Scientist discusses how the unknown continues to drive scientific discovery

Cassandra Martinez, Staff Writer

Part of the iFOCUS science colloquium series, Terry McGlynn gave a lecture titled “Unknown Unknowns and the Future of Scientific Discovery” on Thursday afternoon. McGlynn is a professor in the Department of Biology from California State University Dominguez Hills.

McGlynn began his lecture detailing how science’s greatest discoveries are sometimes not actually intended to be discovered.

He talked about growing up with his parents and siblings, and about his mother who developed an ulcer and how the doctors told her that it was due to stress.

At that time, not many people knew the actual cause of ulcers and it was considered one of sciences greatest mysteries.

This led McGlynn to talk about how the cause of ulcers was discovered.

Back then, many thought ulcers were caused by stress and a poor diet. Then, thanks to an Australian physician Barry Marshall, they discovered that the bacterium Helicobacter pylori were the main cause of peptic ulcers.

McGlynn stated that in order for Marshall to discover this, he had to drink broth with Helicobacter pylori to prove his theory of ulcers.

Another unknown discovery McGlynn talked about was the discovery of the movement patterns of sloths.

Many people believe that sloths only stay in a particular area but in reality they move much farther then they appear.

Scientists puts tracking collars on a few sloths to calculate the distance and they discovered that they move about up to 41 yards.

McGlynn moved on to his research about the ants he studied in the Amazon Rainforest.

He examined the species of Gypsy Ants and was hoping to discover why they created many different homes.

He discovered that they tended to build many in order to fit their colony. He also found out that they move around to other homes once they feel they exhausted at their current residence and they move during the late evening.

Another species of ants he mentioned was the Bullet Ant.

They are mostly known for being the types of ants that eat other predators and other ants. In reality, they are associated with eating more of the sugar base substance from the flowers that are in the canopy part of the rainforest.

McGlynn used a quote from Donald Rumsfeld to sum up his statement, “If it were a fact, it wouldn’t be called intelligence,” quoted from Rumsfeld’s interview with Stephen Colbert.

McGlynn wrapped up his lecture by stating that anything in science is based off evidence but not fact. Scientists are busy trying to prove things exist but not actually discovering something new.