went bad - the reagents, the equipment, the protocol.... something got roached. After running through the troubleshooting game for a decade or two you start finding a trend to the problems. "I borrowed so-and-so's water. He said it was sterile." Or, "I thought all the cuvettes were the same." Or, "The pressure filter was slow so I used the suction filter - it was weird how foamy it got." Well, that explains why I'm not able to purify the protein. The protein won't be purified now because it's been turned into latte-topping.

"Trust No One" is the motto of science. In the big picture, it means that I don't have to believe your results. I can do the experiment myself. In fact, it means that I don't have to believe all of your detailed conclusions either. Although I do need to trust and believe your results. I don't mind reading your conclusions and I respect that you're probably the best person to interpret your results - in a well-regarded peer reviewed journal that is. However, I reserve the right to think about what your results mean in my own twisted vision of how things work. It's a complicated, messy and beautiful world and you're not going to figure anything out by taking someone's half-baked conclusions for granted.

"Trust No One" means taking responsibility for your own actions, experiments and thinking.

Today, I learned that transgenic yeast cells will still grow when you use 4x too much "yeast nitrogen base" and zero ammonium sulphate in the synthetic growth media. I saw the comment on the jar about needing to add ammonium sulphate. Instead, I trusted the notebook from the student who started the project. The manual didn't specify much in the way of media and my cells grew anyway. Slowly, and to a smaller extent than expected.

"Trust No One" indeed.

Doktor Howl

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Re: Trust No One
« Reply #1 on: August 29, 2018, 03:18:21 am »
When I am at a computer that isn't acting like it's full of Russians and randomly rebooting, I will tell you the tale of how I got a 102% in freshman physics because I got all the experiments wrong.  So tomorrow, when I'm supposed to be working.
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LuciferX

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Re: Trust No One
« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2018, 09:10:28 am »
So, too much nitrogen base /can/ replace ammonium sulphate?
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Cramulus

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Re: Trust No One
« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2018, 06:08:30 pm »
"Trust No One" is the motto of science. In the big picture, it means that I don't have to believe your results. I can do the experiment myself. In fact, it means that I don't have to believe all of your detailed conclusions either. Although I do need to trust and believe your results. I don't mind reading your conclusions and I respect that you're probably the best person to interpret your results - in a well-regarded peer reviewed journal that is. However, I reserve the right to think about what your results mean in my own twisted vision of how things work. It's a complicated, messy and beautiful world and you're not going to figure anything out by taking someone's half-baked conclusions for granted.

I like all of this


it's like there's two tiers of knowledge - what's given to you, and what you create in yourself



Zenpatista

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Re: Trust No One
« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2018, 04:57:32 am »
When I am at a computer that isn't acting like it's full of Russians and randomly rebooting, I will tell you the tale of how I got a 102% in freshman physics because I got all the experiments wrong.  So tomorrow, when I'm supposed to be working.

I'm hoping it involves being on fire and discovering that it's a productive, pleasurable and time-melting state. I mean, I'm remembering you got sent on an impossible assignment? But I can't remember any of the details. You should write it up!

Zenpatista

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Re: Trust No One
« Reply #5 on: September 04, 2018, 04:58:40 am »
So, too much nitrogen base /can/ replace ammonium sulphate?

No, not really. But there's enough other sources of nitrogen and sulfur that the critters can limp along. They're doing a lot better with proper food.

Zenpatista

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Re: Trust No One
« Reply #6 on: September 04, 2018, 05:03:26 am »
"Trust No One" is the motto of science. In the big picture, it means that I don't have to believe your results. I can do the experiment myself. In fact, it means that I don't have to believe all of your detailed conclusions either. Although I do need to trust and believe your results. I don't mind reading your conclusions and I respect that you're probably the best person to interpret your results - in a well-regarded peer reviewed journal that is. However, I reserve the right to think about what your results mean in my own twisted vision of how things work. It's a complicated, messy and beautiful world and you're not going to figure anything out by taking someone's half-baked conclusions for granted.

I like all of this


it's like there's two tiers of knowledge - what's given to you, and what you create in yourself




Yes! Results and Conclusions really shouldn't be mixed. One of the great tragedies of modern scientific publishing is merging the two sections together. It makes it too easy to accept the entire paper. There was a famous professor here who used to teach, "there's something wrong with every paper - we just don't know what." That wrong bit is almost always in the conclusion. The trick is to get young scientists to be careful between these two sections, especially when reading someone else's paper. The results are irrefutable. I mean, maybe you messed up the experiment or didn't set it up correct, but the data is the data. What you think it means, however, and how you interpret it is an entirely different thing. You may be correct in your conclusions, but you may only be close to correct. 

LuciferX

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Re: Trust No One
« Reply #7 on: September 04, 2018, 05:57:15 am »
Is good, when things are material, determinate, and "objectively" measurable. What about when the field is the psyche? Can results be derived from a subject's conclusions?
Hic Salta?
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