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Sunday, 4 September 2011

Madeleine Hartmann – Consultant Cardiologist

She is stunningly beautiful. She has long, glossy black hair. She has an IQ of 172 (there is nothing more erotic than intelligence) and earns £215,000 a year. Her legs go all the way up to her bum. She is a "mechanic in the sack" and cooks like an angel. She has read everything. She is absolutely potty about me and regards me as being exceptionally wise and creative. Without doubt, she is my all-time, number-one, favourite Cardiologist.

Alas, I made her up.

If she existed, I would have every reason to treat any pronouncement on heart disease from her luscious lips as Holy Writ – nearly.

The Natural Sciences are not like Mathematics. Truths in Physics and Physiology are not cast in stone. Fashions prevail – sometimes briefly. Last century's fashion might have been for Land Bridges to explain similar organisms on different continents. We now have a theory which explains more – Plate Tectonics. Current orthodoxy on stomach ulcers is very different from the orthodoxy of the 1980s.

Sciences progresses – it does! It progresses by fits and starts.

Where am I going?

Science progresses when scientists have the courage to stick their necks out – to question the consensus.

Indubitably, there are areas of scientific endeavour in which pretty well everybody agrees – no one is rocking the boat. I suppose that this would be true of at least 90% of the contents of undergraduate textbooks in Physics, Chemistry, Electronics and a host of other disciplines.

An aspiring PhD in most subjects would be wise to heed the advice of his supervisor: "Well, son, Professors X, Y & Z have opened up some very interesting lines of enquiry – how about one of these for your research? If your thesis makes the grade, there are likely to be funds available to take it to the next stage." A promising career and a possibly useful contribution loom large.

Bolshie you, however, counters with, "I have heard rumblings to the effect that, Professor W's theory of Q is holed below the water-line. I'd like to have a look at that."

Long silence.

"Professor W is an old friend of mine. He has been an external examiner for half a dozen of my doctoral students – all of whom are now well established in their careers. He is the Editor in Chief of Proceedings of the Royal Society of... He has been spoken of as a possible Nobel Laureate in our subject for his highly regarded work twenty years ago on Q. Oh, and he is about to be appointed Chair of the Government's Science Research Grants Committee."

Of course you would have to be some kind of insane maverick to ignore this warning. Or a hero.

Mavericks are, needless to say, often wrong and sometimes insane.

Occasionally they turn out to be right. Sometimes they win a hearing with a minority. Sometimes (nowadays) their ideas appear on the internet. A YouTube broadcast is as likely to contain idiocy as wisdom.

Below is a lecture questioning the near universal prescription of statins to counteract elevated levels of cholesterol.

A Cardiologist who Might be Worth Listening to.

He is speaking to a conference organised by Doctors for Disaster Preparedness. These guys do not check out your Political Correctness before inviting you to speak.

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