Pigs and truffles: the analogy to science

“… Fermi’s Nobel Prize was partially for the discovery of the new elements Hesperium and Ausonium, which were flat wrong. Ida Noddack even pointed out the flaw in Fermi’s arguments, prior to the Nobel Prize. … As the old saying goes, though, sometimes it takes a pig to find a truffle. But, as truffle hunters know, the pig usually eats it …”

Ida Noddack the female experimental chemist versus showman Enrico Fermi the ego centric bungling physicist
Ida Noddack the female experimental chemist versus showman Enrico Fermi the ego centric bungling physicist who claimed to have discovered two fictional transuranium elements in 1934 when bombarding uranium with neutrons for the purpose of securing the Nobel Prize. In fact, he bungled it, and the brilliant chemist Ida Noddack debunked him. Naturally, he was still awarded a prize and she was ignored. It turned out that Fermi could have discovered nuclear fission in 1934 if he hadn’t used a piece of thin metal foil which stopped the fission fragments. If he had done that, the nuclear deterrent might have been available years earlier to end world war.

Dr Woit’s blog posts may often be so silly they are funny, but occasionally you find a gem in the comments section too, such as the one above, which is well worth preserving. 😉

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