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Re: [RC] What the Abstracts Say...and Don't Say (was: Beet Pulp) Part 1 - Sisu West Ranch

I spent most of my adult life as an industrial chemist/engineer/inventor with some success. In the course of this work I probably averaged 10-15 hours a week reading papers and patents. As a result of this experience I have a definate way I learn about things through the literature.
1. Find a reference in the area. In the pre computer days this meant scanning lots of titles and scaning lots of abstracts.
2. After finding an interesting reference, scan the abstract. About half the references will be eliminated here.
3. Carefully read the abstract. About 20% of the remainder will be eliminated.
4. Get the original reference. Read it carefully. If it still seems to be teaching you something, carefully read the experimental method section again. Think about the limitations of the research. Think about the author's conclusions. Come to your own conclusions. Think some more.
5. Order many of the references from the paper and start over.

Most of the technical mistakes I made revolved around accepting a conclusion, when the assumptions and experiment did not allow as broad an application as I or someone else wanted to make.

I will now give a fictional story that illustrates how easy this is to do.

~200 BC a smart Roman noticed that people who lived near swamps got "fevers" more frequently than others. He made two deductions from this data. Note: 2200 years later the data, which can lead to the true science is still valid. His first deduction was that if he drained the swamps and encouraged those who could to live in the hills they would not get as many "fevers". His second deduction was that the "bad air" in the swamp caused "fevers".

At any time in the next couple of thousand years, a further experiment could have been done. Eventually a Doctor (if memory serves it was Walter Reed), decided that insects may play a part in the spread of "fevers". He carefully screened some tents and showed that you were much less likely to get a "fever" if you did not get bitten at night in the tropics. Note this experiment did not say that the insects caused the disease, only that insect bites are associated with "fevers". I'm sure that some people believed that insect bites do cause various diseases.

Note that both scientific conclusions are valid, but the root cause of "fevers" has still not been found.

Now we know that many diseases are spread by biting insects. We still use the Roman science and don 't live in swamps. We still use the Spanish American War science and have screens on windows. We also use, when we can, 20th century science and vaccinate for disease

Ed & Wendy Hauser
2994 Mittower Road
Victor, MT 59875

(406) 642-9640



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[RC] What the Abstracts Say...and Don't Say (was: Beet Pulp) Part 1, katswig@xxxxxxxxxxxxx