I shared this post with you today in class before I found this perfect expression of why we can always say with confidence that “the scientist was wrong.”
The opening joke (attributed to Albert Einstein) tells the whole story.
How to Demand Your Readers’ Attention.
This is a post in progress. It began from an interaction with a student named 3G last semester, whose research topic was black holes. Our exchange included the following:
I love your topic, 3G, and I’m always intrigued to read your newest draft. But despite my interest, you nearly talk me out of continuing by starting out so slowly.
That’s an exaggeration, but it got your interest, didn’t it?
Case in point. Start out by grabbing my attention.
Nothing could be LESS surprising than that Stephen Hawking is a smart guy. Nothing could be MORE arresting than to claim that he was wrong. So say he was wrong.
Stephen Hawking was wrong about black holes. Long and rightly praised as one of the most intelligent minds of our time and the most innovative influencer in astrophysics, Hawking’s theories on the properties of black holes are considered gospel truth. Sadly, they’re most likely incorrect.
No matter how much “qualifying” you have to do to rebuild the man’s contributions after that opening, the tactic will be worth it if you have the evidence to demonstrate his mistakes.
Plus, it’s fun. And it makes me want to read on.
Are you up for that?
Followed by this followup:
Having read to the end of the essay now, 3G, I want to revise my opening gambit. Not only was Stephen Hawking most likely WRONG, but also his theories ARE PREVENTING right answers from emerging to take their place!
Followed by this:
Finally, when I read these short arguments outside the context of the overall research project, I feel things missing that might exist in the other arguments.
For example, I’m sure you don’t mean to suggest that anybody’s scientific theories are ever considered TRUE FOREVER. Every proved hypothesis is immediately tested by new theories that attempt to build on the proved ones or overturn them if they can’t stand up for themselves. So, it’s good-natured teasing to call Hawking wrong. You don’t acknowledge that here.
And really, this is my last comment for now: If wormholes are just silly nonsense, any criticism of Hawking’s repudiation-in-advance of their existence will turn out to be pretty silly too. It’s just as likely that the radiation theory IS and SHOULD BE a warning to astrophysicists everywhere that the search for proof of wormholes—cool as they sound—will be a dead end.