Goodbye, ColumbusAs you might imagine, he continues to riff on the risk-aversion of these 15th-century royal patrons. Fortunately (at least for US citizens if not Native Americans) the actual funding request worked out better in the real world.
Gregory A Petsko
Ferdinand: … Captain Columbus. I assume you’re here to appeal the decision about your proposal.Columbus: Yes, Your Majesties. I don’t understand why my request for support was turned down.Isabella (leafing through some documents): Let’s see, let’s see - oh, here it is. ‘Finding a New Route to the Indies by Sailing West.’ (Looking up at him) You’re serious, right? I mean, this isn’t some sort of joke...Columbus: Of course it’s no joke! I propose to test the hypothesis that the world is both small and round. If the hypothesis is true, I should be able to reach the Orient much faster than the current route around Africa.Ferdinand: And if the hypothesis is wrong, you’ll fall off the edge of the earth.Columbus: Possibly. But even if it’s wrong, by going where no one has gone yet, I might bump into something really interesting.Ferdinand: What you’ll bump into is the edge of the earth, and you’ll fall off.Columbus: I agree that there is risk involved, Your Majesty, but consider the impact if I’m right. In the guidelines for obtaining funding, you specify that impact is a major factor in determining if a proposal is funded.Isabella: I know we say that, Captain, but we don’t mean it. Why, if we actually judged proposals that way, many of them would fail.
Dr. Petsko is a retired biochemistry professor at Brandeis and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. So this is a personal inspiration as to what sarcastic academics can do in retirement.
Hat tip: Denny Luan, co-founder of Microryza, at the 2012 Open Science Summit in Mountain View.