Sometimes the 99% are wrong

Following on from my last post in which I revealed that, despite driving an electric car, I’m a man made climate change denier, there were  comments. Itay wrote:

Are you serious? So you’re defying the major consensus among 95% of all scientists? Based on what?

Why yes, I am. Here’s a story from my past to explain why this is not a problem for me.

When I presented my PhD work at an international conference I had in the audience four elderly and distinguished doyens of the particular field I worked in and dozens of their acolytes.

My work (and that of my relatively young professor boss and co-student mathematician) essentially overturned a 20 year consensus of mathematical equations. These equations, taken by all as THE way to predict behaviour of a specific class of liquids, actually bore the names of some of those in the room.

I presented my 4 years of work and my entire thesis in around 10 minutes leaving 10 minutes for questions.

What do you think happened in the room when I basically told 100 distinguished scientists, some of them 3 times my age, that everything they’d worked on for 20 years was wrong?

I was eviscerated for the first 5 minutes. My professor had not flown to that conference with me. I took 5 minutes of them ripping me apart on mathematical grounds. I was not fit to answer as my speciality was the computational solving of the equations not their mathematical derivation. I was intellectually bloodied and bruised.

Then, the only person in the room who was a fan of my boss (and had actually taught him) stood up. Happily he was also the only person in the entire room or field to have won a Nobel prize for Physics. He backed me to the hilt and answered a number of questions for me.

I left academic science shortly after I received my PhD but I know that our team’s work went on to fundamentally change the way all simulation in that field is carried out. The 99% consensus that existed up to that point was rendered utterly worthless.

About the Author
Brian of London made aliyah from the UK to Israel in 2009. For many years he has blogged and broadcast about Israel, technology and other subjects. Most recently he's focused on the experience of driving an electric car every day. Brian has a scientific PhD but today owns a business in Israel.