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Understanding the brain


Making predictions in science
Francis Crick Scientist
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If you… if we look at… back at the guesses we made in the past when we said something would happen, say within 10 years, even though it was a subject we knew a lot about, sometimes it’s happened in three or four or five years and sometimes it took 15 years or longer, so you only have a very rough idea. When you come further than that, when you come to looking 30 years ahead all… most guesses are not much good and even then a lot of things that you guess are other things which you didn’t guess at all, especially in things you don’t know much about so you can… must take all these statements in a very loose sort of way. But, to answer what… what makes it… well, if you think that you can… you have all the general principles established and you have the techniques and it’s just a matter of collecting a lot of information and putting it together then it… you think it’s going to be much shorter than if it’s the opposite case where you don’t understand the general principles, the techniques are rather clumsy, there’s an awful lot to learn, that’s going to take a much longer time. So it’s… it’s sort of things of that sort which enable one to say this is likely to be soon and that is later but all these things have to be taken… all these remarks have to be taken with a grain of salt.

The late Francis Crick, one of Britain's most famous scientists, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962. He is best known for his discovery, jointly with James Watson and Maurice Wilkins, of the double helix structure of DNA, though he also made important contributions in understanding the genetic code and was exploring the basis of consciousness in the years leading up to his death in 2004.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: prediction, science

Duration: 1 minute, 8 seconds

Date story recorded: 1993

Date story went live: 24 January 2008