What scientific pronouncements really mean

What Scientists really mean when they say things.

Authoritative statements in scientific journals should not always be taken literally. I.J.Good has made a collection of them.


"It has long been known that..."
I haven't bothered to look up the original reference.

"While it has not been possible to provide definite answers to these questions..."
The experiment didn't work out, but I figured I could at least get a publication out of it.

"High purity ...", "Very high purity...", "Extremely high purity...", "Super high purity..."
Composition unknown except for the exaggerated claim of the suppliers.

"...accidentally strained during mounting"
...dropped on the floor.

"It is clear that much additional work will be required before a complete understanding..."
I don't understand it.

"Unfortunately a quantitative theory to account for these effects has not been formulated..."
Neither does anybody else.

"It is hoped that this work will stimulate further work in the field."
This isn't very good, but neither is any of the others on this miserable subject.

"The agreement with the predicted curve is excellent" ...good" ...satisfactory" ...fair."
Fair. Poor. Doubtful. Imaginary.

"As good as could be expected considering the approximations made in the analysis."
Non-existent.

"Of great theoretical and practical importance."
Interesting to me.

"Three of the samples were chosen for detailed study."
The results on the others didn't make sense and were ignored.

"These results will be reported at a later date."
I might possibly get around to this some time.

"Typical results are shown."
The best results are shown.

"Although some detail has been lost in the reproduction, it is clear from the original micrograph that..."
It is impossible to tell from the micrograph.

"It is suggested...", "It may be believed...", "It may be that..."
I think.

"The most reliable values are those of Jones."
He was a student of mine.

"It is generally believed that..."
A couple of other guys think so too.

"It might be argued that..."
I have such a good answer to this question that I'll raise it.

"Correct within an order of magnitude."
Wrong.

"Well known."
(i) I happen to know it, or (ii) well known to some of us.

"The reason is, of course, obvious."
(i)Not in the least, or if it really is: (ii)I was not the first to think of it, but I think I got it independently.


From "Eureka: A book of scientific anecdotes", by Adrian Berry.