Occasionally I encounter the shameful side of scientific "skepticism" in common publications. Here's one below. Author Peter Weiss opens his STM/AFM article with an inside view of how the experts received news of this new (and Nobel-prizewinning) invention.

I believe that this sort of behavior is typical. It's scary, since it suggests that weaker, harder-to-prove discoveries will be laughed off the stage, entirely supressed by the same sort of ridicule. Evidence in support of STM microscopes is fairly easy to produce. Once the idea is out, even high school students can build them. But what of the other experiments which are more difficult to replicate? Won't the contempuous laughter of the experts (and their responses during peer review) act to suppress new and unconventional discoveries?

I dearly hope that most new discoveries withstand the attacks of the belittlers, and survive to make the world a different place. My suspicion is that there are enormous numbers of discoveries which did not survive, not because they were invalid, but because their discoverers did not have the resources needed to defeat the forces of intellectual intolerance and scientific xenophobia.

SCIENCE NEWS, October 24, 1998

Atom Tinkerer's Paradise


Maybe it was too big-or too small-a leap for his colleagues to fathom. Whatever the reason, the hostility of fellow surface scientists was unvarnished when James K. Gimzewski spoke at a 1985 surface-physics meeting about viewing a single molecule with a new type of instrument-the scanning tunneling microscope.

"They laughed me off the stage. It was new and they hated it," he says.

Microscopists were no more welcoming, says Gimzewski, a physicist at IBM's Zurich Research Laboratory in R?chlikon, Switzerland, where the scanning tunneling microscope (STM) was invented by his colleagues.

Heinrich Rohrer, who was to share the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physics with IBM colleague Gerd Karl Binnig for his part in the invention, "asked me go to Australia and give a lecture at an international conference on microscopy. All the TEM [transmission electron microscope] guys were shouting and laughing off their heads," Gimzewski recalls.

Complete article at
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