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Published December 2020 | public
Journal Article

Does finding a face cell tell us anything much at all?


There are two approaches to doing science. One is the "tractor" approach. You take a big, powerful piece of machinery and apply it in systematic fashion to a problem. Here, "you" is often a large group of people who share the same goal. A recent example is the International Brain Lab (Abbott et al., 2017), a consortium of labs across the world all performing the same experiment to understand visually-guided decision making in the rodent. The plan is for each lab to train mice on a common behavioral paradigm and then insert high channel count electrodes into different parts of the brain, like a fleet of tractors mowing a field. A very different, older approach is that of the lone hunter pursuing a question no one else cares about, guided by a vision in his or her own head. Auden captures the essence of this approach in his wonderful poem "History of Science." The poem tells the tale of the Fourth Brother, who has been excised from the official fairy tale...

Additional Information

© 2020 Elsevier. Available online 16 October 2020. I thank Janis Hesse for comments on the manuscript. The authors report no declarations of interest.

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August 20, 2023
December 22, 2023