Two recent events have made me reflect on "The Fleishman Rule," which I was indoctrinated as part of my collaboration with Leo and has become a corner stone of my research program.
|Leo explaining "The Fleishman Rule" to Dave|
"The Fleishman Rule" postulates that nature likes to play mysterious tricks on researchers by giving us a little glimpse of hope and then, right before we are ready to start the victory dance, crushing us with a nice dose of reality. Naturally, this reality is usually served with some degree of frustration and second-guessing of our abilities. The rule applies regardless of how meticulously or well-designed we believe an experiment was conducted. Therefore, Leo is a strong believer that the first set of data collected in an experiment should be treated as preliminary results. Yes, there is not such a thing as an experiment that can be completed in only one attempt. However, no need to fear: "The Fleishman Rule" is what makes research exciting. First, the fun part of research is to be wrong most of the time. It would not be fun if our predictions were always correct; instead, figuring out mistakes is what pushes us to be creative and to do better jobs as scientists. As I have told my students many times, "an easy problem is not a fun problem". Second, nature is not deceiving. The initial stumble is only a test of our willingness to push harder. And if we are willing to do so by conducting the experiment a second or third time, we will achieve our goal of understanding the complex dynamics of the natural word.