This week in Science we profile Yale School of Medicine neuropathologist Laura Manuelidis, who has spent her career fighting the consensus that misfolded proteins called prions cause "mad cow disease" and other related brain diseases. A neurologist who named and described prions won a Nobel Prize in 1997, and many experts think the story is settled. Manuelidis disagrees, saying the evidence that prions are infectious just isn't there.
Some scientific views, such as Earth revolving around the sun, get accepted over time. Others, like the idea that climate change isn't happening, become marginalized as data build up to counter them. But when the evidence is still in flux, you don't know which way the story will end. When should a scientist give up on a hypothesis they believe? When should they hang on for dear life? And what impact does debate like this have on scientists like Manuelidis and the general public?
Join us for a live chat at 3 p.m. EDT on 26 May, 2011 on this page. You can leave your questions in the comment box below before the chat starts.
Laura Manuelidis is a neuropathologist at Yale School of Medicine. Her research focuses on transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), a class of brain diseases that includes “mad cow disease” and that can be transmitted by injecting or ingesting infectious tissue. She is currently hunting for viruses that she thinks are causing these diseases.
Richard Rhodes is an award-winning author and historian. His book The Making of the Atomic Bomb won a Pultizer Prize and a National Book Award. He has written extensively about nuclear history as well as many other topics in the history of science, including a 1997 book, Deadly Feasts: Tracking the Secrets of a Terrifying New Plague, on transmissible spongiform encephalopathies.