Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Scientific fraud ...

An anxious, ambitious, down-on-his-luck postdoctoral researcher suddenly obtains results that look too good to be true — the virus he's injected into cancer-riddled mice appears to be melting away their tumors — and his girlfriend, another postdoc in the same lab, comes to suspect he's fudged his results. But she doesn't know for sure: there's no hard evidence, just some sloppy, discarded lab notes that seem to suggest it.

From this NYTimes review by Sue Halpern of Allegra Goodman's Intuition, a novel set in a scientific lab. Apparently, the lab setting, the characters and their behaviour are all amazingly realistic, if you go by this profile of the author:

Scientists who have read the book say that somehow, Ms. Goodman has managed to write a tale about life in a science lab that rings so true and includes details so accurate and vivid that they say they are left reeling. [...]

When she finished a second draft, Ms. Goodman showed the manuscript to Tom Schwarz, a researcher at Children's Hospital in Boston. Friends with Dr. Schwarz's wife, Ms. Goodman wanted his opinion: was the science right?

Dr. Schwarz said he began to read the book and could not believe it. Ms. Goodman had not interviewed him, and she had not been to his lab. But, Dr. Schwarz said, "I saw myself and I saw things I knew, everything from the greasy falafels from the truck parked outside to the characters."