...and hands

Thought is shaped. An active mind does its part, but the hands grasp and feel, too. So, it's about the head and hands, this life.

Mar 15

Nov 19

Tension in “Translational Medicine”

A couple weeks ago, I attended a “Genomic and Personalized Medicine Forum" at Duke. The presentation by Sandeep Dave focused on the heterogeneity of cancers and challenges that heterogeneity of cancer poses in research and, of course, in treatment. As is often the case with well attended seminars, the Question-and-Answer discussion was very stimulating. One theme that popped up in Q&A has stuck with me.

Fitzgerald’s test: “… hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” The issue of power and scaling of studies came up. What would a researcher (like Sandeep) do with larger scale studies — instead of a few thousand “subjects” what about 100,000 or more? Would that give power enough to tease out heterogeneity? Victoria Christian asked the question; and, as she posed it, it struck me that it fit quite well. I know an oncologist — a prominent researcher of ovarian cancer — who had run into the Impenetrable Wall of Power in his studies. He and his international collaborators could no longer confidently refine their list of genetic variants relating to the onset of ovarian cancer, because their (prodigious) data no longer could support further claims that he felt were “just on the edge” of validity.

Of course, number and statistical power are very, very relevant.

But, nonetheless, there was something jarring about the 100,000-subject question in my mind. The talk, after all, explored the heterogenous quality of cancers — a heterogeneity that in effect makes every cancer unique. I think, in fact, Sandeep underplayed the heterogeneity of cancer genomes perhaps to simplify matters, saying that those who suffer from cancer “have two genomes” — the one they were born with and the one in their tumors. (In the Q&A, Jeff Marks remarked that there is evidence that tumors in fact are things with multiple genomes, so it’s not just two but God-knows-how-many genomes that cancer sufferers carry.) Cancer often drives cells into bizzaro-world imbalance, and genome stability staggers as stabilizers (like drivers of cell death) falter. Sandeep, of course, elaborated on Jeff’s observation to note that genomes themselves have other modes of modification, and not just DNA sequence variations.

So, I was sitting there in the room, wondering how I could hold the thought of the huge combinatorics of cancer heterogeneity in mind — combinatorics that molecularly make every cancer patient unique. And, at the same time, I was wondering how it was possible to find 100,000 patients for a cancer study. How do you group 100,000 people, if they bear the weight of a disease that, molecularly speaking, distinguishes each one of them from the other 99,999? We talk about “molecular phenotypes,” but where are lines drawn in a disease like cancer?

Maybe cancer is actually a plural noun — a grouping, true, but a grouping of individuals.

Certainly, we can group by whatever part of the body is afflicted or use the categories of disease that pathologists and oncologists use every day. They’re handy, but — relative to the range of molecular phenotypes — these also seem a rather gross method of categorization. Breast cancer, for example, affects the breast, though breast cancer for today’s cancer researchers and physicians falls into molecularly defined “subtypes.” One can say that breast cancer is really not one disease, but many, and thank God there are treatments available for different molecularly defined breast cancers. Still, though they are informed by molecular qualities, breast cancer subtypes are themselves groupings of genomic dysfunction and alteration.

There’s a heck of a lot of variety in there.

You often see what you’re looking at. The Q&A session highlighted for me some of the cultural stances that animate interactions among so-called “basic scientists” or (sometimes uttered disparagingly) “discovery” scientists and clinical scientists. The distinction is — and has probably always been — a matter of interest and focus: the basic scientists seek to understand processes and the clinical scientists seek to shape and alter processes of disease. It is apparent what underlies these two perspectives and how each is ennobled in its own right.

It’s also pretty easy to see how each would conflict with the other.

Vicky’s question about the 100,000-patient study and my qualms about even that sized study’s adequacy call upon two different frames of reference, each rooted in personal experience. The one (Vicky’s) nobly presses toward relief of disease and toward treatments that actually matter; the other (probably, mostly, tentatively my own) is an equally noble and valid press toward the understanding of processes of disease and its contrast with the processes of health.

But it’s not just that overly wrought distinction either, since each frame of reference relies upon and encourages the other — each just places an end point differently: the one with successful treatment and the other with clear understanding. This contrast (conflict?) is a gap that traditional organization of research has avoided, and yet in the context of translation medicine, the contrast simply can’t be ignored. Translational medicine posits a reality that assumes the two frames of reference to be compatible, somehow compatible.

And they are, I believe and hope, in the forums like those that took place a couple of weeks ago.

Where we’re at and where we might be. Perhaps, in the end, the scientific situation now is that we have too little information — despite the prodigious amounts of data that cancer researchers are producing in sequencing projects. And as a result, for clinicians, the picture is both positive and negative. “The positive is that the current low response rate to treatment of some cancers may well be a function of not choosing the right drug for the right molecular type of cancer,” blogged Ewan Birney. “By ‘typing’ the cancer better, there can be better tailored treatment. The negative is that the high heterogeneity between patients means that doing well structured trials is hard…. At some level this heterogeneity is daunting — it is going to take a lot of samples with careful analysis to sort out what is going on biologically in cancers and then how to leverage that knowledge into improving treatments.”

Where we end up is in a room together, looking at the same issues, the same questions. And we acknowledge our frames of reference — embrace them, actually — and teach one another how we see.

In the end, I think, the seeing is what will matter most.

Aug 21

Novice on “Foxtrot” — Stallings Memorial Autocross Event 2013

On 17 August I took part in my very first autocross event at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point in Havelock, North Carolina. We gathered in early morning. Night rains had darkened the tarmac and made it slick in places. The runway was like a wide and still river, and the course would go on top of this expanse, marked out with orange cones. Aaron and I were going to share Derek’s car, a Honda S2000 with some modifications to the suspension and some bubble-gum sticky tires. Derek had to bow out of this competition, but there will be other times.image


I very much felt the newbie from the start, not really knowing what I was supposed to do and gawking at the cars as they rolled in. Many rolled out complete sets of tires and hoisted up cars on Harbor Freight hydraulic jacks to switch in competition tires. There was much comradery — which of course was appropriate, since the Stallings Memorial Autocross Event took place on “Foxtrot” runway and many of the competitors were Marines, probably from MCAS Cherry Point or nearby Camp Lejeune. They were the buff ones with really short hair and good manners, mostly. The Marine Corps Community Service (MCCS) hosted the event, maybe even underwrote part of it. Certainly, they were essential partners to the North Carolina Region Sport Car Club.

Events like these have a routine that I’ve observed just from having witnessed just two of them: Preliminary car putzing and cone setting rush through early hours. The cones set, everyone walks the course, usually multiple times as a way of thinking about a driving strategy. Then, at a very precise time, all convene for a “Drivers Meeting” where the rules are read and the law laid down. Since this is a (mostly) male sport, rules are clear and judgment quick and clean. I suppose that the code is pretty standard from event to event, but the order that they’re read is different.

One new rule for the Tar Heel Sports Car Club members: No alcoholic beverages on the runway after the races stopped. None on the runway. Period. Ever. Marine Corps rule, I bet. Apparently the Tar Heels have been known to pop open a beer after the final race.

The rules having been made fresh and clear, it’s either off to the car and line-up on “the grid” or out to the edges of the course in teams to reset toppled (or flung) cones and call in driving transgressions.

Our class (STR - “Street Touring R”) was the first out, and Aaron drove the first two runs, so that I could orient myself and get a feel for speed and braking. I had walked the course twice and even recorded the cones in my trusty little black Moleskine. Little seemed to have stuck in my mind, though, and the rides were essential just to link the car with the course.

The third run in the car was my first.


We were positioned on the grid behind an orange Lotus, which was a little daunting since it was about as agile and quick as it was small. I recall thinking that it was good we were not in front of it, since it might try to crawl up our tailpipe as I ambled along when I was driving. (There are two cars on the course at one time, spread apart by 20 seconds or so.)


Everyone in a car wears a helmet, and I wore Derek’s gloves when I was behind the wheel. They were quite useful. (One thing about the helmet: My ears folded forward and getting them straightened out was a challenge and the tight fight reoriented my sunglasses so that they floated a quarter inch above my bridge. A little distracting.)

You start at your leisure, more or less. A fellow tells you when you can go, but starting is your choice, not dictated by a flag or a gunshot. You drive out a chute, and when a laser set up detects you crossing the start line, the timer starts. Get out of first gear as quickly as you can and settle in to second for the run. I could have accelerated quicker, I know now.

Many of the racers use “GoPros” to record their runs, and so I have videos to study. My first run was tame, since I wanted to get a feel for the course and car. My second one got the best time (58.673 seconds). The third one included a spin out, just short of halfway through. I do think that spinning out was as instructive as it was fun, since I had pushed the physics of the car and the edge of my novice skill.

The videos make runs look like Sunday drives in comparison to the way they feel — quite intense, either in the driver’s seat or as a passenger.

So how did I do? Absolutely great, in my view. The stopwatch was a little more discriminating. I was middling among “novices” (eleventh in a field of twenty), though I don’t know the cars or just how “novice” the other novices were. (Beware sandbaggers in this sport, too?) In the great field of the 99 contestants, I came in ninetieth. So, like I said, not too bad!

Something about feeling a machine respond changes the boundaries of experience. You grab a tool — a pliers, perhaps — and your hand and mind are extended a bit. The pliers is not experienced as an “object” as, for example, one experiences a jelly bean or a piece of soap. Rather, the pliers shifts a boundary of control and feeling, out beyond the limits of fingertips. The same kind of thing I saw happening with the car as I brought it around the cones of the course. The notion of steering became richer, especially as I learned that I could eventually master directing the vehicle around cones using the slip of the rear wheels.

The thing is — this experience is not intellectual or a matter of “head” thinking. It’s a matter of feel first and taking intellectual note after the fact. A thinking, of sorts, with the body.

Now, a few days after the runs, I look at the YouTube videos and feel my body adjust as the slalom appears. Sensation and control: these elements of experience extend our corporeal boundaries and push our minds to other objects like car seats, rear axels, the grip of tires. Sensation and control enliven those objects, at least for our consciousness, so that we feel they are part of us corporeally.

Getting that “feel” and comfortably extending sense and control diminish the novice and build craft. I will soon finish up my sixth decade, though I think I will not finish up being a novice. I hope always to be one, somehow.

Aug 20

My third run at the Stallings Memorial Autocross Event at MCAS Cherry Point. I drove “novice” since I was a total noob at autocross. Note the spin out around 0:40 seconds. The whole event was great fun.

Jul 18

Embroidering the edges

Under the heading “Variance and Dissent” in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology Yvo Smulders offers up “A two-step manuscript submission process can reduce publication bias.” He presents a way to “make progress in the struggle against publication bias” by

  • addressing “the discouragement authors have to submit ‘negative’ or nonsignificant results,”
  • encouraging editors to unhinge studies’ outcomes from their decisions to forward manuscripts to reviewers, and further
  • decoupling outcomes from editors’ initial appraisals of manuscripts.

Smulders proposes “implementing a two-stage manuscript submission process: authors first submit their introduction and methods section, including the statistical paragraph…. Editors and reviewers then make a preliminary decision based on what really should count in medical science: ‘Is the question relevant, and has it been properly addressed?’ ” An affirmative preliminary decision paves the way for submission of the whole package, including results and discussion, and that preliminary decision is the biggest hurdle to eventual publication. 

It is an interesting proposal and one that (as Smulders notes) is “not completely new,” having been proposed in various ways since the 1970s. The proposal could address the problem of (what I call) Small Font Methods — the diminishment of method in scientific discourse. But I have to qualify that assessment a bit, mainly because Smulders’ proposal seems to presuppose a more or less intact and traditional structure of scholarly publication.

Mindful that I risked demonizing a publication or a publishing business, I still found myself noting that this article, after all, appeared in an Elsevier publication, and traditional academic publishing (Elsevier practically being its poster child) finds itself under somewhat of a siege lately.

In essence, Smulders’ proposal changes tasks of editors and reviewers but does not significantly change their overall role in the structure of scientific publication. They still sit at publishers’ desks, where they open the mail, so to speak. The mail, however, contains only introductions and methods for them to ponder and weigh. They are the gateways and the arbiters still, though what they judge has a narrower scope. This stands in contrast to much of the Sturm und Drang in debates about academic publication, which has considered the broader structure of the enterprise — sometimes with an eye to how profits influence (distort?) the marketplace of ideas, sometimes with enthusiasm (or suspicion) about how “open access” might change scholarly and scientific enterprise, and sometimes with special attention paid to technology of dissemination in the Internet. However the discussions are framed, the overall argument is that the systems of publication are being challenged, and that the fix (or fixes) will displace not only traditional publishers but will change or even replace the traditional roles of editor and reviewer.

My concern about Smulders’ proposal is that it is too conservative and that the upheaval in academic communities has been too great for a conservative approach to matter much. This is profoundly unfair, I know, since in effect I’m imposing my interest in method and the arguments about publication in general on Smulders’ proposal, which he carefully aims at “making progress in the struggle against publication bias.” And yet … and yet, given the larger debate about the structure of academic publication, it does seem reasonable to ask that a proposal to fix anything in publishing take into account some of the larger complaints, too.

Can peer review be fixed? That’s the question many are asking; few believe that there’s nothing to fix. I had a conversation yesterday with a senior scientist who said that peer review seems to be increasingly tied with professional jealousies and competition for funding (which, in the end, might be one and the same). Peer review picks nits, he said, and sometimes devolves into debates about “how it should be done.” But those debates of method begin with the assertion that “I wouldn’t do it that way” — not with finding hallmarks and underpinnings of a method’s adequacy, its meeting the goal of “properly addressing” a relevant question.

You don’t have to go far to find scientists who are at least toying with the idea of circumventing the usual process entirely by posting to arXiv, for example, even before a paper is accepted. —That, in an attempt to get better guidance than what the traditional peer review process provides. (Of course, that path has its own large potholes and traps.)

I’ve commented on it before, but I think the problem of authority is part of the issue with peer review, just as it is part of the structure of academic publication. Editors and reviewers are vested with authority by virtue of the structure of the publishing enterprise, and changing their role implies shifting authority generally. And this makes some sense: editors have had a role because publishing enterprise controlled the mechanisms of distribution — which were limited and therefore had to be used for “worthy” insights. Publishing and collaboration technologies have changed distribution and eroded the rationale for editors inside the publishing enterprise to make decisions on behalf of scholarly communities (or, at least, steer the process of making those decisions).

The trouble is, of course, that we haven’t yet clearly agreed about who has that authority in this new world.

Are we too comfortable with the distinction we make between “method” and “result”? In matters of computational biology and modeling, I look at the “results” of research and they feel very much like explorations and elaborations of method. This is an epistemological question, so it’s probably one that many might feel is too woolly headed to spend much time on. But the way we parse method from result has created the very distinction that allows an imbalance — having made the split (which might be more arbitrary than we think), we can emphasize one over the other. And, as Smulders points out, results are sexier than method, so it’s no wonder that method might even be relegated to “Supplementary Material” (see Current Biology, for example).

As data become more complex and processes of analysis follow, how you get somewhere is as important as where you end up.  Results are intrinsic to method, and to ignore one is to ignore the other.

Smulders proposal is insightful because it places an emphasis on method and doing so reinforces its place in the significance of results. Indeed, how you judge results depends heavily on method. He wants to help scientists recognize that negative or ”nonsignificant” results are still results, after all, and that their real significance is in part a consequence of having been derived from exacting method.

(Thanks to Betty Bee on Google+ for posting the link to Smulders’ article and the Neuroskeptic post on it.)


"A New Kind of Peer Review." Neuroskeptic. 13 July 2013. http://goo.gl/7Z3U0 [blogs.discovermagazine.com].

Smulders, YM. “A two-step manuscript submission process can reduce publication bias." Pubmed listing, good luck seeing the article if you’re not at a university with a subscription. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23845183

Apr 18

A feather magnified and the whole image in distortion

I pick through Lapham’s Quarterly every few months, and today, I picked
up the issue titled “Animals.” (Each issue has an overarching theme, I
think, because Louis Lapham likes to anthologize.) One of the pieces was from Henry Beston’s The Outermost House, written in the 1920s.

Beston observed seabirds on the Cape Cod beach, “each one individually busy for his individual body’s sake, suddenly fuse into this new volition and, flying, rise as one, coast as one, tilt their bodies as one, and as one wheel off on the course which the new group will has determined… . By what means, by what methods of communication does this will so suffuse the living constellation that its dozen or more tiny brains know it and obey it in such an instancy of time? Are we to believe that these birds, all of them, are machinae, as Descartes long ago insisted, mere mechanisms of flesh and bone so exquisitely alike that each cogwheeled brain, encountering the same environmental forces, synchronously lets slip the same mechanic ratchet? Or is there some psychic relation between these creatures? Does some current flow through them and between them as they fly? …

"We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear."

It’s refreshing to read prose that reaches toward a grander plane than scientific (formulaic?) prose. I’m sure that Beston wrestled with the distinction of scientific exposition and, well, poetry. After all, he observed, “Poetry is as necessary to comprehension as science. It is as impossible to live without reverence as it is without joy.”

Apr 4

An obituary prods thought, finally

Rhetoric does matter, even still. And maybe over the past week or so, Yvonne Brill’s obituary has been studied far, far more keenly than any other obit appearing in the past year or so. In its originally published version, at least, the piece actually might have been effective because it broke rhetorical rules, not because it complied with them. But the kerfuffle that ensued after Yvonne Brill, a Pioneering Rocket Scientist, Dies at 88" appeared in the New York Times on March 30, 2013, showed that form and reader expectation (that is, rhetoric) still matters. Douglas Martin wrote the piece, and I was fortunate enough to have read the initial version. What you see today on the web is not what was originally published.

The offending line was the first, and it involved beef stroganoff. Katie Roiphe lays the trouble out in her Obit Gaffe" [slate.com]. Her essay shows the troublesome line, along with how it is objectionable; and she provides links to responses that are more vitriolic. But Megan Garber’s What’s an Obituary For?" [theatlantic.com] that appeared on April 1 explores the controversy with well tuned sensibilities of a writer and close reader. She pays attention to the dislocations of the genre of the obituary that cropped up in the piece and how that form reflects and reinforces cultural and social expectations and requirements.

The obituary is a life made normative,” Garber observed. “And so we read about Yvonne Brill, after her death, not because she is interesting (which she is), or because she was loved (which she was), but because her life reflects — in a broad and collectively calculated way — what we have decided to value, publicly and explicitly, as human accomplishment. Obits denude, by design. They are not eulogies, or even elegies, but object lessons: They strip away almost all the facts of somebody’s life so that the life may be refigured as a fable. They turn humans into allegories.

The trouble that Yvonne Brill’s obituary in the Times scared up was in part a matter of equality of the sexes and in part a matter of rhetoric — the play of words and listeners, of expression and expectation. Women’s rights figure into the set of expectations that now frame the way we recognize our dead, and that perhaps is a sign that society has taken note of women’s achievement as a core of culture.

Feb 15

The problem of authority

Stephen’s talk and the science of manifold data

Stephen Friend, the president, co-founder, and director of Sage Bionetworks, gave a Hematology/Oncology Grand Rounds talk at Duke on 13 February. He called it “Integrating Genomes and Networks to Understand Health and Disease: If Not Now, Then When?” Although to say so oversimplifies the real message, Stephen urges us to move beyond symptoms-based view of health and disease toward a more complex view derived from complex and comprehensive data. This shift to manifold data — not just “big” but also “broad” data — shapes scientific inquiry: we begin to migrate from hypothesis-driven science toward data-driven science, capturing a more complex picture of biology in the process.

"Doing this kind of science doesn’t become any easier just because you acknowledge complexity," he cautioned.

Disease, and especially cancer, is not simple, and our descriptions and explanations oversimplify. Stephen has a perspective that’s been informed by stints in academe, pharmaceuticals, and biotech. He’s played an influential role in deepening biomedical data over the past decade. And yet, he said, as impressive as the insights these data reveal, they are but “narrow slices.” Explaining complexity of disease with them, Stephen said (in a delightful simile), “is almost like you’re trying to tell the story of a movie by looking at a single frame.”

I agree. We are doing a new kind of science — or, perhaps more accurately, we’re thinking about a new way of explaining the Scientific Project: from a rhetoric of the neatly ordered processes of hypothesis-driven steps toward a way of thinking about that discovery as less ordered, more accommodating of influences and the products of interaction, even unnervingly accepting of serendipity. And, of course, that new explanation will accept the remit of manifold data and the difficulties and ambiguities that come with their complexity.


Be clear about one thing, though: this change of science is not just about method. It’s not just a matter of doing analysis of different kinds of data or using more mind-bending statistical methods or talking with colleagues more frequently (in order to “cross pollinate” and feel all “interdisciplinary”).

The change evokes a shift of authority grounding the whole enterprise. That’s the challenge, especially for large and established academic research organizations.

The Latin word auctoritas denotes the kind of force that “augments” action. It guides in a manner “more than advice and less than command” (Theodore Mommsen). It ordains, in the sense of ordering and setting to rights. And, in Stephen’s talk, the issues of auctoritas came forth as I had hoped they would.

Publication and auctoritas. Of course, true to etymology, publication authorship reflects the shifting of auctoritas. “Patients who give you their data will tell you to publish as a group,” Stephen observed as he described a new and highly involved vision of patient engagement in research. No more jockeying for first or last author or languishing in the mediocre middle. Following the example of GitHub and open source software development, contributions to a biomedical research project would be associated with individuals in a much more detailed fashion: credit is given atomically and is based on activity, not bestowed after the fact by a principal investigator or senior author.

Stephen juxtaposed the title page from the first Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (1666) with GitHub. While the comparison is interesting, a focus on the medium of communication is, I think, really not at the crux of the matter. The Philosophical Transactions embody an entirely different set of authorities — reflected in the last two words of the publication name, of course — from those embodied in GitHub. And the contrast even has a bit of humor: GitHub is a hub or meeting place for “gits" (a nest of ninnies to use seventeenth century coinage). Using “gits” as a source of talent and progress is really the revolutionary thing here.

Data, the public, and auctoritas. At one time, medical researchers kept their careers, quite literally, in the freezer — where biological samples for investigations were preserved. Now, careers are also kept on hard drives, where data derived from samples resides. The result in academic research culture is a set of “tenure feudal states” where fiefdoms secure and protect their resources, derive their stature from their use, and create alliances by leveraging those resources.

But what happens when emerging scientific questions overmatch the resources of any “feudal state”?

In part the appeal for more comprehensive data ends up breaking the borders of the feudal states. Stephen seeks to open up data much as he wants to change authorship. The fiefdom of the academic lab is replaced by an appeal to “citizens.” Consent is a key, and on this front Sage Bionetworks has been quite ingenious with “Portable Legal Consent.” (See weconsent.us for a new model of research consent developed by John Wilbanks, Sage’s “chief commons officer” and his colleagues.) The involvements of the public in the frameworks of research that Stephen set forth involve not just surrendering samples to research overlords. The new framework calls upon “citizens” to play roles of “citizens as patients,” “citizens as scientists,” and “citizens as funders.”

I like to think of this as a republic of data, though I think the structures still need some working out. (The classicist in me recalls Cicero’s concern about auctoritas, and his observation that in the Roman Republic, ”Cum potestas in populo auctoritas in senatu sit” — “Power is in the people, while authority is in the Senate.”) Stephen recognizes where the power resides (and he’s a Ciceronean in that regard!); the mechanisms of auctoritas are less clear, and the emerging innovations like Portable Legal Consent, patient/citizen foundations and research organizations are exploring avenues (a few examples here, here, here, and here).

As the old chestnut goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Stephen said that he saw the changes taking “years if not decades,” so I do think he sees the enormity of the change and the kind of deep-rooted resistance that changes like this inevitably encounter.

Clearly, the kind of shift that Stephen laid out could be an existential threat to existing frameworks for academic science. Questions after the presentation brought up that threat, and Stephen’s responses (I think) were more reassuring and sanguine than mine would have been. By resituating authority that “augments” and undergirds scientific endeavor, you change things radically. The face of academic research institutions will have to change if scientists in those institutions want to take part in “integrating genomes and networks to understand human health and disease.” Stephen hopes that the depth of expertise that today’s framework enables and nurtures can be complemented by this new direction. I hope so, too, but its authority will not be undiminished.

I wrote to Stephen after his talk, “I was pleased that you used the theme of institutional renewal as a parallel theme to the science. Of course, these are intertwined, though scientists like to talk about ‘findings’ and ‘results’ absent of the machinery used to uncover them.” I hope we can proceed with a feeling of institutional renewal, for creating a new auctoritas for this new science is a good and necessary undertaking. It’s been done before. It’s actually nice that I post this on Galileo's birthday, but his circumstance also serves as a caution: He spent his later years under house arrest for the changes he was forced to recant.

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