Quality Of Theory

In a recent edition of

This is fairly stern stuff! It got worse. He accused scientists of continuing to use and refine overly simple versions of models that include disproved assumptions and which do not match observations without lots of special pleading. Observers were not left out: “Some astronomers like to see what they believe." Even worse was to come. In 1984 a temperature was measured and found to be in accord with the disk accretion model. Later, an amateur found the calculation involved a factor of ten missing in Newton's gravitational constant! The correction, and the fact that the method now fails to account for observation, is hardly cited, while the original paper has 100 citations. He complained that this scientific community was producing fewer and fewer theoretical papers, but there is a burgeoning effort to find more examples, leading to statistical analyses leading to further problems, such as claiming causal links in plots of dependent variables.

The question now is, is Chemistry in a better condition? I do not think so. How much original theory, as opposed to opaque computations, have you seen lately? My guess is, not many. How many of you think there is no further theory to find? I think the problem lies in reductionism. Everyone seems to believe that all chemistry is a consequence of the Schrodinger equation, but that cannot be solved. Therefore there is no point looking further. That, in my opinion, is simply false. I am not doubting that the Schrodinger equation is generally correct, but that does not mean that the only way to produce theoretical work is to solve it.

Final advice from Antonucci: "I urge my junior colleagues to spend 15 minutes every day thinking, palms down, eyes on the ceiling." Follow a Californian bumper sticker: "Don't just do something, sit there".

Register free for an account at http://my.rsc.org/registration.