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Paul Alivisatos Interview - How does a scientist know that what he/she has found is correct?

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That’s a very important question. In science we take a great deal of care to try to ensure that what we find is correct. One way we do that is by having... ...lots and lots of check experiments, control experiments, where we try to see: “I think I see an effect, but let me test and see, does it still happen... ... if I make this change or another one” and so on, and I perform a series of controls... ...and checks and so forth. Good scientists always treat their own results skeptically, to make sure that they really are genuine. But I would say this, to a young person, I have often found with young graduate students... ...that sometimes, when they first do experiments, they don’t believe them because they’re a little bit worried that something which they did... ...might not turn out to be important, because they’re at the beginning. But at a certain point, if you perform enough control experiments, you should have confidence that your result could be correct... ...and might be actually interesting to other people. That’s an important threshold to reach. The next thing about science that’s very important for people to know... that if it’s an interesting result, other people will check it for you as well. So you’d better check it yourself to make sure you got it right, because if it isn’t right and it was something important... ...of course other people will come to make sure: “This is an interesting result, let me see if I can also get the same answer, reproduce it”. So it’s very important to take great care to make sure that your results are correct, and to really want to find the right answer. Not to be concerned about whether your opinion turns out to be correct, but to be concerned about really wanting to know what really does happen. Starting from that feeling is a big deal also, not just wanting to confirm your own opinion, but wanting to find the right answer.

Video Details

Duration: 2 minutes and 13 seconds
Country: Sweden
Language: English
Producer: MoleClues TV
Director: Per Thoren
Views: 184
Posted by: locumele on Jan 18, 2010

Professor Paul Alivisatos interviewed for MoleClues. Entire interview available on

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