A Crusade Against the Quest for the Holy Grail

EDITOR’S NOTE: The unusual format and to some degree the content of this article, including personal and even interpersonal commentary, reflects the persistent, entangled nature of the subject.

Notes Of A Humble Grail Watcher Regarding New Hope On The Horizon, by Steve Nadis (“SN”) For the past 15 years, I’ve been tilting at windmills bearing the name “Holy Grail”—words that are all too familiar in the scientific literature and other realms of hyperbolic prose. I have made it my life’s work to scour scientific periodicals for references to said term in order to show the extent to which it has been misused, overused, and abused, with the ultimate hope being that scientists and science journalists alike will show more restraint in the future when describing
“revolutionary new breakthroughs” or lofty, elusive goals not yet attained.

This is not a field for those eager to get rich quick. There’s not much money to be had in the grail-hunting enterprise, nor much glory to be found either—except in extremely rarified circles among those in the know. Indeed, most civilians fail to recognize the value of my reoccupation, nor do they consider it a valid occupation or even an avocation. For most of this time, it has been a solitary pursuit laced with private curses, ad hominem remarks (at my own expense), and self-congratulatory chuckles. I even dislocated my shoulder once patting myself on the back. Putting it in literary terms, I have been Don Quixote without Sancho Panza. In dance terms, I have been Fred Astaire without Ginger Rogers. And in terms of refreshing alcoholic beverages that are perfect for the casual get-together or formal office party, I have been Martini without Rossi.

(Or Rowan without Martin, or Martin without Lewis, or Lewis without Clark).

(That’s an excerpt from the Article “Icky Cutesy Research Review,” by Bethany Halford (“BH”) with an Introduction and Commentary by Steve Nadis (“SN”) Followed by a Rejoinder by the Aforementioned BH, Published in AIR 15:3.)