Bellwether by Connie Willis

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By Connie Willis

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At least I was getting to see a part of the building I ordinarily was never in. I wasn’t even exactly sure where Bio was except that it was down on the ground floor. But I must be heading in the right direction. There was moisture in the air and a faint sound of zoo. I followed the sound down yet another staircase and into a long corridor. Dr. Turnbull’s office was, of course, at the very end of it. The door was shut. I shifted the box in my arms, knocked and waited. No answer. I shifted the box again, propping it against the wall with my hip, and tried the knob.

Scientific discoveries are the same way. People like to think of science as rational and reasonable, following step by step from hypothesis to experiment to conclusion. Dr. ” Nothing could be further from the truth. The process is exactly like any other human endeavor—messy, haphazard, misdirected, and heavily influenced by chance. Look at Alexander Fleming who discovered penicillin when a spore drifted in the window of his lab and contaminated one of his cultures. Or Roentgen. He was working with a cathode-ray tube surrounded by sheets of black cardboard when he caught a glimpse of light from the other side of his lab.

By 4:55 the floor of my whole lab was covered with piles and Flip still wasn’t back. Stepping carefully among the piles, I went over and looked at the box again. Biology was clear on the other side of the complex, but there was nothing for it. The box said PERISHABLE, and even though irresponsibility is the hottest trend of the nineties, it hasn’t worked its way through the whole society yet. I picked up the box and took it down to Dr. Turnbull. It weighed a ton. By the time I’d maneuvered it down two flights and along four corridors, the reasons why irresponsibility had caught on had become very clear to me.

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