business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

I like this story because it challenges beliefs and expectations, showing how scientific knowledge evolves.  It is the very definition of an Eye-Opener.

The Washington Post yesterday reported that continued examination of a moon rock brought back by Apollo 17 has led scientists to believe that "the moon’s surface formed at least 40 million years earlier than previously thought."

"At least" are the most important words there - the scientists emphasize that as they continue to examine the rock, they may find out that it is even older.

The Post offers some context:

"For years, scientists have (mostly) agreed on the basic gist of the moon’s origin story: About 4.5 billion years ago, a giant, Mars-size object called Theia slammed into the nascent Earth, ejecting hot debris that coalesced into our moon. But they have debated many of the details - particularly the timing … The matter of the moon’s origin may seem like it should be settled science. We’ve examined it through telescopes, orbited it with a suite of spacecraft, scooped up its rocks and explored its surface in person.

"But despite millennia of contemplation and study — and a fairly solid theory of the case — scientists have continued to find inconsistencies, posit alternate possibilities and tweak theories. Reanalysis of samples picked up decades ago by astronauts has played a key role in moving knowledge forward."

The critical difference that makes reanalysis so important is the existence of tools and technologies that did not exist decades ago.  

Which is, by itself, a business lesson.  It underlines the importance of continuing to learn, of applying new tools to old problems. The answers we get could be Eye-Openers.