Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Scientific Method

      In the blog “Dark Science” on April 4th, I wrote about the similarity between the search for “luminiferous aether,” during the 19th century, and “dark matter” during the 21st century. Both of these are good examples of what scientists do.
      Both experiments follow the same pattern. Here is an outline of the general procedure:
1.) A scientist observes an event in his particular area of expertise – an event that has some questionable aspect, such as light waves traveling through empty space without an intervening medium, or the actual mass of the universe exceeds the sum of the observable mass. He postulates some reasonable explanation such as luminiferous aether or dark matter.

2.) He sets up an experiment or observation whereby his postulate can be tested. (Michelson-Morley Experiment or the Large Hadron Collider.)

3.) He runs the experiment and systematically observes the results.

4.) He interprets the results based on his experience and knowledge.

5.) Does his interpretation confirm his original postulate? If yes, he will write a paper describing his experiment and findings, which is reviewed by other knowledgeable scientists in his field. They make the decision whether or not the paper should be published. If the results do not confirm the original postulate, he may return to step one for an adjusted cycle, or he may decide not to pursue this particular direction any further.
      It is important to note that once his paper has been published, scientists the world over immediately go through their own versions of steps 1 through 5 in an attempt to confirm or refute it.
      Science is probably the only endeavor which continually tries to improve itself by disproving its own findings.
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      Textbooks tell us that atoms are ridiculously small ― about one tenth of a millionth of a millimeter across. That means that a human hair, one of the narrowest things visible to the eye, is roughly a million atoms across. Put another way, there are more atoms in a glass of water than there are glasses of water in all the oceans in the world.
      Matter Matters – The Spirit Runs Through It.
      To read more excerpts from the book, click here.

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