Science (as an institution)


  • It's occurred to me that scientists/professors who are trying to get published may have a bias toward studying short-term effects of things rather than the long-term effects, b/c it's easier to put an experiment together that will measure the short-term effects, and you'll be able to knock out a paper faster. For example, they may have a bias toward studying the short-term effects of sleep deprivation rather than the long-term effects. Maybe. It's just a thought I've had. I'll need to think about it more.

de Grey: Because again, scientists don’t necessarily always think like technologists. The people who were actually interested in it and actually knew that Chlamydomonas didn’t have very many protein-coding genes in their mitochondria DNA didn’t care about doing anything with the information! They just were bloody hypothesis merchants. They just wanted to bloody find things out for the sake of finding things out. Wankers!

So I got up and generally railed at this. And it worked! One person in the audience was mitochondrialist Mike King, a professor at Thomas Jefferson who wanted to know more about my question. Six months later, he rang up a biologist in Mexico and started a collaboration. And after a couple of years, all these things duly were found in sequence, and they duly told us some awfully interesting things. That was my first success in actually embarrassing so-called real scientists into doing the obvious thing. You seem to take a little bit of pleasure in that.

de Grey: Yes, I certainly take a great deal of pleasure in that. And I’m not exactly embarrassed by my, perhaps, slightly confrontational style. I think there’s a place for that in science. But it was a real example of me making a contribution, even though, at that point, I had zero money.


de Grey: I’ve always found that basic scientists who are interested in testing hypotheses think very differently from technologists who are interested in, you know, changing the world in some way. A large part of the difficulties I’ve had in getting my colleagues in gerontology to really understand what I’m saying is that they’re all scientists and not really technologists. In this case what I’m saying is if we implement SENS properly, comprehensively, then it will actually postpone age-related ill health substantially. And we certainly don’t have any data plus or minus on that because, of course, we haven’t implemented it yet, right?

de Grey: First of all, research is a very transferable skill. If you’ve learned how to work on really hard problems, you can apply that to a different domain very easily. But the biggest handicap in research is an ability to think outside the box. The handicap is being encumbered by all the conventional wisdom in a given field.