The Half-Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date, by Sam Arbesman - exclusive excerpt


20 Responses to “The Half-Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date, by Sam Arbesman - exclusive excerpt”

  1. “Everything You Know Is Wrong”  -The Firesign Theatre
    …or as *I* like to say it: “Things are ALWAYS more complex than they first appear to be”.  But no, that’s too simple.

  2.  “I conceive of nothing, in religion, science or philosophy, that is more than the proper thing to wear, for a while.”

    Charles Fort.

    • Jonathan Badger says:

      No. At least not about the science part. Yes, science changes, but not in a willy-nilly like fashion like clothing styles — we really do know more now about how the universe functions than ever before, and this will in all likelihood continue. Charles Fort did a great disservice to the world in purposely confusing the issue with his tales of “wonders”, particularly as he did it a time where it was harder for readers to figure out that his description of events often had no other source than his own works.

  3. nvlady says:

    That’s the beauty and logic of facts, though. When more evidence comes along to disprove or re-affirm a common knowledge, it makes or changes a fact and we move on until better or different knowledge comes along.

    Beliefs on the other hand do not have this same mechinism. A belief can be disproven from top to bottom, but it won’t matter to some because to change a belief is near impossible no matter the facts.

    This is why a debate using beliefs and facts as if they are on par will result in noting, and why belief should not be held anywhere near the same regard as fact.

  4. Tao Ruspoli says:

    I wonder how long the half life of the fact that facts have half lives is.

  5. Daemonworks says:

    “scientometrics—literally the science of science”

    Actually, it’s literally the measurement of science. :)

  6. tnmc says:

    “So it’s like the particle-wave duality of matter?” helpfully added Diana Troy…

  7. David Evans says:

    “For decades, we were convinced that the brontosaurus was a real dinosaur.”
    We were right to believe that fossils labeled “brontosaurus” came from a real dinosaur. We were wrong about who named the species first, that’s all.

  8. class_enemy says:

    What’s the over-under on how long before this book will be misquoted by a young earth creationist, a climate denialist or an anti-vaccinationist?

  9. jonboy nemo says:

    facts are simple and facts are straight / facts are lazy and facts are late / facts all come with points of view / facts don’t do what i want them to / facts are twisting the truth around / facts are living turned inside out / facts are nothing on the face of things 

    -david byrne

  10. There is an excellent book on this subject that came out a couple of years ago on Princeton Press. It’s called the Blind Spot.

  11. So…we should feel free to free the funk on error bars, when falling short of describing error functions in graphs? Attach Feynman and Russell diagrams? Use the corresponding yearly tax forms in 2013?

  12. Velocirapt42 says:


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