SCIENCE IN THE NEWS DAILY
'What Is' Meets 'What if': The Role of Speculation in Science
from the New York Times (Registration Required)
Woody Allen once said that when you do comedy, you sit at the children's table. The same might be said of speculation in science. And yet speculation is an essential part of science. So how does it fit in? Two recent publications about the misty depths of canine and human history suggest some answers. In one, an international team of scientists concludes that we really don't know when and where dogs were domesticated. Greger Larson of the University of Durham, in England, the first of 20 authors of that report, said of dog DNA, "It's a mess."
In the other, Pat Shipman, an independent scientist and writer, suggests that dogs may have helped modern humans push the Neanderthals out of existence and might even have helped shape human evolution.
Is one right and the other wrong? Are both efforts science--one a data-heavy reality check and the other freewheeling speculation? The research reported by Dr. Larson and his colleagues in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is solid science--easily judged by peers, at any rate. The essay by Dr. Shipman is not meant to come to any conclusion but to prompt thought and more research. It, too, will be judged by other scientists, and read by many nonscientists.
Connect With Us:
VIDEO: How Hair Ice Grows
In 2013, American Scientist featured an article on odd ice formations on plant stems, including these curling ribbons of ice. One of the types of ice discussed in the article was hair ice—long, thin strands of ice that grow under quite specific conditions. The only problem is that a new study shows the theory put forth at the time—that gas pressure pushes the water out—isn’t correct... (click the link above to read more).
To view all multimedia content, click "Latest Multimedia."
Receive notification when new content is posted from the entire website, or choose from the customized feeds available.