Scientific Replication: Just Flip a Coin!

“Replication is to the scientific process what water is to a swimming pool: without it, you’ve just got a lot of people in safety goggles angrily beating the floor with their fists.

It is a simple enough principle. If your experiment says a certain effect should follow a certain cause, then anybody replicating that cause should observe the same effect.

Trouble is, this doesn’t happen as often as it should. It happens so infrequently, in fact – about 50 per cent of the time – that a team of researchers in Germany decided to save themselves the bother of replicating an experiment by flipping a coin instead.

Their satirical experiment was intended to make a serious point about deficiencies in clinical trials, but Feedback worries people may get the wrong idea.

We predict the rapid emergence of coinology, a scientific discipline dedicated to picking the right coin to produce the desired results. Detailed sub-disciplines will no doubt emerge, pitting the pound against the euro on the basis of flippability and heft. And theoretical numismatists will hypothesise a perfect, ideal coin that exists in 12 dimensions, is responsible for the accelerated expansion of the universe and always comes up heads.”


New Scientist. (2019) Feedback. New Scientist. 20 April 2019, pp.56.


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