immortality as an engineering problem

James james at nospam.com
Fri Jul 17 17:27:28 EST 1998

> One reason reason why (a) no one else has done so and (b) the second
> paper was published in a less stellar journal than the first is also
> rather simple: it is that articles in the primary literature have to
> report original work,


> The same is not true, however, of refutations of already published
> work: they are every bit as publishable as the original -- so long
> as they are founded on good science.  I personally do not know of the
> unsuccessful attempts you mention to reproduce Geron's work.  Have
> they been published?  If not, the implication is that the failure to
> reproduce the results has not yet been persuasively shown to be due
> to any inherent irreproducibility (as opposed to the experimenters'
> having failed to do the experiment right).

I don't think this is entirely accurate.  I don't think that negative
results (even if they are refutations) are nearly as publishable as positive

Also, I do know that the labs in question have a reputation for good science
in the field of aging, whereas Geron has a reputation of tooting its own
horn and purposefully omitting results that are not going to bolster their
stock price.  So while many of your comments hold true in the general sense,
in this particular situation I think many people in the field of aging are
(and have good reason to be) extremely skeptical of Geron's results.  You
don't have to agree, but personally I am more inclined to trust the
non-published results of people I know than to trust results published by

> With respect, it indeed proves something: that no one in your lab did
> the relevant literature search.  (A Medline search for "human telomerase
> 1998 life span" -- which is not particularly hard to dream up -- gets
> only ten hits, which do not take many seconds to browse.)  If everyone
> were so dismissive of work that they haven't been actively told about,
> science would progress rather slowly.

I am not in a telomerase lab, so this would not be something that they would
actively be searching for.  Besides, I didn't say that the paper was hard to
find.  I just said no one had heard of it.  Any significant information in
the field has a way of getting brought up at meetings, journal clubs,
conferences, etc.  So, while I fully admitted that it didn't prove a thing,
the absence of this paper in discussions on the topic is nonetheless

To be honest, I would really like to be dead wrong about this - because
Geron's results show a lot of promise as parts of anti-aging and anti-cancer
regimens.  We should find out in a few months as other labs continue to try
and replicate the results.

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