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Birth of an Idea

Vial Thirty-Three Rides Again

Well, I got my repeat experiment set up before leaving work today. I could think of one variable I hadn’t controlled for head-to-head yet, so I set up an extra couple of vials for that one. I’ll try to get them analyzed tomorrow afternoon or Thursday morning, depending on how busy they are downstairs.
Getting this experiment going was a different feeling than when I ran it that Saturday. I was very eager and nervous that day, because I’d just had potentially great results and was ready to verify them as quickly as I could. (I had no way of knowing that the instrument needed for that was going to be out of service for two weeks, naturally). Today’s repeat had some nervousness to it, but it was more along the lines of dread than the earlier anticipation.
I’m worried now that what I saw the first time is some kind of artifact, caused by something I haven’t been able to anticipate. It looked very orderly, very clean, and quite believable, in its spectacular way. But yesterday’s data had a more familiar look to it. It’s really quite rare to get experimental results that are totally unequivocal – so many of them are a mixed, partly inexplicable bag. “Tell me – yes or no!” the experimentalist shouts, and the reply comes back “Dunno. . .sort of. . .I think. . .but maybe not, y’know?”
So by those standards, the first experiment, clean though it looked, is the suspicious anomaly. Here’s hoping I’m wrong about being wrong.

4 comments on “Vial Thirty-Three Rides Again”

  1. Dave says:

    All of us who have spent significant time at the bench can relate.
    Fingers crossed that your earlier results are reproduced…

  2. Steven Jens says:

    If the more recent results had been the first results you saw, would you have said, “well, that direction isn’t any good — let’s try something else”? Or would you have tried again, anyway?
    I’ll be especially interested to know that if you turn out to win.

  3. Derek Lowe says:

    Steven, I’ve thought about that question, too, and it gives me the shakes. It depends on just how scattery the data appeared to be. This second run isn’t too good-looking, with (for example) two identical controls give quite different numbers.
    If things had been all over the place, I might have suspected that something had been messed up. But if they had been only medium-ugly, I probably would have assumed that I was looking at a noisy version of nothing. Which is a pretty common result. . .

  4. highlyreactive says:

    Derek, all of these birth of an idea posts are really fascinating but it makes me feel like chemistry is more alchemy or voodoo than reproducible science even though it isn’t.

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