Field of Science


As slow as what?

TPP knows a thing or two about patience.  Getting publishable results when you're doing field studies can take years; plant communities change, just slowly.  Unfortunately because the whole academic publishing thing is based on quantity, this seems to put people doing such research at a disadvantage compared to people who say do the same type of work with microbes. Yes, having life cycles measured in minutes is very different from plants whose life cycles are measured in years, sometimes hundreds of them.  But that's nothing like this.  Here's a report on what was claimed to be the longest continuously running scientific experiment.  Pitch is one of those weird substances that looks and acts like a solid, but it's really a very, very viscous (thick in the molasses sense) liquid, but way way thicker.  Since the experiment was begun in 1927, only 8 drops of pitch have fallen from the funnel, and the ninth is due to fall soon.  Wow!  Is this exciting!  Wonder when they'll get enough data to publish?  A good reviewer will insist that they duplicate their results.  It'll only take another 86 years!  Guess they should have thought of that back in 1927 when the experiment was set up.
Now this is a quite amusing news report, but quite inaccurate in fact. The longest continuously running experiment was set up by Dr. Beal in 1886 to see how long the seeds of 21 species of plant would remain viable.  The last batch was taken from storage in 2000 and the germination results reported in 2002 in the American Journal of Botany.  Only 3 species' seeds have survived this long, but the Verbascum blatteria (moth mullein) still germinated at 50%!  Since 5 or 6 more bottles of seeds remain in storage the experiment is still on going.