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Author Topic:   So I Wrote A Book On The Scientific Method
Taq
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Posts: 10190
Joined: 03-06-2009
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(1)
Message 128 of 168 (733507)
07-17-2014 5:48 PM
Reply to: Message 122 by herebedragons
07-17-2014 12:39 PM


Re: Please provide an authoritative source for F=ma...
Seems to be a common misconception because we do typically apply theories as fact and the testing / prediction aspect is not explicitly stated, but they do go on behind the scenes, so to speak. No one says "If the ToE (or whatever theory) is true ... THEN ..." Instead they investigate phenomena based on the application of accepted theories, which implicitly provide testing and confirmation.
Another way to say it is that the application of theory gives us knowledge we can build on. If the foundation of our knowledge is bad, then the whole house will come crumbling down. If the house continues to stand upright, and withstands massive storms from new data, then the foundation is strong.
From an idealist perspective, this is not how we should do science. However, from a pragmatic perspective we don't have all the time in the world, so we make leaps and forge ahead.

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Taq
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Posts: 10190
Joined: 03-06-2009
Member Rating: 3.0


(3)
Message 138 of 168 (735657)
08-20-2014 7:54 PM
Reply to: Message 136 by Dr Adequate
08-20-2014 12:07 PM


I'm dealing, you see, with a difficult subject. And it is almost impossible to dumb it down. You can approximately explain the content of science to people, skipping the difficult bits, and they end up knowing more about the field than they did; but if you give someone an approximate pop-sci version of the scientific method they often actually end up dumber than they started. And yet I wish this to be a popular book! My only hope, then, is to tackle the difficult bits but to write it so lucidly that they don't strike the reader as difficult.
To use an analogy, it is very difficult to learn what a good golf swing looks like by reading the USGA rule book.
It might be helpful to give examples of what good science looks like. More importantly, it might help the readers to understand the basic skepticism that underlies the scientific method. For me, the scientific method boils down to "What if I am wrong?". What if we are wrong about the existence of an aether that propogates light? Well, you do the Michelson-Morley experiment. What if we are wrong about mutations being random? Do the Luria-Delbruck fluctuation experiment, or the Lederberg plate replica experiment.
The whole point is to do an experiment that will tell you if you are wrong. If you aren't wrong, you look for another way to prove yourself wrong. The art of science is determining the point at which you are probably not wrong. The next step is telling your colleagues about your idea so they can try and prove you wrong.
What I think most lay people miss is how much work goes into validating methods and finding valid controls. For example, there was a ton of work done at the LHC to verify that it was producing valid observations before they were ready to conduct experiments. None of that shows up in subsequent papers. If your controls work they often only get one bar in a huge graph, or half a sentence in the Results section. However, they are the most important aspects of any experiment.
That would be my advice. I don't know if it is helpful or not, but it's something.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 136 by Dr Adequate, posted 08-20-2014 12:07 PM Dr Adequate has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 139 by Dr Adequate, posted 08-21-2014 2:58 PM Taq has replied

  
Taq
Member
Posts: 10190
Joined: 03-06-2009
Member Rating: 3.0


(1)
Message 140 of 168 (735673)
08-21-2014 5:30 PM
Reply to: Message 139 by Dr Adequate
08-21-2014 2:58 PM


Oh, I do that quite a lot. It annoys me when people don't. Have you read Popper's Logic of Scientific Discovery? It's like he took an oath never to use the words "for example".
I hate it when authors don't give examples. Maybe it's just the way I think, but I am able to understand a concept much quicker if I work through a problem.
So trying to prove something right, and trying to prove it wrong, would involve putting it to just the same tests.
Perhaps I am too focused on the technical side of doing science. In my experience, the actual experimental samples are a tiny, tiny fraction of the work I do compared to validating equipment, assays, methodologies, and controls. I personally find it better to be your own critic and try to prove your own results wrong at every step. What you get in return is data that you can trust and data with the least amount of personal bias possible.
As the saying goes, "Your mileage may vary".

This message is a reply to:
 Message 139 by Dr Adequate, posted 08-21-2014 2:58 PM Dr Adequate has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 141 by Dr Adequate, posted 08-21-2014 11:40 PM Taq has replied

  
Taq
Member
Posts: 10190
Joined: 03-06-2009
Member Rating: 3.0


Message 144 of 168 (735710)
08-22-2014 1:00 PM
Reply to: Message 141 by Dr Adequate
08-21-2014 11:40 PM


Yes, but my point stands, you're actually trying to prove you're right by trying to prove you're wrong.
I understand your position. What I am talking about is more of a mind set, an attitude you adopt when setting up experiments and evaluating data. To use my previous analogy, you are discussing the USGA rule book while I am talking about visualizing a good swing.
To be fair, perhaps this mind set is wrong, or unique to me. Just thought I would share my own experience in the sciences in case it could be of help.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 141 by Dr Adequate, posted 08-21-2014 11:40 PM Dr Adequate has replied

Replies to this message:
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