False theories die with disproof, but false data may live forever, or so my undergraduate advisor, Richard D. Alexander, told me. A single false fact can corrupt a dataset, a study, even a field. I remembered this as I counted the cells in wasp nest after wasp nest, patiently moving a dental mirror from one side to the other, nudging nighttime wasps aside so my cell count would be correct. I worked half the night in hot Brackenridge Field Laboratory meadows. After all, what would happen if it looked like there were fewer instead of more cells a few nights later?

Perhaps I need not have worried about those thousands of measurements, as accurate as I could make them with one, two, even three or four, counts on difficult nests. But I kept what Dick said in mind, ever aware of how devastating a false claim could be.


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