Popular Science News | Changing Your Mind

Popular Science News – when Maynard Keynes, the famous economist, was asked why he had changed his mind on monetary theory he replied “when the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?” While obvious to me, there are many people who refuse to accept that facts actually change. Take the problem with the number of chromosomes in a human cell. Up until 1956 it was 48, that was the count in 1912 and until someone recounted them and found 46 it stayed in the textbooks. Even after the new count, it took decades for those trained pre-1956 to accept that this fact had changed.

Scientists are now beginning to learn that ‘facts’ have an expiry date, just like the milk in your fridge, and using them after that date can cause problems. A rough rule of thumb is that scientific facts are now expiring after about 10 years. Social science has a slower turnover than physical science, probably because facts are less easier to check in social as opposed to physical sciences.

Scientists are now talking of there being a spectrum of truth. On the left are the fast changing facts, like laws in the TRNC, and on the right the slow changing facts like the number of continents, which would be thought as being constants. It is the middle group of facts which cause the most problem because people tend to believe that they don’t change. These are called mesofacts. Examples include how to bring up children. However, in medical schools nowadays, trainee doctors are told that in five years half the facts they have been taught will be wrong, and unfortunately the trainers don’t know which ones.

Want to know a disturbing fact, if you don’t already, there is no such thing as a brontosaurus! A skeleton of what used to be called a brontosaurus was discovered in 1978 to actually be an Apatosaurus. That can’t be right! The image included with this article was found by searching for ‘brontosaurus’ so that shows how slowly that change is taking.

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