Science Blunders

Dr. Rosie Redfield joins Joe, Kevin, and Toren to talk about NASA and the Shadow Biosphere, blinded scientists all over the place, extreme solutions to illegal parking, and one of our favorite sciencey shows goes terribly awry.

Music: “The Future Soon” by Jonathan Coulton




Not mentioned in the show but Ben Goldacre’s TED talk here is great and on-topic:

18 Responses

  1. Aaaawww man! I’ve listened to all of the episodes, and this is the first time you made me feel a bit horkish (it was the reattaching the amputated limbs that did me in). It reminded me of The Last King of Scotland (the movie) and Lives of the Monster Dogs (the book).

  2. Oh, but there was a science blunder in Jurassic Park. They assumed all of the dinosaurs were female. But the amphibian DNA let them change sex and start re-creating in the park themselves.

    1. I was listening to this episode in the car last night and I started trying to tell them this through the radio. Your way works better.

      Anyway, also in the books, there was another science blunder — the epilogue mentioned that they’d made all the dinosaurs dependent on some protein, I think it was L-Lysine, so that if the park failed the dinosaurs would all die, but instead of starving to death the dinosaurs just found food sources that had a lot of L-Lysine.

  3. i’ve had this movie on my hard drive for a few years now, but haven’t made the effort to watch it. it sounds like it’s pretty gruesome and disturbing. it is about the japanese experiments and torture of the chinese.

  4. An addition to the ‘In the News’ segment:

    There is the lab accident that happened at UCLA a couple of years ago ( where an apparently under-trained lab technician set herself on fire while mishandling a pretty nasty chemical. Generally, lab accidents have treated strictly as such (accidents) so to have charges filed for willful neglect is a scary precedent for a lot of Investigators and Universities.

    On the subject of U731, as a person who works with Y. pestis a part of me would love to see the results from their testing while the other part is horrified by that desire. By most accounts, the ‘evil science’ consisted of well controlled studies with important and meaningful results. Results sadly tainted by the deaths of innocents.

    Sheldon Harris ( makes a case that many of the records from the camps wound up US hands after the Japanese surrender and were used to enhance the our own Bio-warfare program (to prevent it’s use, of course).

    Thanks for the podcast. It makes my time in the lab far more enjoyable.

  5. I feel this episode didn’t have a very good, how can I put it… “rhythm”, perhaps? English as second language strikes again! Anyway, Dr. Redfield was a great guest, but I felt like the subjects didn’t flow quite as smoothly as in other “let’s talk about a bunch of horrible things” episodes.

    Still, it was worth the time spent listening. Evil science never ceases to be fascinating– I mean, disgusting!

  6. I thought it was a little harsh to call that study about the speed of neutrinos a “science blunder”. Yes, they got it wrong, but they did lots of checking and then published asking lots of other people to check too. Nothing like the “cold fusion” stuff where they didn’t bother publishing anything other than a press release. To me it was just good science with results being regarded sceptically.

    Anyhoo, I liked the ep anyway. 🙂

    Another pop culture reference is the big blue dude in the Watchmen. That was more of an Occ Health & Safety blunder though, like getting run over by a forklift or something, I guess.

  7. One thing y’all did not mention about Unit 731 was Gen. MacArthur granted immunity to the Unit 731 scientists captured by the US in exchange for their research on biological warfare.