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Faye Flam

Accidental Science That Can Heal or Kill

Researchers stumbled across a better way to make nuclear fuel. Uh-oh.
Boon and bane.

Boon and bane.

Photographer: Pallava Bagla/Corbis via Getty Images

It’s tempting to believe that scientific discoveries can be weighed for their value to society. Then the good ones could be pursued and the bad ones set aside.

That’s obviously hard to do. Think about progress that happens by accident. Who’s to judge whether its eventual use is most likely for healing or killing?