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Birth of an Idea

Good News, Now That I Think About It!

I have the results of my latest experiment. A thing of beauty it isn’t – two of the four control arms showed false-positive effects in their blank runs, which makes interpreting them impossible. Those of you who’ve been following this story – and you have my sympathy – may recall that I saw this exact thing happen before. I wondered for a good part of the day why that might have happened, and maybe I’ve become slightly more intelligent in the intervening weeks, because on the drive home an idea hit me that would explain it quite well. I’ll set up a short run of experiments to go over the weekend to test that out – if I’m right, it’s an avoidable artifact and a complete red herring. Another arm of the experiment was a check on whether I could get away with running these things for a shorter time course, and the answer to that is: nope, I can’t.
But there were good parts: the effect I’m looking for, the “Vial Thirty-Three” experiment, did repeat again, which is always reassuring. And the two other control arms behaved normally in their blank reactions – no weird positives – and they did just what I hoped they would do under the experimental conditions. This is good news, because they have very little in common with each other, and it’s hard to see how they could do the exact same thing unless my hypothesis about them is correct. The more I look at those numbers, the happier I get. It’s been slowly dawning on me that these may be the results I’m looking for.
But before I can be sure about that, the next item is to see if I can explain those blank-vial positives, and to also try a couple of variations on the runs that seemed to work. There are some minor changes I can make to them which should tune them up and down or flip them back the other way, and it’s time to see if they’re thinking the same way I am. I think I can feel the ground becoming more solid under my feet, though. . .

5 comments on “Good News, Now That I Think About It!”

  1. Tom Thumb says:

    why do i read this?
    it’s so frustrating not knowing the details.
    but i understand the situation. but it pains my imagination.

  2. Morten says:

    Looking forward to reading the article. But fun to read about a discovery process a bit faster than protein crystallography (or maybe I’m just slow).

  3. Lou says:

    Congratulations on your newfound intelligence! It’s always fun when you have the realization that, “Hey, wait a minute, that does make sense!”
    As a long time reader of the ‘Birth of the Idea’ thread, I am curious about something. Roughly how long might it be until you can explain what it is you are doing? A year? 3 years?

  4. Derek Lowe says:

    That’s a very fair question, Lou. If the experiments for next week do what I think they’re going to do, I’m going to address that in another post. But I do plan to get these results out there for the rest of the world (and in the best journal I’ve ever appeared in) as soon as possible. More anon.

  5. MolecularGeek says:

    At times like this, I like to remind people of Harvard’s Law:
    Under the most rigorously controlled conditions of light, humididty, pressure, nutrition and temperature, the organism will do as it damn well pleases. 🙂
    Hang in there, Derek.

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