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GRE Article of the Month – January 2014

What Scientific Idea is Ready for Retirement?
From TheGuardian.com

This Month’s Selection

A wealth of styles; a wealth of ideas—that’s how I would describe this article. Oops, wait! I left out a wealth of vocabulary.

It’s all here in this month’s Article of the Month. Sure, it’s not necessarily an article, but rather a collection of ideas from prominent thinkers—ideas in response to one question: What idea from science should we retire?

The thinkers range from Alan Alda, the American actor, to lesser-knowns (at least to layman and laywoman), such as animal psychologist Irene Pepperberg. Thus the responses form a salmagundi of wide-ranging topics, from cancer research to the overlap of science and art.

One approach to this month’s selection is to read a response at a time. Then, write a quick summary followed by your own response to what the person had to say. You should be able to do so without looking back at the piece, something that forces you to pay close attention as you read.

For instance, after reading the first article, I’ve come up with the following:
 

Summary

According to Azra, much of the cancer research since the 70’s, at least in leukemia, has been misguided. Instead of using a template or model that approximates the human genome better, cancer researches continue to rely on mice, whose genome often leads to wildly divergent results. In other words, what works in mice sometimes has the opposite effect in humans.

Whether other cancer researches subscribe to the above logic or persist in believing in the efficacy of mice models is in some ways moot. According to Azra, most of the eminent scientists responsible for cancer research have been using mice models their entire lives, and tend to only endorse research predicated on such models. While that may not be altogether surprising, considering that scientists who’ve devoted their entire lives to a way of thinking don’t want to become suddenly obsolete, the fact that Azra’s findings based on the human genome were summarily rejected because they were not based on mice models is shocking.
 

Response

This is some heady stuff, and I wish I knew more about the field to mount a well-informed rebuttal. Yet, even if Azra is only half-right, cancer research is being stymied, costing millions their lives or at least better treatment.
 

Bonus Assignment

Then, at the very end, if you are up to it, you can write which idea from science you think should be retired. I won’t be that ambitious—at least for now—but, as a parting thought, will leave you with a slew of vocabulary lifted from the piece:

  • Eminent
  • Malignant
  • Archaic
  • Ethos
  • Repository
  • Sapience
  • Troglodytes (not likely to show up on the GRE—but oh, what a fun word!)
  • Festoon
  • Desultory
  • Granular

 

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