ES10 - EARTH
Lecture 1- The Scientific Method
Reading: Introduction to Blue Planet
The scientific way in which we inch toward a better understanding of
1) Observe the world around you. Does anything puzzle you? For example:
Why are there always unmatched socks after doing the laundry? Where
do the mates go?
2) Think about possible reasons (form a "hypothesis").
Oxford English Dictionary definition of hypothesis: 1) a proposition
made as a basis for reasoning, without the assumption of its truth, 2)
a suppostion made as a starting point for further investigation from known
facts, 3) groundless assumption.
Scientists use the term hypothesis in the second sense above.
The drier destroys socks
The drier is a worm hole to a parallel universe into which the socks
They are accumulating somewhere else (someone else's drawers, under
the bed, in the corner of the bathroom...)
Someone takes them out of the laundry basket (rodents, aliens that
live off sock sweat...).
3) Think about ways of refuting or supporting the various hypotheses
The first two ideas would predict that fewer socks come out than go
in. We would count the socks before and after washing to determine if these
are viable hypotheses.
Similarly, disappearing from the laundry basket could be demonstrated
by counting socks as they go into the laundry basket.
If they don't disappear during the laundry operation (basket, washer,
drier), then we'll have to think about where they are accumulating.
4) Design and carry out some experiments
Set up data sheets for counting of socks as they 1) go into the laundry
basket, 2) go into the washer, 3) go into the drier, 4) come out of the
Keep careful tallies for a long enough period of time to witness the
disappearance of a significant number of socks (10% of the initial population?)
Plot up the data to determine at exactly which point the socks are
Refine the experiment to focus in on the important aspect. Continue
experimentation until the culprit is identified beyond reasonable doubt.
Please note - you can never be absolutely sure you are right, but you can
sometimes be sure you are wrong.
5) The hypothesis that survives experiments and explains the observations
with least astonishment (probably not the aliens!) gets to be known as
the "Theory of the Missing Socks".
6) Collect Nobel Prize for solving one of the outstanding mysteries
of the Universe.
7) Theories are not forever. They undergo revision in the light of new
evidence. A good theory (e.g. the theory of gravity), lasts a long time.
II. FAQs about scientific method
Please see this excellent link:
about the Scientific Method