"Redo of a Famous Experiment on the Origins of Life Reveals Critical Detail Missed for Decades"

Some interesting followups to one of the most celebrated experiments of all time.

But recently a team of researchers realized that—much like that first primordial soup sitting in a bowl of Earth—the experiment’s container played an underappreciated role—that perhaps it was also critical to the creation of organic building blocks inside their laboratory life soup.

I often wonder how much of the replication crisis gripping “softer” fields 1 will spill over into the hard sciences, physics, chemistry, and such. Atoms aren’t as squishy to understand as people, but there’s just so many details that go into experiments and other studies, especially nowadays, and publications are too terse to provide complete coverage.

But this new research doesn’t really fit the replication crisis mold. That a glass flask was used was not omitted from the record, and no nefarious data fishing or statistical tricks were used. This case is really more about failing to consider confounding factors. That reasoning process, qualified skepticism—Could it actually be caused by this? Did you consider varying that?—is central to good science, for individual researchers and entire fields. And its absence isn’t fixed by expecting larger sample sizes or smaller p-values.


  1. Which, let’s be honest, are not actually that soft. ↩︎

Jim Bagrow
Jim Bagrow
Associate Professor of Mathematics & Statistics

My research interests include complex networks, computational social science, and data science.