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If you see a bill lying on the sidewalk in Grand Central Station, and you remember having seen the same bill a week ago, something is wrong. But there’s no way that such a low-hanging piece of money-making fruit would go unpicked for that long.

Thousands of people cross Grand Central every week – there’s no way a thousand people would all pass up a free . In the same way, suppose your uncle buys a lot of Google stock, because he’s heard Google has cool self-driving cars that will be the next big thing. No – if Google stock was underpriced (ie you could easily get rich by buying Google stock), then everyone smart enough to notice would buy it.

Either they’ll be amazing geniuses, understand a vast scope of cutting-edge material, have access to the latest lab equipment, or most likely all three.

But go too far with this kind of logic, and you start accidentally proving that nothing can be bad anywhere.

There are dozens of government bodies, private institutions, and universities that could do this kind of thing if they wanted. So “science is broken” seems like the same kind of statement as “a bill has been on the floor of Grand Central Station for a week and nobody has picked it up”. Or: suppose you thought that health care is inefficient and costs way too much.

But if this were true, some entrepreneur could start a new hospital / clinic / whatever that delivered health care at lower prices and with higher profit margins.

Consider a freshman biology student reading her textbook who suddenly feels like she’s had a deep insight into the structure of DNA, easily worthy of a Nobel. For all of them to miss a brilliant insight sitting in freshman biology would be the same failure as everybody missing a on the floor of Grand Central, or all of Wall Street missing an easy opportunity to make money off of Google, or every entrepreneur missing a great market opportunity for a Thai restaurant.

So without her finding any particular flaw in her theory, she can be pretty sure that it’s wrong – or else already discovered.

If it didn’t, some entrepreneur would wander through, see that they could get really rich by opening a Thai restaurant, and do that.

As everyone tried to buy it, the price would go up until it was no longer underpriced.

Big Wall Street banks have people who are at least as smart as your uncle, and who will notice before he does whether stocks are underpriced.

This isn’t to say nobody can ever win a Nobel Prize.

But winners will probably be people with access to new ground that hasn’t already been covered by other -seekers.

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