Allen, Leland. "The Rise and Fall of Polywater," New Scientist 59 (16 August 1973), pp.

 

Allen, Leland. "The Rise and Fall of Polywater," New Scientist 59 (16 August 1973), pp.
376-380.

This article hails the downfall of polywater as a success story in science. "It is remarkable that a
scientific phenomenon of such import, surrounded by such intense controversy, has been
resolved in so short a time; comparable scientific disputes, like Ehrenhaft's subelectron,
Blondlot's N-rays or the Phlogiston theory, have required decades to unravel. The polywater
phenomenon has further verified the efficacy of the scientific method and the always difficult
requirement of seeing a problem through to completion in the face of overwhelmingly negative
bias from one's peers." (p. 376) (Blondlot's rays were discredited in just a few days with the
work of Robert Wood and the publication of the article in Nature. Ehrenhaft was discredited by
Millikan. Stahl's work fell into disrepute with Lavoisier's Easter Memoir. Where is Allen getting
his comparisons from?)

This author tells the story of polywater both in Russia and the U.S. and compares the events to
science in general. "In view of the passion manifest over polywater, it is interesting to consider
events surrounding two other science discoveries that represent ‘success' rather than ‘failure.'
Consider the nobel gas compounds. Neil Bartlett was the first to show that nobel gas atoms can
form ordinary chemical bonds with other atoms... During the period between the announcement
of his finding and the subsequent discovery at Argonne National Laboratory of the immediately
verifiable nobel gas molecules,... Bartlett's work was ignored or suffered derisive disbelief in
much the same manner as Deryagin's efforts." (p. 301) (Deryagin was a pioneer of polywater)

"My own involvement with the polywater phenomenon greatly strengthened my belief in the
scientific method; I was strongly stimulated by both the human and scientific experiences, and
the attention focused on my first paper on the subject gave me a more convincing sense of having
made a true contribution to science progress than I have felt for some other conventionally
successful research projects." (p. 380)

Clearly, goofs in science can be profitable, according to this author. I must wonder, however, if
his interpretation of the success story here is correct. Is it that the scientific method succeeded?