IT MATTERS WHO DOES THE EXPERIMENT. I posted here about a description of how to conduct a good experiment by Richard Feynman: ” He singled out for praise an experiment by a man named Young in 1937. Young was trying to train rats to open the third door on a corridor. Feynman describes how Young painted the doors carefully to make sure the textures of the doors were the same; he applied chemicals after each run so that the smell of food couldn’t influence the rats; he put his corridor on sand so that the sound in the corridor could not influence the rats. Feynman says that ‘from a scientific standpoint, that is an A-number-one experiment.’”

I thought of this when I saw a letter (link here) from David Scott in the Economist (July 23) addressing a point of rhetoric: When should you use the active voice and when the passive voice? Scott wrote:

“As an undergraduate I was marked down for writing in the first person. But a Nobel laureate speaking to the chemistry society told us, ‘It’s so important to write up experimental data in the first person, because it is you that has carried it out. Using the passive voice implies a level of objectivity that is simply untrue; someone else doing the same experiment may well produce a quite different result and it is important for the reader to be aware of this.””

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